REVIEW: DanceNOW [NYC] Festival at Joe’s Pub
[dropcap]J[/dropcap]oe’s Pub is my new venue crush. Instead of local bands as the accompaniment to dinner and drinks, why not see ten shorter selections from New York choreographers? I am all for it. This informal, small stage allows the choreographers a unique and momentary chance to carve their work to suit the space. Not just any piece is right for dining viewers, and the corner stage only allows for a few bodies. Tonight, the first night of four in the DanceNOW [NYC] Festival, offered a variety of diverse voices, but serendipitously some repeating trends arose. The format is satisfying because in a field where often pieces drone on, these short 5 minute appearances are glimpses that leave you wanting more. Out of ten selections, several stood out above the crowd.
Adam Barruch kicked off the program with a duet to the immediately familiar and melodramatic Ne Me Equitte Pas by Jacques Brel. It didn’t matter that the soundtrack evoked a typical context of relationship turmoil because Barruch’s innovative partnering excused any cliches. Every fall was calculated but real. Every hold accompanied real breath. Their calm control was undeniable; I found myself thinking about the duet even nine pieces later.
Stefanie Nelsons‘s piece is disconcerting, I’m certain by intention. A female performer is accompanied by a saxophone player in dark glasses and a jumpsuit. If he was there just to play, I would not call him a gimmick. But he is clearly a symbol. To a gloomy text reading, the man circles the stage, without playing the instrument, while the dancer performs. The two characters seem unrelated to me, and I can only think about his story, which is neither the dance nor the text.
Camille Brown has a flair for staccato like I’ve never seen. She has compiled a full company of dancers, but her solos are my favorite of the Brown repertory. In this one, accompanied by an instrumental arrangement of “What A Wonderful World” was simple yet poignant. I saw in it daily ups and downs, burdens and shortcomings, little triumphs, little losses, and the face we all put toward the world. Camille has a way of filling out the music, hearing it entirely, then moving in order to make us hear.
Gregory Dolbashian’s DASH Ensemble also chose a duet, showcasing the dramatic appeal of her two female performers. The duet is all facial expressions and snap action emotions. The story may lack clarity, but the focus is sharp. Even through their slacks, suspenders and newsboy caps, the training is evident, but not overbearing. He’s on to something.
It was refreshing to see Gus Solomons Jr. (former Merce Cunningham company member, accomplished choreographer and dance critic) collaborate with a live guitarist in a call and response improvisation. I could not take my eyes off his long, sensitive hands. Sara Joel and Anna Venizelos got the audience gasping with gymnastics, acrobatics and cirque-like flexibility. Something about them left me cold. Their ability was not enough without electric energy. The drama factor returned with LOVE | FORTE A COLLECTIVE. Reminiscent of crying clowns, dressed in stunning black and gray tulle dresses, the duo shared a collective pain gracefully. Theirs was a world of mystery and horror.
Next down the line comes the glitzy crew of Sidra Bell Dance New York, decked out in burlesque style, complete with red fake eyelashes. Her piece starts with a captain; the sassy Jonathan Campbell, who plays with the audience with winks, scoffs and flexing of biceps. He is soon joined by three other alluring creatures who slither through the tables of Joe’s Pub, their own small LED spotlights in hand. They are the only company that uses the bar space and breaks the stage boundary. Nothing about them is taking themselves too seriously, and yet they are seriously captivating. I can almost hear Bell shouting “you better work!” from backstage.
Sean Curran was a dynamic shift from the thread of dance theater and ornate costuming. His five dancers emerge in understated colored turtleneck-leos, and deliver a shape oriented, clean excerpt. The evening ended with The Bang Group’s trio of humor, a schtick that works for them–boy meets girl, meets another boy and leaves girl to a solo, ending in tongue-in-cheek ballet.
Sydney Skybetter (of Skybetter and Associates) produced the Festival in collaboration with Robin Staff and Tamara Greenfield. When Skybetter introduced the show, he let us know that we could select and vote for one performance to be produced at Joe’s Pub in their own full evening. I look forward to seeing who from the Festival will be the fan favorite. I will be in attendance. I’ll take my dancing with Magic Hat #9 and artichoke dip anyday, thank you.
DanceNOW [NYC] continues through October 21 at Joe’s Pub. Shows begin at 7 PM. Tickets are $20.00 at the door.