Celebrate Dance 2013 at The Ailey Citigroup Theater
Kicking off their season at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, the Steps Repertory Ensemble has proven once again their devotion to collaboration in Celebrate Dance 2013. Led by Artistic Director, Claire Livingstone, this company of twelve dancers showcased the choreography of six emerging and established artists, April 18-20, 2013.
Always enamored by the group’s constant dedication to one another, this show was no exception. With each piece requiring immense physical commitment, I full heartedly expected the ensemble to be at the top of their game; however, I experienced more a glimpse into the emotional vulnerability the men seemed to display with their partner(s), than the animal strength I was prepared for. A softened underbelly of devotion throughout several duets and trios exposed an openness I had yet to see from the Steps Repertory Ensemble’s past performances.
Nathan Trice’s Conversations highlighted a dependency the male role seemed to have for the female. With each couple establishing their own fever on stage, the intimacy between dancers Britney Tokomuto and Clinton Edward was hard to cool down. Moving in and out of each other’s negative space, the two captured a rhythmic synchronization you find in schools of fish, or highway traffic. Trice’s simple elegance in mobility and shape, made it easy to focus on the patterns and habits each couple set up for the next couple. Tokomuto and Edwards’ relationship carried the weight of soul mates, while Mindy Upin and David Scarantino applied a more playful atmosphere to the choreography. With soft lifts, jumps, and Upin’s come hither look and composition, I rather enjoyed the dancer’s fresh take on the old concept of boy meets girl relationship.
Moving in and out of each other’s negative space, the two captured a rhythmic synchronization you find in schools of fish, or highway traffic.
The real magic moment of Celebrate Dance 2013 came with a melting duet between Clinton Edward and David Scarantino in Zvi Gotheiner’s Chairs. Standing on a single wooden chair, downstage left, Scarantino and Edward embraced one another in swooping arm gestures, and it was nothing short of magnetic honey. Even with Edward’s back towards the audience, his protector and provider mannerisms made an impeccable statement of patience everyone, including myself, have felt in the caregiving of another’s weakness. Scarantino took a more defenseless role in the arms of Edward, being carried, or hoisted up and off the chair; however, showcasing undoubted devotion with his eye contact.
The subtle majesty in eye exchange was the one thing missing between Yesid Lopez and his partner Eila Valls in Hooked. The physical technique between both partners was undeniably superb, but the relationship lacked the passionate yearning the choreography set it up for. Predictable and rather tiresome, Hooked displayed Lopez without a shirt, and Valls in a strapped red chiffon dress, providing a savory recipe without any instructions on how to cook. Trust was established in its many air-born lifts, and the obvious hooking of the hands throughout the duration of the piece, but no satisfaction was felt when they finally un-hooked under a single spotlight in the center of the stage, and walked in opposite directions. One moment of eye connection would have changed the entire piece. They confided in one another, and needed one another, but did not seem to want one another.
The game of figuring out who is who was motioned into play with elusive movements of shifting hands in pockets, right to left looks, and the eerie over the shoulder last glance one always dreads and yet, cannot live without. The consistent tactic of inviting new personalities within each, dare I say, character was the perfect approach to invite the audience into the cerebral intelligence of a male’s point of view.
Tit for Tat, however, had more than enough intensity and eye communication for everyone. A new work by the Kuperman Brothers, the choreography displayed four young gentlemen dressed in all black, coming together under unknown but somehow pressurized pretenses. Having that edge of the cliff, lean in first kiss, before the fall sensation, was a constant reminder of the brother’s precision and brilliant theatrical consideration for the audience perspective. Moved and even controlled by the musical arrangement, the dancer’s created a subtle butoh serenity within a questioning and paranoid atmosphere. The physical dependency, especially between dancers Gabriel Malo and Jeff Kuperman, was a surprising element, but embraced and supported by Victor Larue and Landes Dixon’s constant guarding and swift reflex to lend a hand. The game of figuring out who is who was motioned into play with elusive movements of shifting hands in pockets, right to left looks, and the eerie over the shoulder last glance one always dreads and yet, cannot live without. The consistent tactic of inviting new personalities within each, dare I say, character was the perfect approach to invite the audience into the cerebral intelligence of a male’s point of view.
My focus, overpowered by the male ego it seemed, was shattered when the ladies of Shannon Gillen’s On Certainty appeared on stage. Already familiar with Gillen’s choreography from the stage of graduate studies at Tisch School of the Arts, I sat back and relished in the meticulousness the female body glides on within her choreographic pursuit of how the dancer can be more present. Particularly struck by Lane Halperin, Mindy Upin, and Marielis Garcia’s stability and resilience, the three women approached specificity more like working craftsmen perfecting their skills than young fleeting dancers in a spotlight. Their physique, embraced by slicked back ponytails, white tanks, and fitted khaki slacks, provided a blank canvas for imagination to run rapid. With Upin’s temper for engagement, Garcia’s ethic for perfection, and Halperin’s flight for play, these three women shift gravity together on stage.
The Steps Repertory Ensemble’s true magnificence is their ability to remain as individuals, while representing the group as a whole. It’s clear this working company of unique qualities and temperaments are establishing a more permanent name for themselves both in New York City and abroad.