Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Songwriters Re-Write History

review by Amber Connors

Historic choreography paired with legendary music
CityDance Ensemble, The Songwriters, Friday June 13, 2008 8 pm
Folksay- Sophie Maslow, music of Woodie Guthrie
Born to Run- Paul Gordon Emerson, music of Bruce Springsteen
Harmonica Breakdown- Jane Dudley, music of Sonny Terry
Falling- Paul Gordon Emerson, music of Otis Redding
On a Train Heading South- Brenda Way, commissioned score Jack Perla

Closing its 2008 season with a bang, CityDance Ensemble performed an eclectic mix of repertoire spanning the past 70 years. Last Friday, The Music Center at Strathmore was home to a full audience, excitedly anticipating The Songwriters.

Sophie Maslow’s “Folksay” (1942) is so timeless a piece of choreography that it still has resonance to a modern audience sixty-six years after its birth. “Folksay” began with a poetic exchange of commentary, folk songs of Woodie Guthrie, dancing, and small-town conversation. It was a brilliant combination of text and movement. The men danced squarely with flexed feet and ninety-degree-angled legs and arms, and wore cuffed jeans and flannel shirts. The women danced equally square but their three-dimensionality was highlighted in the swirl of their flowing cotton skirts.

“Born to Run,” (2007) a recent addition to the CityDance repertoire was choreographed by Paul Gordon Emerson. Set to the music and voice of Bruce Springsteen, the piece began in bold-colored silhouettes. An audience favorite, “I Ain’t Got You,” transformed a table into the jungle gym of dancers Delphina Parenti and Jason Garcia Ignacio. The couple flirted and fought over several cigarettes as they cart wheeled, slid, and tumbled above, under, and around the table. Later, a duet between two men unfolded to the sound score, “The River.” Dancers Bruno Augusto and Christopher K. Morgan successfully displayed a give-and-take tension during a Springsteen monologue about the relationship between him and his father in the late sixties. The two men log rolled over top of one another. Sporadically they paused, the weight of their bodies counterbalanced between them.

“Harmonica Breakdown,” (1938) choreographed by former Graham dancer, Jane Dudley, was a clean and concise solo filled with pelvic contractions. Slowly dancer Alicia Canterna glided across the stage, consistently maintaining a forward incline in her body. Composing herself, she planted her feet firmly in place and began to tremble and quake from the knees up to her head.

“Falling,” choreographed by Paul Gordon Emerson, was a seductive and entangled duet between Bruno Augusto and Kathryn Pilkington, rough with pauses. The audience was surprised when Frederic Yonnet strolled in from the back of the house blowing into his harmonica. He wailed away with a dirty-blues tone, steadily working all through the audience until he arrived on stage. “Falling” was tightly woven with unconventional lifts and inventive balances. It seemed despite the dancers’ conscience resistance, the physical attraction between them overpowered, bringing the two together like magnetic poles.

The evening ended on a political note with “On a Train Heading South,” (2005) a piece by choreographer Brenda Way, which addressed the issue of global warming. The stage was set with twelve dangling ice blocks that continued to melt as the stage heated up and the story progressed. The clairvoyant Greek figure, Cassandra, played by dancer Delphina Parenti, frantically warned her counterparts of the dangerous rise in temperature that was to occur. Despite her efforts she was continually ignored, until her dancing, like the liquefied ice blocks, gradually melted and was too heavy to leave the floor.

Collectively, the past and present fused to create a memorable evening at The Music Center at Strathmore. Farewell and best wishes to dancer Bruno Augusto who will be leaving the company in September to pursue a MFA in Dance from New York University.

Related Articles:
Article by Nora Guthrie on the collaboration between Woody Guthrie and Sophie Maslow,

Interview of Brenda Way about "On a Train Heading South,"

CityDance Blog, by Paul Gordon Emerson, on the restaging of Folksay

1 comment:

Betsy Lundgren said...

Hi Amber,

Thanks for posting such a thoughtful review of CityDance. It's always good to see dance reviews appearing on blogs, and I'd certainly invite you to continue reviewing CityDance concerts in the future.

Betsy Lundgren
Director of Marketing
CityDance Ensemble