Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Latin Choreographer's Festival 2012

The Latin Choreographer's Festival 2012
July 12-15, Dance New Amsterdam Theatre
Sunday July 15, Matinee Showing Program A

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Fifth Anniversary of the Latin Choreographer's Festival. This season was dedicated to the memory of late Mexican Choreographer, Jose Limon.

"I try to compose works that are involved with man's basic tragedy and the grandeur of his spirit. I want to dig beneath empty formalisms, displays of technical virtuosity, and the slick surface; to probe the human entity for the powerful, often crude beauty of the gesture that speaks of man's humanity." -Jose Limon

In this quote, we see the essence of a choreographer who took an investigative approach to composing dances. He used dance as a tool to help him understand mankind. This is a quality that many of the festival's choreographers also possess. In searching for the gesture of humanity, tremendous beauty was spawned in the works of these artists.

"Tree," by Eloy Barragan
photo by Rachel Neville

The dance, "Tree," choreographed by Eloy Barragan, conveyed an exploration of the space, perhaps a careful search for tenderness and forgiveness. It began with a statue of a man standing downstage with his back to the audience. Dancer, Steven Gray stood with his stoic, muscular back lit by the center lights. His movements were generous, full-bodied, and sweeping circles.  He rotated along the floor turning pinwheels with his whole body, a sort of modified cartwheel. He was powerful and calculated. Each move was executed with a controlled elegance. His polished technique and performance quality made the dance an absolute pleasure to watch. And just as the dance began to enter a mode of controlled chaos, he returned to the same solitary statue as the beginning. As the sun rises, so does it set.
"Hidden Souls," by Ursula Verduzco
photo by Rachel Neville

"Hidden Souls" began with a duet between a very intimidating looking man, Jorge Fuentes, and a woman, Lucia Campoy, whose hair and neck were covered completely in black fabric. Initially, I got the impression that the choreographer and festival's director, Ursula Verduzco was making a statement about male repression towards women. Perhaps however, this is based on my own subconscious assumptions. The lyrics of the music by Dead Can Dance echoed the words, "in a white world," in a rather deep and haunting voice. There was a steady tambourine-beat that was reminiscent of chains within the context of this struggle between man and woman. Additional waves of dancers joined them onstage. They danced femininely by holding the backs of chairs and flicking their calves upward behind themselves. The man controlling the women looked very evil and psychotic, perhaps even representing death. The piece had a very dark tone and serious atmosphere, however maintained an air of sex appeal due to the somewhat alluring choreography and high-slit skirts. The scene reminded me of a harem because of the recurring tambourine and dancers writhing and posing in the background, like a Grecian frieze. Eventually the leading woman was lifted by the others in a corpse pose and carried away. Her final attempt to protest was proven fatal.

"Other Side of Someday," by Felix Cruz
photo by Rachel Neville
In "Other Side of Someday," Felix Cruz , choreographer and dancer, stood downstage motionless and unsuspecting. Fellow dancer, Charli Brissey,  slowly reached up to him from behind and unexpectedly grabbed a handful of his hair and threw him to the ground. He struggled to regain footing and rose again only to be rejected and tossed down repeatedly. She slapped him without remorse and the effect on him was instant intense turmoil in the form of convulsing and spastic-like movements on the floor. While he flailed about, scribbling with his body, she watched calmly and unaffected from a chair in the corner until he collapsed to the ground, exhausted and dejected. Slowly he found the energy and the courage to stand. But the effects of the abuse could not be shaken and haunted him like a buzzing bee on the side of his face, buzzing at his ear and the corner of his mouth. Later he began lip syncing to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," by Judy Garland. He mouthed the lyrics so passionately and brimming with tenderness; begging and pleading with the audience for permission to go to that place; a place free from persecution, abuse, and bullying; a Utopia of love and camaraderie. I never thought I would enjoy watching someone lip sync in a concert dance setting. But the truthfulness and raw emotion emanated from his entire being so fervently that I was unable to resist tears and for those fleeting moments, I too shared his overwhelming anguish.

In "Bitter Earth," dancer, Asha Davis, radiates with feminine strength and beauty. Wearing a long, white haltered gown, she relished in the dust of this bitter earth by grasping imaginary handfuls to slip between her delicate fingers and swirl into thin air. At times she succumbed to trembling at the struggle of life, but soon overcame with all the grace of a lady.  Through this simple and effective solo, choreographer, Ferdinand DeJesus, reconnected us all to the most widespread human experiences; grief, struggle, perseverance, and bliss.

"Bitter Earth," by Ferdinand DeJesus
photo by Rachel Neville

The entire festival was a joy to watch, and my first concert dance experience in about two years, since the birth of my son. I look forward to following these choreographer's future endeavors. If you attended the show and had any thoughts you would like to share about these, or any other pieces, please feel free to comment below! I can't wait to hear what you thought about the show. Until next post... 

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