Dance Soirée, Miami Edition

Written By ArtBurst Team
February 6, 2016 at 6:49 PM

Probably the most predominate need for any choreographer is to find a place to play, create, investigate, but even more important, a place to show their work. From the Works in Progress Series in New York’s Dance Space, or The Shared Choreographer’s Showcase in Cambridge, Mass.’s Dance Complex, or our hometown Open Space series presented by Dance Now Miami at The Little Haiti Cultural Arts Center, studios and more established companies offer a vehicle for other artists to present their work in a lightly produced or bare-bones affair. One company helping to support other artists is Sobers & Godley, founded in 2009 by Simone Sobers and Gierre Godley to present original contemporary works. In the summer of 2012, the duo founded and produced Dance Soirée in New York City. The mission was to provide an accessible platform for emerging artists to present their work in a raw setting for written feedback from an audience. One choreographer based on audience votes receives an Audience Choice Award honorarium. Showcases take place in the winter, summer, and fall in New York City. And this past weekend, on Sat., April 27, the project’s inaugural spring showcase took place in Miami at the Miami Dance Studio. Twelve artists, nine local and three from New York, answered the call for work to be presented in this venue. It was standing-room-only, with audience members watching from the back and sides. The magic was the intimate proximity of the artists to the audience, where every nuance and bead of sweat is exposed by two floor stage lamps shining a light against a white wall background. Every piece had the same set up; that one common denominator required that the artists stand out on the merits of their work. Some were more successful than others. There were a series of solos which, either by coincidence or design, were all costumed in white, and all seemed to blend into each other. The difficulty of presenting solo work is that unless you have the fortitude and commanding presence of Judith Jameson performing Ailey’s “Cry,” solo work can feel uncomfortably indulgent or overly introspective, trading movement for a highly gesticulated vocabulary. A stand out by merit of its folkloric theme and the dancer’s own enchantment was the ritualistic performance of “Espiritu Shanti,” by Kamaria Dailey. Highlights of the showcase included Southern Breakdown, a trio by Brigette Cormier, danced by Cormier and two others, dressed in striking red dresses. The women danced in individual vignettes that moved craftily in and out of unison movement and brought the dancers back to their own starting poses. The movement itself was captivating, but the musical choice of Train Song by Avocado State was distracting. The vocabulary and the interpretation of the space was strong enough that the piece could have worked equally well, if not even more impressively, in silence. “Consumer,” a spoken word and movement collaboration by writer and spoken word artist Marie Whitman and dancer Paola Escobar, was an intelligent performance piece, where both word and movement reflected and informed each other well. While Escobar danced in, on, and over a rocking chair, Whitman would circle and manipulate the chair while sharing her thoughts on the perils of consumerism. Both women had great presence and Whitman has the rare talent of delivering her engaging words effortlessly, without a hint of hesitation or recitation. “Beauty of a Woman,” choreographed by Alexandra Makarova, was performed by a quartet of women of varying ages from a young girl to the mature and vibrant Makarova. The piece was a lovely and mesmerizing fusion of contemporary and flamenco. The women danced in canon with the flourishing of fans in hand as they accented the syncopations and rhythms in the soft flamenco guitar music. The movement was rich and flowing but also very physical and challenging. Also promising was Chad Austin and Shawna Bowden’s quartet, “A Woman’s Story,” whose second section was the strongest danced by four women to a cover of Nina Simone’s often times misunderstood song, Four Women; and Ferdinand de Jesus’ “Bitter Earth,” a duet performed by a powerful couple to Max Richter’s mix of a Dinah Washington standard. Both pieces had elements that on the surface mildly imitated themes, devices and design of already established works by artists like Ulysses Dove, Talley Beaty, or Alvin Ailey. But at their core was a strong intensity and delivery that as the artists’ future works develop, can grow to an even more powerful original voice. Even with the diversity of styles mentioned so far, there were two pieces that unfortunately felt out of place. “Fun on a Foggy Day” was a tolerable, decently sung, half jazz dance/half musical number with requisite jazz hands. And “Down on the Pharm” was an overly long costume piece that was heavy on metaphor and light on the tap. Finally, the bookends of the night were an untitled opening duet by presenters Sobers & Godley that was physical, visceral, and predatory, as the two used the back wall as an extension of their bodies and as the edge of the abyss. The closing piece was Sobers’ creation, danced by the aforementioned Makarova and Claudia Alvarado. The piece titled “About Your Nothing” was a wonderfully dense and at times harrowing pool of movement, with barely a rest for the two strong performers. Whereas many artists confuse emotionally heavy dance interpretation as craft, this work proves that vocabulary, true movement of bodies in space, and genuine craft are more successful at provoking emotions with subtext. One thing that could benefit the overall experience is curating a smaller number of presenters to eight to 10 (their were 12 works by invited artists and the presenters’ two works). In a showcase of so many styles and artists, reducing the number of works and the length of the showcase would give the audience a better chance to more deeply appreciate each course and rest the palate in between. The selection process would also benefit the program by having a more defined scope. But overall, Miami dance will be better served if such a series continues. Photo credit: Samantha Siegel

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