Review: DANCE NOW's Closing Night

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of punctuating my night at Joe's Pub for DANCE NOW- an innovative dance festival celebrating its 20th year, featuring brief dance vignettes on a bite size stage. The pub was vibrant- a full house buzzing with anticipation under chic, mood lighting.

Our hosts for the night were a quirky couple- a shrimp and a tortilla named Chelsea and Magda. They made a fitting segue into our first act of the night, an excerpt of Hapless Bizarre by doug elkins choreography, etc., an inventive and colorful combination of modern dance, vaudevillian comedy and contact improv/physical theatre with hip hop influences. The premiere of Hummingbird by Banana Peel Dance slowed the tempo with live bass playing by John Sullivan to underscore the dance's ethereal grace. For Becky by Christopher K. Morgan was a sensitive solo performance full of Morgan's masculine grace and intimacy with the audience.

The end of the first set seemed to be signaled by the return of the quirky couple -minus the food costumes- this time with a self-deprecating but cute comedy-choreography about breasts. Perhaps the premiere of BOobs was a bit rough around the edges but enjoyable as a playful reminder that women's bodies, human bodies may not be perfect and that's OK.

One of the highlights of the night for me was the bold premiere of Why Then Should I Be Afraid by RG Dance Projects - Rubén Graciani. The inventive body architecture and brave athleticism in the small space was captivating. Featuring strong music and lighting choices, the male-male dynamic was refreshing. The tension between one topless figure clad in red and his partner in blue spoke strongly to the audience the story of...?

The premiere of Worth the Going Worth the Ride by Erin Reck | Recked Productions used movement and voices to embrace the aging female body. Choreographed to upbeat, drummy music the piece eschewed conventional standards of beauty and worthiness.

The evocative combination of fluidity and stillness in WKcollective / Wanjiru Kamuyu's excerpt of At the moment of encounter felt like a shamanistic journey into the darkness of the psyche. The poetic use of control over her sculpted body felt eerie and sacred.

Chelsea and Magda returned with another interlude involving contact improv and the interesting use of clothing in The Loop of Integrity followed by Pengelly: Projects' Strange Weather embracing stillness and the ground.

The creative and ambitious use of multiple dancers in a small space was exemplified in the colorful theatricality of Mock Portrait an excerpt of a premiere by Ellis Wood Dance followed by the premiere of Evolved by Amber Sloan the solo dance of a willowy figure bathed in cerulean light.

We ended the night with Turning Out Questions by Claire Porter a lighthearted piece featuring Porter as an indecisive dervish whirling through what seemed to be embodied, incessant mental chatter instead of transcendent states of consciousness. It was a fitting end -at least choreographically- to a festival that took such differing artistic directions from one piece to the next.

Image Credit: Phillip Blackowl


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Olga El is a performance activist, writer, and director. Movement—particularly martial arts; aerial arts; and dances from North Africa, West Africa, and the Diaspora—is seamlessly interwov... (read more about this author)