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BWW Reviews: BALASOLE Gives Voice to Diverse Dancers

This weekend, BalaSole Dance Company's fall show Pastiche was presented at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, introducing audiences to a variety of new solos from a diverse group of dancers. Billed as a company that addresses the gaps in the dance field by giving opportunities for underrepresented artists to find their voice, this season's show did just that and more. What Pastiche showed was that dancers of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and experiences had at least one thing in common - passion.

The evening opened and closed with a two-part group piece "Chapter 13," choreographed and performed by the ensemble, a "corporate team-building exercise" as Executive and Artistic Director Roberto Villanueva called it. As the piece progressed, the ensemble grew stronger, displaying the unique elements of each of their personal styles, a relevant motif throughout the evening.

Most of the solos presented were self-choreographed and demonstrated each dancer's strength and signature style. Marie Janicek opened with her piece "Unleashed," which explored the limitlessness of her range of motion. Rebecca Gual's "Palimsest" followed with exceptional charm and beauty. Vira Lee performed "From One to the Other," which was choreographed by Mr. Villanueva. Ms. Lee melted organically into the music and showed great versatility in movement and style. The first act concluded with Michelle Siegel's "Resounding Entanglement," where she unraveled herself from her beautiful costume pieces with a sensual mystique.

A standout of the first act was Ellen Sickenberger, whose piece "Silt" was hauntingly beautiful in its obscurity. The contemporary piece was accented by innovative isolations done with such precision, clarity, and musicality that her performance was just captivatingly chilling from the beginning to its minimalistic end.

The second half of the evening began with Samsam Yung's "This is not a Solo, aka, AIR," which began with simple gestures gradually increasing in intensity to match the pulsating music. Drama and athleticism were intertwined in Anastasia Coates' "Crecimiento." Jennifer Roit's piece "No Longer Lost" left the audience holding their breath as her movements flowed seamlessly from one to the other. She displayed a great sense of control and her electric energy reached even to her fingers.

The last solo of the evening was Mr. Villanueva's "Me, Myself, and I." The comedic theme of one dancer split between portraying two characters left the audience in joyful laughter, and Mr. Villanueva's impeccable lines and effortless grace left them also in awe. His extensions seemed to expand so far beyond the corners of the stage that one could never imagine that his short stature would keep him from booking a dance gig, as he so mentioned earlier in the evening when speaking of the company's mission. And upon meeting Mr. Villanueva, who thanked every single patron at the door, one could never imagine that that short-statured man was the elegantly exquisite dancer who just graced the stage minutes before.

But of course, that was exactly what Roberto Villanueva set out to do with BalaSole - to give a voice for excellent dancers who the audience may have otherwise missed.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Jones

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