BWW Reviews: ITE FESTIVAL Serves up a little Darkness at the Shetler Studios

By: Mar. 21, 2014

The plight of the urban dweller appeared to be the theme of choice at the ITE Dance Festival's Friday night performance at Shetler Studios' Theatre 54. Providing emerging and mid-career artists the opportunity to perform their work in a supportive and collaborative based setting, Inception to Exhibition (ITE) was co-founded in 2010 by former Elisa Monte Dancer Tiffany Rhea Fisher and Matthew Fisher

In the tradition of contemporary dance showcases in NYC, the choreographers of ITE were given the difficult but all too familiar task of adapting their work to a performance space not usually hospitable to concert dance. Theatre 54 is a small but extremely wide black box studio with minimal seating and sparse tech capabilities. Thankfully, this didn't distract much from the evening's entrees. The five choreographers of Friday night, Francesca Harper, Sidra Bell, Loni Landon, Takehiro Ueyama and Nelly Van Bommell kept the audience engaged and hopefully wanting more.

Francesca Harper opened the program with Look at this Shirt, a work which, as the choreographer puts it, is "a resolve to surpass limitation with the power of intention." Her dancer, Eriko Iisaku, is dressed in an oversized men's collared shirt and tie but over the course of the work, in a clear act of self empowerment, strips down to black shorts and a bra top as the video projection behind her reads "I will not let the past take my power." Sometimes the best part of a live performance is watching the audience react to the work as it is happening. I was sitting right behind the choreographer and her very young daughter who was asking questions to her mother during the entire piece. No doubt this was Harper's intention, to show her daughter the possibility of dance as self-empowerment and hopefully start a conversation amongst other audience members as well.

Takehiro Ueyama, Artistic Director of Take Dance, offered us Whispering Wall, an excerpt of a longer work, Salaryman. Take's dancers, Kristen Bell and Kile Hotchkiss, began with their faces pressed upstage against the back wall in what morphed into a sustained slow adagio of overlapping embraces. Over the course of the 10-minute duet, Hotchkiss and Bell alternated between serene and frantic, but found complete unison in seemingly spontaneous bursts of syncopation, contrasting the spare atmospheric score by Ana Milosavljevic.

Nelly Van Bommel served up a smart character piece entitled Point par Point. Her dancer, Katie Mattar, clad in a textured lace, vintage dress, cleverly matched her partner for this piece: a lone lampshade. Mattar's strong build and sense of sophistication helped her move through Van Bommels richly musical phrase work. Honorable mention to the choreographer's musical choice, "La Plus Belle Pour Aller Danser" (translated "the most beautiful for dancing") performed by Chris Garneau, for bringing a much needed sense of nostalgia to the evening without taking away from the integrity of the piece.

Sidra Bell's New Demon was a study in articulating complete abandon. During the talkback after the show dancer Alexandra Johnson, stepping in for the choreographer, explained how the dance was created over the course of five days as a short exercise in full bodied emotion through movement. Johnson and her partner Austin Diaz are drenched onstage in sweat under a wash of warm light. The two of them spun and tossed themselves through the space in simple white leotards, giving form to Bell's curvaceous movement aesthetic.

The last work of the night, Loni Landon's Don't Forget to Go Home, was a kinetic duet inspired by the avoidance and evasion in relationships. Dancer Allison Sale was present and nuanced at every moment of this work as she and her partner, the able-bodied Christopher Ralph, existed co-dependently, swerving, hinging, and enveloping each other through Landon's intricate choreography. The last image of Home positioned the dancers in a slow backwards crawl downstage as the lights slowly faded out, leaving the audience an impressive and lasting image to take home.