Fantastic artistry, skillful control, and incredible dynamics were all offered on the last evening of the REVERBdance Festival 2014, leaving the audience in high anticipation as to who would win the most coveted prize.

REVERBdance and Steps Beyond presented the REVERBdance Festival 2014 from March 21-23 at the Baruch Performing Arts Center. The festival showcased work from twenty choreographers as well as from curators Kate Griffler (REVERBdance/ 121 Dance Project), Sidra Bell (Sidra Bell Dance New York), Lane Gifford (LaneCoArts), and Bradley Shelver (Steps Repertory Ensemble). At stake were three prizes- a commission for new work for the Steps Repertory Ensemble, a one-month card for unlimited classes at Steps on Broadway awarded to the Best Dancer, and the $1000 REVERB award to the favorite choreographer, determined by a combination of audience and curator vote.

The first act opened strong with "TRAPPING" by Vanessa Tamburi (FLUSSO Dance), a multimedia performance of man vs. machine, where man imitated machine for art's sake. The parkour-style routine by Mario Coccetti (Compagnia della Quarta) set to electronic dance beats added a touch of fun. A romantic duet by Bryn Cohn moved gracefully through the phases of a loving yet imbalanced relationship. Calen Kurka (Noësis:KinetiCs) presented an ensemble piece that transitioned from blind conformity to individual awareness.

One standout was "VITALS" by Mike Esperanza (BARE Dance Company). With a graphic design background, Mr. Esperanza created captivating visuals of impeccable lines and shapes. Perfectly executed dance elements were distorted by small contractions, which with low lighting and simple costumes, formed a uniquely organic aesthetic. Soloist Paul Vickers showed incredible skill and control, bringing out the energy of the entire ensemble. "VITALS" was a wonderful visual display of the beauty found within perfect imperfections.

Act two opened with Roya Carreras' "Women who chew gum (excerpt from A Table)", a playful yet intriguing piece that literally featured women chewing long rolls of gum. A sultry duet by Abdur-Rahim Jackson (aB-LiV dAnCe) questioned one's true identity. Ashley Lindsey Dance explored various relationships with sequences of sweeping falls and strong partnering. Carson Reiners' trio depicted a lighthearted but serious struggle, complete with literal hat tricks.<

With the night nearly over, only one piece separated the audience from finally casting their votes. The audience's restlessness had peaked. The night was dragging on due to prolonged blackouts. Even the stagehands striking a set received a round of applause, just to keep the momentum going. But Nathan Madden's piece "Phrases For Two" set to deliver an extraordinary ending.BWW Reviews: REVERBDANCE FESTIVAL 2014

Mr. Madden's choreography itself was already mesmerizing with its angular movements, physical combativeness, and unpredictability. However, the audience was left in a trance thanks to a stunning performance by identical twins Jacob Guzman and David Guzman. The twins moved in perfect synchronization. Their equal style, energy, length of extensions, and even little idiosyncrasies heightened the conflict between the opposing characters so much so that, together with the pulsating static sound in the background, it was almost eerie to watch. For the audience, there was a clear-cut winner.

Fast-forward and the winners were announced. Mike Esperanza most deservingly won the commission for the Steps Repertory Ensemble. The Best Dancer Award went to Connie Shiau. And the grand winner? Tom Tsai's MEAN, whose absence at the Sunday evening performance left its attendees shuffling through their programs to see who beat the twins. Mr. Tsai had won the audience vote for the Saturday evening and Sunday matinee performances and with a quick look at an excerpt on his website, one can see why.

Overall, the winners may have been the audience, who were able to witness the versatility and diversity of choreographers and performers worldwide.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Crousillat


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Jessica Abejar Jessica Abejar is an artist with a love of storytelling. As a dancer/choreographer, she most recently performed at World Youth Day in Brazil, where she was called to explore movement as a prayer. She promotes a holistic approach to health and wellness as an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor, performing and teaching a style of sacred dance she calls "The Moving Prayer." She also writes a youth column for the newspaper The Filipino Catholic. Jessica graduated from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, summa cum laude with a BA in Business, but decided to follow her childhood dreams instead and performed with Disney Cruise Line.