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BWW Reviews: Teens Amaze at 92Y's DANCE UP!

In the very center where many dance legends have performed, thirteen teenaged choreographers presented pieces as part of Dance Up! The Next Generation at the 92nd Street YMHA Harkness Dance Center on Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13. The performance was followed by a Q&A session with the choreographers. The event showcased a vast array of talent, creativity, and maturity among the teens but also showed a commonality across all generations.

Mamaroneck High School saw two of their very own present. Remi Reinlib's "Yours, Mine and Ours" was a graceful duet that expressed the ever-present conflict of losing oneself in a relationship. Carolyn Sarkozi, a self-proclaimed non-dancer, drew paintings to aid in realizing her ensemble piece, her visual artistic skills evident throughout.

Dani Cole, a Virginian who is as eloquent in her words as she is in her choreography, created two pieces. Her Lord of the Flies-inspired solo exhibited a dynamic musicality that made strong movements seem to both cut and float through the air. Her strength in accenting the music along with dancer Mattie Rogers' gorgeous lines and emotional commitment beautifully expressed the story of a Holocaust survivor in her second piece.

Dance friends Julianne Carino and Justine Farhi decided to explore their choreographic styles freely and unapologetically. What resulted were two eclectic pieces - a solo by Julianne that seemed like a whispering secret not meant to be heard and a multimedia duet with such captivating chemistry that many veteran dance partners would envy.

A member of Alice Teirstein's Young Dancemakers Company, Nikeiris Portalatin laid her heart on the line with a grueling solo that had the audience reminiscing their own teenage heartaches. Her explosive emotional outbreak along with refined technique and athleticism created a painfully striking aesthetic. The piece then transitioned into a duet, where complex and innovative lifts could leave even a high school physics teacher in awe.

Right in the middle of a modern-dominated showcase was a hip hop piece performed by the Seabreeze Shake System, with choreography by members Alex Parker, Christie Benitez, and Wilkiaris Crispin. Through various styles from breakdancing to house, krumping to locking, the group displayed versatility and raw talent. However, it was their underlying themes of women empowerment and anti-bullying that demanded much attention, letting the audience know that they deserved to be there.

Harkness Dance Center scholar Dani Mullen created a riveting ensemble piece. The collective talent of the group, who showed strength in mesmerizing stillness and complemented each other perfectly through engaging interactions, left the audience holding their breath.

The playful duet by Kate Fishman depicted the many stages of friendships, including fallouts- quite an emotional and artistic undertaking for someone who is only a high school freshman.

Valerie Sobol created an ensemble piece to Mumford & Sons, whose fast pace and dark contemporary feel draws similarities to So You Think You Can Dance choreographer Travis Wall.

The show ended with Joselin Martinez's visually exciting ensemble piece. With dancers donned in aquamarine spandex and tutus, the audience did not know what to expect. However, with jaw-dropping acrobatic stunts and a pattern of shapes of geometric wonder, the audience was left stunned.

Afterwards, the audience, full of proud family, friends, and dance teachers, had a chance to speak with the choreographers. After their magnificent artistic display, one can forget that they were mere teenagers. But the audience was reminded of the choreographers' youth with an occasional giggle, awkward pause, or silly phrase ("You know what I mean?").

But teenage idiosyncrasies aside, they were no different than anyone else in the room. They took the challenge to discover their voice and began recognizing issues that spoke to, and often broke, their hearts. And like the dance legends before them, they began sharing and expressing the complexities of the human condition through their art. As choreographer Dani Mullen noted, "It is a wonder how humans can be in the same room and not go crazy. Good job, guys!" Yes, good job indeed.

Photo Credit: Amber Connors-Merino

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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 (read more...)