BWW Reviews: Young Dancemakers Company 2014
Sixteen New York City public high school students were given the opportunity of a lifetime this summer when Bessie-winner Alice Teirstein took them under her wing and introduced them to the dance community. After a whirlwind tour across New York City, as well as a slew of other dance-related activities from shows to workshops to seminars, The Young Dancemakers Company ended its 19th season with a packed gala performance at the Ailey Citigroup Theater.
Coming from all five boroughs and 15 different high schools, these youngsters ranged from all sorts of dance backgrounds and life experiences. While this resulted in an assortment of pieces, what was truly evident was the camaraderie among them. Just from their opening piece alone, the chemistry was electric as the Company cheered on each soloist, shouting things like "That's my friend!" They danced joyously to the sounds of featured guitarist Juan Virella and Musical Director William Catanzaro, while Hilary Rodriguez created a graffiti backdrop live.
The first of the student pieces was "Constellation" by John Rosario, a women's ensemble piece that explored shapes across different dimensions. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" was a central piece to "The Movement" by Don Phillipe Aubourg, where dancers seemed to melt under a Southern summer sun, jaded by the long-drawn fight of the Civil Rights era. Dancer and choreographer Dea'Shinique Ramsey danced gracefully to eerie silence in "Beneath the Mask."
"Do As You're Told" by Jane Namenwirth was a riveting ensemble piece that depicted conformity. The ensemble made their way downstage like a gang a la West Side Story, and while one or two tried breaking free, there was always a way back into the group. Even in the chaotic frenzy, there was still uniformity among them.
A playful duet between a dancer and her shadow lightened up the mood in "The One Behind Me" by Nhia Solari, while fears and anxieties took center stage in "Fear Kills, Hope Strengthens" by Shamara Bey and Alexandra Crocitto. A jazz party is quickly interrupted by prejudice and bigotry in "Blacklisted" by Ivoryona Williams. The last piece, "The Power of One" by Jael Lewis, was a fun interpretation of different styles of dance from all over the world, ranging from Chinese to belly dance, salsa to West African.
A standout of the evening was the solo "One-Winged Girl," choreographed and performed by Hilary Rodriguez, who was the graffiti artist and b-girl at the beginning of the show. The piece was much quieter than when she had first introduced herself with skillful breakdancing feats in "Street Beat," but it was truly captivating to watch her move through the space with soft but deliberate movements that were suspended in time and place. It was a testimony of what this program can do to young people, which is to transform them by opening them up to new sights, sounds, and experiences.
This year's concert also included an excerpt from "Esplanade" by Paul Taylor, adapted and staged by former Paul Taylor Company member Richard Chen See. With the dancers' limited technique, it was quite astonishing to see them deliver so beautifully such a physically demanding piece. The excerpt included a series of slides, falls, jumps, and rolls, and had the dancers move from one side of the stage to the other in a matter of seconds. Though based on pedestrian movements, the style of the piece is infused with modern technique, which some of the students had been introduced to for the very first time during the program. No one could have ever imagined that with their performance.
The evening ended with a short Q&A as well as the audience interactive "Dance with Us" segment, where the audience and YDC alumni seemed to have stolen the show with their own impressive feats! Overall, it was a truly magnificent evening and one could not help but be proud of the dancers' and choreographers' efforts. They had touched the audience's hearts, many of whom were family and friends seeing these teens come alive in a whole new way.
Photo Credit: Mekea Hurwitz