BWW REVIEW: Guest Reviewer Kym Vaitiekus Shares His Thoughts On SET A/PART

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BWW REVIEW: Guest Reviewer Kym Vaitiekus Shares His Thoughts On SET A/PART

Friday, 20 December, 2019 at 7:30pm Newtown High School of the Performing Arts, Studio Theatre, King Street, Newtown

BWW REVIEW: Guest Reviewer Kym Vaitiekus Shares His Thoughts On SET A/PART.


SET A/PART choreographed by Meliisa Toogood and Jodie Toogood with Visual Art by Kenneth E. Parris III is a new performance piece that combines dance with visual art.
The work is an exploration of "place and an attempt to reconcile the kind of limbo one finds themselves in while questioning one's sense of home".

This one-hour program also featured solos from LOOSE TIME, ANTIC MEET, and RAINFOREST by Merce Cunningham and PASSENGEN by choreographer Pam Tanowitz.

Melissa Toogood is a Bessie Award winning performer. She is both dancer and Rehearsal Director for Pam Tanowitz Dance and has assisted Tanowitz on numerous creations including works for Nee York City Ballet, Ballet Austin, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, The Martha Graham Dance Company, the Juilliard School, Rutgers University, the Fall for Dance Festival, Vail Dance Festival and others.

Jodie Toogood is a classically trained contemporary dancer from Sydney, Australia. She was a founding member of the Austinmer Dance Theatre (Sydney) and LionHeart Dance Company (Melbourne). In 2013, she headed to New York to participate in 'Story' Choreographed by Merce Cunningham as part of the Merce Cunningham Trust's Fellowship program and returned in 2014 for 'Assemblage' and 'Canfield'. Jodie has worked with choreographers Michelle Forte, Angela Hill, Paul Selwyn Norton, Maurice Causey, Christopher Caines, Benjamin Curé and Robert Wood.

Kenneth E. Parris III is a New York visual artist. He received his BFA in illustration and an AAS in graphic design at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
His paintings and installations have been critically acclaimed by a number of publications and media including the Walker Art Center online magazine, National Public Radio, Time Out New York and Trend Hunter.
Parris traveled on the final two-year world tour with The Merce Cunningham Dance Company where he created an original series of drawings and text titled "Drawing Dance" for The New York Times. This series was featured for 23 weeks on the ArtsBeat blog and culminated in an exhibition made possible in part through a Space Grant awarded from Chashama.

Merce Cunningham was one of the greatest American dance artists. His seven-decade career was distinguished by constant innovation.
To start the evening off, Melissa and Jodie Toogood presented 3 Solos from LOOSE TIME, ANTIC MEET and RAINFOREST.
LOOSE TIME displays a series of jagged angular movements. Innovative choreography albeit emotionless. ANTIC MEET, a umbrella adored piece, displaying structured, precise and playful marching style movements. RAINFOREST, costumed in a curious torn sack like attire, the drama and anxiety of the work may be a bit lost in this solo extract.

The second presentation was PASSENGEN. Tanowitz choregraphy feels technique based with jolting moves. We see how the Toogood sisters work together, not always in perfect unison in this piece. It did give us an insight into their dance relationship and more so into the history of their connection as sisters.

BWW REVIEW: Guest Reviewer Kym Vaitiekus Shares His Thoughts On SET A/PART

This main presentation of the night, SET A/PART, was the gem of the evening.
The work combines Melissa and Jodie's choreography with the art of Parris.
At first I felt the projections pulled focus too much. To watch and enjoy the dancers was clouded with the desire to catch the art and how it combined.
But the integration of all these elements became more successful as the piece progressed, the work becoming a joy to watch as it turned into Art in motion.
Puzzle piece movements that join and connect in a intimate and aware manner. The 'painting' evolving in unison with the performers as they explore the intricacies of their movements.
They connect, move and oppose each other exploring the global soul.
"Where do you come from? Where do you stay?"
Jeff Klein's music sets the work off, adding an eventful and emotional level. At times maybe too loud with some of the spoken words lost.

After the performance there was a Q and A.
When asked, Melissa said with nervous self awareness, that she is still finding her voice.
I disagree.
SET A/PART was a exciting meld of Cunningham's influence and Toogood's innovative vision.

Artists create from a combination of many influences including some are from life experiences, other artists and one's personal journey.
The Toogood sisters also have the element of being in the present, living in the current environment/society with it's many aspects.
It was a worthwhile study to see Cunningham's and Tanowitz's past work performed but the joy and promise of the night was the fresh, inventive and joyful work of Melissa and Jodie combined with the art of Parris.
Two good.

Photography - David Bonnell

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