BWW Dance Review: DEMO: NOW Finds Kennedy Center's DIRECT CURRENT

BWW Dance Review: DEMO: NOW Finds Kennedy Center's DIRECT CURRENT

Think of the DEMO series at the Kennedy Center as a kind of dance sketchbook.

Curator Damian Woetzel chooses dancers and choreographers presenting excerpts of new pieces, works in progress, or in the case of the event in conjunction with the inaugural Direct Current series, a world premiere.

Innovative approaches have always been a part of the DEMO series, but especially in this one, subtitled NOW, amid the new festival that celebrates connections between various disciplines.

Here, in addition to the classically trained dances of New York City ballet star Sara Mearns and Patricia Delgado, formerly a principal dancer of the Miami City Ballet, the curve ball were the addition of a couple of free style innovators in the Memphis street style jookin' Charles "Lil Buck" Riley and Ron "Prime Tyme" Myles.

While there were very short pieces of just music from the inventive Caroline Shaw, the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, who used a device to spread her voice into harmonies in a work in progress, most of the music was from the string quintet Brooklyn Rider who, occasionally joined by drummer Savanna Harris, provided sounds for the movement - even that of the street dancers.

It was the movements of Riley and Myles that stood out just because they were so different from the other styles and full of a kind of impossible athleticism that had them on their toes literally for a piece, and then slink sideways seemingly to the sides of their feet in another. In one showcase, Riley came in such slow motion, he seemed like he was pausing in air.

All this was highlighted by their kicks - brightly colored, boot-like things that are the style in the streets, but with their blunt rubber soles something new to these kind of dance surfaces. Part lock-pop, part languid rubbery moves, at times they made it seem as if the oversized shoes were controlling them, "Red Shoes," style (a notion helped in part because one pair was also red).

That they danced to classical bits - one by Philip Glass, whose works recur in the Direct Current festival. But there seemed no reciprocal meeting of cultures in that the ballet dancers did not move to hip hop sounds.

A pair that seemed to bridge the disciplines were Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Reiner, who moved to the sounds of a piece "Desire Liar," written by Glen Kotche, the Wilco drummer who transcribed a drum piece into strings.

Throughout, Brooklyn Rider - Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen on violins, Nicholas Cords on viola andMichael Nicolas on cello - performed on stage just behind the dancers.

In some pieces, they interacted more directly with them in proximity and intensity.

The solo piece for Sara Mearns, "Fandango," with music by Boccherini, was a D.C. premiere that had its most solid roots of classic ballet (it also featured the oldest piece of music).

A lot of the work had their origins in the Vail Dance Festival, where Woetzel is director (he becomes president of The Julliard School this summer). But "Blueprint," choreographed by Pam Tanowitz for Delgado with Jason Collins and Victor Lozano, with music from Shaw, was the world premiere a light yet rigorous flight with intricate patterns and bold movements.

The pieces in this DEMO were so short as to be mere suggestions of what larger pieces can become; the ensemble piece at the end meant to showcase all of the performers was just devised that afternoon, Woetzel said, and looked it.

But the spirit of DEMO seemed to be the prevailing one that led to the larger Direct Current festival, which continues through March 19.

Running time: 85 minutes

Photo credit: Charles "Lil Buck" Riley performs with Brooklyn Rider with Savannah Harris in DEMO: NOW. Photo by Teresa Wood.

"DEMO: NOW" was performed March 7 as part of the DIRECT CURRENT festival at the Kennedy Center, which continues through March 19. Information available online.

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From This Author Roger Catlin

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