by Roger Lee for The Dance Journal
The New Year bought a new Artist Showcase to the Koresh studios. Audience members flooded into the warm, intimate back studio. Within minutes all of the seats and blue floor mats were filled to capacity. Those who needed to step outside the studio immediately embarked on an adventure complete with climbing, crawling, and squeezing their way out. I decided to stay put and wait patiently for the show to begin. This wasn’t hard to do because I was accompanied with my student journalist program mentee Hope DiTaranto. The talented young writer also wrote her own review of the Koresh Artist Showcase (the one following mine).
The evening opened with Melissa Rector’s Passage to the Light. The rhythmic group number featured recorded drum snares that could be felt while sitting on the floor. I appreciated the repetition found in Rector’s choreography. It was not too much and certainly not too little. The repetition was just right. It allowed the audience to take in the intricate phrasing, musicality, and precision executed with each movement. Phrases were often repeated by the group on different facings while solos intertwined with duets. It would have been nice if the group moved a little less while the soloists performed in the front. It was hard to focus on the intricacies of both the solo and group choreography happening all at once.
Next up was a trio choreographed by Liz Lyle. The all-female trio sported colorful, flowing dresses that meshed nicely with the warm lighting. While the piece went in and out of solos, duets, and hand holding trios, my eye gravitated towards dancer Caroline Butcher. Her clean lines, deep plies, and large jumps were hard not to watch. On top of that, she managed to maintain eye contact with the audience and seemed to internalize the choreography the most. Butcher bought Lyle’s choreography to life by dancing it as opposed to just executing it.
In honor of the Sandy Hook tragedy, Sammy Reyes choreographed Crying Circle. This unconventional group routine featured contemporary hip-hop choreography to the classic song Ave’ Maria. While dancers tutted, took to their knees, and shifted in and out of intricate spatial formations, my attention immediately went to the music. Because Ave’ Maria is such a well known song, it was hard not to get lost in it. This stopped me from taking in all of the intricacies of the choreography. That is until the music shifted to a DJ-inspired track that was better suited for the hip-hop movement. The shift in music also had an obvious shift in the dancers on stage. They began to hit each movement with more aggression, precision, and stylization than previously shown. I wish that this section had gone on for longer. As soon as I got fully invested in the choreography, it came to an end. However, I appreciated the unique dance tribute to such a sad tragedy in American history.
Melissa Rector returned with another piece. This time it was a solo set on her Koresh Dance Company colleague Asya Zlatina. This solo was certainly one of the showcase highlights. The soloist simply got lost in the movement, music, and the moment. You could hear Zlatina’s heavy breaths, witness effortless transitions, and see her muscles working together to reach each line’s extent. This solo showed off the vulnerability, strength, and grace that makes Zlatina a standout dance artist. It was also ironic that the solo was titled Be Still because Zlatina did anything but be still.
Amy Harding’s Alchemy Dance Company performed Splendid Solis. The piece featured solos and group sections where the quartet alternated roles. In one group section Kaitlyn Clark was unexpectedly suspended on the backs of the dancers: while in a high arabesque. Although she held the pose for almost 10 seconds, it felt a lot longer because of her long line. This was certainly a standout moment for the piece. The other standout came in the form of University of the Arts senior dancer Kevan Sullivan. His movement was organic, fluid, and tightly coiled all at the same time. Sullivan’s powerful deep second position plies into tight fifth position pencil turns were a sight to see. He is one of Philadelphia’ rising Philadelphia dance artists to keep an eye on.
Melissa Rector’s third and final piece of the showcase was a jazz-inspired duet. The black, slick costumes complimented the ballet-inspired hair buns sported by the young dancers. Allison Cira and Sydney Donovan were in complete unison throughout the piece. It is rare to see two young dancers with such precision and musicality. I only wish that the piece was longer and featured some moments of solos, varying movement phrases, and timing to contrast with the strict unison exhibited in this showcase.
Jocelyn Hrzic’s Vivace was a nice throw back to classical modern dance movement and formations. I appreciated the unique costume choice of black leotards and see through white dresses. The dresses worked well because they caught the light, gave the movement more “flow,” and allowed the audience to still see the line of the legs through the dresses. I also was stricken by the intricacy of the ever-changing spatial formations and the quick speed of the choreography. I prayed throughout the piece that no one slipped or bumped heads as dancers turned, leaped, and ran through the small space at what seemed like warp speed. My prayer was answered! I was also blessed by the stage presence of Ellen Kim. While dancing she maintained a look of joy and confidence on her face. Kim is a natural performer with a lot of potential. She is another rising Philadelphia dance artist to watch out for.
The feel-good showcase ended on a high note, or should I say high tap, with Micah Geyer’s Me and My Shadow. The tap duet featured Geyer dancing with his young, private tap student Stoyan Angelov. The two tapped to the music of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. The music, argyle sweaters, and unison tap phrases came together and created a few minutes of magic. When Angelov broke out in his short solo, complete with exaggerated facial expressions, the crowd went wild. I would have liked to see more solo moments from Angelov. The short solo he executed was stronger than his unison work. However, this piece was a great way to end such a strong showcase. I look forward to the next one taking place on March 23 and 24.
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