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Sharp’s Journey Home

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by Lewis Whittington for The Dance Journal
Christ Church Neighborhood Theater, October 10-12

Sharp Dance Company’s The Journey’ is a large sampling of dance works by Diane Sharp-Nachsin since she began her company nine years ago. Starting with a 2003 work titled aptly enough ‘Begin a Tale’ Sharp-Nachsin is confident enough to include some sketchier pieces that amounts to a true retrospective of her creative development. Former members of her company and guest dancers joined her current core troupe. The camaraderie among of this cast and the choreographer was palpable throughout the performance. Chris Frey lighting designs made good use of the close rustic stage arena at Christ Church Neighborhood Theater in Old City.

The concert opened with the ‘I Grieve’ (2006) set to the song by Peter Gabriel, with dancers Meredith Magoon, Emily Padova-Farrell and Patrick Korstange in the throes of the existential realities of grief. as expressed by Sharp’s elegiac and minimalist movement, One seems paralyzed in a chair, on a bed, together aimlessly in space. Sharp avoids maudlin sentiment, and these dancers embody reconciliation within loss. Korstange’s personal story was the inspiration for this piece and he reprised his original role body and soul.

Next, an immediate mood shift with ‘Begin a Tale’ performed by seven students from the choreographer’s classes at Mid-Atlantic Ballet. The young troupe, dressed silky dance togs, locked together with a joyous ensemble flow, and a few hip-hoppy music video moves.

Steven Vaughan, a former SDC member and currently with David Parsons Dance Co, entranced with the solo piece ‘The Journey’ (2007) set to a rock anthem by Counting Crows. Vaughan seems to be in a yoga session morphing through a regimen of precise postures, but he also communicates a struggle. Torso undulations belie an anguished expressionism and a seamless fluidity by Vaughan, showcases Nachsin-Sharp’s feel for narrative arc.

Another arresting solo with a theatrical punch is ‘Unguarded Moment’ (2009) scored to original music by Jason Andrew. A spotlight comes up on Sandra Davis in a straight- jacketed writhing in a chair, her black pointe shoes jutting out. Davis bolts out of the chair and flies into pirouettes, piques and petit jumps – her arms still bound in the jacket. These moves are off the chart in degree of difficulty, but somehow she is even able to drop to a full split and get up again.

Woman’s Story-Part 2′ (2008) set to Annie Lenox‘s 90‘s hit ‘Why’’a quartet for four women in a straightforward story of heartbreak, survival and growth. The choreography builds on the song’s dynamic vocal phrasing and when Lenox’s voice soars, so do these dancers.

Not as dynamic was ‘Building Bocks’ (2007) with music from Depeche Mode for six women, with each dancer in a short solo work, passing on what they built to the next dancer. A great theme, but choreographically remains static, and has the feel of a studio exercise. ‘Blind Faith Part 2 (2009), for three women, is choreographically in also in soft focus, with predictable ‘pretty’ phrasing, and the dancers also seem a bit rote in their performance. In contrast, ‘Blind Faith Part 3‘ (2010) is completely hypnotic, with Kate Rast, Joe Cicala and Jill Turanski tethered in a huge swath of rust and black fabric which had them skirted at times or molded into bodyscapes trios. Sharp’s adagio phrasing creates arresting the arresting kinetic sculptures.

‘Pieces of U’  (2008) scored to songs by Sinead O’Connor and Jewel with challenging lyrics about societal intolerance and violence. danced by Korstange, Cicala, Davis and Sophie Malin, each in solo sections depicting stories of anti-Semitism, misogyny and homophobia. Its literalness in word and music is meant to make you feel uncomfortable, again Sharp wisely uses simplified chorography for universal messages.

Excerpts from ‘Une soire au cabaret’ – Two sleepy people a dance punch drunk duet with Caroline Butcher and Cicala as the soused revelers and ‘Roller Coaster Rules’ highlighting Sharp‘s slapstick comedy skills. ‘Ne Me Quitte Pass’ with Cicala and six women in bustiers is has atmosphere and ensemble mystique, but the piece remained choreographically one-note.

Gia‘ a scene from 2013’s ‘Perceptions‘ inspired by the story a dancer who is not able to move her legs due to a muscular disease. Davis and Rast are prostrate on the ground in ballerina tulle. They arc their torsos and pull themselves on chairs, and execute gorgeous port de bra. Cicala and Miguel Quinones (also with Parsons‘ Dance) suddenly appear to partner the lifts.

Some filler comedy pieces make the second half of the concert too long, but the finale set to the blues/rock classic ‘Piece of My Heart’ sung live by Jenn Hallman, ala Janis Joplin, with all of the dancers decked out in fringed vests or floral bell-bottoms, as one groovy ‘tribe’ is an instantly contact high. Sharp-Nachsin’s retrospective is a choreographic mixed bag, but the choreographer’s willingness to chronicle the whole trip, slow bumps and all, is a creative journey well worth taking.

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