By Gregory King, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Swarthmore College for The Dance Journal
Artist showcases can be grueling!
Local studios use them to prune dancers, budding choreographers iron out works in progress, and activists employ this platform to flaunt their politics.
Nevertheless, these showcases are necessary.
They offer performance spaces to young talent and support for working and established artists who continue to show their work around the city.
On Sunday, January 18th, The Koresh Artist Showcase presented a variety of works that made it easy to remember why we love to watch dance in the first place – to be transported.
From solos to group pieces, dance makers tackled subject matters ranging from self-esteem and loneliness to anger and dependency.
Choreographer Melissa Rector had two pieces in the show; Main Stay and Quiet Night, Tomorrow. A Koresh dancer herself, Rector’s choreography was rich with earthy, grounded movements that pulsated with percussive footwork and haunting stares. Both pieces used music by Armand Amar and were costumed by Rector herself.
Main Stay opened the show with six female dancers wearing all black.
A chair downstage right became the focal point of the piece as a soloist partnered the prop, making it a seventh dancer. Rector has a knack for designing spatial patterns and uses diagonals throughout the piece to create strong choreographic statements that transformed the stage into a three dimensional movement arena. The young dancers of The Grier Dance Company grabbed the attention of the audience with their mature stage presence, setting the stage for the pieces that followed.
Danced flawlessly by Alexis Guthrie and Andrea Romesser, Rector’s One Night, Tomorrow, combined dance and theatre seamlessly as her intensely tribal choreography dripped off her dancers’ bodies.
Dancers are trained to be interpreters of movement and blank canvases on which choreographers bring to life their creativity. Some choreographers welcome input from their dancers while others prefer to be maestros, carefully directing their batons. So what happens when the artist is both the dancer and the choreographer?
Evalina Carbonell answered this question with a physically trained eloquence that demonstrated her ability to do both well. A small-framed dancer with superb extensions and impeccable control, Carbonell displayed her unblemished technique in Brandi Ou’s, Not All Who Wander Are Lost and again in an excerpt from her own work entitled Ripening. As a choreographer, I try to stay away from performing in my own works, but Wally, as she is called, achieved the perfect balance as choreographer and dancer. A harmonious blend of quirky gestures and well placed ballet references in Ripening, secured the success of Wally’s choreography and cemented her as one to watch on the Philly dance scene.
In Sposa Son Disprezzata, a duet by choreographer Sarah Mettin, Natalia Bizinha and Robert Lewis gave life to a delicately structured piece that could have been banal.
Had the choreographer experimented more with the weight sharing sections of the partnering, maybe some freshness would have been added to this choreographic “go-to”, used by some, to wow audiences. Still, once these moments were overlooked, you bore witness to the physical beauty of Bizinha and the strength of her partner, Lewis.
He cradled he, he caught her, her carried her.
I would like to have seen Lewis danced more instead of providing the muscle that secured Bizinhas’s risk taking leaps as she hurled her body towards him.
The intimate black box theater brought you face to face with some of Philadelphia’s promising young artists. You left the Koresh studio knowing that the show’s success was not measured by the ending ovation, but by the gathering of communities to support multi-genre artists seeking to share a part of themselves with good old Philadelphia.