REVIEW: SHARP Dance Company ACT ONE / ACT TWO

by Ashabi Rich for The Dance Journal | photo by Bill Hebert

On Saturday, May 13, 2017 the flat black, working stage of The Performance Garage hosted a series of highly energetic, innovative and organic works under the direction of Diane Sharp-Nachsin, Artistic Director and Choreographer of SHARP Dance Company.  Expanding their traditional season concert format, Sharp-Nachsin featured two works from guest choreographers, Elizabeth Shea (Bloomington, IN) and Asya Zlatina (Philadelphia, PA) as part of their ACT ONE/ACT TWO, “building community” concert.

Shea’s piece, “The Rise of Otherness” opened the show with six company dancers:  Jaylen Man and Corey Boatner, Gracie Black, Krista Gottwald, Rachel Newbrough and Susie Wopat. They filled the space with exciting sequences of alternating synaptic flows, gorgeous extended body-lines, freeze-framed sculptured moments and layers of movement encompassing full-body floor contact. Music shifted throughout from a space age score to Italian opera and spoken word.  Construction of the flax-linen costumes flowed beautifully on the strongly built and carefully worked dancers. With full use of the whole stage,  we were treated to a combined visual and auditory feast of seemingly wind-blown angles, curves, lifts, and leaps.

Guest choreographer, Joe Cotler’s “Chosen”, was performed to some angry-sounding synthesizer music (NASA –Space Sounds, George Crumb, Phillip Glass, George Frederick Handel, and Ben Frost).  Set on the SHARP Dance Company, there was an organic build up of energy and power from the opening.  The piece was visually arresting. The transitions entering and exiting the stage, exquisitely accomplished as two women and one male dancer in royal blue tops and black tights were replaced by four women in royal blue dance skirts with back-interest tops in strips of cloth. As the piece progressed to a simultaneous onstage presence, the rhythmic movement sequences were like the left and right hand playing their separate but harmonious parts on a piano ending in the resolution of one dancer remaining on stage, the last note played on the keyboard.

“Slicker”, choreographed by Sharp-Nachsin with music by Mychael Danna was an excerpt of a previous work, “Pollution.” Strains of soothing Eastern flute subtly focused the audience on a darkened stage. The sustained flute was joined and juxtaposed by a trio of tabla, a South Asian membranophone percussion instrument , which exuded sweet, exciting phrases of passion. Their explosions of patterned rhythms bring to mind the sharp bursts of footwork in Flamingo. The dancer’s bodies flowed in folds, stretched in layouts and waved with body isolations of counter rhythms. The dancers were drawings of living statuettes, illustrations of progressive stills sequentially flipped cartoon style.

Last in ACT ONE, Sharp-Nachsin’s “A Vision”, gave soloist Kate Lombardi quite a workout as she performed demanding contortions on, within, and around a suspended steel hoop, a la Cirque du Soleil style.

After an intermission, the audience was treated to a stylized period piece, “The Way it Was, from BARRY”, choreography by Asya Zlatina. Dancers, Jessica Daley, Sydney Donovan, Rachel Neitzke, Harlee, Trautmamn and Kathryn Van Yahres, in colorful “house dresses” rocked out to the sounds of The Barry Sisters, first generation Americans and stylishly appointed New York jazz singers who sang standards and Yiddish pieces from the 30’s through 70’s..The choreography was part jazz, part ethnic folk dance, part street dance and just plain fun for both the audience and dancers.

“Big C”,  an excerpt of “Perceptions” with music by J and Mychael Danna and choreography by Sharp-Nachsin and dancers, featured the wonderfully technical and expressively nuanced dancer, Miquel Quinones.  In an amazing costume reminiscent of a strait jacket,  he went from being an object of sympathy, solitude, and need to actively attempting to capture and imprison those who extended empathy and human contact to him – dancers, Linnea Calzada-Charma, Sandra Davis, Kate Lombardi and Angeli Romano. Interacting with the tentacle-like costume on Miquel, they demonstrated a mastery of tension, release, centering, awareness, and balance.

The premier of “Intention Without Meaning” Part One with music by J and choreography by Sharp-Nachsin featured all dancers on deck giving a grand finale in black costumes under red light. It was a Martha Graham exhilaration set to rock!  The choreography was Graham- grand with Horton punctuation marks brought into an exciting contemporary expression.

About Ashabi Rich

Ashabi Rich, a Norristown native, began dancing in A.D. Eisenhower High School’s extra-curricular dance club studying Graham technique. While attending Swarthmore College, she continued in modern dance through elective dance classes under Patricia Boyer who eventually established the department for Swarthmore’s major in dance. Ashabi later went on to become a dance major at Temple University studying with Hellmut Gottschild, Eva Gholson, and Patricia Hobson among others. While at Temple she performed with the East Indian Dance club (Kathak). She became a company dancer with Philadelphia raised ballet dancer John Jones (United Souls of America), and later spent six years with Robert “Baba” Crowder’s Kulu-Mele African Dance and Drum Company. She has also been a guest dancer with Alo!Brasil, and taught at the Stephen’s School of Dance in Germantown.

Ashabi has studied dance under dance and drum icon John Hines, Faye Snow, Gilset Mora, Carmen Butler, Ione Nash, Dottie Wilkie, Onyin Harris, Youssouf Koumbassa, and Cachet Ivey. As a student at the American Dance Festival/Connecticut College, Ashabi studied under Clay Taliaferro, Walter Nix, Gay Delange, and Thelma Hill. Ashabi is a Certified Reiki II practitioner in the Mikao Usui lineage through Reiki Master Helen Blue and Grandmaster Earlene Green. She is a martial arts aficionado having studied judo, Praying Mantis kung fu, Wing Chun kung fu with Sifu Mo Bah Wei (Frank Wyatt), Shotokan karate (Teruyuki Okazaki), Akido (Yukio Utada), and Jujitsu-Shotokan karate (Andrew Lyn. Sr.). She is SAG-AFTR membership eligible from the movie-In Her Shoes (screen credit Asabi Rich.) and is a graduate of Temple University with a BA in English. Currently Ashabi is a graduate student at Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication studying for an MS in Globalization and Development Communication.

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