Project Moshen’s WOMAN: Jazzy Stylings and Female Strength

by Emma Elsmo for The Dance Journal

The empowered women of Project Moshen took to the stage with a fierce force on Friday night at the filled to capacity, Performance Garage. A company of nine women lead by Kelli Moshen, with assistance from Danielle McGilligan, danced the message of female strength with a creative and jazzy flair to their world premiere, WOMAN. The audience cheered as the dancers executed fast, intricate movements and exhaled audibly as they moved their way through tense, emotional moments. From costumes to song selection, this complex show was a triumph for strong woman everywhere.

The opening piece, Venture, was performed by an outside trio of younger students from the Institute of Dance Artistry. Their youthful energy, exhibited during a short and sweet dance, proved to be a delightful start to an otherwise deeply impactful show. Act I of WOMAN commenced with Mi Mujer, a fiery and showy piece performed by six of the company members wearing all black with slick, low ponytails. As the dancers executed Kelli Moshen’s sharp choreography to the thudding bass and stylings of Nicolas Jaar, it was apparent they were well rehearsed and incredibly comfortable moving with each other. The unison sultry jazz walks and striking formation changes proved the evening wouldn’t disappoint.

Moving forward, it was a roller-coaster of emotions as Project Moshen explored a broad spectrum of socio-political commentary pieces. Kelli Moshen brilliantly addressed issues ranging from body image to female equality through strong movement and clever choreography. Her dancers clearly rose to the level of sincerity and commitment required to perform such work. Danielle McGilligan slew the evening as she danced her way through seven of the nine works, but her solo, In this Skin truly set her apart. Performed to Olafur Arnald’s contemporary classical music, it was the perfect accompaniment to her dynamic movement as she dealt with such issues as self-consciousness and societal pressures.

Silenced No More closed out the first half of the evening with robust fortitude as all nine company members addressed society’s silencing of women. With black fabrics wrapped around their mouths, the dancers spread throughout the space, slowly removing their covering fabrics one by one.  The dancers mimed screams to signify their refusal to be silent – an exhausted gesture turned fresh again. Once all the women found their voices, they clumped together articulating their personal empowerment in a dramatic manner that proved to be the perfect end to the first act.

Act II of WOMAN offered a more comical approach to addressing women’s empowerment. Working Girl touched on the female presence in the workspace as the dancers dominated the stage in various colored and patterned blazers. Filled with intense leaps and challenging turns, the work captivated the audience with laughter as Moshen took a more musical-theater approach. Over the top facial expressions and typical office props accented this piece as the dancers delivered cheerful execution of the choreography.

Def.i.(d)ance and Won’t Stand Down closed out the evening. Both pieces tied together clean, unison, and jazzy lines with deeply rooted portrayals of emotional turmoil.  Ultimately, Project Moshen Dance Company delivered a memorable and powerful statement about strong and intelligent women.

About Emma Elsmo

A Chicago native, Emma Elsmo has been dancing since the mere age of two and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She began her formal dance training at the Academy of Movement and Music in Oak Park and has spent three summers training under Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's professional programs, as well as one summer spent with Deeply Rooted Dance Chicago. Currently, she is happy to be a part of several projects being created in the Philadelphia area. A lover of all things art related, Elsmo is currently getting a Bachelor's in Fine Arts from Temple University.

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