Roger Lee Werqs It with Runway!

by Dominique Jolly for The Dance Journal | photo by Stephanie DeFeo

Roger Lee Dance premiered their autumn performance, Runway on October 13, 2018 at The Performance Garage. Deviating from their usual four piece concerts, the company performed two twenty minute pieces choreographed by Roger Lee.

Upon arrival, audience members were invited to begin their night by strutting down the red carpet runway leading into the theater.  With high energy music in the background and all the trappings of a high end fashion show, there was increased excitement and anticipation of the evening to come.

That energy made way for the first piece, Werq! The scene unfolded with a myriad of colored costumes in bright blues, glittering tutus, rhinestones, and rainbow paint streaked shirts which decorated dancers, Roger Lee, Myles Mungo, Emily Rawlins, Jasmine Newsome, and Lisa Rucker. Paired with lighting and fast paced movements, Werq! portrayed the ultra glamorous, over the top representation of a runway show. Myles Mungo lip synced to the phrases in the music as each dancer executed moves that matched the RuPaul inspired lyrics, adding a layer of joviality to this entertaining piece. While the choreography was well executed and the stage never left empty, timing was at times off during the combinations with the entire cast, yet each canon was wonderfully executed.

Following intermission, the audience was presented with the second piece, Prism. Outfitted in black and gold costumes, some with ruffles, lace, or gold splattered tights, the dancers cast off the scandalous runway personas in favor of the sultry, stronger side of runway; a side that knows exactly what it’s doing.

While, Werq! was energetic and full of attitude, Prism was the power move. This piece was full of leaps and barrel jumps. It consisted of choreography that included more ballet and jazz technique than the first piece. Multiple genres were successfully infused into one cohesive piece, going as far as to include the Milly Rock after an assemblé.

Emily Rawlins executed a stunning solo grounded in ballet. She was then joined by Roger Lee, Myles Mungo, Jasmine Newsome, and Mahala Roberson. The cast found their timing and their cohesiveness was impeccable as demonstrated with a series of chain turns across the stage.

When asked about his method for this performance, Roger Lee replied, “Six stars just moving together”. There was no story line, plot, or main character. Simply, six dancers sharing a spotlight and what became the runway. The show’s namesake was more than apparent as dancers had frequent catwalks incorporated into their choreography utilizing the center aisle, through rows of more than pleased onlookers and an entire performance worthy of New York’s Fashion Week celebrations.

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