by Steven Weisz for The Dance Journal
The Barnes Foundation continues to present a large variety of local performers and dance artists, creating exposure to new audiences. Such was the case for November’s PECO Free First Sunday program which featured dance works by Rhonda Moore and Christina Castro-Tauser. And yes, the programs were completely free along with free admission to the collections and special exhibitions!
Moore presented two works on this afternoon, Dancing with the Elephant and Almost Good.
Dancing with the Elephant was a duet featuring Rhonda Moore with partner Andrew Polunin, set to Shostakovich Waltz #2. Throughout the piece, the audience is treated to the complex character development of these two dancers, created by the smallest of movements and expressions, intertwined within the framework of the waltz, while mixed with slapstick style humor. But there is a much deeper meaning in this repartee between characters which looks at issues of gender, race, and relationships. With the use of two giant balloons, one white and one black, this couple comes together, breaks apart, struggles, fights, and dances through life. There is a clear reminder of the danger that tough conversations can make matters worse, but the bigger danger is avoiding them.
Moore’s second piece was a complete turnabout with a cast of over twenty-seven dancers in Almost Good. Moore had been instrumental in the planning of Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Émard, Le Grand Continental ® when it came to Philadelphia this year for the FringeArts Festival. This was her own mini version of synchronized choreography with a few notables from Philly’s own dance community as well as former “Continental” dance participants. You may recognize a few names amongst the cast – Zoey Bonfante, Beverly Agard, Patty Bulack, Janis Moore Campbell, Joseph Fong, Nancy Frey, Grisel Garate, Bella Gibson, Sarah Greenblatt, Michael Healy, Renee Weintraub Kalandar, James Lemma, Jr., Nani Manion, Christine Mantey, Jen Marvelous, Rhonda Moore,Yolanda Moran, Ana Radonic, Rosanna Sarkissian, Katie Scheuer, Catherine Schmitt, Cliff Schwinger, Stephanie Seymour, Mark Thompson, Erica Wexler, Judy Williams, and Francie Woodford. The pure delight of line dancing was never more evident as these performers broke from frozen manikin poses throughout the museum into a rousing chorus of smiles, hand clapping, and joyous movement. And isn’t that what dance is ultimately all about?
The afternoon also featured two pieces by choreographer, Christina Castro-Tauser. Castro-Tauser is an adjunct faculty and MFA alumni at Temple University, a teaching artist for Taller PR and a dance instructor at Dance Arts of Yardley from which she drew some of her cast. Both pieces were excerpts from Castro-Tauser’s thesis concert, Que Pasa Ahora? Interesting enough, Rhonda Moore had previously introduced this piece when presented at Temple University.
In the first interlude, we are privy to the day to day life of a family, centered around the dining room table, as they go through their ups and downs in a way that feels reminiscent of a 50’s TV show. With the close proximity of the audience at the Barnes, it felt like we are right there with them in the room as active observers in their daily lives. Cast members included – Aaron Mitchell, Precious Roberts, Emma Manion, Christopher Rodriguez, Colin Murray, Maddie Mckenna, Abby Moser, and Rachael Opferman.
The second excerpt featured a beautiful and emotional duet by Emma Manion and Aaron Mitchell. It spoke of the hardships and joys faced by a romantic couple when faced with separation as one partner has to go off to military duty or perhaps even war. The depth of their expression with regards to longing, loss and even relief upon reunion displayed by the dancers was both compelling and remarkable beyond their years.
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