A Mid-Winter, Mid-Week escape with Mazarick and Ramirez

by Jane Fries for The Dance Journal | photo by Jano Cohen

Philadelphia Dance Projects presented local dance artists Megan Mazarick and Marion Ramirez in conjunction with its Dance Up Close series on Wednesday and Thursday last week (February 26 and 27, 2020) at Christ Church Neighborhood House. A lively and sonically rousing evening, the program was the perfect foil to the “mid-winter/mid-week blues.”

Marion Ramirez presented a winning and sensitive cross-cultural collaboration with fellow dancer Jungwoong Kim and musicians Juan Cuco Castellanos and gamin. The piece, kNots & Nests – pulse and air, established a formal relationship between two styles of dance and music: the Latin pulse generated by Ramirez and Castellanos and the Korean traditions evoked by Kim and gamin.

Castellanos, a Cuban percussion master, played a variety of instruments as the loose-jointed Ramirez skimmed across the floor – hips swaying and shoulders shimmying. In contrast, gamin played several different traditional Korean wind instruments as the steady Kim employed his martial arts-influenced movement sensibility to carve up the space. The dancers’ elegant costumes (red blouses and solid-colored pants) were designed by Irene Osorio.

As the dancers and musicians took turns introducing their considerable individual talents, the anticipation built about what would emerge when they all finally came together. The answer was a creative give and take, as all four artists maintained their distinctive styles while exploring new combinations – a beautifully executed idea in pure dance and movement.

The evening also featured an intense and funny solo, monster, choreographed by Mazarick and performed to an original score by Mohamed Shafik. The lights came up on Mazarick, confined to an upstage corner, grimacing and clawing the air – a terrifying monster, who the narrator informed the audience was on a time-traveling voyage that was somehow intertwined with the epic journey of a princess.

Fists up and ready for battle, Mazarick threatened and postured, like a punk rock Abominable Snowman. Her movements were sharp and segmented, as if captured by a phantom strobe light. Mirroring this quality of fragmentation, the piece stopped and restarted repeatedly as the narrator revealed key new details of the story. In a final twist, the audience was left to ponder whether the monster or the princess was the true victim of the tale.

Regrettably, I missed the program’s first piece, boundaries, choreographed by Mazarick in collaboration with her fellow performers MG Vasio and Jess Conda. I hope I’ll get another chance to see it – as Mazarick is clearly an engaging and original artistic force on the Philly dance scene.

About Jane Fries

Originally from the west coast, Jane Fries pursued undergraduate studies in dance at San Diego State University, where she got her start writing about dance for the student newspaper. After an escapade as a correspondent for Dance Magazine in the south of France, she went on to earn her MA in dance from Mills College in Oakland, California. Jane's subsequent explorations in non-theatrical dance forms led her to take up the practice of yoga. She has lived in the Philadelphia area since 1996, and has had the great pleasure to study Iyengar yoga with Joan White. Jane's writing reflects her background in dance history and interest in documentation and preservation.

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