An Evening of Escape through Dream Chapters

by Debra Danese for The Dance Journal | Photo Credit: Rob Li

We all dream- and it is during this state of slumber that there are no limitations. We can be anyone, do anything, and go anywhere. This interlude of altered consciousness is what artistic collaborators Evalina “Wally” Carbonell and Weiwei Ma set out to explore. They invited four Philadelphia artists to join them in crafting an evening of solos works. Each dancer created and performed their own piece using the same general prompts, with the option to include props. The result was Dream Chapters, six performances presented between April 30th – May 2nd.

The folk and fairytales told by the artists were uniquely individual and told through the lens of different dance mediums. Weiwei Ma’s whimsical In Dream was a playful and enchanting contemporary number. Ma showcased her long lines and extensions, with quirky movements interspersed. She cleverly incorporated a pillow as her prop of choice. Ma is an expressive performer and eagerly invited the audience into her dream. In contrast to mood and style were lines and scribbles by Joshua Culbreath. The hip-hop specialist used his genre to weave a story centered around the contents of a notebook. His movement was often grounded with complex turning patterns, which demonstrated the going frustration of his character. Culbreath’s choreography often seemed to defy gravity as he moved across the stage.

The remaining solos were equally diverse. Carbonell displayed stellar control while hinging, cartwheeling, and balancing on a chair. All the more impressive as she was eating an apple while doing so. Her music selection by Anatol Stefanet allowed for creative interpretation that Carbonell made the most of. Ariel Isakowitz created a fantastical creature for Satyr. He inventively used heel dance to take us on an exotic and seductive journey. Shayla-Vie Jenkins was majestic in rest and portrayed “intimate creation” with grandeur and sweeping breath.

A particularly poignant moment in the show was up lift by Paul Matteson. Set in a children’s hospital, Matteson brought to life the imaginative world of a young patient. An original composition by Sherre DeLys described the “ifs” used as points of escape. If I were a “fish, bird, crocodile…” were depicted by Matteson with a boyish innocence reminiscent of Peter Pan’s Neverland.

Each work was introduced with spoken word written and delivered by Tatyana Yassukovich. The actress, adorned with an exotic headdress, delivered her prose from different locations on the property. The staging made for interesting transitions between dances, and Yassukovich’s rich voice was ideal for narration.

A detached, converted garage in Mt Airy served as the venue. The open-air space allowed the audience to view the performance from the driveway. The seating for the May 2nd, 6:30 pm show that I attended was identified by names chalked on the asphalt. The casual, relaxed environment was set to the sounds of chirping birds and rustling leaves. The setting and production of Dream Chapter made for an engaging 40 minutes of story-telling.

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