Tag Archives: Nils Frahm

‘Multiplicity’ Program brings together all of Bodiography’s Sister Companies


Christen Weimer’s “Mother’s Little Helper”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet – Multiplicity
Byham Theater
Pittsburgh, PA
November 17, 2018

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

After a 3-year hiatus Bodiography Contemporary Ballet’s longest running dance series Multiplicity returned to Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater on November 17 with its usual cavalcade of repertory works by current and former company members. What made this iteration of Multiplicity different from prior programs was that the works were for the first time performed by all three of the organization’s sister troupes: Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, BCB Charlotte and BCB3.

The program kicked off with Amanda Fisher’s re-envisioned “Pizzicato” (2018), a 7-minute work danced to upbeat music by The Piano Guys featuring eight of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet’s dancers in crimson dresses. A reaction to the mood of the music, Fisher’s choreography, while resembling stylized ballet classroom exercises, was slightly seductive and aesthetically pleasing.  Highlighting the piece, and Multiplicity overall, was standout dancer Nicole Jamison who has fast become a star for the company.


Amanda Fisher’s “Pizzicato”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Maria Caruso’s “Valley of Her”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Next, BCB3, a troupe of retired Bodiography dancers performed artistic director Maria Caruso’s latest effort “Valley of Her”. The 13 ½ minute piece in four sections was danced to music by Pittsburgh indie folk band Ryan Hoffman and the Pioneers that began with a brief solo sung by dancer Michaelina McGee before she joined her fellow BCB3 performers. Caruso’s choreography for the all-female cast of eight appeared measured and focused predominantly on shape and line. The women partnered each other in lifts and sculptural poses. Although choreographically simplistic looking, the work, thanks in large part to the band’s music, had a certain allure to it.

After choreographer Christen Weimer’s body image-themed “Mother’s Little Helper” (2018) for Bodiography Contemporary Ballet’s dancers, company trainees Josef Hartman and Renee Simeone shone  in a reprise of Andrea Levick’s powerful duet “Retorque” (2018). An emerging talent, Levick showed a level of maturity as a choreographer in her movement choices for the duet performed to music by Glass Animals. That was especially evident in sections of the work where the dancers engaged in expressive solo riffs and partnered dancing that mixed hip hop and contemporary dance styles.



Andrea Levick’s “Retorque”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

The program’s first half concluded with perhaps the best work of the evening, Caruso’s “Journey” (2008). Set to music by Philip Glass, the seasoned trio of Amanda Fisher, Melissa Tyler and Jamison were lovely in Caruso’s sharp and musical contemporary ballet choreography. The ballet was Caruso at her creative best.

The program’s second half opened with an homage to the struggles of young mothers, Caruso’s “Really?!” for BCB Charlotte dancers (plus Jamison). Set to music by Kansas City’s Quixotic, the 7-minute piece was a bit “Fosse” meets “frustrated mom” pantomime that offered little to be engaged with.

Maria Caruso’s “Really?!”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Next, Jamison took on the role of choreographer for her fellow Bodiography Contemporary Ballet dancers. Her piece “Curdle” (2018), danced to music by Ezio Bosso, Nils Frahm, and Yann Tiersen , portrayed “the dissolution of an ideal.” Lively and gestural with the dancers engaging in arm movements that landed behind their heads and them tapping their fingers on the stage floor, the work proved interesting in parts.

A vehicle for BCB Charlotte’s quartet of dancers to don sultry and sexy demeanors, Caruso’s “Runaway Runway” (2018) cast the group as runway models in a cat walk driven jaunt. Given BCB Charlotte dancers’ mature, engaging stage presence as skilled performers, it would have been great to see the group in a dance work with some real substance and meaty choreography. Both “Really?!” and “Runaway Runway” fell short in doing that.

Maria Caruso’s “Runaway Runway”. Photo by Eric Rosé.
Maria Caruso’s “Submerged”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Rounding out the program were Kristie Corso’s “Cliff’s Edge” (2018) for the main company about how life’s stresses and setbacks can adversely affect relationships with those we most care about, and a reprise Caruso’s “Submerged” (2018), a ballet inspired by 2018 Academy Award Best Picture-winner The Shape of Water, that had Bodiography’s dancers swimming through a mesmerizing succession of dance phrases that together were a solid closer to an up and down program.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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New Look Groundworks Dancetheater Launches 20th Anniversary Season With Two New Dance Works On Opposite Ends Of The Stylistic Spectrum


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GroundWorks DanceTheater’s Gemma Freitas Bender and Tyler Ring. Photo courtesy of GroundWorks DanceTheater.

By Steve Sucato

With the retirement of longtime company members Felise Bagley and Damien Highfield plus the departure of dancer Taylor Johnson and the addition of three new dancers, Cleveland-based contemporary dance troupe GroundWorks DanceTheater is essentially a brand new company.  And after their upcoming Summer Series performances at Cain Park, July 20-22 and at Glendale Cemetery in Akron, August 3 & 4 as part of Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, star dancer Gemma Freitas Bender will also be departing the company leaving only Tyler Ring as the lone returning dancer from last season.

For followers of the 5-member tiny troupe with the big reputation for quality work, many of the faces may be new entering the company’s 20th Anniversary season, but the guiding force behind it founder and resident choreographer David Shimotakahara remains the same.

“I’m loving this new group,” says Shimotakahara. “Their spirit and energy is right on. They are very generous, curious and it feels right.”

New to the company this season are Columbus-native Alexis Britford who trained at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ high school classical ballet program and at Wright State University before dancing professionally with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company,  Robert Rubama, a recent graduate of George Mason University who hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia and is the founder of his own project-based dance troupe Terre Dance Collective, and Birmingham, Alabama-native Annie Morgan a recent graduate of Pittsburgh’s Point Park University.  While at Point Park, Morgan was the recipient of the Loti Falk Scholarship and was highlighted by Pittsburgh City Paper as one of eight local standout performances in 2017 for her mesmerizing performance in Adam Hougland’s “Cold Virtues”.

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(L-R) GroundWorks dancers Robert Rubama, Gemma Freitas Bender, Annie Morgan, Alexis Britford and Tyler Ring. Photo by Beth Rutkowski.

The new look troupe will perform two new works as part of their 2018 Summer Series program at Cain Park and in Akron.

Half of that program will be comprised of a reprise of Shimotakahara and GroundWorks’ latest collaboration with ChamberFest Cleveland featured in ChamberFest’s June 30 concert at the Maltz Performing Arts Center entitled Dawn of a Revolution.  The two groups previously collaborated in 2015 on Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera (see video below). The theme of Dawn of a Revolution says Shimotakahara was organizing a program around the progression of ideas in the chamber music canon throughout time. ChamberFest’s Frank and Diana Cohen assembled several touchstone musical moments in that canon and connected them via solo piano sections from György Ligeti’s “Musica Ricercata” that was used in director Stanley Kubrick’s final film the 1999 erotic drama, ”Eyes Wide Shut”.

“It intrigued me that the spine of the work would be these solo piano moments,” says Shimotakahara.

In “al-one,” which is a play on words meaning “all” and “one” at the same time, Shimotakahara created movement for all five of GroundWorks’ dancers to seven of the eleven compositions included in the piece. Those stylistically diverse compositions include works by Beethoven, Ravel, Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera, and Arvo Pärt’s melancholy work “Spiegel im Speigel”.

Shimotakahara says his choreography for “al-one,” began with ideas related to the moment of inspiration and creation for an artist.  “That spark, is a revolutionary thing in my thinking,” he says; “A moment of change when something shifts in one’s perceptions and in the possibility of what can be.”  Expanding on that idea, the 50-minute abstract dance work then delves into the processes of creation from trial and error to how information and ideas are passed along to inspire new creative ideas.

Attending the June 30 premiere of the work, I found Shimotakahara’s choreography to be dialed back and more reserved than usual. It was as if Shimotakahara was purposefully giving over the spotlight to ChamberFest’s musicians and the music.  His back and forth choreography for the dancers, which had an ease and simple beauty to it, was delivered in small chunks and in various dancer configurations from solos to all five dancers performing as a group.

Audiences at Cain Park and in Akron will see and hear a different group of ChamberFest musicians perform the work live than had premiered it. One of those musicians will be dancer Freitas Bender’s husband William Bender who was recently appointed assistant principal violist with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London led by music director Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Says the soon-to-be-departing Freitas Bender, a Buffalo-native:  “It has been a wonderful blessing coming to Cleveland to be with my husband, and finding my way into Groundworks. David [Shimotakahara] provides his dancers with such a consistent work environment and a plethora of opportunities to work with well-known choreographers. I feel I have been enriched by the experience and will really miss the people and the community.”

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GroundWorks’s dancers with Banning Bouldin (center). Photo by Beth Rutkowski.

The other half of GroundWorks Summer Series program will be Nashville-Based choreographer Banning Bouldin’s commissioned work for the company, “Chronos”.

A 2002 graduate of Juilliard, Bouldin formerly danced with Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Sweden’s Cullberg Ballet, Aszure Barton and Artists and Portland’s Rumpus Room Dance.  As a choreographer, she has created works for Nashville Ballet, Visceral Dance Chicago, Seattle’s Whim W’Him and her own contemporary dance company, New Dialect.

Stylistically on the other end of the dance spectrum to Shimotakahara’s “al-one,” Bouldin’s “Chronos” will follow somewhat in the choreographic footsteps of her previous catalog of highly physical dance-theater works.  Although she calls “Chronos” the most “concert dance” piece she has made in a long time, it will also challenge GroundWorks’ dancers’ physicality.

Inspired by the sudden death of a close family member as well as perhaps her own recent health issues, Bouldin says she has been thinking a lot lately about time and how we relate to it.

“We recognize the most meaningful moments in our lives through hindsight,” says Bouldin. “The pressure of keeping up with the clock can also cause us to miss meaningful moments as they are passing.”

Set to a varied soundscape including selections from Andrew Bird’s nature field recordings, “Echo Locations” and music by German composer Nils Frahm, the 25-minute work says Bouldin evolved into a non-narrative piece using a dance vocabulary illustrative of those themes of time and loss.

Of Banning working with GroundWorks Shimotakahara says: “It was quite astonishing to see somebody be able to articulate their ideas and the physicality of those ideas so clearly. It was also great for the new company to work in such an intensive way creating a positive bonding experience.”

GroundWorks DanceTheater performs its 2018 Summer Series dance program, 7 p.m., Friday, July 20 & Saturday, July 21 and 2 p.m., Sunday, July 22. Cain Park’s Alma Theater, 14591 Superior Rd., Cleveland Heights, Ohio. $25 Advance, $28 Day of show. groundworksdance.org/tickets, cainpark.com or (216) 371-3000. Post- Show Receptions: Free Beer Friday – Following Friday’s performance, free beer, wine and soft drinks will be offered. Dessert Reception Saturday – Following Saturday’s performance, a dessert reception featuring sweet treats will be offered. Ice Cream Sunday – Following Sunday’s performance, Mitchell’s Ice Cream will be offered.

The program repeats as part of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival at dusk (8:45 p.m.), Friday, August 3 and Saturday, August 4. Glendale Cemetery, 150 Glendale Ave, Akron, Ohio.  Admission is Free. More information at groundworksdance.org.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Texture Contemporary Ballet: Finding New Textures in Other Voices


Kiera Brinkley (left) performs March 18-20 with Texture Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Anaka Morris.

By Steve Sucato

For its latest production, Reflections, Texture Contemporary Ballet is adding a bit more, well, texture. The company, whose programs through five seasons have been dominated by the ballets of artistic director Alan Obuzor and associate artistic director Kelsey Bartman, will include works by three other choreographers, including a performance by guest dancer and quadruple amputee Kiera Brinkley.

“We like having other choreographers come in. We get tired of ourselves,” jokes Bartman. She and Obuzor will still account for half the works on the program at the New Hazlett Theater, whose four performances March 18-20 include an abbreviated March 19 matinee for children.

Bartman’s latest, “O,” is set to Coldplay’s song of the same name. The three-minute solo for dancer Victoria McWilliams “is about looking up to someone and being impatient about wanting to be where they are in their life,” says Bartman.

Obuzor’s new solo for dancer Jean-Paul Weaver is likewise titled after and danced to a rock song, The Fray’s melancholy “Happiness.” Obuzor’s other new ballet is the 29-minute “Un-preservation of Humanism,” set to classical music by Ezio Bosso. The abstract ballet for eight dancers is about humanity and how the past transitions into the present.

The prolific Bartman and Obuzor, who have already created upward of 60 ballets for the company, need the dancers they work with to be versatile and able to learn choreography quickly. With ample talent coming out of Point Park University — the company’s main source for dancers — Obuzor says that hasn’t been a problem.

One such Point Park connection is dancer/choreographer Jamie Erin Murphy. Her new 11-minute contemporary/modern dance work for the company, “Scrambled,” set to music by German composer Nils Frahm, is about “trying to overcome and rid ourselves of anxious feelings that can take over our thoughts and control us,” says Murphy.

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Texture Contemporary Ballet dancers. Photo by Katie Ging.

Another Point Park alum is former August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble member Annalee Traylor. Her first work for Texture, the six-minute “Hypno,” is inspired by “the mysterious and haunting music” of German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten.

The marquee work in Reflections, however, comes from Texture company dancer Weaver, whose 20-minute multimedia “Vwayaj” (Haitian Creole for “traveler”) taps into his Haitian/American cultural roots and features Brinkley.

The abstract, multimedia work is set to Belgian musician Le Motel’s traditional African music amended by a dance-club beat. The piece “presents the folkloric stories of Haiti through an Afro-futuristic perspective,” says Weaver. The idea is to explore how current scientific thought might reveal the truths in these universal folkloric themes.

One of the work’s motifs themes involves spiral imagery, as that of serpents coiling together. Weaver relates that to the double helix of DNA. Another motif references Haitian folklore that describes life’s origins in the ocean; other themes include evolution and reincarnation.

In a video of a portion of the work shown last November, at Texture’s WIP Choreography Project, I found Weaver’s choreography to be a compelling, full-throttle mix of African and contemporary dance styles.

“Vwayaj” also plays with the idea of a journey — both the journey that Haitian dance and culture has taken over time and the individual life journeys of the work’s dancers. They include 22-year-old Brinkley, who, at age 2, lost her limbs to a bacterial infection known as pneumococcal sepsis. Brinkley took up dance in sixth grade to help her communicate with others “who really didn’t know how to communicate with me at the time.”

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Weaver chose the Portland, Ore.-based Brinkley to dance a prominent role in his new work because the two had danced together years ago in Portland’s Polaris Dance Theatre and have been looking for an opportunity to perform together ever since.

“I was blown away by her,” says Weaver. I have never seen someone with her specific set of obstacles move so brilliantly and with so much artistry. To be fair, I don’t see too many dancers in general that move with such brilliance.”

TEXTURE CONTEMPORARY DANCE PERFORMS REFLECTIONS

Fri., March 18-Sun., March 20. New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $20-25. (Abbreviated performance for children: 4 p.m. Sat., March 19; $10 per family). 888-718-4253 or newhazletttheater.org

Source: Texture Contemporary Ballet brings in new voices

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