Review: ‘The 33rd Annual Choreographers’ Showcase’ at The Clarice

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The 33rd Annual Choreographers’ Showcase presented by The Clarice and The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and adjudicated by notable choreographers and teachers Zvi Gotheiner and Leah Cox honored the individuality, risk-taking, and theatricality of seven fabulous choreographers.

Photo by Vijay Palaparty.

Photo by Vijay Palaparty.

Woodbind. It Courses (excerpt), choreographed by Sarah Beth Oppenheim and performed by Oppenheim and Kate Folsom, began with a burst of wonderfully kinetic energy and connection. Oppenheim and Folsom’s energies feel interwoven throughout this piece, both in their precision, movement quality, and connection with one another. Oppenheim mentioned in the talk-back that she looked at the “construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction” of her relationship to Folsom, and echoed that in the costumes, designed with hints of construction orange by Sheri K. Autry, whom Oppenheim found on Etsy. At its simplest form, this excerpt explores the possibilities of the relationship between two people, its highs and lows, and the dynamics of said relationship. Whether jabbing, loving, or rewarding, the two dancers are connected, a concept that began naturally in rehearsal and made its way into the performance.

Monique Walker’s My Dad Sometimes Says “SH*!”, performed by Adjete Klufio, is a beautifully told story of her father, externally well dressed and put together but internally conflicted. Klufio adeptly presents the juxtaposition of this man, wound tight due to circumstances out of his control, and in need of an outlet, in this case the movement he has at his disposal. With shoes lining a centered, rectangular pool of light, a chair and suitcase upstage left, and a rectangular mirror upstage right, Klufio presents a calm and cool external demeanor, entering singing and performing task-like movements. The conflict and juxtaposition of that external calm comes in vibrant leaps, turns, and syncopated movements rippling through the body, to a beautiful sound score of rhythmic music.

Cradle (excerpt) choreographed by Hayley Cutler of darlingdance company and performed by Claire Alrich, Miss Jessica Denson, Sarah Greenbaum, and Juliana Mascelli, is a jewel-toned study of being. The piece is a seamless marriage of well-constructed, loosely improvised moments, strung together with a palpable static electricity by the dancers. Cutler’s ability to present realistic elements of rehearsal and being one’s authentic self in the proscenium stage space without proselytizing is, in a word, beautiful. Favorite moments for this reviewer include the simultaneous presentation of an aerobic duet with two of the women dancing upstage, while two downstage women perform a verbal “Beyoncé”-off, as well as a subtle homage to the MGM musicals of early Hollywood, in which the dancers perform an arabesque phrase on the diagonal upstage, inviting the audience to watch them perform, as if the piece up until that point had been for the enjoyment of the dancers and we were being welcomed to observe. The use of focus in what I am calling the MGM section was deliberate, suited to the character presented by each dancer, and brought in a hint of theatricality. The imperfection in the cannon was delicious to watch, as there was no marriage of movement to the meter of the music. It was unexpected, unique, and wholly rapturous, three trademark elements I would use to describe various successes of this excerpt.

Meghan K. Abadoo in 'Octavia’s Brood: Riding the Ox Home.' Photo by Zachary Z. Handler.

Meghan K. Abadoo in ‘Octavia’s Brood: Riding the Ox Home.’ Photo by Zachary Z. Handler.

Meghan K. Abadoo’s Octavia’s Brood: Riding the Ox (excerpt), the Audience Award winner, performed by Abadoo, Sydney Parker, and Jasmine Watkins, explores the essence of a black woman. At the top of the piece, Abadoo, swaddled in brown fabric, attached to her and to the wall, subtlely twists and turns in the fabric, attempting to move away from the wall and unravel the fabric, thus revealing herself to the audience. The intensity of Abadoo’s internal gaze in her struggle mixes with the intricacies of the physical execution of the movement in the fabric to create an all at once somber and luscious solo. As a means of dynamically shifting, once Abadoo is mostly revealed, two women run out from offstage, exhibiting that even once revealed from the fabric, the women are held back, tethered. The exploration of movement through space while tethered is one I could intently watch for a while without tiring. The fearlessness of these women, the hindsight with which they hold their brown fabric to their faces from time to time, and the intensity of their focus present a strength and resiliency that I am still in awe of, hours after the performance. Sam Crawford’s sound design and Tyler Gunther’s costume design work in perfect harmony with the exquisite choreography. In the talkback after the performance, Abadoo mentioned that she had not planned on performing in the work, and resisted until almost the last possible moment. I, for one, am eternally grateful for her performance in the work, because her virtuosic performance at the top of the work set the piece up for the successes throughout.

Brovamu Esa, choreographed and performed by Kasi Aysola, is a fabulous marriage of a wonderful Eastern dance form with the stage technology of the West. The beautiful storytelling, strong and supple, internal and external, paired with the dynamic use of spotlight and backlighting, made for a delightful performance. The intricacies of the nuanced gestures were performed dynamically while the storytelling of the overall piece carried through until the end. Aysola’s presence throughout the work never wavered, and continually drew the audience into the tradition and the story until the final movement.

Athena Powell and Gabrielle Odom’s 7 Deadly Sins, performed by Jasmine Brandon, Alexis Dockery, Victoria Gomillion, Keli Maduchukwu, Che’ Manning, Amber Millard, Gabrielle Odom, Simone Stewart, Stacey Warr, and Kiah Williams was a wonderfully presentational note upon which to end the performance. The piece, heavily utilizing unison movement, frontal facing, and theatrical elements, such as a table of food for the gluttony section and a bag of money for the greed section, as well as strobe lights and fog, allowed the audience to dance to familiar pop music from the comfort of their seats. While the projections allowed for little interpretation of the sins by the audience, they also allowed for clear beats between each moment, what with musical starts and stops to accompany the switch in tone. The dancers moved on and off the stage in interesting patterns and with wide ranging movement, from sharp, hard hitting hip hop, to smooth and sensual dance, to acrobatic elements.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

The 33rd Annual Choreographers’ Showcase at The Clarice (The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, College Park) was performed at 3 pm and 8 pm on Saturday, February 6, 2016. For more information or to order tickets to another show at The Clarice, go to their calendar and events page.

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