Guest Post: Preview of MOVEIUS’ Locally Grown

MOVEIUS Contemporary Dance

By Alexis M. Thomas

Progressive. Passionate. Evocative. Three of the many ways you can describe MOVEIUS Contemporary Ballet Company.

This is just a tease. A taste. Of what to expect from MOVEIUS in its production, “Locally Grown,” this upcoming Saturday, November 2nd, 2013, at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center. The Company, which has been performing to sold out shows in the D.C. area since 2010, has decided to make Montgomery County its permanent home. So the upcoming production is a housewarming party of sorts.

And there is plenty on the menu. For example, there is Big River, where a group of classically trained ballet dancers dance to Johnny Cash music. The juxtaposition between classical ballet and other contemporary art forms is clear from the start and instantly hooks the viewer. The light ascends as the dancers shake their hips to the earthiness of Cash’s voice.  And the surprises keep coming. The dancers, in blue jeans, perform classic ballet moves with perfect form and clean lines on pointe, but also repeatedly descend to the floor through hinges and rolls normally associated with modern dance forms. With creative groupings of dancers and canons of movement expertly placed throughout the piece, the dancers eat the space at all levels, continually keeping the viewer wanting more. This piece has wowed audiences in the past and is sure to do so again.

With Invisible Steps, which will have its debut on Saturday, the viewer cannot help but be affected by this thought-provoking piece. A lone female dancer begins to move to live guitar music and people speaking in French. A male dancer soon joins her. The merge of the easygoing melody of the guitar against the quiet intensity of the voices is not only unusual, but instantly captivating. As they dance there is a fluidity and subtle swaying quality to their movements that echoes the tranquil melody of the guitar. As they move together with grace and in perfect harmony, you get this sense of not only connection but of separateness, as they dance more apart than together. As other dancers begin to sporadically move across the space around the two dancers with the same gentle quality, the viewer is enveloped in a feeling of intimacy without actual touching. The fact that many will not understand what is being said in French only heightens the intensity of the piece, as the viewer is beckoned not only to think about how all of the elements of the piece work together, but of his or her connection to the piece itself. For me, the piece made me think of the invisible steps everyone must take to become more connected to others while maintaining one’s own voice. What would your perception be?

In addition to these pieces, the Company will premiere other works as well as re-stage the piece, Nocturne I, by Eric Hampton, a renowned Washingtonian ballet dancer and choreographer, who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2001. The piece has not been staged in the D.C. area since 2000.

In the face of political turbulence and fledgling economies, the need to support artists who will pursue their dreams with passionate conviction despite all of the odds is stronger than ever. The need to hold sacred the healing and transformative qualities of dance is stronger than ever. And this is what MOVEIUS provides – a space to enjoy beauty, take a breath, become restored through movement, and remember than anything that can be dreamed of is possible. So whether you are a Johnny Cash fan, a ballet fan, a contemporary dance fan, a lover of the arts in general, or simply an altruist who believes in supporting talent and passion, MOVEIUS has something to offer you.

With two shows being offered this upcoming Saturday, November 2nd, at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., there is no excuse not to be there. Come see for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

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Guest Post: An Informal Introduction to MOVEiUS Ballets

By Helen Gineris

MOVEiUS Contemporary Ballet is forging a path and making a home for classically-trained talent in the Greater Metro DC area. On Saturday, May 18, the company extended an invitation to Meet MOVEiUS, a casual studio showing of five works comprising old, newer, and in-progress pieces by four choreographers. Hosted at Takoma Park’s infamous Dance Exchange, the audience sat in three rows of folding chairs and overstuffed pillows at the rear of a large, Marley-floor dance studio. The intimate evening flowed quickly with each production headlined with introductory commentary allowing for an insider perspective rarely offered to dance audiences.

Verge

Photo Credit: Matt Costanza

Photo Credit: Matt Costanza

Indicative that the casual studio setting is new to some, the immediate start of Florian Rouiller’s “Verge” (2013) is met with curious whispers observing the absence of “special” lighting. Soloist Kathleen Howard performs with adeptness, strength, and control, a dancer whose classical technique shines in graceful arm and leg extensions and fluid movement atop a supported frame. Contemporary contractions and body waves complement the classical style while turning leaps excite. On its own the composition is well-structured, uses the entire space and depth of the stage, and keeps the audience traveling along with the soloist. Musically speaking, set to nuevo tango “Santa Maria Del Buen Ayre” by GoTan Project, a song of passionate beats, sharp crescendos, and intricate electronica, a disconnect is present. Perhaps the casual studio atmosphere and absent stage-lighting contribute to the lost translation of musical strength and passion or presence of “verge;” the overall impression urges an embrace of the choreography with a reevaluation of musical choice or a definitive nose-dive into the multi-layered bounty of musical tensions, tones, and tempos until they emerge inseparable from the existing choreography.

SINS/Learning to Run

By contrast, “SINS,” alternately titled “The Sun is Not Sinking” (2013) proves captivating in the exquisite musicality present in the choreographic phraseology and internalization of it by the four dancers down to the last detail, from emotive facial expressions to head turns creating lines of sight that help the audience know exactly where to focus their attention throughout the piece. As a studio showing, the forced physical presence of the main character or trio on the sidelines, where they would normally be hidden in the wings, lends an even greater distinction to the relationships played out on stage. Throughout, the movements, at times deliciously subtle, mesmerize. Choreographed by MOVEiUS Associate Director Katya Vasilaky, who also performs in the piece, SINS is a collaborative work between four dancers who convey a graceful sense of trust, support, and closeness on stage.

MOVEiUS Founder/Executive Director and choreographer Diana Movius presented a preview of “Learning to Run” (2013) followed by “Legacy” (2011, restaged 2013). Set to minimalist modern music by Steve Reich, in “Learning to Run” Movius presents a fast, slow, fast mood-changing piece evoking the contradictions and motivations of modern-day life.

Legacy

Photo Credit: Matt Costanza

Photo Credit: Matt Costanza

“Legacy,” which premiered at Dance Place in 2011, is well-traveled both in and out of state and debuting its first restaging on an entirely new cast at Meet MOVEiUS. As the choreographer, Movius reveals that restaging produces a new dance influenced by the capabilities and strengths of individual dancers; meanwhile, the music, structure, and “emotional core of what our relationships mean throughout our lives” remain the work’s constants. As the piece opens two dancers in child’s pose are approached by a counterpart who steps behind each to raise them up with the soft wave and rise of a hand and arm as if growing flowers out of a garden – budding, sprouting, and opening up to the light. Staccato rhythms of pointe shoes paired with outstretched arms and legs carve an “X” in the space inducing excitement as if to say “Hello! I’m here!” and so the relationships begin. Movius’ beautiful composition takes the audience on an intricate journey through relationship evolutions such as dependence, support, excitement, growing up, standing on one’s own, letting go, remembrance, and reverence. It’s easy to see why this is a repertory mainstay.

Big River

Closing the evening is a four-song preview of “Big River” (2013) performed to music sung by Johnny Cash. Inspired by Cash’s lifetime of music, choreographer Kimberly Parmer boldly attaches contemporary ballet to a well-known and loved, definitively iconic American figure whose artistic career spans 50 years and fan-base crosses generations. In choosing Cash, the ballet is no longer being performed to “dance-viewers,” but to dance-viewers who reside somewhere along a Johnny Cash fan continuum and whose level of fandom will undoubtedly affect one’s experience of the ballet. It has the potential to knock Johnny Cash fans out of their train cars as they uncover how their fandom is shaped with preconceived notions, already-established emotions and images attached to Cash’s musical work and revealed only in the process of seeing that work translated onto another artistic medium.

The ballet is set within a framework of values derived from Eric Erickson’s eight stages of psychosocial development. Parmer emphasizes that “Big River” is very much a work-in-progress in the rehearsal phases with dancers still trying on and internalizing the movements. The six-dancer ballet begins with the end in mind, at the end of Cash’s career, with the song “Unchained” (Jude Johnstone). Breaking from tradition, the tallest dancer leads the front adding depth to the stage while the group plays out the passage of time in waves of diagonal lines. Repetitive hip twists depart from the classical linear tradition and the sound of pointe shoes add a surprising beat on top of the music as the ballet turns to “Folsom Prison Blues” to explore the sentiment hope. The piece proves a disconcerting juxtaposition between exuberant leaps, lightness, and smiles (hope) and gritty, at times fatalistic lyrics, From the infamous “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” to “I know I had it comin’, I know I can’t be free.” It begs to know from what perspective hope is being explored. Is it inspired by the last stanza, the catchy, rhythmic tempo surrounding the lyrics, perhaps an absence of hope, or simply that Cash’s career is beginning? The highlight of the ballet is “Got Rhythm,” a refreshing, upbeat tap solo with sounds and contemporary moves not to be missed, performed en pointe by Shelley Siller. Typical of a work-in-progress, the preview arouses more questions before presenting a definitive piece. Provocative, “Big River,” centered on an American icon will undoubtedly ignite cocktail discussions on artistic choices, interpretation, focal elements, translation, and response. The reception that topped off Meet MOVEiUS was merely the beginning.

MOVEiUS Contemporary Dance presents a six-show run of Big River and Other Wayfaring Ballets at 2013 Capital Fringe Festival, July 12th – 27th at GALA Theatre at Tivoli Square, 3333 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC. Tickets are on sale June 17th. Contribute to the completion of this project by making a donation at MOVEiUS’s Indiegogo online campaign.

FCDC Goes Formal with… A Celebration of Dance

With black ties and ball gowns at the ready, the Fairfax County Dance Coalition (FCDC) is making A Celebration of Dance not just a showcase, but a full gala affair. Now in its third year running, the FCDC’s gala event is overflowing with an array of area talent, featuring twelve companies and a mix of ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, musical theatre and international dance styles. Not just the dancers will be dolled up for this event; the audience is encouraged to show off their own glitz and glam.

A Celebration of Dance will be presented Sunday, October 7th at 3:00 p.m. at the Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus theatre. A brief reception is open to audience members following the performance in the upstairs gallery.

“Every year, the reasons we produce this show become stronger,” says Marilyn York, FCDC President, Gala Director and artistic director of Dancin’ Unlimited Jazz Dance Company. “The Gala not only provides an opportunity for advanced and professional dancers to share their artistic talents with each other across this dance community. The Gala also helps to build a network of dance enthusiasts beyond family and friends of dancers.”

Drawing together these twelve specialized groups has put Fairfax County dance on the map in the DC Metro Area, and the FCDC has created this dance production with the purpose of sharing its talent across county lines. Participating companies include: BalletNova, Center Stage Dance Company, Dancin’ Unlimited Jazz Dance Company, Encore Theatrical Arts Project, Gin Dance Company, Impact Dance Company, Lasya Dance Company, Nrityanjali Dance Company, The Ballet Arts Ensemble of Fairfax, The Fairfax Ballet Company, The Kintz Mejia Academy of Ballet and the Virginia Ballet Company.

“It’s amazing how we all get along,” states Caroline Frankil Warren, Executive Director of BalletNova Center for Dance. “The Gala is a watershed collaboration among 12 dance groups, resulting in a wonderful showcase of the dance talent hidden within Fairfax County.”

BalletNova will perform in two pieces – the Pas de Deux from Les Sylphides and a contemporary piece by Amy Tuck. The Gin Dance Company will present “The Core,” a contemporary piece about universal interconnectivity, energy and strength. Center Stage will perform a modern take on Frank Sinatra’s iconic song “New York, New York,” fusing classic Broadway and rhythm tap. “White Out,” a contemporary jazz piece performed by Dancin’ Unlimited, encourages the audience to get past, or white out, life problems. The Fairfax Ballet Company will perform a contemporary lyrical piece inspired by the journey of adolescence. Encore will present “Kick Line,” a Rockette-style number. The audience can also expect several traditional Indian dance works.

For the second consecutive year, the Fairfax County Dance Coalition and the Arts Council of Fairfax County will announce scholarship awards to two 2013 high school graduating seniors from among the FCDC member companies planning to pursue studies in dance. Mason District Supervisor Penelope Gross and Arts Council President Linda Sullivan will present the scholarships at the Gala.

Gala tickets are $20 in advance and $23 at the door. To purchase tickets and find more information, visit www.dancefairfax-gala.org, or contact any of the participating dance organizations. The NVCC Annandale Campus theatre is located at 8333 Little River Turnpike in Annandale, VA; convenient to Beltway exit 52A.

This information is from a Fairfax County Dance Coalition press release. Lauren Green of danceDC will be performing at the event with Dancin’ Unlimited Jazz Dance Company.

Performances: EDGEWORKS Dance Theater Presents /CLOSE/R

EDGEWORKS Dance Theater presents /CLOSE/R at Dance Place Saturday, September 15th and Sunday, September 16th. EDT Artistic Director Helanius J. Wilkins conceived and choreographed this work, which he will also perform. I caught up with Helanius to learn more about his latest work. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit the Dance Place website. If you’re going Saturday night, look out for me. I’ll be there!

/CLOSE/R is the culmination of your performance work for your MFA program of study. Can you tell me more about your MFA program of study?

I returned to the university setting in summer 2011 to pursue graduate studies, as an extension of my artistic journey. I am a Master’s of Fine Arts degree candidate at the George Washington University. This distance-learning program is specifically designed for professionals working in the field, and is low residency, meaning that it is not a traditional three-year program. Participation in this program requires an 18-month commitment. Among the many things that I appreciate about the program is the exposure and work related to new media and technology as well as the opportunities created for building new networks. Specific to my individual research, I have been exploring the topic of “sensing” which is leading me to a new way of molding movement and expanding my movement vocabulary. I am also being guided by my curiosity about how to validate sensing as a way of knowing. This work has opened up new doors for me to revisit, explore, and engage in authentic movement.

/CLOSE/R marks a shift in your creative process. How does this work compare to your previous work? What inspired you to make this creative shift?

/CLOSE/R is very different on many levels when comparing it to my previous work. Most notable is that I return to the solo form. In fact, this is my first-ever evening length solo project. There is a traditional saying that solo projects are confessionals. LOL… What I will share about this work is that audiences will get to see me in a way that is not typical of my body of work created and performed over the past 10 years.

I am definitely on a journey that is leading me to new places of vulnerability, strength, and discovery. As a result of all this I open myself up to connecting with audiences in new ways, including through humor.

/CLOSE/R as well as my creative shift comes out of the completion of a decade-long research and performance process that unfolded as a trilogy of works (Fearless in 2002, Cold Case in 2006, and Trigger in 2011) examining and exploring issues such as race, sexuality, spirituality, and class from the perspective of African-American men. As this process evolved, it framed a 15-year transformation in my personal life. This transformation has left me empowered to reveal the naked truth, the honest force behind my creations—my art. I find myself in the incubation period of a new definition for dance. I am undoing what I’ve come to know and exploring the possibilities of dance as a means to discover new work that reflects a distinct phase of my journey.

What’s next for Helanius and EDGEWORKS Dance Theater?

Fantastic question! Truthfully speaking, I am doing much reflection and soul-searching on that very question as it relates to all the various thoughts floating in my head – and there are many thoughts. As far as the immediate future is concerned, graduating is just around the corner. I will complete my graduate studies this fall. Along with this big achievement, I am thrilled and excited to be guest artist in residence at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) this fall too. I am equally excited by the activities of EDGEWORKS Dance Theater’s 12th anniversary season, which will begin with the performances of my solo project at Dance Place. The solo project will be touring to Chicago, IL in October and Cedar Rapids, IA in November. In addition, audiences will be able to experience some of EDGEWORKS Dance Theater’s signature group works in mixed repertory performances at the Jewish Community Center Northern Virginia (JCCNV) on November 17th and on the Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center on June 3rd, 2013. We have a packed season of activities. Whew! That’s a lot! For more information about EDGEWORKS Dance Theater, please visit their website.

Performances: Ballet Folklórico de México at the Hylton Performing Arts Center

Photo Credit: Robert Shomler (Courtesy of Hylton Performing Arts Center)

Centuries of Mexican culture will come to life when the gifted dancers of Ballet Folklórico de México take the Merchant Hall stage at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas on Sunday, September 30th, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2012, this brilliant company takes audiences on a journey that traces the evolution of Mexican dance from indigenous peoples up through the present. A pre-performance discussion will be held 45 minutes prior to the performance in the Buchanan Partners Art Gallery.

Ballet Folklórico de México was founded in 1952 by celebrated dancer and choreographer Amalia Hernández, who endeavored to research, preserve and honor the richly diverse folkloric traditions of her country – a period spanning from the pre-Colombian era, through Spanish colonization and into the Mexican Revolution. Complemented by radiant costumes and exuberant live music, Hernández’s choreography captures a country with rich and diverse cultural traditions. “Tlacotalpan Festivity” portrays the celebration of the Candelaria Virgin on January 31st. “Revolution” is a dance dedicated to the “Soldaderas,” women who supported their men and even fought during the Mexican Revolution. “The Deer Dance” is based on a ritual performed by the Yaqui people in preparation for a hunt. The performance concludes with “Jalisco,” a dance that celebrates the state of Jalisco – where Mariachis originated – and features a lively fiesta. The program will feature these and many more dances celebrating Mexican heritage. Single tickets for this performance are now on sale. Please visit HyltonCenter.org for more information.

The above information is adapted from a press release received Wednesday, August 15th.

The Deets

  • Ballet Folklórico de México
  • Hylton Performing Arts Center –  10960 George Mason Circle; Manassas, VA 20110
  • Sunday, September 30th at 7:00 p.m.
  • Tickets for Ballet Folklórico de México start at $28. Youth through grade 12 pay half price when accompanied by an adult.
  •  Visit the box office, charge by phone at (888) 945-2468 or visit HyltonCenter.org to purchase tickets.

Daydreams Dance at the Capital Fringe Festival

Daydreams, presented by the Call Me Crazy Dancers, is a show appearing in the Capital Fringe Festival. The show takes place at the Gala Hispanic Theatre at Tivoli Square. The show will feature local dancers from the Flint Hill School, under the direction of dance teacher Jenelle Mrykalo, as well as dancers from Maryland, Philadelphia, and New York City who are part of The Call Me Crazy Dancers.

We wanted to do an entire show featuring different dance styles and original material. Daydreams is an innovative dance show featuring ballet, tap, jazz, modern, contemporary dance, spoken word and original music. The journey explores the kids we were, the adults we became, and the dreams we’re still chasing. The show’s music consists of original jazz and rock songs composed by the band Call Me Crazy. There is even a tribute to the Great American Songbook of jazz standards, but featuring original songs. This show is as dynamic and unpredictable as our dreams themselves.

“We don’t live to sit and work at computers, wait tables, or drive trucks. We do these things while we’re busy making other plans. Our daydreams keep us going in a time of increasing pessimism. We can make better lives for ourselves and others, and it all starts with a daydream on a playground, at a desk at school, on the drive to work, or while brushing our teeth.”

The mission of our group is to provide opportunities for young emerging dancers to work professionally outside of their home studios, says John Curtis. “There is a wealth of talent outside of our base in NYC, and we go out and find it. Everything we do in this group is original: the music, the choreography, and the spoken word segments; it is what we do, and it is perfect for unconventional performance vehicles like the Capital Fringe. Our dancers enjoy being part of the full creative process with our material.”

The above information is adapted from a Daydreams Dance document received Monday, July 16th.

The Deets

Part and Parcel – A Performance Duo by DancEthos and Word Dance Theater

With a scarf to tempt Isadora herself, Cynthia Word gracefully wafted across the stage opening a two company performance that featured the works of Word Dance Theater and DancEthos. “Part and Parcel” was staged at Dance Place on June 23rd and 24th.

Word Dance Theater (Photo Credit: Stephen Baranovics)

Word Dance Theater preserves the works of Isadora Duncan and creates original works inspired by the Duncan technique. It’s disorienting to take in the intense operatic scores and head-wrapped women without knowing that Isadora was greatly influenced by her time spent in the Soviet Union. Duncan’s work can be very internal and the dances often felt far off despite the black box feel of Dance Place.

The stage was back-dropped by images that reflected the mood of each piece. They were purposeful while not being distracting. Each flowing crepe fabric dress billowed around the dancers’ form, adding dimension and femininity to their strong shapes. Pianist Carlos César Rodríguez superbly executed every violent piano score and each delicate Chopin piece.

With little pause between works, Word Dance Theater presented nine pieces that transitioned seamlessly between each other. In “Dubinishka,” the dancers flocked gracefully as one, banking and straining to pull invisible giant taffy. Scarves in hand, the dancers transformed into warrior-like Rosie-the-Riveters. In “Revolutionary Etude,” Hannah Goldberg gave the dusty work a fresh level of intention. Seeming to dance for life itself, Goldberg put a driving fury behind each dragging and diving motion.

It’s rare to see works that could be coined with such a description as “original,” but DancEthos presented a diverse array of works that poked at such an acclaim.

DancEthos (Photo Credit: Amanda Kilgour)

In Carolyn Kamrath’s “Incessant,” three dancers lay belly-up, flopping and spasming in timed spurts. The traveling moments were limp and uncontrolled, yet phrased in patterns that created a cryptic beauty. The play on controlled and spastic motion imitated the tremors and instability of Parkinsons patients. The wind in the background was like an incessant white noise, drowning out the waves of raspy French music.

In “Matriculate,” choreographer and poet Matthew Bennett fueled the movement phrases with his vocal nuances. The pedestrian-like dancers created family relationships – mother to daughter and father to daughter – that showed defiance on the part of the children and self-sacrifice on the part of the parents. Bennett begged the audience to love and cherish their families or end up “graveside and holding nothing but what we wouldn’t say.”

A picture frame dictates where to look, but in “Framework,” choreographer Vladimir Angelov drove the focus to everything beyond. The black-dressed dancer created an impassioned Disney-like fairytale of a picture-frame girl come to life. She freed herself from her two-dimensional cell. Liberated but vulnerable, she gradually retreated to her frame but closed with one arm reaching away and the other holding the empty frame out to her side. Even when we want to escape, we can’t let go of the things that hold us up.

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