Mayzsoul Dance Company at the Capital Fringe Festival

Below is an excerpt of Kent Neidhold’s article originally written for DCMetroTheaterArts.com.

“Souls”— A World Premiere at the Capital Fringe

Ten Dancers. Ten Souls. One Journey.

This summer you will only have five chances to take part in the journey of “Souls,” premiering at the 7th annual Capital Fringe Festival in July. “Souls” is a thoughtful and moving metaphysical narrative. It follows lost souls as they help a new soul navigate through a labyrinth of relationships to help him discover his place and ultimately their place in life. Perhaps they will find that truth lies in their lost state and that they have no permanent self, only to discover their souls are part of an ever-changing entity.

“Souls is a reflection of the point in every person’s life when they begin to lose sight of who they are. We all need a reminder of what it means to be human and need to embrace the changes that may occur,” Joye Thomas, Artistic Director. Mayzsoul is inspired to share this with the Capital Fringe Festival and all who attend. Mayzsoul has had the unique opportunity to commission two original scores by Paul de Jong, formerly of THE BOOKS and The Fight Mannequins.

Jong, who himself is an experienced musician and composer, saw the importance and unique opportunity that came from composing music for Souls: “Never having met Joye and being totally unfamiliar with her work, initially made me feel that composing this piece might be a bit of a shot in the dark. That quickly changed when we had our first phone conversation, it was quite refreshing to experience so much creative drive, focus and enthusiasm dancing my way through the airwaves! Reading the description of ‘Souls’ and understanding where my music would fit within the development of the ‘storyline’ of the dance movements immediately gave me the creative direction that led to the music I have now called ‘Orchid’, a symbol of beauty, love and strength.”

Mayzsoul is a Washington, DC area based 501(c)3 nonprofit dance company founded by Melanie Lalande, who is also Artistic Director of Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles LOVE”. Mayzsoul’s mission is to create and grow a community of artists that will continue artistic exploration and education while producing quality performances. Mayzsoul gives regular community workshops and free open classes, and creates groundbreaking work meant to allow others to see the world from a new perspective. Approaching their sixth year, Mayzsoul is excited for the future. “I am deeply proud of Mayzsoul. It continues to exists because of the commitment the people inside the company have to the process and the purpose of the mission as well as the work. They are beauty in motion,” said founder Melanie Lalande.

“Souls” will be performed at the GALA Hispanic Theatre at Tivoli Square: 3333 14th Street NW Washington, DC 20010. Between Park Road and Monroe Street. The theater entrance is located on the second floor by stairs or mezzanine level (M) through the elevator. Metro: One block north of the Columbia Heights Metro Station on the Green line.

Thursday, July 12th, 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 14th, 3:00 p.m.

Tuesday, July 24th, 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, July 26th, 10:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 28th, 12:00 p.m.

For more information, please visit mayzsoul.org, capfringe.org or call 866-811-4111.

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MOVEius DANCE at the Capital Fringe Festival

By Tina Barksdale, Marketing Director for WKS INT. Representing: MOVEius DANCE’s  “Flight of Fancy”

A parallel universe? Perhaps… At the very least an alternate reality! The setting for MOVEiUS DANCE’s Flight of Fancy (A Steampunk Ballet) is sure to please both sci-fi junkies and classic romantics alike!

Flight of Fancy is a contemporary ballet that embraces the Steampunk Movement, a literary and fashion genre that combines the Victorian style with futuristic developments from the perspective of a steam- powered society. This performance will have its audience ultimately asking, What if human innovation had taken an alternative path? A path equally as modern as our computer-enhanced reality; however, able to maintain the class, style and intrinsic values of a more romantic time by utilizing an alternative power source? The Steampunk philosophy stays true to Victorian optimism and comes to a slightly idealistic conclusion that the steam-powered reality that results is a world that celebrates individualism. This performance will explore the wanderlust in us all!

The Steampunk movement has taken hold around the world, most notably in the UK and US. Kathleen Howard, a founding dancer with MOVEiUS DANCE and a promising young teacher at the Washington School of Ballet, came up with the Steampunk idea for their premier Fringe performance. While MOVEiUS DANCE has performed shorter pieces since 2010 in esteemed venues such as the Woolly Mammoth Theater and Dance Place, they sought an unusual full-length concept for their one-hour Fringe show. Diana Movius, Director and Co-founder of MOVEiUS DANCE, agreed: “The Steampunk concept is perfect for the Fringe Festival, and the style is perfect for ballet.”

Join us as we celebrate MOVEiUS DANCE’s Fringe Festival debut and follow the character “the Aviator” during her journey through offices, stars, love and a novella steampunk society. This is a ballet showcasing a number of MOVEiUS’ accomplished local dancers, many of whom enjoyed professional ballet careers before moving to DC: MOVEiUS Co-founder Katya Vasilaky in the role of the Aviator (Vasilaky danced with the San Francisco Ballet and Martha Graham); Charlotte Barnett, fresh from the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Erica Diesl of BalletRox and Ballet Theatre of Maryland; Kathleen Howard, Diana Movius and others. The score is upbeat with an indie rock twist and full of intriguing factors that will engage an audience and lead them through the exploration of breaking free from computer technology, creating an ambiance of positivity, individualism, celebration, and even hot-air balloons!

Performances are part of the Capital Fringe Festival at the Gala Hispanic Theatre, located at 3333 14th Street NW, Washington DC, 20010 (in close proximity to the Columbia Heights Metro Station):

Saturday, July 14th, 4:45 p.m.

Sunday, July 15th, 12:00 p.m.

Tuesday, July 17th, 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 21st, 11:00 p.m.

Thursday, July 26th, 6:00 p.m.

Tickets go on sale on June 18th at capfringe.org or moveiusdance.org.

Dancin’ Unlimited Goes Broadway and Beyond

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dancin’ Unlimited

Dancin’ Unlimited will perform “Dancin’ on Broadway and Beyond,” a Broadway showcase tribute, at the Port Tobacco Players playhouse in La Plata, MD.  On April 21st at both 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., audiences will experience the thrill of Broadway smash-hit numbers, with a few concert style jazz dance works mixed in.

Directed by Northern Virginia jazz dance icon Marilyn York, the Dancin’ Unlimited Jazz Dance Company packs the show with signature songs and dance pieces from Chicago, A Chorus Line, Fosse and Pajama Game.

“We will take you on a jazz dance journey through dance styles that made Broadway famous,” says York. Dancin’ Unlimited’s motto is “Jazz Dance with Class.” They hold true to classical technique and clean lines with the exuberance to light up Broadway to boot.

Dancin’ Unlimited’s mission is to promote, produce and perform quality jazz dance, a uniquely American dance art form that has evolved with our history and absorbed our cultures. Founded in 1973, Dancin’ Unlimited is the only professional jazz dance company in Northern Virginia with a focus on both concert and musical theatre jazz dance. Marilyn York, the artistic director, produces new and exciting programs each year with an emphasis on artistic excellence, broad variety and professionalism. The Company repertoire ranges from classical jazz dance to hip-hop, from the Big Band era dance to Broadway. Company dancers are all classically trained in ballet and modern as well as jazz dance. Dancin’ Unlimited is a non-profit 501-(c)3 arts organization, a member of the Arts Council of Fairfax County, and a founding member of the Fairfax County Dance Coalition.

The above information is adapted from a Dancin’ Unlimited press release.

The Deets

  • Dancin’ Unlimited Presents Dancin’ On Broadway and Beyond
  • Port Tobacco Players –  508 Charles Street; La Plata, MD 20646
  • Saturday, April 21st, 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
  • $17 Adults; $14 Students/Seniors/Military
  • Dance students and others are welcome to meet the Director, Marilyn York, and Dancin’ Unlimited dancers after the first show around 5:00 p.m.

Attack with Fluidity – Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company Celebrates 20 Years of Dance-Making

 

"Becoming American" Photo Credit: Zain Shah

Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company attacks choreography with poise and fluidity. They celebrated their 20 year anniversary April 5th and 6th at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre at George Washington University, the same theatre where they first began their artistic journey. In a four-piece concert, part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Burgess uses his contemporary style fused with multimedia art to frame the societal and cultural themes of identity, constriction and betrayal. A celebrated DC artist, Burgess makes each element of the theatre – lighting, music, costume, space and movement – work together towards clear concept.

The solo work “Khaybet,” performed by dancer Connie Lin Fink, is a beautiful and desperate elegy of a woman in restricted surroundings, told from beneath her rust-colored veil. Bathed in a path of orange light, only her arms are visible. The Gregorian Chant-like song of male voices is the impetus for each caressing and maternal motion dotted with militaristic and warrior stances. Never stepping beyond the boundary of her pool, she finally lifts her veil and walks beyond the stage into the light.

A hyphen is a connector and a separator. In “Hyphen,” dancers are outfitted in deep gray with a black line dividing the chest. It opens with the dancers using choppy hand motions that cup around the face to hide their identity beneath. Burgess captures the uncertainties of being identified as an Asian-American, latching on to two cultures simultaneously, as well as portraying a struggle between the surface identity versus the internal identity. A formal bow before moving in spurts of disengaged combat – a moment of Tai Chi broken by folding in on oneself – all the while, the dissonant tones of heartbeats and echoes blend uncomfortably. A 1950s-esque TV set is rearranged periodically, as if to find a better signal. The black and white fuzzy images of buttoning a shirt or a face spliced into two images capture identity confusion. Much like a skipping DVD, the dancers stop, go, pause and play – in an endless monotony, finishing with the filming of a dancer’s face, de-hyphenated.

Playing into a more accessible theme, “Fractures” is a love-triangle played out in angular movements and desperate reaches, in which each of the three dancers is a broken piece of the puzzle. As the husband divides his heart and gives a piece to his wife and the other to his lover, all that is left is the question of whether a fracture is really enough. The emotional turmoil is a believable portrayal, both facially and physically.

Closing with their new work “Becoming American,” Burgess elopes with the piece on a Dorothy in Oz tale, where the female dancer descends from her cloudy Geisha screen into Americana. There is no yellow-brick road in this portrait, but Burgess uses white-washed stools, dishes, suitcases and boxes, as well as a masked Greek chorus and Kabuki-like shuffling to show the disorienting path of this Asian girl’s journey towards fulfilling the Pleasantville couple’s expectations to conform. The most disturbing sequence is the ESL class, when a lesson on learning the “S” consonant has all the hissing qualities of landing in a snake pit. Each episode is spun together by a phrase from the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Clinging to her identity, she sweeps across her heart, grabs a piece of what’s inside and folds it into her lap, just as a projected picture frame captures the picturesque American family, generously opening their arms to their Asian-adoptee, but never adjusting the seesaw of understanding. For more information about Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company, please visit their website.

Dance Exchange Goes Into the Wild – A Search for the Origins of Energy

The stage is set with a mountainous display of card castles and a toddler’s wooden chair; one rogue breath of wind could blow the whole set away. With that air of vulnerability, three dancers begin an excerpt from Dance Exchange’s “How to Lose a Mountain,” to be completed in the Spring of 2013 based on the experience of hiking 500 miles to find the origins of domestic energy. As the dancers toss the playing cards across the stage, a path is laid before them. Dancers Sarah Levitt and Shula Strassfeld embrace on the precipice of a toddler chair. One foul move and the whole card castle could tumble down, but if they hold together, they can balance on the edge of the cliff.

Photo Credit: John Borstel, Courtesy of Dance Exchange

Dance Exchange and Artistic Director Cassie Meador are on the brink of a transcendental journey to bridge the 500 mile distance from Meador’s home in Takoma, Maryland to a strip-mining site in West Virginia where several mountains once stood, and where the origins of the electric energy that powers Meador’s house begins. In their Tuesday, April 3 concert at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center entitled “First Steps in the Development of How to Lose a Mountain,” Dance Exchange is laying the groundwork for this trek.

After “living off the land” in 2009 for two weeks in a rainforest in South America, Meador had an epiphany – the essentials she needed to survive there only traveled from the source to her fingertips. Upon returning home, she couldn’t shake the thought that she was “surrounded by all this stuff, and I have no idea where it came from,” said Meador.

The program notes read, “Behind every product we use is a distance that has been traveled and a story that can be shared.”

“I have a need to cover that distance, to trace the source,” said Meador. Throughout the eight week journey, Meador, along with several of the Dance Exchange dancers and collaborators, will create opportunities for community members, environmentalists, artists and documentarians to come together at various events, share their stories and even join the walk for a portion of the trip.

The cards that the dancers picked through in the opening piece represent stories to be collected along their path. In each community they hit, Dance Exchange will offer prompts written on a playing card, such as, “Describe an object that means a great deal to you,” or “What is the most valuable part of your inheritance?” The responses will be collected and compiled on www.500miles500stories.com, the interactive website map.

While the journey requires Meador and her companions to strip down to survival essentials, the promotion of such a cause demands extensive technological resources and media outreach. The transcendental expedition is built upon a social media platform, or as Levitt puts it, “taking the experience through technology.”

Dance Exchange will kick off their journey on Tuesday, April 10th, making their first stop at the Kennedy Center at Dance Exchange in Takoma Park at 8:00 a.m. for a “Sunrise Send-off.” In the evening, Dance Exchange will have a free performance at 6:00 p.m. at the Kennedy Center.

To share thoughts and donations, visit www.500miles500stories.com or download the app (TBA) to help Dance Exchange reach their goal of $5,000 $10,000 by June 22nd to help fund the 2013 completed dance work of “How to Lose a Mountain.”

Bowen McCauley Braves “Rite of Spring” at the Kennedy Center

The audience gasps as the curtain reveals a cosmic scene – a blood-red scrim protruded by a gargantuan tinfoil moon structure and Bowen McCauley Dance’s eight member company strewn in makeshift positions across the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater stage. “Le Sacre du Printemps”(or “Rite of Spring”) is Lucy’s variation on the original Nijinsky work. The 33 minute score of asymmetrical tribal rhythms is a feat to attempt, and Lucy bravely gave the work a contemporary makeover, adding a new level of humanity to the portrayal of the virgin sacrifice who dances herself to death.

Photo Credit: John McCauley

Debuting at the John F. Kennedy Center March 1st and 2nd, 2012, “Le Sacre du Printemps” closed BMD’s four piece concert.  Composed by Igor Stavinsky, Vaslav Nijinsky’s original work was set on Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes.  It debuted in Paris in 1913 to an outraged audience. Compared to the Romantic ballets of the time, the low contracted, turned-in and grotesque shapes riddled with violent bouncing and harsh rhythms were no doubt shocking.

Now almost in its centennial year, “Rite of Spring” is credited with being “the first modern dance,” the work that set into motion a new generation of modern visionaries. Lucy has counted herself amongst those inspired for more than half her life. “I have loved this music since I first heard the orchestral version at Interlochen when I was 14,” she said.

Costumed in torn flesh-colored bike-tards ripping at the seams and muscle-like roping holding on stripes of charcoal fabric (design: Chesley Schuller and Tony Cisek), “Le Sacre du Printemps” was set to Stravinsky’s four-hand piano score (musicians: Fabio and Giselle Witkowksi). The melodic nature of the piano seemed to alleviate the severity of the monotonous chord pounding.

The tribe of dancers paints an apocalyptic scene, meshing classic stag leaps and hieroglyphic images joined with Lucy’s signature fluidity. Men and women seem to share power over each other, choosing their mates while also stalking the chosen sacrifice. When the choice is made, dancer Alicia Curtis draws out the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance, shown by a resigned intensity in her gaze. In a theatrical display that would’ve made Gelsey Kirkland proud, Alicia lets loose her hair and pleas to her kinsmen for mercy. Finally succumbing to her isolation and the emotional turmoil of this Vagner-like operatic drama, Alicia sprints to the edge of the orchestra pit cliff, just as the tribe encapsulates her. Blackout.

In “Beethoven Bits,” choreography by the late Eric Hampton, and “Resuitened,” smooth technique is interjected with pops of color – humorous moments of unexpected gesture implanted in such an unconventional way that the audience has to chuckle. The dancers are fingers on the keyboard, the theatrical depiction of each classical note.

“Ozone” was a rich collaborative project. With music by Larry Alan Smith, BMD’s music director, and inspired by Rita Dove’s poetry, “Ozone” blended the organic artistry of a cello, a flute, a soprano voice and graceful movement, with moments of discomfort – a breathy note of the flute, a piercing high of the soprano or a note held to the point of dying out on the cello. These moments were gradually extended much like expansion of atmospheric holes.

Lucy was awarded The Pola Nirenska Award, presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society for her achievements in dance in the DC Metro community. “[Lucy’s] company serves as a challenge for audiences and a frame for Washington talent,” said WPAS representative George Jackson.

Mich-Mash Productions Showcases DC Dance’s Next Generation of Choreographers

So you’re a recent graduate. Made it to the top of your university dance program. You’ve tossed your Gail Grant and your Anatomy text book and replaced it with your headshot and resume. There are stars in your eyes, and you’re ready to start living. Now what?

Only a handful of dance programs prepare dancers to answer this question. Some artists find their way through trial and error, and others give up all together. Micheline Heal, Artistic Director of Mich-Mash Productions, has found a way to fill this gap – to help dancers make the leap from college dance program to real life and take the loneliness out of the process.

The Young Choreographers Collective or YC2 (pronounced “why see squared”), a support network created by Heal, is designed to give recent grads the business skills necessary to ease the transition from diploma to dance scene, alleviating the mystery that holds back many potential dance artists.

Mich-Mash Productions presented YC2, an evening-length concert performed, choreographed and marketed by Heal and two YC2 choreographer-hopefuls – Matina Phillips and Elizabeth Odell. Held at The Jack Guidone Theater at Joy of Motion Dance Center Friendship Heights, Mich-Mash Productions experienced a nearly full house on Sunday, February 26th.

“There’s Something About Marriage” was Odell’s take on four marital situations and the common stigmas attached to each – arranged, same-sex, long distance and polygamous. In “Arranged,” the dancers often appeared forced together in awkward angles, portraying the uncomfortable resignation attached to such unions.

Seasons as a theme is a difficult task. It has been interpreted in movement since nearly the beginning of dance-making so making it new in some way would be a feat. In “Still Lifes: The Seasons,” Heal broke up the distinct four-part calendar year into four very similar pieces. Opening with the fall season, the dancers tumbled and sliced through the space in an unpredictable pattern, creating the look of leaves. Blackout. Winter. Blackout. Spring. Blackout. Enter shorts-clad dancer with sunglasses and beach towel to make sure the audience knows it’s the summer section.

In “Nightly Thoughts,” Phillips explored sleeplessness. The stripe-clad insomniac was manipulated by two nightly shadows. The piece shifted between boredom, discomfort, anguish, euphoria and yearning, eventually collapsing from sheer mental exhaustion. While the meaning is accessible to a wide audience, certain formation choices were unclear in how they contributed to the overall intention.

It takes guts to draw contemporary meaning from tap, but Phillips is an optimist. Her clean riffs and shuffles added percussion to the streaming music, constructing an image of a young woman making her own happiness, traveling through life and overcoming bumps and bridges with barrel turns and over-the-logs. For more information about Mich-Mash Productions and YC2, please visit www.mich-mash.com/yc2/.

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