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Hot Fun in Winter! - Cecly Placenti, artistic director of Six Degrees Dance Company, reviews a medley of modern dance

Cool New York Dance Festival at White Wave
SWEAT Modern Dance Series at DeBaun Auditorium

January 26 and 28, 2006 -- White Wave and DeBaun Auditorium, New York

Winter may be a time of rest and stillness in nature, but it is just the opposite in the New York City area dance scene. With dozens of companies to choose from, the season is rich with both fresh and established talent. From January 25th until February 5th, White Wave hosted the Cool New York Dance Festival as part of New York City's three-week long celebration of arts and parks events. The festival presented eight programs and over sixty companies/choreographers during its one and a half week run. The festival promised to be edgy and current, and on January 26th eight choreographers showed us what is going on in modern dance right now.

Irina Constantine Poulos of oXymoros Dance Theatre presented a solo for William D. Arnold that explored the confines of big movement in tight spaces. Arnold was a beautiful, lush mover and surprisingly light on his feet for such a tall man, but the props he had to work with, long white pipes, were cumbersome and distracting to the audience.

KineticArchitecture presented a duet of incredibly organic and seamless partnering. The bodies of Rob and Shannon Davidson melted smoothly together to create moving sculpture, but while I did not find Shannon's topless-ness distracting, I did question its necessity. However, the image of both of their bare chests adorned only with white powder, did have a striking visual effect.

Sunhwa Chung/Ko-Ryo Dance Theatre displayed very fluid dancing and all three women had intense stage presence.

Lauren Handleman of Six Degrees Dance Company presented a beautifully meditative duet inspired by yoga postures and the inner strength inherent in them. "Soma Strength" celebrates the physical power and capabilities of the female body, blending modern dance with yoga and eastern music to create a fluid connection between the three. Dancers Blaire Ritchie and Lauralee Barbano were strong, supple, and in perfect sync with one another.

"A Part," performed by Christine Cali and Gabriel Forestieri of projectLIMB, was a hysterical, poignant piece that explored the fears and hopes of an artist’s life. It was well stated and poetic, ending with the hope of a dream. Forestieri is a beautifully grounded mover, and both dancers mastered the skill of speaking while dancing quite artfully.

"Untitled," an improvisation by Doug Merrifield, was a refreshing change from the traditional concert dance presentation. Merrifield stepped out of the audience, asked us to pick the music and prop, and danced a skilled improvisation while giving snippets of his background. While it did not lack spirit or creativity, I would have preferred him to be a bit more organized in his delivery.

Across the river, Hoboken, New Jersey was stirring up its own winter heat on January 28th at the SWEAT Modern Dance Series. Janessa Clark's "Tesseract" opened the incredibly strong evening of New York and New Jersey talent. Angular and sharp, the four highly trained and articulate dancers sometimes resembled moving robots as they articulated their bodies in angular and quick phrases.

“Heaven’s Dust”, an excerpt from a larger work by Randy James, was a funny and profound gestural duet that seemed to allude to a conversation with God or a quest to overcome the baseness of human nature.

“is is not” by Ali Kenner in collaboration with her dancers was a bit long, but the dancing was interesting and inventive, and the mood was at times funny and light, and at others dark and brooding.

Deborah Lohse engaged the audience with her deeply moving solo “Elias” which was inspired by and in remembrance of a mentally ill man she had the opportunity to work and dance with. Her movements were at times frenetic and bound, repetitive and disturbing, and at others free and encompassing. Ms. Lohse has a wonderful way of speaking with every inch of her long and supple body.

Closing the evening with a definite bang was Arthur Aviles’ “Empieza el Revolu.” Like nothing that came before it, “Empieza” was a funky, crazy, fun, celebrate-the-joy-of-dancing piece! Set to a medley of music by Sade, Mandalay, and C&C Music Factory, the piece was a high energy mix of club and modern dance. Bright red costumes, silver lame pants, and Aviles himself in a red velvet dress that spun out in true Marilyn Monroe fashion as he did channe turns across the stage holding a disco ball above his head, “Empieza” both had my legs twitching with desire to join the dancers on stage grooving like they were at a club, and laughing at its irreverence.

Winter may be a time of stagnancy and cold outside, but inside the NYC area modern dance scene things are moving, shaking, and definitely hot!

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