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The Singular Collective

by Jerry Hochman

May 17, 2013 -- The Players Theatre, The Steve & Marie Sgouros Theatre

Performances by Six Degrees Dance [Water Rocks: Studies 3 and 7]; Krista Jansen [I want, I want]; Inclined Dance Project [Stuck Together Pieces]; Whatever Dance [termporiser (work in progress)]; Maya Kite and Dancers [A Hand Taken]

The Singular Collective is a recently-formed support network for young, emerging choreographers to pool resources, explore ideas, and provide mutual support. The group presented its first concert, a collection of five dances by its five founding choreographers at performances last weekend at The Steve & Marie Sgouros Theatre in Greenwich Village.

The choreographers and their company names (if any), in performance order, were: Cecly Placenti and Six Degrees Dance; Krista Jansen; Kristen Klein and Inclined Dance Project; Kristina Walton and Whatever Dance; and Maya Kite and Maya Kite and Dancers. [As I’ve previously stated, Ms. Placenti, whose work I had seen and reviewed last year, is a colleague/reviewer for Ballet-Dance Magazine, and one of the few I’ve actually met.]

Each of the program’s dances had its own choreographic flavor, and although I found some more pleasing or interesting to watch than others, and with the exception of one piece that was a work in progress, each dance communicated the choreographer’s artistic intentions admirably.

The title of Ms. Placenti’s piece, Water Rocks: Studies 3 and 7, implies that there are other ‘studies’ that were not performed either because they weren’t considered good enough or for some other reason didn’t make the cut. [The piece is indicated in the program as having been choreographed to unidentified music created by David Homan. It doesn’t take an advanced degree to find that Mr. Homan composed a piece entitled “Water Rocks.” It is also coincidental that Mr. Homan created the score for Vashti, a piece by Ariel Rivka Dance, which Ms. Placenti and I recently reviewed.] The fact that Ms. Placenti limited the performance to ‘studies’ that she considered presentable is both positive and unfortunate – the piece didn’t go longer than it should have; but I wanted to see more of it.

Ms. Placenti’s creative process is described in the program as having each dancer listen to the music, draw a picture of the sounds, and from these pictures create movement phrases that are incorporated into the dance. Although I don’t recall the creative process Ms. Placenti used for the piece I reviewed last year (called Michael in Motion), I suspect it’s similar, except instead of drawing inspiration from her father’s art, she and her dancers drew it (literally) from Mr. Homan’s music. But whatever the inspiration, the short piece went beyond the nuts and bolts of the creative process and was a thoroughly enjoyable exercise in skillfully crafted lyrical abstract contemporary dance. Performed by Ms. Placenti, Kristen Klein, and Rachel Russell (both of whom I recall from last year’s Six Degrees performance), the piece weaves multiple movement qualities and arrangements of the dancers in harmony with Mr. Homan’s score.

On the other hand, Ms. Jansen’s I want, I want has a clearly articulated theme, but the choreography used to explore it is less clearly delineated. As set forth in the program notes, the piece is about ‘how you can have dreams and goals and wishes and laundry and schedules and groceries’. Performed by Ms. Jansen and C.J. Holm, the dance shows a young woman attempting to go about her daily routine, but the ‘daily routine’ has become a chore where each movement is strained and slow and the chores (primarily, it seems, forcing herself to get up, get dressed, and go to wherever she has to go) take an interminable time to accomplish because she’d rather be somewhere else doing something else and can’t quite get anything done the way I can’t quite bring myself to end this sentence even though I know it’s gone on way to long. The woman eventually is joined by (and at times replaced by) another, who appears to act as the first woman’s alter ego and appears to merge somewhat into the first by getting in and out of a shirt that the first woman is trying to put on, as if preventing the first woman from moving forward with the daily routine. [The shirt (a significant element of the piece) goes on; the shirt comes off; and goes on again…and becomes a uniform for both girls (it is two shirts ingeniously and strategically sewn together to look like one shirt with two sets of arms) to wear and try to struggle in and out of at the same time.] The second woman eventually frees the first from the mundane to dream of being the free spirit she wants to be, of what might have been and what could still be. Although Ms. Jansen might want to consider modifying the piece to make her point more expeditiously, the piece clearly communicated her frustration with daily routine.

Kristen Klein, who as noted above was one of the dancers in Six Degrees, choreographed Stuck Together Pieces for her own company, Inclined Dance Project (the dancers were Christina Chelette, Morgana Phlaum, Jenifer Radcliffe, and Ms. Klein). Intended, in the program note, as ‘an exploration in connecting disconnecting, and re-connecting’, what I saw was less complex looking, but more interesting, and I could see the ’ever changing dynamic’ of being in a group or being on their own that the program note describes.

I remember Ms. Klein well from her performance last year with Six Degrees, and particularly the ‘horse’ solo I commented on in my review. Much of the movement quality in Stuck Together Pieces was remindful of this solo, which leads me to think that Ms. Klein had considerable input into it. Regardless, Stuck Together Pieces is as described: individual or group focuses of action, distinct but not unrelated to each other, that are assembled (stuck together) into a whole as the individual dancers perform as a group, then break apart into solos pairs and trios, and come together again, at various points throughout the piece. [The ‘stuck together’ quality applies to the music as well: it was a whole that was a ‘stuck together’ amalgamation of eleven different pieces (or excerpts) compiled by Ms. Klein.] The movement quality generally was more staccato and angular than found in Six Degrees; but it was neither mechanical nor artificial, flowed easily from one segment to another, had sufficient movement variety to maintain interest, and the dancers did a fine job with it.

Kristina Walton’s temporizer, a duet performed by her and Clemence Begin, is described as a work in progress. For that reason, and because I had difficulty seeing more than movement that looked incomplete and unclear (which may have been Ms. Walton’s intent –she describes the work as exploring, through movement phases, ‘imaginary/structured chaos to help us through the path of procrastination…’), it would be premature to evaluate this piece in detail.

The evening concluded with a Maya Kite and Dancers performing A Hand Taken. Although I didn’t find the movement quality to be particularly interesting (it was deliberately slow, methodical, and almost reverential) the form and appearance of the piece was more important. It is an engaging and intellectually stimulating dance, made so by its ambiance and stagecraft as well as its execution by the company’s dancers. [The dancers were Erin Shimberg, Domenico Izzo, Jordan Gehley, Kyle Brand, Kyle Rudolph, and Sylvana Tapia.]

A Hand Taken was made in collaboration with photographer Larry Pratt, and the program note indicates that it was inspired by his photography. It is performed by the three dancer-couples in relative darkness, illuminated by small light sources carried by the dancers (sometimes like illuminated castanets) as they move from one position to another with, through, and around the light and darkness, dancing alone, or joining others (I presume the title references one dancer taking another’s hand in the process).

At certain points one dancer draws the light source across another’s body as if the body was a hieroglyphic being seen and examined and deciphered for the first time. Indeed, because of the costumes (uncredited), the music used (“Lute in E Minor” by J.S. Bach), deliberate movement quality, and lighting that at times looked like flashlights penetrating the darkness, the impression was of observing the exotic inhabitants of a hidden cave where a long-thought extinct Greco-Roman civilization thrived unbeknownst to the outside world – as if the inhabitants of Pompeii had been found alive, or that a village in Atlantis had been discovered. The piece concluded with the dancers carrying or wrapping themselves in two cloth-like objects that looked like scarfs or shawls, each of which was illuminated with tiny lights, one set blue and one green, like Christmas tree lights. [The colored lights had appeared in the piece earlier.] The appearance was of some sort of celebratory rite that this newly found civilization was engaged in.

A Hand Taken was an enjoyable way to end the evening, which was an auspicious beginning for the Singular Collective.

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