Perfection Times Three
Erickson Theatre, Seattle, 7 June 2013
by Dean Speer
In the late ‘90s while adjudicating students [more than 180 acts in three days] in Cranbrook, British Columbia, all of us on the panel got excited when it quickly become clear that one tap group act was executing perfect choreography. On the spot, we gave them [and their choreographer/teacher] an award for great choreography and a very high score. They were as thrilled as were we.
There is an Irving Berlin song that goes partly, “...they used to give us dancing, now they give us choreography!”
Ashani Dances this past weekend gave us both examples of great dancing, superior and exciting dancers, and real choreography. I have to admit to being very pleasantly surprised and quite happy.
Most of the dancers were drawn from Cornish College of the Arts where Ashani Dances' founding artistic director, Iyun Ashani Harrison, is an assistant professor. I used to erroneously think that professional-level dancers were a rarity amongst the recent and current student body at my alma mater, Cornish, but Ashani Dances proved me wrong. Clearly.
Not only did Harrison show off what the dancers can do, the dancers showed off his truly excellent dances, the most exciting and visceral being the concluding “Artifact” which as his program note says is “Inspired by the beautiful traditional dances of my childhood in Jamaica.” Jamaican natives could not do this choreography, however, as Harrison elevated the level of technical difficulty and stamina that makes good use of the dancers' balletic training, although the movement motifs, rhythms, and themes were rooted in the Carribean.
Bravo to Ariana Bird, Taryn Jansen, Camryn Kelly, Trevor Miles, Thomas O’Neal, Sam Picart, Lindy Lou Smith, Sean Rosado, and Autumn Tselios.
The program opened with a balletic group work, “After Snow” that organically and logically utilized pointe work effectively.
The middle work, “Like Sand Between My Fingers” is essentially an extended solo for the very talented Mr. Picart with Breanna Monroe-Cook inserting herself into the proceedings, providing a sympathetic partner.
Ashani Dances is only in it second year on the Seattle dance scene and it certainly has my vote!
Thank you dancers and Mr. Harrison for giving us a memorable and uplifting experience.