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 Post subject: Inclined Dance Project
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 3:46 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 11:01 pm
Posts: 349
Location: New Jersey
Inclined Dance Project
CPR (Center for Performance Research)
Brooklyn, New York

November 15, 2013
“In The Wires”; “Two”; “Kick It”; “Marrow”; “Stuck Together Pieces”

-- by Jerry Hochman

For a dance lover, New York is an amazing place. From small groups to solos to established companies to start-ups, from large venues to small, seemingly in every nook and cranny, each day of the week things are happening. The quality of the output varies, and the dance that’s presented may not appeal to every viewer’s taste, but it’s there, struggling for recognition.

One such program that appealed to my taste took place on Friday, at a small but comfortable venue in Brooklyn, where the Inclined Dance Project presented a program of five pieces by company Artistic Director/Choreographer Kristen Klein or members of her company. The dances by Ms. Klein demonstrate that she has a still-developing core choreographic style, coupled with the ability to put steps together in a way that makes visual and thematic sense and that maintains an audience’s interest. No small accomplishment. Equally significant is that her group of six dancers (herself and five other women) not only can enjoy and capably execute her choreography, but can successfully connect with an audience. Based on this program, Ms. Klein and her company deserve to be recognized.

At Friday’s program (which was repeated on Saturday), Ms. Klein presented a new work titled “In The Wires“, an old one, “Marrow,” which premiered in 2009, and the premiere of “Stuck Together Pieces.” Included on the program were pieces by company members Chie Mukai and Amy Campbell (“Two” and “Kick It”, respectively, the latter presented by Ms. Campbell’s company, ‘Crooked Mouth’).

Ms. Klein’s choreography is difficult to easily describe. There’s an evolving core movement quality that is more angular than lyrical, with a quirky, twitchy quality that reminds me a little (just a little) of Twyla Tharp. But Ms. Klein’s core choreographic movement seems more on a molecular level, as if each bone and each muscle is not only capable of movement, but can independently move in a controlled, rather than robotic or spasmatic, fashion. So not only do arms and legs and head and neck move, but it seems as if each vertebra and each muscle in the torso, for example, can be triggered at any given time – or not. And the movement is the same whether the dancer is standing, squatting, or prone, in motion or (on rare occasions) standing still.

But that’s only part of the description. More significant to me is that this core movement quality is not enforced as an eleventh commandment. The presentation is eclectic. Ms. Klein varies her core quality both with variations on the basic movement theme (instead of angular, twitchy movement, the movement becomes sinuous, flowing, almost sensual). Or the dancer will drag herself across the floor in various ways, or run, or be lifted and carried by another, or hit perfect arabesques, or softly exhale air in a way that combines blown kisses with imaginary wind gusts. Her pieces, at least those I’ve seen, have a clear (though not necessarily predictable) structure, and are crafted with care and intelligence: Even though the movement quality may sound disconnected and disparate, in the end, it all comes together. But most important, her dancers are not automatons. Whether imposed by choreographic design or the expression of the dancers' natural stage personae that Ms. Klein incorporates into the composition, the dancers are individuals with personalities, characters perhaps, not solely empty vessels moving in space.

“In The Wires,” a brief piece for three dancers (Chie Mukai, Morgana Phlaum, and Jennifer Radcliffe), isn’t a substantial work, but it’s crafted and executed very well. The piece begins with the dancers hunched over (enmeshed in wires?), moving their torsos, swinging their arms, and then comes to life with the dancers leaping solo or in changing pairs. The arms and hands are significant components of the piece, held high, or across, or shaken. It sounds like an exercise, but it comes across as an entertaining abstract work, with each dancer being given an opportunity to shine. Particularly notable was Ms. Phlaum, who teasingly softened rough edges in the core style, balancing the intensity of Ms. Mukai and Ms. Radcliffe with brief but buttery sensuality.

“Marrow” reportedly was inspired by a piece of graffiti art. It must have been high quality graffiti. The dance is only ten minutes or so long, but it’s filled with wonderfully entertaining and imaginative images, impeccably executed by Ms. Campbell, Christina Chelette, Ms. Mukai, Ms. Phlaum, and Ms. Radcliffe. It would be a marvelous abstract dance at any level of choreographic experience, but considering that it was Ms. Klein’s first company piece, “Marrow” is quite remarkable.

The piece describes the process of individuals both exploring their inner selves and connecting with others, and the forces and energies involved. It sounds trite – but the dance doesn’t look that way.

Choreographed to an original score by composer/collaborator Frank Gilbertson, “Marrow” uses, but isn’t bound by, the almost hallucinogenic main musical phrase that is repeated in various forms and in varying intensity throughout. That is, sometimes Ms. Klein also repeats choreographic phrases to match the musical phrase – letting one dancer lead the others in a particular movement, repeated thereafter with the same choreographic pattern but with a different movement – but she more often uses the repetitive musical theme as mesmerizing background to independent moving images.

And the deceptively simply choreography is itself spellbinding: it’s so interesting to watch that one doesn’t dare look away. The ‘core style’ that I described above is there, but only to a limited extent. Rather, “Marrow” is both angular and lyrical at times (reflecting the ballet background of Ms. Klein and most of the company members), mingling balletic images with its overall contemporary pulse. And there’s that wonderful blown kiss of air aimed by one dancer to another, and also from one dancer to the remaining dancers in the group. The visualization is remarkable because it’s not a step – but it’s integral to the presentation. Also integral is the visualization of bonding energy as an invisible string connecting one or more of the dancers. When the piece ended with every member of the group being connected to this unseen but visualized force, I wanted to cheer – Ms. Klein had pulled it together perfectly.

Like “Marrow,” “Stuck Together Pieces” is ‘about’ interactions between people, but it’s less cosmic. Here Ms. Klein is not concerned about energy forces, but about the interaction of people ‘stuck together’ in some sort of restricted space (although the type of ‘space’ can be anything – a room, a street corner, a subway car, a beach, Brooklyn), told in a dance that’s composed of vignettes that are also ‘stuck together’ to create a whole. And while an examination of this subject is hardly unusual, what makes “Stuck Together Pieces” different is its concurrent sense of individuality and community (albeit somewhat alienated), and an overall sense of ‘this is what it is’, rather than ‘this is what it should be’.

Structurally, the piece evolves in a series of choreographic episodes told by one of the dancers, into which one or more other dancers may appear and interact – or not. These vignettes are connected (or interrupted) by group images that in effect shuffle the bodies into different positions. It’s as if it’s a subway ride where the occupants of a particular car move and assume positions when the train stops at a station, but while it’s in motion, the action focuses on whomever happen to be stuck in the middle of the car without anything (or anyone) to hold on to. All the occupants have their guard up – this is a subway car (or other public space) filled with strangers, after all – but those in the middle are vulnerable, and appear apprehensive, lonely, unconcerned, or oblivious – or all of the above. In addition to the basic ‘core’ style, augmented by slides, floor work, leaps, and even a blown kiss or two, Ms. Klein uses the stage walls as a combination safe zone, observation point, and independent perimeter performing space. And the ‘score’ to which the dancers move is itself a collection of ‘stuck together’ sounds, curated by Ms. Klein, consisting of music or sounds from roughly fifteen musical sources (sounds from recordings that might be heard on the street, or in one’s home, or on a iPod while in transit), combined with nature sounds recorded in Prospect Park and Coney Island, sounds from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and, yes, sounds of the subway.

A brief word about the dancers in Inclined Dance Project: they’re fabulous. Each one, including Ms. Klein, executed her allocated share of the choreography (or perhaps what each contributed individually to the whole) with a rare combination of extraordinary intensity and competence. And they’re a heterogeneous group, from tall and thin to short and solid. But the two who seemed, in terms of stage personality, to be significantly different were the two newest members of the company, Ms. Campbell and Ms. Phlaum. Each ratchets the intensity down a bit – which is a good thing – and brings something different to the stage. In Ms. Campbell’s case, it’s a sense of detachment, of vulnerability, of being not quite sure whether she belongs. With Ms. Phlaum, it’s radiance. With a ready smile that seems to occupy 90 per cent of her face, Ms. Phlaum comes across as part Shirley MacLaine, part Leslie Caron, part Alfonse Mucha art nouveau figure, and part 500 watt light bulb.

The other pieces on the program were not as successful. Ms. Mukai’s piece, a brief duet danced by Ms. Klein and Ms. Chelette, has an Asian sensibility (both in Ms. Mukai’s deliberate and nuanced choreography and in the accompanying music). The two dancers are attached as if to a multicolored umbilical cord, one ‘dominant,’ and then gradually the roles appear to be reversed, and eventually the cord is cut. Ms. Campbell’s piece (danced by members of her company – Crooked Mouth: Jessica DiBattista, Daniel Goode, Jeff Marras, Ashley Mathus, and Ms. Campbell), titled “Kick It,” is constant abstract movement, but it’s all on the same frenetic level. Pure abstraction is fine, but it all tends to blur without more choreographic variety.

Overall, however, this program was a superb example of what happens in dance in New York every day, which few outside the dancers’ immediate circles know about. But word gets around – Friday’s performance was full, and my understanding is that Saturday’s was overflowing. If you enjoy watching nascent talent grow, see Ms. Klein’s company the next time it performs – if you’re so inclined.


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 Post subject: Re: Inclined Dance Project
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 8:19 am 
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Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2006 5:02 pm
Posts: 1510
Location: USA-Switzerland
balletomaniac wrote:
Inclined Dance Project
CPR (Center for Performance Research)
Brooklyn, New York

The dances by Ms. Klein demonstrate that she has a still-developing core choreographic style, coupled with the ability to put steps together in a way that makes visual and thematic sense and that maintains an audience’s interest. No small accomplishment. Equally significant is that her group of six dancers (herself and five other women) not only can enjoy and capably execute her choreography, but can successfully connect with an audience. Based on this program, Ms. Klein and her company deserve to be recognized.

Thanks, Jerry, for your very compelling and detailed description. I don't get to experience very much contemporary dance. Every now and then I see a work, or part of a work, and it just works. :) I have my own agenda for what I hope to see, but sometimes something just clicks, no particular formula, and that's more than fine. I sense that you may have been given both, structure and meaning plus a purely satisfying and enjoyable experience. If Kristen Klein's work and company are even half as exciting as your way of describing them, then I certainly look forward to seeing them.


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 Post subject: Re: Inclined Dance Project
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:47 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 11:01 pm
Posts: 349
Location: New Jersey
Inclined Dance Project
Dixon Place
New York, New York

November 7, 2014
“Ringer,” “Babble” (premiere); “Heliocentris” (premiere)

-- by Jerry Hochman

Every company, it seems, is celebrating an anniversary of some sort this year. Now comes Inclined Dance Project, a group that I've reviewed previously, giving its Fifth Anniversary performance at Dixon Place Theater on Christie Street, at the western edge of the Lower East Side, which included two premieres choreographed by Artistic Director Kristen Klein. Emerging companies tend to have a long infancy, but five years is a milestone nonetheless, and this performance marks a milestone as well.

You wouldn't know that IDP is still in its infancy from this performance. Ms. Klein's style can't be easily pigeon-holed, and the company's roster of dancers, which has been relatively stable for at least the past two years, is as eclectic and accomplished as its leader’s choreography (and not having cookie-cutter-looking dancers is a plus: their physical and emotional texture adds to the visual impact of Ms. Klein’s choreography). But what particularly impressed me about this performance was the polish that it demonstrated. This is a seasoned group that knows exactly what it’s doing every step of the way, and it showed.

The evening’s major event was the premiere of Ms. Klein’s “Heliocentris,” a complex work that explores relationships between bodies in space. Outer space, not stage space (although spatial relationships are a natural component of the staging). The program notes describe the piece as “an exploration derived from the mechanics and phenomenon of outer space, inspired by the spectacles of the universe” – which certainly is an apt summary. But this description would lead one to believe that this was a concept piece, a 'study', that might be interesting to choreograph, but dry and not particularly entertaining for an audience. This was not the case.

As she does so well for a still nascent choreographer, Ms. Klein here has put together a dance with a defined structure that may be programmed to look random, but, like the physical movement of the universe, isn’t. There is some repetition of images, but only at strategic moments. And the dance is circular – that is, it begins with a particular image, and, after exploring various permutations, returns to that image (or something similar) at the end.

Although the outer-space theme is clear (particularly as reflected in the collage of sounds assembled by Ms. Klein, consisting of music by Ty Burhoe, Max Richter, Ezio Bosso, and satellite recordings of space), the piece is abstract, and the dancers are not obvious representations of some specific ‘thing’. Indeed, what these images specifically are supposed to represent, if anything, seems less important than the overall flow of movement in the stage universe through the passage of time, movement that may seem constant and seamless to an outside viewer, but which consists of a variety of component movement parts – often violent forces – that Ms. Klein captures with differing movement qualities – one moment angular; another more fluid; or most often an indescribable combination of the two.

There’s an air of celestial mystery to it for that reason, as the viewer explores what Ms. Klein is showing without knowing exactly what it represents, much like a viewer looking into space, with or without telescope, might explore images without knowing what they are. And these celestial bodies are costumed (by Ms. Klein) such that their tight-fitting celestial skin is enshrouded by loose-fitting, diaphanous material, each a different ‘dark space’ color. Consequently, each dancer has the appearance of a celestial object surrounded by clouds, or, collectively, like parts of the universe enveloped by some fuzzy celestial haze (the Milky Way; Black Stars; distant constellations), as the universe’s component parts often appear to be. And attention to detail is as significant with respect to Ms. Klein’s costumes as it is to her choreography: each of these diaphanous ‘masses’ is outlined, on the edges, in a bright colors – much as telescopic photographs appear to show bright colors outlining the perimeters of celestial forms.

The dance begins with the cast of six woman (Amy Campbell, Christina Chelette, Leighann Curd, Chie Mukai, Morgana Phlaum, and Jennifer Radcliffe) slowly circling around some central force. (The image of erect but partially posed circling dancers clothed in loosely fitting outer garments brought to mind a Greco/Roman frieze in motion, or the images of dancers captured in different positions ‘in motion’ on some art nouveau u vase.) This moving image could represent planets rotating around the sun; a swirling galaxy; or, more likely, matter pre-Big Bang.

From this opening, the dancers break out into celestial component parts, and the dance thereafter continues with solos, duets, trios. The dances have an overall similarity – but they’re not nearly identical. It’s as if Ms. Klein is personifying the unique character of each celestial form.

The first dancer , the one who, at the outset, was the force around which the other dancers were circling, is Ms. Mukai. She is pictured as a controlling force of sorts; reaching out with her arms as if trying to keep the other celestial objects/forces/dancers close. From time to time other dancers return to her, as if pulled by gravity, but then break off again. Later, in another solo, Ms. Curd moves feverishly, as if desperately trying to remain in existence – the soul of a collapsing black star, perhaps. Eventually, she’s lifted up by another dancer (Ms. Campbell), and, her energy spent, is carried off.

Other dancers follow in various permutations. For example, Ms. Chelette is first briefly alone and then joined by others, as if together creating a new celestial form. The piece never allows one dancer to remain alone too long: just like celestial bodies constantly move through the universe; Ms. Klein’s dancers’ bodies move through the stage, sometimes hooking up, celestially, with others; sometimes just passing through. Each dancer did quality work, but I particularly enjoyed the solos by Ms. Curd and Ms. Campbell (one very tall and thin, the other powerful and dramatic) and Ms. Phlaum, whose solo I found especially interesting. Ms. Phlaum is the smallest and slightest dancer in the group, and her solo was long, arduous, and slow – almost tortured. I thought of a gymnast trying to maintain control on a balance beam as I watched her . She seemed to have some problems with it; a bit wobbly and uncertain, although there were no obvious mistakes. And then I realized that perhaps this was Ms. Klein’s intent, perfectly captured by Ms. Phlaum, because the lightness, the hesitation, and the ultimate successful follow-through would have been an appropriate representation of the arduous birth of a new star.

The piece’s closing image is a mirror of its opening. Gravitational pull, or some other force, prevails; the celestial components return to circling around a central force, perhaps preparing for the next Big Bang: the continuing universal expansion and contraction; ebb and flow.

My only criticism of the piece (aside from wondering why the dancers wore socks), is that it went on too long. There was a point where the dancers returned to their original circling, which I thought was the piece’s conclusion, but then the dancers split off again and the dance continued. I appreciate that the repetitive coming together and splitting apart and then coming together again has a purpose, but once probably would have been sufficient.

“Babble,” the program’s other premiere, is a similar representation of an idea, and perhaps just as cosmic in subject matter significance as “Heliocentris,” but it’s smaller and more focused, and at times, sadly funny.

As the program note describes (“What if our abiity to communicate was suddenly…lost?”) and the dance’s title implies, this is a piece about communication, and the inability to understand. Ms. Chelette, Ms. Mukai, and Ms. Klein herself perform the piece. At varying times each dances as if hearing a private thought, or music that only she can hear. Each attempt to communicate this input (the choreographed dancing is the language of choice), but can’t be understood. One or another character makes an effort to try to learn the others’ languages, and at times there’s some success, but ultimately the attempts fail, and the women are left scratching their heads or, raising the arms (or, at the end, their legs as they collapse, defeated) skyward as if in frustration or seeking the intervention of some superior being.

As described, the piece sounds trivial – a limited exploration of a limited idea. But most dances that have some underlying theme are like that, and this one is put together well, says what it has to say and stops, and the dancers did a fine job with it.

The evening opened with a repeat performance of last year’s premiere, “Ringer,” which I reviewed at that time (under the name of its presenting umbrella: Six Degrees of Separation). Ms. Phlaum and Ms. Radcliffe repeated their previous roles; Ms. Campbell and Ms. Curd were new to it.

Performances by emerging companies don’t have the bells and whistles of more established companies. There are no sets; lighting design is minimal; and costumes often are what the dancers themselves put together based on the choreographer’s broad specifications. But with a gifted choreographer and motivated and capable dancers, as is the case with IDP, bells and whistles aren’t really necessary.


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