Throughout their 20-year history, Island Moving Co.’s artistic and executive directors, Miki Ohlsen and Dominique Alfandre, have sought out and encouraged emerging choreographers. They’ve done this not just by featuring their work in regularly scheduled concerts with the company’s dancers, but also by inventing new kinds of presentations, such as 2001’s choreographer competition and 2002’s Open for Dancing, a moveable feast of afternoon performances at several Newport venues.
Now they’ve come up with Two Steps Forward, a two-day festival of dance and choreography which will bring new pieces to the public and give 11 new choreographers the opportunity to have one-on-one discussions with New York-based dancer, choreographer, and dance critic Gus Solomons, Jr.; Boston-based dance historian and critic Iris Fanger; and Boston-based dance instructor and choreographer Daniel McCusker.
The public performances promise to be versatile and eclectic, with an excitement in the air about their very newness. Tiverton dancer/choreographer Barbara Derecktor Donahue will begin Friday night’s program with "Wave Dancer," a belly dance to live drumming. Donahue has taught dance for many years and IMC presented a piece of hers in the mid-’80s. Her newfound passion for belly-dancing will be a colorful kickoff to Two Steps Forward.
Saturday night’s opener will be a segment of "Patio Andaluz" by IMC regular Alejandro Gomez. Gomez, along with three other male dancers, will do the male quartet from "Patio," which will be seen in its entirety later in IMC’s season (July 18-26). Set to the vibrant music of the Gipsy Kings, it’s contemporary ballet infused with Latin soul.
Inspired by the catchy rhythms of Bobby McFerrin’s "The Train," Providence dancer/choreographer Laura Bennett created the six-minute trio "Ballston Rag" for two women and one man. In flowing pants and sarongs that are hot pink, dark red, and navy, the dancers let loose in hard-driving dance phrases and intricate steps, with classical elements weaving through the whole.
"There’s lots of skin," observed Bennett, who dances in it. "The dance is upbeat and fun, and I thought it would suit the outdoor summer venue well."
Next up is a collaborative work by Providence’s Arabella Project — Rachel Balaban, Catherine Bodner, Mary Gendreau, Marty Sprague, Julie Strandberg, Sumati Eberstadt, and Sharon Jenkins — with the first five performing the piece " . . . andagain . . . " to four excerpts from YoYo Ma’s "Silk Road Journey."
"Our point of departure was the theme of survival," explained Strandberg. "It was about surviving life’s challenges and crises and about doing that with other people because we’re social beings. Arabella’s guiding principle is to be as clear as possible about what we’re trying to do and leave the audience space for their point of entry into it."
Other Friday night presentations include: "Elan," by Barrington’s Mary Gendreau, a quartet set to to harp music; a new trio to Edith Piaf songs by IMC Company member Eva Marie Pacheco (also seen later in IMC’s season); and a solo by Heidi Henderson to live music by Keith Munslow.
Henderson described her untitled five-minute piece as "a slow, gestural thing, with some running and kind of odd foot patterns. It goes to the ground a lot and the ground becomes inevitable — I can’t get up after a while." Long black gloves with black pants and a nude-colored dress on top suggest the humor Henderson often inserts into her dances.
On Saturday night, Gomez’s male quartet will be followed by Tovah Bodner’s "Reveries," a dream-like piece for five female dancers set to music by Clint Mansell; excerpts from "Hard Times," Festival Ballet member James Brown’s contemporary ballet for eight dancers, including children, set to traditional fiddle music; three short solos, "Serious (Series of) Solos," by Fusionworks dancer Nathan Andary; and a solo by Rhode Island College’s Melody Ruffin Ward.
Ward sees her untitled solo (set to piano music by the trio called Budd Garcia) as a work-in-progress that tries "to explore the notion of what it feels like to not have a voice, both literally and figuratively. It’s looking at issues of race and gender and biases and how that in itself takes away a person’s voice." The text behind the movement is taken from an Audre Lorde essay, "The Transformation of Language into Action."
Nathan Andary’s three short solos, which will be interspersed throughout the evening, were inspired by "the mindless activity that we perform every day." The first piece is "Passing Thought," with Ellen Gaudena walking on stage to pick up a chair and being taken off into a daydream. "A More Complex Thought" has Fusionsworks dancer Paige Parks in a ball gown, struggling to subdue an inanimate object — a plunger — to the music of Maria Callas. And "A Stream of Consciousness" features another Fusionworks member, Kerrie-Jean Hudson, reading a book and then flowing into a dream-like dance, to original music by Jude Gordensen.
The Saturday performance will conclude with all of the choreographers taking part in The Parsons Etude, a montage of movement from the work of David Parsons which Laura Bennett will be teaching over the course of the weekend — a fitting end to a celebration of choreographers by honoring one of the best in contemporary dance.
IsLand Moving Co. will perform on Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Fort Adams State Park. Call (401) 847-4470.
Issue Date: July 11 - 17, 2003
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