Some years ago, the American Dance Festival replaced its International Choreographers Commissioning Program with one called Footprints, focusing on young choreographers, mostly US-based. As with the ICCP, the ADF commissions works (with varying sources of financial support). Students from the ADF School audition for places in them, the works are developed quickly, and the highest level of polish is not to be expected. This year’s edition opened the 22nd in Reynolds Theater, as ADF 2013 winds out its final week.
First up is Rosie Herrera from Miami, who blew our collective mind with her previous works that premiered here, Pity Party and Dining Alone, both of which were intensely colorful, completely surreal and utterly captivating. The new piece, Make Believe, is not all that.
The costumes are still flamboyant, with lots of shiny stuff — but no color. It is not reasonable of me, but I was disappointed in that. Right up until the end, I was anticipating a burst of intense hue, probably with ruffles, but it never comes. The entire dance, for a mixed cast of seven, is fairly predictable (until a white-booted cowboy, otherwise in black, appears out of nowhere to console and control) but the movement is interesting, with a whole lot of shaking going on. There’s much stomping, head flinging, and shimmying, all of which is abetted by the fringed and stripped costumes, to a variety of music. There is shouting, and one dancer sings. There is dramatic lighting, and a poignant finish. But altogether, Make Believe is like the second novel of a young writer who’s had a blockbuster right out of the gate. There was the sense of too much carefulness, too much striving and self-editing, so as not to blow the opportunity to Be Important. I expect the next piece will be better. The woman who made Pity Party and Dining Alone is not a force that can be contained, even by herself, no matter what ambition may whisper in her ear.
Adele Myers, of Connecticut, presented The Dancing Room, for six female dancers in wonderful red and black costumes, each different, but each emphasizing the zinging energy of the diagonal line — which we saw much of in the movement. Myers studied with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (Urban Bush Women) and it shows in the glorious dancing bursting with P-O-W-E-R. After a sort of prologue involving rhythmic stamping and wide-legged swaying by two women, we see lots of wonderful large open-chested movement. The lunging and cantilevering and balancing intermix with some neat energy transfer lifts and turns, and although it didn’t reveal any deeper meaning, The Dancing Room makes you feel more alive, and happy about it. Sometimes in our pursuit of the art, we forget that the great joyous rush of the blood is the basis, and maybe the whole point, of dancing.
Sad to say, the evening’s final work, by Minnesota resident Vanessa Voskuil, did not generate any upsurge of positive feeling or thought. Gates is a pretentious piece, striving to enter the avant-garde, but ragged and dull. Its one surprising moment does not compensate for the many long minutes of boredom. After a long delay while various lights went up and down, a very large number of dancers entered the theater at the top, descending backwards down all four aisles. It took forever — it wasn’t magically slow like Eiko and Koma’s delicious movement, it was irritatingly slow, as well as provoking anxiety for the dancers, who did not look all that confident that they would not break their necks. Eventually, accompanied by intermittent noise like wind in a microphone alternating with cardboard being dragged over asphalt, they all get onstage, pressing to the back wall. There is some seizure-like movement on stage. One woman has descended and ascended facing forward: she becomes a shaman-like figure and does shaman things, mostly provoking more seizures. Finally, the great moment comes (I won’t give it away), and it is pretty cool. But the piece doesn’t end there, on the high note…it drags on, with even the Arvo Pärt music unable to add lift. I didn’t even wait for the house lights to come up before bursting out into the blessed moonlight.