Fall Season Reveille

Troops at Base Camp provided timely wake-up call for a new year of dance

The decade-old Dance Now Festival stretches this year from Joe’s Pub to Washington Heights.

A September 9 celebratory program at “Base Camp”—Dance Theater Workshop’s state-of-the-art Bessie Schönberg Theater—was a wake-up call, featuring eight up and coming choreographers.

“Last Flamingoes” gently eased us into the evening’s pleasure. The flamingoes emerged in Luka Kito’s video—the backdrop for a spar, angular duet performed with butohesque intensity. In black and white costumes, Kito and Megan Boyd took their cues from the birds.

Faye Driscoll’s “Cold Blooded Old Times” is a taut trio to Satie, Little Rascals, and Smog. Like a line dance with gesture, the canned quality entertained with smart borderline humor. Driscoll wore a Western neckerchief. More light fare came in Chris Elam’s bright, cheery “ta ta ta,” to a French song by Paolo Conte. Three in red tanks and trunks entertained with clownish athleticism.

Famous for his jumps, Julian Barnett found a counterpart in Jocelyn Tobias. They electrify each other and the audience, keeping step with Vivaldi in Barnett’s duet “Wonderyear.” Artful stumbles replaced bows at the end of this high energy work.

Eric Villanueva was one of the evening’s discoveries. In his “Sherry Come Home…,” a lengthy phone rant about an irresponsible subtenant is the accompaniment, but Villanueva and Rachel Frank’s dance theater outshined even the witty concept. Wearing pink with flared sleeves, Villanueva’s jetés segued into cartwheels while Frank supported. It’s a chatty dance, a movement conversation that transcends its petty subject to delight.

In contrast, Wendy Osserman’s “Don’t Touch” is a narrative about the difficulties of relationships and relates the trauma of parting. Its resolution provided no release but the music of Jim Whitney intrigued.

INSPIRIT’s “Enduring Process” begins with promise to an endearingly mumbled child’s rhyme. A chorus of three women attended Paloma McGregor in a struggle from childhood to death. Without breaking new ground, it connected us to currents of crisis and catastrophe poignantly coinciding with the season’s opening.

Wanjiru Kamuyo performed her choreographed solo in whiteface and with white spirals painted on exposed brown skin. She danced with angular movement around a bowl of water, finally dipping in; it became a rejuvenating fountain. Her strong “Spiral” will not easily be forgotten. Kyle Abraham’s solo to Lizz Wright’s music later in the program lacked this complexity but his dancing was impressive and moving.

We were given stereoscopic glasses for a piece by Tsukayama Dance Collaboration. They effectively created a boundless forest of knifelike abstract elements through which four dancers, and shadows of varying sizes, cavorted. It’s regretfully hard to focus on the movement; “Paper Interiors’” spectacular low-tech visuals and music by Temple of Sound and Rizwan-Muzzam Qawwali distracted. The forest through the trees does not amount to much in the end, but to be fair, this is an excerpt.

“That First Push and the Middle of Forever” by Tehreema Mitha, a Maryland-based choreographer, was a crowd-pleaser that draws on her classical Bharatanatyam training. It is musically driven to Colonial Cousin’s pop-rock "Funky Freedom.” Flagrant culture-crossing is the reigning notion of freedom that emerges from Mitha’s bold hybridization, though freedom in relationships is the superficial layer in this song and dance. Toes and fingernails were painted bright red on the two males and two females, creating a striking visual effect with their movement. One couple posed innocuously while the other took the limelight; the dramaturgy is amazing. “It’s good to be free, so free,” is the popular but simplistic concept.

The evening ended with an eye-opener called “Curious Poses.” This excerpt of a work-in-progress by Stephen Petronio’s Gerald Casel was performed with seven other top-notch dancers to the music of Prince.

A final kiss was safe and even sexier behind the blocking hands of two stage lovers. The rest sat in two camps regarding the gesture with a mixture of awe and ennui. Casel and crew internalize Trisha Brown’s method–movement that’s relaxed but in total control.

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