September 10, 2017
The American dance guild celebrated diversity for its 60th anniversary festival at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. Honoring Garth Fagan, Martha Myers, and the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, the American Dance Guild put together a program highlighting different nationalities, bodies, and backgrounds. Beginning with a video by Lisa Giobbi, the night was off to a great start. Giobbi’s video dance, Fight or Flight expertly created a vastness through lighting and space that engulfed her two dancers. Through the use of modern music and brilliant rigging, the piece built another world for the dancers to exist in and break out of. Smartly using the piece of film as an opening act, a welcome by American Dance Guild president Gloria McLean followed.
A jump immediately back into the night, Incommunicado by choreographer Catherine Meredith proved to be a great piece full of energy and breath. Meredith showed that choreographing for differently abled dancers adds texture and motion otherwise inaccessible, creating a fluid and powerful staging. Bringing the focus and mood to a wholly different realm was the following piece, The Voice of Light created and performed by Nancy Zendora. Her use of lighting, set and vocalization brought a different world onto the stage. Sometime lower in pace, Zendora was always focused asking the audience to join her on an inward exploration.
In a suite of drastic mood changes, Molissa Fenley’s Sargasso Sea appeared next on the bill. Danced by herself and Holley Farmer, the two removed emotion from the picture as they cut lines across their bodies and the stage. The last piece before intermission was a stand-out by Julian Nichols. Figment of Imagination was performed by young dancers of color trying to discover an identity. Holding each other in place, or acting as puppet masters, the dancers struggled against gravity and stereotype fighting their way to create something powerful and moving.
After a short intermission came Tobi Roppo courtesy of Rioult Dance NYC. Fwo movements the powerhouse dancers filled the stage with their bodies and presence, capturing audience attention. Septa by Lucas Melfi had the hard task of following. What was clearly a personal and emotional piece for Melfi had smart moment, but the clear desire to elicit emotion was the downfall of the piece. Though Melfi was personally invested and affected by the work, the movements didn’t quite translate that emotion set against the other works of the night.
Concluding the dancing portion of the evening was No Evidence of Failure by Garth Fagan danced by his longtime colleague Natalie Rodgers. Fagan’s use of stillness and percussion was a strong reminder that sometimes the most powerful emotional on stage is joy. From moving across the space to holding an arabesque for minutes, it was always clear that Rodgers and the second dancer Vitolio Jeune were happy to be dancing and it made me thankful for dance as an artform.
Awards were presented at the end of the night after introductions by creator and producer of Eye on Dance Celia Ipiotis. Showing clips from her show that are an important record in the collecting of dance history, she provided a glimpse into how important and instructional each of these honorees were to creating dance as it is today.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller