April 23, 2012
Harlem Stage’s 13th year of the “E-Moves” dance series opened on three “E-Merging” choreographers, Simone Sobers, Nikky Hefko, and Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, and one “E-Volving” choreographer, Sheetal Gandhi. Rare as it is to find emerging choreographers with sufficient resources and guidance to fully realize their vision, these artists premiered bold, satirical, and tasteful work at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse. The first three pieces on the program were concise and appealing.
Simone Sobers presented a trio, entitled “Her,” exploring a woman’s desire to unleash her wilder side in the face of the traditional behavioral expectations. The three women flipped between composed, wild thrashing, and in-your-face sexuality. As they threw their limbs, their faces maintained a restrained composure, as if they wanted to yell out in pent-up anger, but would not allow themselves.
The next piece, “myself when i am real,” was a soft and sweet contemporary ballet pas de deux, intended as an exploration of the music from a piano improvisation by Charles Mingus. Accompanied by a live pianist, the movement of the two delicate dancers developed, reflecting the changes of the music. From the gray chiffon costumes, to the airy lifts, this stylish piece reminded us that ballet can still be fresh.
A post-modern combination of movement and visual art choreographed and performed by Jaamil Olawale Kosoko entitled “other.explicit.body” closed the first half. Racially charged and satirical, the piece accumulated from simple arm circles repeated over an NPR discussion about “Blackness,” adding piercing noises from a live electric
guitar, and finally Kosoko screaming the statement “I’m reading” and yelling out the title of books about race. Dressed in a white sweat suit with “Black Power” and other such variations spray painted on it, Kosoko performed the entire solo chained to an aluminum weight placed center stage.
After a brief intermission, Sheetel Gandhi performed “Bahu-Beti-Biwi,” a tour de force solo, which seamlessly melded traditional Indian dance, modern dance, spoken word, song, and visual arts. Deeply rooted in Indian heritage, but also relevant and contemporary, her solo combined the detailed finesse of Indian dance with the complexity and depth of modern dance. As if on a voyage inside her head, we experienced her feelings and memories. Gandhi threw herself full- heartedly into every moment of this autobiographical and emotionally charged work.
She seamlessly transitioned between playing herself, exposing her insecurities, fears, and self-indulgences, and acting the part of an important person in her life--her grandmother for example—demonstrating the effect her traditional Indian family has had on her as a woman and as an artist. This work of art was as light-hearted as it was emotional, and as goofy as it was elegant.
Perhaps the most important thing to take away from the “E-Moves” dance
series is how important it is to give every growing artist the resources and guidance necessary to develop works.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Elizabeth Sherlock-Lewis