Sunday, May 22, 2016


Saturday June 21 was Armed Forces Day, a day to honor Americans serving in the five military branches. And, on this same day, Portland Ballet performed a dance that looked at the reality of war and the toll war takes on soldiers. The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace was first commissioned in 2013. Artist Director Nell Shipman created a soldiers conflict with Life, Death, Conscience, Body and Spirit.

The performance was done in collaboration with The Telling Room, a non-profit writing center for young writers. The evening began with stories from 3 writers who one by one told their personal story of surviving war. Salim Salim, Kaifa Abdulla, and Mohammed Albehadli spoke about living through war as young children and young adults. Amid bombings, blood, and being a war prisoner, the stories were intense.

The speakers left the stage and the sound of marching footsteps built, then the sound of military bugles. Female dancers marched onto the stage with precision and stoic demeanor. There was also a soldier who stared outward. He is all military with strength and no emotion. The dance is performed to music by Karl Jenkins. His Mass, in 12 sections varied with choral and orchestration ranging from prayers, hymns, chanting and screams that represent the battlefield and death.

The dancers were exceptional. This was an ensemble piece with 12 women and 2 men. Shipman's choreography had the female dancers moving in lush sweeping gestures. They fell to the ground and quickly swirled back to their feet. They surrounded the soldier who stood still. They grabbed their dress skirts and hugged them into their stomachs while their bodies heaved forward in pain. Jennifer Jones represented Life. Erica Diesl was Death. And the soldiers Conscience was danced by Morgan Brown Sanborn. The solider was danced by Wyatt Barr whose quiet presence was haunting. The soldier was killed at war and then Joseph Jefferies emerged as the Solder in Spirit. In a section titled "Benedictus" the Soldier Spirit danced with Life and Death where traditional ballet partnering was enhanced by using more modern lifts and unconventional positions that made the dance seem more immediate, personal and less etherial.

Two dancers, Deborah Grammatic and Amelia Bielen, marked this show as their last performance as they retire from the Portland Ballet Company.

Bravo to Portland Ballet for presenting work that is edgy, relevant and timely.

The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, May 20-21 at John Ford Theater, Portland, Maine

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company performed in Portland, Maine at the Merrill Auditorium on Wednesday February 18th. I would like to tell you about some of the words that came to mind as I watched the dancers and the choreography:

They presented 3 dances, each performed with live music from stringed instrument orchestration. All dances had a theme of coming and going with an emphasis of where the dancers finally end up. Much traveling on stage with where does the journey lead to?

In the second dance the company was joined by local Portland dancers to create a dance that build upon a single thread that grows and grows. Dancers were from Maine's colleges such as Bates, Colby and Bowdoin as well as Portland Ballet's ensemble. The Maine dancers looked amazing and did and wonderful job of performing with the professional dance ensemble. The overall effect was of a machine that continues no matter what.

The final dance titled "D-man in the water" was the most joyous dance I've seen in some time. The dancers were lyrical, joyous, and generous.

Bill T.Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in Portland, Maine at the Merrill Auditorium

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sara Juli- Tense Vagina: an actual diagnosis

photo by Arthur Fink.

Motherhood.....baking pies, doing the laundry, reading to the kids, kisses, hugs bladder control! Giving birth to two babies created a condition called Tense Vagina. Welcome to the world of mother and dance performance artist Sara Juli.

In this hour long solo performed to a sold out audience at Portland's hip performance venue- Space Gallery, NYC transplant Juli was not afraid to push the boundaries as she explored the highs and lows of being a Mom. Juli has a long history of tackling topics that are slightly uncomfortable to talk about: money, dying, and being promiscuous. Now it's about being incontinent and how she got medical help for her vagina that wouldn't relax. A skilled comedian, actress and dancer Juli took the stage and took the audience on a tour of her life. She recounted her kids saying "mommy, mommy, mommy, ma, ma, ma, whispered mom, mommy with screams. She chops vegetables for dinner, but it never ends and she chops and chops until she is trying to smile but moans and has to lay down on the floor after trying to keep it all together while her body contorts in agony. It's a person barely holding on. She sings with dolls and then outrageously has breast pumps attached to her chest while dancing and singing like a Karaoke Night queen. Juli interacted with the audience by wiping a nose, tying a shoe, giving a kiss, and fixing a wrinkled shirt. She's every ones mother.

The spoken dialogue throughout is funny and poignant. Juli blends the absurd into the tragic. Juli describes the medical condition she was diagnosed with and demonstrates her Kegel exercises to regain her bladder control. She does funny rhythmic counting while squeezing. Next, a garden of vibrators appear as Juli grabs one (while another vibrator is passed amongst the audience for us to inspect) and reads the written instructions of how to use the vibrator to relax. She's wearing a pretty dress with a full puffy skirt so although she's demonstrating we can't actually see the vibrator. Always the dutiful mother she is next trimming the vibrators in the garden of their pubic hedge hairs to keep everything tidy. Outrageous fun and nothing seems taboo.

The set design by Rachel Romanski and Allison Bonon featured a dollhouse, a biofeedback machine and a collage of household items. Juli kept changing aprons, which represented both a covering and a highlighting of her pelvic area. The aprons designed by Carol Farrell were fanciful, blinking, and exotic. Sara Juli had the audience laughing out loud and thoroughly mesmerized as she lay open her dark secrets.

Space Gallery, Portland Maine, October 23-24, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Delfos Danza Contemporanea

The Bates Dance Festival hosted the East Coast Premiere of Cuando Los Disfraces Se Cuelgan (When The Disguises Are Hung Up) by the Mexican company Delfos Dance on July 24 and 25.

The program notes stated
The mask is a disguise, but it can be a useful one. However, all masks fall away. In the end, we are left with our true selves....Delfos examines the masks we wear to survive, to love, and to endure in a world that seems to never want us to take off the mask.

The program began quietly with a video projection of a drawing of a large tree with dance figures sitting on the limbs. Under the tree real dancers were starting to move with a fragile, uncertain and a searching quality. Were these newborn babes exploring their world as the encountered new people? The seven dancers got bolder and stronger as the exploration continued. Now definitely into adultdhood, the fantastic-bold expressive bodies lifted each other and molded together and flung across the stage as they continued to grow. The many vignettes featured different music styles, fantastic costumes by Eloise Kazan, and more captivating video and lighting design. The choreography by co-directors Claudia Lavista and Victor Manuel Ruiz was realized in collaboration with the dancers. It showcased the agility and strength of the performers. Many of the overhead lifts and partnering involved being upside down and flung over the back were performed with such finesse and flow that it looked effortless. This companies technical abilities rivals any world class ballet company.

As the disguises continued to get stronger, they put on happy faces with their partners, where one partner controlled the other by literally lifting them by strings from their costume. Like moving a marionette, the partner had no free will but moved the way the master liked. These were complex ideas of how we behave when we love or get married or find the strength to break free from someone. The company is influenced by surrealism, art, and poetry. There were many fantastical images presented: they had shoes on their hands that became the wings of birds. A masked clown appeared holding a caged bird and wearing a long stretched-out white sheet that became a backdrop were video images appeared that made the dancers turn into birds. And finally,the tree returned but this time instead of dancers on the branches there were birds up in the tree.

After the show, one of my companions said she saw the dance as representing the progress as what happens in life: we are children, then we explore love and marriage, we age and through the hardships we might grow wiser, and then slow down and accept ourselves a little easier and struggle less. I think she got it right!

The company began in 1992 and has expanded to include a professional training program homed in Mazatlan. Delfos dancers: Aura Patron, Claudia Lavista, Roseli Arias, Omar Carrum, Augustin Martinez, Johnny Millan, and Renato Gonzalez. Bravo!

When the Disguises Are Hung Up at the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine, 2015.

Audio Interview with Claudia Lavista and Omar Carrum from Delfos Danza

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Missing Generation - Sean Dorsey Dance

The idea of having survivors of the 1980s AIDS/HIV epidemic telling the stories of those who died, is a relevant and an important idea for history. The sheer number of people who succumbed to AIDS before any medical treatment was available is staggering and must be remembered rather than forgotten. Choreographer Sean Dorsey was driven to document and share these stories as his creative art. Dorsey is paying homage to those who died from AIDS as well as all those people who survived but were forever changed by living through a time when their friends, lovers, and family members died without any treatment or understanding of why this was happening.

The Missing Generation is a monumental dedication to remembering.

The East Coast Premiere of San Francisco choreographer Sean Dorsey's work was presented in Maine at the Bates Dance Festival on July 16 and 18th. The evening length work had beautiful dancing with powerful oral histories recorded and told by real survivors. The program started out with Dorsey dancing in a pool of light- he struggled, contorted and moved with jerks and spasms. He's the person with AIDS that is infected. A voice over of a survivor states that she has blocked out memories of that time in order to keep moving forward. Whoa. We immediately know we are in for some heavy stuff. The dancing by the four-member company was impressively executed. The sound track started off with cello and somber sounds while the ensemble weaved an interconnection of supported lifts and balances for each other that represented in many different ways the idea that "I'm holding you up." We heard other survivors speaking as the dancers continued to move with grace and tenderness. Dorsey spells out in a voice over narration how the evening will progress, "I am asking you to tell your story -I am ready to listen I am here for you." It's an invitation that we want to know what happened we won't forget, you don't have to remain silent. Then many vignettes were presented representing various people who lived and died of AIDS and what the culture of those decades were like. The dancers spoke, then the voice overs continued throughout as Dorsey used many devices to make sure we learn about the people that died- that we don't forget.

Dancing to the oral histories was problematic for me. I think the movement, although it didn't mimic the words, suffered from competition for our attention with the words. Was the movement enacting or just embracing the text? This was distracting for me. The spoken stories with the dancers moving to the words made me get into a more educational mindset rather than an emotional mode. I was not fully drawn into the piece as I had assumed I would. I thought since I lived in New York City in the 1980s and had lost loved ones from AIDS, I believed that seeing Dorsey's take on the epidemic would leave me awash with emotions. But, strangely, it fell short of transforming my seeing into feeling and didn't allow me to get into a deeper sense of sadness and loss. I much preferred when the dancers moved to the musical only parts of the score, or when a few times the oral stories were told without movement by the dancers. That being said, the overall dance was quite beautiful and daunting. And I am sure many members of the audience would disagree with me and I know many people were deeply touched by the dance. The audience gave a standing ovation that was long, loud and genuine.

Exquisite ensemble dance throughout the show with exceptional dancing by Dorsey along with company members Brian Fisher, ArVejon Jones, and Nol Simonse. Dorsey has a lot to say and puts a lot of effort into his work. His dedication to preserving the history of the LGBTQ community is timely and necessary.

The Missing Generation at the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sean Dorsey audio interview

Here's a short interview I had with Sean at WMPG Radio talking about his newest work called The Missing Generation.

Esduardo and company will perform in NYC

Esduardo Mariscal and company are heading to NYC to perform CARNE in August.Check out the details.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Carne - Esduardo Mariscal Dance Theater

Photo courtesy of Esduardo Mariscal Dance Theater.

The opening sequence of "Carne" performed last week at the Portland Stage, was a visual and aural treat that overwhelmed (in a great way) all the senses. Choreographer Esduardo Mariscal introduced us to his large cast of characters as they invaded the stage in an almost dreamlike procession. A lone figure crouched in front of the audience is the first image we see. Then slowly others appear, a woman enters with a magic wand while performers emerge out of the top of large sculptural blocks. A trap door opens and a body appears from under the stage. It's a processional with so many interesting people and visuals that as an audience member we understand from the first few minutes that this will be a complex, exciting show. The performers range from classical dancers to martial artists to aerialists.

This multimedia performance featured original music by Nicholas Brewer and a mural that was drawn live on stage by Wyatt Barr. Original poetry was delivered by Jennifer Lunden and the lightening design was by Gregg Carville.

Mariscal gathered an eclectic group of performers and used their varying talents to great success. Everyone danced, and danced with much strength and grace. Then some also performed exciting martial arts moves and some acrobat feats on an aerial silken rope. There was humor by Beth Gorski as she donned a red cat outfit and showed us what a feline dancer had to say. Two veteran dancers Nancy Salmon and Jeff Decareau, brought the wisdom of experience as well as strong technique to their characters. While all the performers shined, there were four exceptional stand-out dancers who completed some very beautiful duet work strikingly performed by Victoria Broshes, Pamela Wiley, Kerry Kaye and James Riley. Also in the cast were Dorothea Amara, Tegan Bullard, Justin Cedrone, Bethany Field, Steve Fortune, Debi Irons, Zach Labbay, Simon Skold, Camden Spear, Ella Spear, Simon Spear and Wendy Ward.

Mariscal calls his brand of dance theater "Comical Surralism" and that aptly describes all the twists and turns the company presented throughout the 90 minute show. It was a delight for our eyes, ears and imaginations.

Carne, at the Portland Stage, May 28-30, 2015

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dance USM!

The University of Southern Maine's long time dance director Maria Tzianabos scored a big hit this past weekend by having her dance students collaborate with USM's theatre and music departments on their annual program. The result was a wonderfully rich sensory experience. There was acting as well as dancing, there was also singing, lush visual backdrops and video images. The interdisciplinary approach featured original works by student, faculty and guest choreographers. What was also most impressive was that many of the dancers are not experienced and not part of a dance major program, yet they all shined. No awkward performances, the dancers all looked polished and well-rehearsed.

The first dance on the program Lessons for Ladies featured Callie Cox, Mary Kate Ganza, Sarah Kennedy, Megan C. McQuire, Hannah Perry, and Rhiannon Vonder Haar. This piece was choreographer by Tzianabos and was directed by Theater Professor Meghan Brodie.

The dance began with 5 woman wearing 1950s dresses with aprons who posed as a tuxedoed crooner sang into a microphone "Keep Young and Beautiful." The theme of how women should behave and treat their husbands goes from 1917 etiquette rules which they coyly recount, up through 2009 tips on how to be sweet for your boyfriend. The dancers morph from the downtrodden housewives into modern girls that don't want to be "a pretty girl." Great fun and an excellent theme for these college aged dancers.

Next was a solo The Dirty Boogie choreographed and danced by Brittany Pace. This tap dance piece was high energy and had lots of great jazzy moves. Pace is very skilled dancer with much experience. The only problem with the dance was we couldn't hear the tapping sounds because the music was loud and the floor was not wooden. Pace also choreographed a Hip Hop sextet Bring the Old School Back that featured riffs on urban dance where challenges are played off each others increasingly tricky moves. Colorful graffiti projections were designed by Shannon Zura.

Steam Heat choreographed by USM faculty teacher Vanessa S. W. Beyland was danced by Margaret Brownlee, Callies Cox, Andrea Danforth, Alexandra Gardiner, Sarah Kennedy, Alison Loughlin, Hannah Perry, Braden Socquet, Caleb Streadwick, Emma Thompkins, Abigail Thompkins, Jessie Vander, and Sengmolicka Vuthy. White button down shirts, bowties and Bowler hats adorned the high kicking, jazzy and very broadway-style dancers. This was fun!

Other dances included ariel harness work performed by Elise Adams, Janette Fertig, Codruta Valentina Postache, Jesse Vander, and Emily Waller, also a dance with big silhouetted windows, a trio of Cotton Club performers, and a solo by student Sarah Kennedy who performed with exceptional dynamic power and focus.

Dance USM! December 4-7 2014 at Russell Hall, Gorham Maine

Saturday, July 26, 2014

David Dorfman Dance

Come, and Back Again
A Dance about
mess, joy, loss, and the persistence of love.

The stage is messy. It's filled with an enormous sculpture of everyday stuff that we all collect. There are bottles, a mattress, a laundry basket, a ladder, buckets, wire and it's all painted white and it's a gigantic wall that looms over the stage. There are six musicians sitting along the wall and there is also a small cardboard house. As the dance e begins David Dorfman speaks about his father and how organized he was. Dorfamn says he is the opposite, messy and a collector of stuff that he can't get rid of. He sets the topic of the evening here, it's all about family and how we interact, and how can we let go?

The dancers exude joy. Dorfman is a master at creating many vignettes within a dance to tell a story. He and his dancers are genuinely smiling throughout much of the dance. This can take you aback at first because it's unusual to see such smiling faces within concert dance. So a tone is set. They are moving with reckless abandon, with huge jumps, swings, kicks that show a very playful and wild side. There was a funny monologue about how to calculate how many people in your life you have unconditionally loved. But then, there was also loss. A duet danced by Christina Robson and Raja Feather Kelly showed how hard it is to leave someone. They would push each other away again and again, but couldn't leave each other. In an amazing feat of strength, Robson runs at Kelly and jumps off the floor with her full body slamming into his chest and they together slowly fall backward. Exquisite beautiful partnering. Kendra Portier and Karl Rodgers were the others in his dance family. Also on stage for cameo moments were Dorfman's nuclear family, his wife Lisa Race, and their son Samson Race Dorfman.

In a solo Dorfman gestured come here while looking back over his shoulder. He then gestured to stop. He continued to gesture come and stop at the same time creating a frenzied desire to have both the past and the future. When he wasn't dancing he took a spot with the musicians and played Accordian and saxophone.

The live music was raw, edgy, and rocking featuring the music of Benjamin Smoke, Patti Smith and traditional folk songs. The band had three Bates Dance Festival musicians as well as three performers who travel with the dance company under the direction of Sam Crawford. They were a big presence onstage which added another layer to the complex multi-media piece. Another layer was the costumes created by Kristi Wood. The dancers wore flowing loose tunics and pants of light material that looked comfortable and homey. The costumes softness contrasted with the forbidding wall of junk and the driving music.

Near the end of the evening length dance the dancers say "Time to go" "I can't wait to go" "let's go" "after you." Then Dorfman sits on a chair center stage and using his cell phone calls his wife, and leaves a message for her about how the show went, when he'll be home, and if she could leave him a little something to eat, he promises he won't make a mess. Now that's the The persistence of love.

Come, and Back Again performed by David Dorfman Dance at the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine July 25 & 26, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Camille A. Brown & Dancers

Mr. TOL E. RAncE

Camille A. Brown & Dancers took to the stage in Lewiston, Maine and challenged the audience to look at a piece of history: Minstrel Shows.

Minstrel shows were a very popular part of American theater, yet when the civil rights movement gathered strength in the 60s, they lost favor and stopped being performed. Minstrels relied on stereotypes of uneducated, lazy, yet ever cheerful blacks who would be the brunt of the jokes. Although the minstrels made celebrities out of the African American performers…at what price? This is where Brown begins her examination.

Brown uses the minstrel show as a starting point but includes black performers from television as well. From Amos and Andy, to The Cosby Show, to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air - all are a part of a culture that portrays African Americans still trapped in a "blackface" that can't be escaped. The group of seven performers, or entertainers as they are noted in the credits, fill the stage in ACT 1- "What It Is." Beginning with contemplative slow movement with distinctive downward rounded spine and a body that reads depressed and repressed. This silhouette runs throughout the dance. But then the speed picks up, and all dancers are energetic and dancing up a storm with big movements and wow-we tricks and non stop excitement.

Act 2 - "Change The Joke, Slip The Yoke." Brown has set up the background in Act 1, and now really deliveries a knock out punch in Act 2. The dancers put on white gloves and exaggerated expressions and spoke with repeated modern day catch-phrases -"What are you talking about bitch?" and "Nigga that's me." The words put them in the present but wearing those gloves kept them still stuck in a role based in racism. It was just the right touch to remind the audience of the dancers inferiority. They presented a growing clash with the pride of moving and the heaviness of keeping the facade alive.

In a stunning solo, Waldean Nelson conveys this tension by swooping an arm that ends with a happy face. Then swooping his other arm which brings on a frowning face. He continues to swoop and change faces while increasing the timing and speed until he's maniacally moving and laughing and crying. Brown discusses in the program notes "the mask" that African American performers wear through history for survival. She also notes how much tolerance performers, then and now, need to have to get by in the entertainment field. Brown concludes the evening length dance with a solo where she determinedly tries to fight against the oppression with violent movements. SHe shows the struggle but at the end she stops and gives the audience one last exaggerated smile.

Live piano performed by Scott Patterson made us feel like we were in an old-timey dance hall. Costumes by Carolyn Meckha Cherry evoked the period wear of the minstrelled black-face performers. The company also included Timothy Edwards, Juel D. Lane, Mora-AminaParker, Willie "the" Smith III, And Marlena Wolfe.

Mr. TOL E. RAncE. Camille A. Brown & Dancers, Schafer Theater, July 17th and 19th, 2014.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Prometheus Dance

The Bates Dance Festival began it's 32nd year by presenting Prometheus Dance, a Boston based contemporary company on Friday July 11th.

Heart of the Matter, choreographed by co-directors Diane Arvanites and Tommy Neblett is a dance that "dissects the impact of relationships over time and how we hurt each other in the name of love." Ouch! Who won't agree that this is a universal condition, but is it going to hurt to watch it unfold on stage?

Seven dancers over the course of the evening length dance did paint both cruel and tender tableau's to depict how couples and groups deal with each other. As the curtain opened, there was a video projecting images of nature with flowers, lawns, and outdoor scenes. The dancers were dressed in formal attire, evening gowns for the five women and dress suits for the two men. As a tight group they slowly turned and looked about and reached. This movement slowly turned and traveled across from one side of the stage to the other. It was very hypnotic and peaceful. Then exaggerated breath became the focal point as the group moved from deep breath to holding breath to forcibly breathing. We could see the strong relationship of the group, they moved as one unit that breathed as one organism, they were integrally connected. Then, they slowly stripped off the formal wear and the fighting began.

Frantic movement and high electronic dub step showed the dark side of knowing someone so well. A dancer throws themselves and wraps around another's waist. They fly and embrace and catch each other. They dismiss each other although they remain connected by the slightest toe touching anothers calf muscle. Or they are connected but then break the balance by sneakily pushing a leg out from under their partner. The need for each other and their touch, yet repelled by them too. Can't let go, can't leave. Know each others moves and how to support them but the connection also has to have a bite. It isn't generous, it's spiteful. Are we getting too close to home?

Dancers Kate Neal and Joe Gonzalez excelled at presenting this turmoil in a duet of neurotic and rapturous movement. The dancing was excellent and the entire company showed a fierceness as they went from ensemble work, to duets and trio partnering. The other performers where Naoko Brown, Callie Chapman Korn, Elena Greenspan, Lonnie Stanton and Dave Glista. The lightening was designed by Linda O"Brien with some very beautiful mottled images as well as haunting use of shadows. The sound design by Miguel and Adam Noya very effectively changed from quiet to drilling intensity that helped move the story along.

Prometheus Dance celebrates 25 years of dance and with Heart of the Matter they are not showing any signs of slowing down.

Bates Dance Festival, July 11 and 12, 2014, Lewiston, Maine.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

LUZ - Esduardo Mariscal Dance Theater

LUZ (light)

Esduardo Mariscal dance theater returned to the stage after many years absence, and his return is a very welcome addition to the Portland arts scene. Mariscal's choreography stands out because of it's "comical surrealism" and his choice of performers. His dances include professional dancers but he also works with untrained people, actors, poets, and visual artists. They all perform together onstage.

The mix of people is very interesting to watch because Mariscal uses each performers skill set to make them shine. It's a very theatrical experience, and althought it's based in dance movement, the dance moves are not the highlights. Each individual performer stands out because of their expression, resolve, and how they embrace the many vignettes Mariscal provides to tell a story of light from darkness to freedom.

Mariscal offered many scenes which included excellent video imagery from Matt Powers. Also effective were the many props and costumes adding to a lush environment. In one section dancers lie on the floor wearing unicorn heads, in another scene a puppeteer manipulates two red dragons. Nothing is obvious and it all makes the audience consider what light means to us and our lives. The final moment for the hour long dance happens when a door at the back of the stage is slowly opened and a brilliant bright white light shines through. Excellent imagery.

To be noted are all the performers: Joni Altshuler, Robin Behl, Dylan Chestnutt, Jeff Decareau, Beth Gorski, Emma Holder, Debi Irons, Ken Kohl, Jennifer Lunden, Philip McCann, Patty Medina, Rodney Nason, Eric Worthley, and Sarah Zucchero.

LUZ at Portland Stage Company, August 22-24, 2013 - Portland, Maine