Sunday, August 16, 2009

Review-Portland Dances! New Works Showcase

Dance is alive and well in Maine. Just one week after our internationally acclaimed Bates Dance Festival completed their 27th summer series, and on the same weekend as the Maine State Ballet performs George Balanchine's signature dance Serenade, the Portland Ballet presented Portland Dances! New Works Showcase. The annual event has over the past eight years provided what executive director Eugenia O'Brien called " a Maine dancers job fair." And talent from all over the state got a chance to show their stuff.

Before the dancing began all of the choreographers came onstage and were introduced. This unique opportunity to see the people who are creating, training and encouraging dance to grow in Maine was a unique way to begin the night. They represented a diversity of age and experience as well as locations where the dancers train. These choreographers work in Rockport, Saco, Norway, South Portland, Augusta and Portland.

Now for the hard part, reviewing nineteen dances!

In a nutshell:
The night began with nine dancers moving sweetly, softly, gently in red. Next, happily frolicking muses were spirited by the music of the Waverly Consort. No Choice by Rachel Schwartz rendered Woodstock through movement images of five dancers to make love not war. Then, excellent contemporary ballet dancers showed great lines but also too much unnecessary dramatic gestures. The fifth work also featured red costumes, serious searching and distracting backward somersaults in dresses. Secret by Andrea Michaud Tracy featured twelve classical dancers wearing white tutus and toe shoes who bit by bit shoved, strangled, and kicked each other to employ only one last dancer standing. Fun stuff!

We're only a third of the way into the program!

Playful Spanish dancers were followed by a somber quartet that moved to electronic music as though sleepwalking. Then, Raqs Sharqi by Naya's Trance Belly Dance offered the rare treat of experiencing sensual and playful dance. Five deftly trained women wore beautiful classic belly dance outfits revealing much flesh. This number got the audience clapping along. Then the tenth dance, El Grito Del Tiempo by Esduardo Mariscal featured nine performers who were guided by a ringleader to perform as carnival-like characters and jesters. Dressed in wild silks and gowns while carrying props that filled the stage, visually quirky vignettes offered much fun. The design of this dance was rich, unique and complex.

INTERMISSION - Nine dances left to go!

The second half featured work by veteran choreographer Debi Irons, magnificent dancing by Ann Dubensky, and nice ensemble work by the dancers performing for Katie Collins. The final dance by Josh Robinson stood out for it's overall cohesiveness using nice lighting by Jamie Grant, costuming by Douglas B. McDonald and music by Puccini and the Penquin café Orchestra to enhance the strong dancing.

I applaud Portland Ballet for providing a forum for local dancers of varying experience to stage their work. As an audience member it's a lot to take in. Good problem?

Featured dance companies and schools were: Artmoves Dance Company, Collective Motion, Inner Motion Dance Collective, Terpiscope Dance, Kennebec Dance Centre, Rockport Dance Conservatory, Portland Ballet, Naya's Trance.

Featured dancers were: Natalie Arbour, Katie Beach, Anne Bartlett, Michelle Bernier, Heather Bauer, Angela Bell, Chloe Beaudoin, Vanessa Beyland, Megan Buckley, Cory Bucknam, Sheryl Bernard, Ann Barksdale, Tegan Bullard, Emily Belanger, Susan Thompson-Brown, Jennifer Bourgeault, Sarah Bickford, Katie Cyr, Sasha Cambell, Brittany Cates, Kari Cameron, Emily Delamater, Jeff Decareu, Ann Dubensky, Quincy Dean, Annie Erkkinen, Adriana Fox, Linsey Feeney, Tara Fahey, Bethney Field, Wendy E. Getchell, Rubie Gaudette, Nicole Getchell, Tracey Garland, Erin Hamlin, Zoe Heath, Josie Health, Emily Hricko, Debi Irons, Michelle Kapschull, Caribeth Klemundt, Rebecca Laber-Smith, Andrea Lucas, Robyn LaMarre, Stephanie Leclerc, Tressa Liko, Jennifer Letendre, Katherine Mayo, Abby Menard, Jessica Jane Means, Megan McKeon, Ren Morrill, Megan Nordle, Joanna Petterson, Stephanie Paradis, Gina Petracca, Allison Putnam, Katie Putnam, Josh Robinson, Dominic Rozzi, Amanda Swanson, Morgan Sanborn, Kelley Schaefer, Rachel Schwartz, Emily Sargent,Kate Smedal, Anastasia Street, Amanda Swanson, Rachel Stetson, Lyn Tesseyman, Stephanie White, Laurel Whipkey, Hannah Wallace, Mattie Woodside



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