Sunday, August 8, 2010

Review-Different Voices at Bates Dance Festival

A diverse collection of dancers presented their work Friday night at "Different Voices." This annual show at the Bates Dance Festival is a way for an audience member to sample many artists in just one evening. Presented were highly skilled movers, with a range of experience as choreographers making the overall program uneven. But one of the festivals mission is to provide a place for artists to take risks and festival director Laura Faure states that "we showcase new works as they come to life on the stage. In doing so, we honor the central role the creative process plays in art making while acknowledging the risks in the creative journey." We saw new work from emerging artists that will surely evolve over time and get refined and edited to be more coherent. But we also saw some outstanding dance from experienced choreographers.
Donna Mejia performed and choreographed "Homage." In this belly dancing solo she wore a beautiful golden traditional costume that was highlighted by the exception lighting design of Bryan Nydegger. Mejia danced with fluidity and control luring the audience into her hypnotic spell until she sharply changed by accentuating and isolating body parts with a dynamic force. Is this the origin of hip hop's popping moves? Exquisite command of the dance form that moved from hips shaking to chest undulating. Mejia also presented another solo, a work-in-progress that used her Near Eastern dance movement vocabulary in a contemporary way. This dance was striking in it's successful dramatic conveyance of violence against women. Omar Currum is a contemporary dancer with the dramatic force that is more commonly associated with ballet or broadway dance. His presence onstage is big and commanding. In a duet with Surasi Lavalle the dancers strong technical prowess excelled. And in the solo "Joan" choreographed by Michael Foley, Carrum's subtle body nuances shown throughout. Standing still in the middle of the stage facing backwards he was bare chested and wearing a long enormously full skirt. Slow gestures built into moves that made the oversized heavy skirt dance. Beautiful visual imagery and powerful storytelling. Carrum is a member of Mexico's Delfos Danza Conemporanea as well as co-founder Claudia Lavista who performed "From Certain Deserts." Lavista possessed all the same strong dance qualities as Carrum and added a wonderful video-animation element to her piece. Changing from children's images to nature at the end she walked slowly towards the back of the stage and was enveloped into the image and disappeared, very cool effect.

Also of interest were dance artist Panaibra Gabriel Canda from Mozambique. His "Time and Space series" was a work-in-progress and was performed with live music by Jesse Manno. The remaining artists on the bill presented heady works that brought up images and ideas but didn't quite translate into a cohesive whole. But as the program notes suggest, Bates is about supporting the artist's journey. And that is becoming a rarer event in concert performances these days.

Different Voices, Friday Aug 6, 2010 at the Schaeffer Theater in Lewiston, Maine

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