For a review of Friday night's performance entitled Program Jules: Click Here.
The ADaPT Festival is a treasure of the Southern California dance scene. Produced by ArtBark International under the direction of Misa and Stephan Kelly, ADaPT is a unique opportunity for artists to gather and share, support and celebrate. This evening's program (Program Arthur), offered a distinctly diverse palette of dance and physical theater that was at times playful, shocking, intimate and powerful. Here is a brief overview and review of the performance.
Harlem Renaissance was a pre-show social dance event in which four dancers from Santa Barbara Dance Center first demonstrated a swing dance routine before calling the audience on stage to learn the east coast swing basic and a few fun moves. The stage was full of willing participants, smiling and dancing with strangers as if they were life long friends. This is the power of dance.
After the invigorated (and somewhat sweaty) audience members returned to their seats, the theater resonated with willing energy. The anticipation of the audience was virtually tangible. Having broken the invisible line between audience and performer, this concert was no longer an experience of us vs them, but rather a celebration of all dancers and all humans. The opening piece was one I have seen and reviewed before, a stunning duet by Jenn Logan entitled Coupling, Cycles 1-3. This piece never gets boring or old. Scot Tupper and Katrina Amerine manage to keep this piece of choreography fresh and vibrant no matter how many times they have performed it. And, by the audible sighs and hums of the audience, it was evident that this performance swept away the audience as it always does.
Two Mythological Birds, by BodySensate Contemporary Dance of Santa Barbara was the first of the festival to be set to live music. Clara Kim on viola (90% sure it was a viola), was a strong musician who gave flight to the imagery of the dancers. Choreographed by Mathew Nelson, this piece had a nontraditional structure that read a little bit like a day in the life of these two birds. The first bird (embodied by the choreographer himself) circled and floated through the space in cascading gestures and swooping circles, rising and falling with smooth effort. The second bird was comprised of the other four female dancers who seemed more like one entity that multiple, confirmed by their exit in union.
Remembering was an emotionally heavy and earthbound solo choreographed and performed by Emily Berry of B3W Performance Group of New York City. This female soloist, dressed in a simple purple dress, embodied powerful release technique, as she effortlessly dropped into the floor. In general I was struck by the downward energy throughout the piece, emphasized by the weighted movement and downward gaze. This piece was dark and heavy with images of back stabbing and the wringing out of one's soul. This woman's remembering was clearly one of suffering under complex circumstances.
Festival directors Misa and Stephen Kelly took the stage next in their quirky but sensitive duet, Recall is Never Replay. This dance theater piece combined nonsequitur text, with humorous gesture patterns and lots of love. Most performed to silence and live spoken word, this piece was an authentic and loving rendition of their relationship that was a precious peek into their sweet romance and daily life. The ending seated embrace, as Misa nestled into Stephen, was filled with all the joy, sensitivity, and honest love that exists in private behind closed doors.
Jessica Kondrath presented an a excerpt from a solo work, The Art of Breathing, performed by Julie Correia. I have seen and reviewed this piece before as well, but as I stated for the last piece in which this was the case, this solo is one I could watch over and over. It is crafted like a well-designed puzzle, with the body and the motifs scattered in front of you and then coming together into a well balanced visual account of line, shape, and color.
The Last Painting, choreographed by Lissa Resnick in collaboration with Michael Lightsey Fine Arts, literally made the stage a canvas for dance. The piece began with an abstract painting projected onto the cyc. The lead male dancer set out his canvas on the floor, taping it down. Then the two muses entered with an air of serenity, carrying paint and brushes to him, then guiding him through his art making process. The presentational element of this piece was a bit jarring for me at first. The preceeding pieces had been so non-presentational that the painter's exaggerated gesture seemed out of place at first. But, as the female entered with a balletic walk that shared the same dramatic flare, I better understood this element as inherent to the style of the choreographer. This piece was clearly influenced by contemporary jazz aesthetic, as highlighted in the upbeat unison sequence performed by the two muses. The company is called No Strings Attached Dance Company, and yet I felt that this choreographer maintained very strong ties to many conventions of concert dance composition, which made me question the nature of how Resnick chooses to break the rules and how that resonates in her work.
The second half of the show began with the crowd pleasing duet Unzipped, co-created and performed by Misa Kelly and Joanna Nobbe. Before the performers began, they invited two audience members up on stage for a special perspective on this dance. This alone was an interesting and unusual decision. But, as the dancers whipped down their pants and undies, bare bottoms to the audience and bare fronts to the "specially seated" members, it all became clear. What followed next was the most enjoyable and laugh out loud funny "naked dance" I have ever seen. I am a very tough to please when it comes to nudity in dance and on stage in general. I have seen many examples of nudity onstage for the shock value alone. And, in general I can't stand that treatment of the bare human form. It doesn't shock me. It doesn't have to be precious. And, most of all it doesn't have to be sexy. This dance is the first dance in the nude that I felt truly warranted the nudity. No apologies. No seduction. No asexuality either. Just the human form being it's normal butt squeezing, cheek slapping, shaking and jiggling NUDE self!
Ringing Rocks was a short dance film by Fred Hatt depicting a dancer weaving through a field of "lithophonic" rocks that literally rings like bells and chimes when struck by a hammer or other object. The black and white film managed to blur the line between human form and rock in a way that was mesmerizing and hypnotic.
Valerie Huston, professor of Ballet at UC Santa Barbara, presented a solo, Black Earth, set on Megan Ragland, a UCSB student. This young dancer was remarkable in her ability to turn, balance and release the momentum of her body through the performance space. This contemporary ballet solo was physically and technically challenging, but Ragland danced with single focus and maturity, performing multiple pirouettes with seamless endings that conveyed both abandon and deep grounding.
The Union Project Dance Company, treated the audience to another live music composition in their piece Fearing the Unknown, by Mariana Oliveira. This piece opened with a stunning solo by Raymond Ejiofor. Ejiofor commanded the stage with his strength, control and agility in such a way that I wasn't ready to see other dancers enter quite yet. Compositionally, this piece lacked clarity for me, in that the dancers frequently changed relationships to each other, sometimes acting as the aggressor and other times the one's who feared. This switching back and forth made it difficult to decipher exactly who/what these entities were and the intent behind their movement. Nevertheless, the piece resonated due to the virtuosity of the movement vocabulary and stunning execution on behalf of the dancers. The choreographer utilized the strengths of the dancers to such a degree that they at times seemed super human.
The show closed with the Mini Rave by the Raving Jaynes from New York. As they did the night before, these two dancers/improvisational actors took the stage with nothing more than an audience suggestion "Rose" and out of it emerged a fun story of Broadway bound performance, flowers, and discarded hats. This duo is fearless and fabulous. If you ever have the chance to see them, you should run. Don't walk.
For that matter, next time you even hear murmurs of the ADaPT Festival, you should be clearing your schedules and coordinating the baby sitter because this is not a show you want to miss.
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