Walter’s World: NuDance 2011 at the Riverside Theatre

By Walter Rutledge

NuDance 2011 was presented on December 9 and 10 at the Riverside Theatre. The two-hour plus event consisted of a pre-concert forum with three choreographers/ directors and was followed by a performance featuring twelve works by ten choreographers. The Riverside Theatre has a long and respected history of presenting dance, including the legendary Riverside Dance Festival, and most recently showcasing innovative and cutting edge new and emerging choreographers and dance companies. Unfortunately NuDance 2011 fell short of that legacy.

Even the title NuDance was a misnomer. The series offered very little in the way of new dance, instead the evening quickly developed into a dirge of regrettable vignettes that resembled a high school talent show. Throughout this hodgepodge there were a few bright moments.

Shift (an excerpt from Terra Nova) choreographed by Brenda R. Neville for her company Neville Dance Theatre was a light-hearted romp for a sextet of women. The work featured traditional dance partnering executed by the women, and displayed knowledge of choreographic design and patterns. Karen Gayle’s Wishing Well had an interesting sculptural quality. This was most evident in the second movement of the work, which featured a welcomed use of upper torso and gestural movement.

If You Knew Me…You Would Know, an excerpt presented by choreographer Toni Renee Johnson for her company Maverick Dance Experience, accomplished the goals outlined in her program notes. The work successfully explored the boundaries of relationships and created a voyeuristic environment for both the performers and audience. Johnson has a unique way of evolving the abstract narrative and we look forward to seeing more of her work.

Opus Dance Theatre Company performed Proud Soul by Krystal Hall-Glass. The work was the most theatrically challenging work of the evening. Ashlynn Thomas performed the first section wearing a mask, which forced her to totally express herself through her body. In the second movement Thomas removed the mask and joyously danced with exuberance and freedom.

The standout performance of the evening was Iquail Shaheed (Artistic Director of Dance Iquail !) in Christopher Ralph’s solo Night Falls. Shaheed is a consummate performer with a strong and powerful command of the stage. This was coupled with a solid technical base and impressive choreography that stylishly fit the artist’s temperament like an Armani suit.

The remaining seven works did not fair as well. Many, too many used hip-hop and popular dance styles as the movement base. This in itself would have been acceptable if the choreographers had worked harder at expanding the boundaries. Each work started out with a glimmer of possibility then quickly slipped into cliché themes, overt and tasteless sexual innuendo, repetitive movement and the use of elemental choreographic devises. I felt I was watching the third runner-ups from the television show America’s Next Best Dance Crew.

In all fairness it was not totally the choreographer’s fault, poor programming/curating contributed greatly to this lackluster production. Too many similar works were place back to back and the concept of less is more clearly eluded the presenter. The almost capacity house was packed with family and friends; which might explain the protracted length due to the excessive number of works on the program. Let’s hope that the Riverside Theatre establishes a more palatable format for NuDance 2012 that actually includes more new dance.

In Photo: Dance Iquail !

Joseph ”Nana” Sargent photographer

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