Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review of Rhapsody James'..."Sirens After Dark"...March 13, 2013

This past month, impresario Rhapsody James ignited the NYC dance scene with her unique brand of high quality choreography and curatorial prowess. In her March 13 late-night showcase, entitled "Siren's After Dark", Rhapsody displayed her significant connections and reputation within the city and abroad. As it is, culling a broad range of talent and styles is challenging work…making it a cohesive whole is even more impressive, but Rhapsody has succeeded in creating an evening of satisfying and complimentary material. Presenting to a standing room only crowd at Le Poisson Rouge, the audience represented a who's who of talent and taste-makers. The evening began with roughly an hour of cyphers on the main floor, energized by the eclectic old-school, rap, funk mixes of DJ DUBZ…who not only felt the crowd's vibe perfectly, but consistently surprised the dancers with throwbacks that stole the moment. At approximately 11:30, the choreography showcase kicked off with opening remarks by Rhapsody herself, encouraging the younger choreographers to pay attention to the details of their craft. She challenged them to put forth as much effort on the business side of their art, as they do with creating good dances. At one point she laid it bare saying, "I know that you can hit sick moves…but can you write an EMAIL? Can you answer questions intelligently? Can you discuss your work with professionalism and clarity?" To a group composed largely by youthful talent, her words cut straight to the heart and hit close to home. With that, the evening segued into a wickedly funny opening rant, compliments of MC Shernita Anderson. This diva is a crowdpleaser who riffed and ripped on everything from faux Harlem Shakers to overly-sequined ladies in kitten heels and ballet flats…the audience was ROFL. And without further adieu, SERVINGCHOREO presents a run-down of the evening's presenters…

KELLY PETERS presents "Generation-X":
Within the NYC hip hop community, Kelly is a touchstone for cultural preservation. Through his work with "Generation-X" he is actively educating the next wave of talent, ensuring that the history and culture of hip hop is passed on. This piece demonstrated an almost encyclopedic knowledge of hip hop, old and new references throughout. Weaving a constant groove through the body of the number, Kelly easily transitioned through a variety of styles including down tempo, bounce, and soul. His young proteges also displayed an excellent ability to hit hard when necessary, and keep it loose with the mood changed. Kelly should be applauded for his work with these kids, they are the future of intelligent talent. Click here to get the latest scoop on Kelly Peters Dance Company.

With an eye for pop culture references, the piece was a bite-sized, rapid fire, slice of zeitgeist that tipped its hat to a spectrum of icons, ranging from Obama to Sweet Brown. Like a group of close friends who like to kiki on an inside joke, the social allusions came quickly and without pretension. Aesthetically speaking, the choreography was a humorous mix of punk trash and harajuku thrash, with a predisposition toward "hunty" posturing. I especially liked the rebel tutu look, which combined the feminine texture of toole and the industrial durability of Doc Martin. Jona has his finger on the pulse of pop culture and it shows. If you wanna kiki with Jona and his girls, clique here.

With a lighting plot that was perfectly germane to the opening slow jam vibe, this piece began with a sultry groove that set a sexy, seductive tone. The highlight of this piece was the intricate and complimentary moments of partnering, where the dancers' limbs interweaved and were manipulated with stunning precision. Furthermore, as it progressed, it became very clear that these elaborate sequences were achieved through well-executed isolations and spatial timing. By naming the piece "Enough Said," the choreography was immediately filtered through the idea of two individuals engaging in a powerful dialogue. The content of the conversation was not obvious or blatant. Instead, the resultant effect was pleasantly ambiguous and open-ended, allowing the audience to create their own context, characters and situations. Show some love and visit AbstraKT Beings

By far, one of the most moving and epic numbers of the evening, was "Strive." Creating a piece to an accompaniment of spoken word art, is nothing new. However, in the skillful hands and keen ears of Eric Samson, the words are synthesized through the human body and transcend basic choreographed steps, becoming words in motion. Ironically, describing the piece using mere words does not do the artists justice. This was a piece that relied on the energy exchange between dancer and viewer. In addition, we witnessed a beautifully organic arc of intensity, as the movement and words increased their tension gradually. The pace of this crescendo was timed perfectly, allowing the audience to be swept away by the growing swells of emotion. A number of moments literally brought the entire room to a complete standstill, where palpable hush pulsed through the room. (e.g. when the smoking gun was silenced by the embrace of love) Head here to see more of the Beat Club in action.

Having to follow-up the power and presence of the piece prior, Jason wisely decided to present in an altogether different vein. I was deeply impressed by his witty and light-hearted concept, which re-imagined "Suit and Tie" within a men's clothing store. This decision allowed him to create a virtual wonderland of whimsical innovation, where mannequins magically come to life and "booogie" in heartfelt, funky unison. This piece brought to mind the heyday of Motown, where Barry Gordy's groups executed their choreography with panache and polish…an entirely different kind of swag. Much of the success in this piece, was owed to Jason's performance, which was genuine and self-effacing. A frontman who does not take himself too seriously, is a person the audience will relate to immediately!

Inspired by the artistry of Florence and The Machine, Emily painted a contemporary remix that was a mash-up of styles across a wide spectrum. Visually speaking, her dancers wore black bandage tops that instantly suggested a vision of inhibition or restraint. Choreographically, the movement borrowed heavily from the street jazz vernacular (whip backs, Tyra Bank's skinny arms, cinch waist posturing) but juxtaposed the urban flavor with a barefoot, modern concert sensibility. The dancers' classical technique was used intermittently and to maximum effect. Visit this link, to take class with Emily at BDC.

Responding to the recent emergence of "Harlem Shake" viral proliferation, Marcus decided to educate us on the true origins of this pop cult phenomenon. Integral to this mission, was a sense of snarky irony that played with the mainstream media's perception of what the H.S. actually represents and what it has become. Of prime importance, is his notion that H.S. is a well-documented and specific form of self-expression, unlike the chaotic, mindless gyrating that people now associate with Baauer's new generation fad-of-the-moment. Check out Marcus' Dance Reel.

If choreography had an Instagram category, Cat's slice of contemporary realism would fit in nicely. Her movement breathes with the natural earth tones of everyday life. Watching her phrases, I found myself wanting to know the minute details of the dancer's intention, backstory and motivation. Her work gives gravity and weight to the most subtle of choices. For example, at one moment we might see a luscious develope battement and then suddenly find our eyes directed to a small, unappreciated flick of the finger. Her motifs beg the audience to savor life to the fullest, to stop and smell ALL the flowers, to love the neglected things we take for granted. Visit this link, if you want to groove with Cat in person

At SERVINGCHOREO, I have often spoken about the "two beat" rule. Neil has mastered this aspect of contemporary street jazz choreography and it shows. The two beat rule, is a general formula which states that unison phrases, can be held in a formation for two beats, and then something needs to change. Whether it is the formation, a canon, or differing levels, the two-beat rule ensures that the audience stays engaged and locked into the moment. Since contemporary street jazz choreography was primarily created for film and video consumption, its important for the images to be vibrant and changing consistently. So get into it and spin the Dradle!

INTERMISSION at Siren's AfterDark is an affair unto itself. Far from a chilled out bathroom break, the energy was pulsating and electric. In house introductions were thrown out to NYC dance ambassador Ant Boogie, while the dance floor was graced by the legendary presence of Les Twins, Larry and Laurent…admiring fans crowding the cypher for a chance to see them live in action.

This piece exemplified the potential of a simple, well-executed concept. Working off the ubiquity of the plastic red dixie cups found at house parties, Lajon extrapolated this visual element into a dionysian frenzy of isolations and popping inspired ticks. He was especially successful in creating a wild party atmosphere that seemingly grew progressively chaotic, finally resolving in a burst of crimson plastic exploding skyward. Show your support and join the fans of Lajon.

Riffing on the idea of "my boyfriend's button down" sexy slow jam, Eric added a middle eastern element, thereby creating an urban-oriental fusion. Musically, the accompaniment also demonstrated this eclectic alchemy of styles and genre. The movement phrases were fluid and undulating, suggesting the shifting nature of sand within an hourglass. Whether or not this was an intentional allusion to the potential pitfalls of befriending "the seductress," the metaphor was apropos. Get into Eric's Groove.

Stylistically, A-drey's work is challenging to categorize, since it shifts between the contemporary, jazz, and hip hop vernacular, with rapid fire intensity. Choreographed to heavy, industrial drone-trance, the piece showed A-drey's maturity through the use of motif and repetition. The shapes and body lines played well with the percussive hits and accents, while the dancers' performance had laser-like intensity. The only drawback was the unmastered track levels, which resulted in volume distortion and worked against the clarity and precision the dancers were trying to achieve. To experience A-drey's moves for yourself, click here.

A duet entitled "Conversations" could have easily drifted into cliched cloying territory, but this long-limbed duo surprised and intrigued me. The movement was deeply rooted in afro-cuban jazz/soul rhythms and was a lush blend of isolated ticks, tuts and extension. Watching these two bodies intertwine and react brought to mind a sensuous and dynamic dialogue that mimicked the natural rise and fall, highs and lows, aggression and submission of human communication.

According to promotional materials, the Siren showcase seeks to be an open and inclusive environment for artists to express their perspectives and viewpoints. I feel compelled to strongly congratulate Rhapsody for sticking to her guns and presenting a choreographer, who might be considered a fringe element within the hip hop community. With his piece "Gay Bar," Filip boldly and proudly announced that the gay community is an integral part of the commercial urban dance scene. With all the recent discussion of "equality" in the media, I found this piece particularly poignant and was glad that the artists had the courage to present such an honest and visually striking piece. While many of the other numbers featured hetero-paired duos engaging in physically intimate choreography, this piece payed equal artistic homage to alternative same-sex couplings. At certain points, there was an audible audience reaction of discomfort or even disgust, which was immediately addressed by MC Shernita Anderson who laid the issue bare by saying, "OK y'all, it is 2013, get with the program people…if it don't affect you, it don't affect you…it is not a reflection of your status as a man, to support equality, freedom and justice…in fact, it makes you MORE of a man." Powerful words to accompany a powerful piece.

Being somewhat of a Nihongo-phile myself, I was instantly drawn into Tokumi's Shibuya-punk world. The crew was an all-girl ensemble that sought to prove that girls can throw down and hit as hard as the boys. Wearing baggy grey hoodies, Tokumi's girls attacked the movement with animal ferocity, which gave the impression that their diminutive stature was just a deceptive guise. Choreographically, one of the nicest moments was their repetition of the "what up" phrase. Instead of a long, unorganized choreographic stream, this recapitulation of the theme gave the piece a wonderful structure and intelligent framework. In addition, Tokumi possesses a fantastically cheeky sense of humor, which was best seen at the end, where the dancers flashed the ever-present "cheezu" fingers, while waiting for the audience to "shashin totte." Sugoi kawaii!!

Choreographers who retain a genuine and authentic sense of humor and irony, hold a special place in my heart. In order to achieve this effect, a great choreographer must be willing to look silly, unpretentious, uncool…in other words, vulnerably human. Lexi has created a light-hearted and perfectly unaffected portrait of the slightly chaotic inner monologue that races through a girl's mind on a first date. She was able to embody the sense of hope, trepidation, uncertainty, and excitement that is felt by anyone who has ever been on the precipice of finding "the one." Connect with Lexi on Twitter.

Culling from comic book villain iconography, Arturo asked the audience an intriguing question, "if you were to translate the legendary baddies of Batman into dance, what would it look like?" Suddenly we see that the slinky craftiness of The Riddler is expressed through a flamboyantly elaborate voguing run. Catwoman has been turned into a wacking/afro hurricane of long hair and sensual curves. And not to be outdone, The Penguin arrived just in time in time to headline his own take on the Harlem Shake. Holy Sirens Batman!!


"Conversations"…Lauren Cox and Raphael Thomas


"Suit and Tie"…Jason "Booogie" Santana


"Strive"…Eric Samson and BeatClub

Special Thanks to the "SIRENS After Dark" team:
Rhapsody James: Founder / Creative Director / Producer
Laura Sanchez: Executive Producer / Event Planner
Danee Kipri: VIP Coordinator
Terrie Foster-James: Production Coordinator
Lajon Danztler: Production Coordinator

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