’30th Annual Choreographers’ Showcase’ at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center by Rick Westerkamp

FIVE STARS 82x15 (1)
When I attend a showcase of multiple artists’ works, I expect that the program will be distributed evenly between those that intrigue, and those that bore. It’s a good evening in the theatre when one work arouses my curiosity and inspires me to delve deeper into my current creative projects.

My theory was torn to shreds during the 30th Annual Choreographers’ Showcase at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center last night. I was blown away by all six pieces in the program. Adjudicators Sidra Bell and Charles O. Anderson selected a dynamic and emotionally charged concert of works. Each piece took me to a new emotional landscape from the ones preceding it, in a way that allowed me to feel the arc of the showcase.

The showcase was comprised of four solo works, a duet, and a group piece. It takes a smart dancer to communicate a solo work. There is a fine line between giving enough of a performance and giving too much. Clearly, these choreographers are the best vessel through which to bring their work to the masses. Their performances were compelling and explored a range of ideas.

  • Connor Voss’s piece Corroded exquisitely illustrated environment as opposed to character. The percussive and fluid choreography felt like a reaction to one’s surroundings, as opposed to an expression of a character.
Paul Gordon Emerson -  Jason Garcia Ignacio  performed his piece “Ink Spilled in Cursive.” Photo by  Paul Gordon Emerson.
Paul Gordon Emerson – Jason Garcia Ignacio performed his piece “Ink Spilled in Cursive.” Photo by Paul Gordon Emerson.
  • Jason Garcia Ignacio’s Ink Spilled in Cursive was a beautiful intersection of visual art with dance, as Ignacio became the tool with which his pristine white canvas was painted with jewel-toned blue pigment. His journey from dancer expressing emotion, to tool through with art is expressed; back to the artist viewing his own work was riveting.
  • Junichi Fukuda’s Eclosion uses slow motion and fast-paced projections of mental images to juxtapose our nonchalance toward the familiar against the surge of emotions and recollections that come with stepping into uncharted territory. His performance quality, distinct compositional structure, and a delicate balance between athletic, frenzied movements and intimate floor work collaborated for an exceptional solo.
  • Vanessa Owen’s Curb is an intimate, and deeply personal solo. It feels like the journey someone makes to find her own voice and take a stand for herself, perhaps for the first time. Through her sustained lines, graceful patterns along the floor, and athletic movements as accents, she finds the sort of closure that she was seeking at the piece’s beginning. This solo luxuriates in the journey as opposed to over-indulging in the destination. The movement in this piece, paired with the dynamic and intricate sound score, show off Owen’s “grace under pressure,” and elegant calm as a performer.

The showcase’s duet spoke to me on multiple levels. And Frolic, choreographed and performed by Charli Brissey & Felix Cruz, is to dance what the HBO series Girls is to television. Within this theatrical and choreographically dynamic performance beats the heart of every good friendship I have right now, in my mid-twenties. The first piece begins with Ms. Brissey crouched on the outskirts of a pool of light, and intro music filling the space. She is clad in a tribal print black and red leotard, black leggings and red socks, which would be a bit much for a Tuesday but suit this piece just fine. As Jennifer Lopez begins singing “Si Ya Se Acabo,” Mr. Cruz enters the light pool, and takes on the physical embodiment of this dulcet ballad. His character has a wealth of emotions, visibly reflected in his scrunched red shorts and matching socks. Brissey performs subtle, supple floor work on the outskirts of Cruz’s pool of light. As the song comes to a close, Brissey enters the pool of light, comforting Cruz, fixing his leotard and socks, and providing emotional support. Her entrance is seamless, as is any good friend’s, as if she already knows what went wrong, even though she wasn’t there to experience it with him.

Felix Cruz (left) and Charli Brissey perform “To Darwin” in last year’s Choreographer’s Showcase. Photo courtesy of Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
Felix Cruz (left) and Charli Brissey perform “To Darwin” in last year’s Choreographer’s Showcase. Photo courtesy of Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

In the second piece of music, “Chiquita” by ABBA, Cruz gets closure on the previous situation, both with the help of Brissey in perfectly in sync duet movement, and through the catharsis of dancing with abandon on his own. The second half of this piece is the physical embodiment of my favorite quote from Center Stage: “Whatever you feel, just dance it.” These two dancers are beautiful technicians of their choreography, with stunning lines, daring movement, and a beautiful use of abandon and control. What sells this duet is their commitment to each other and the work, and their fearless and, at times, raw performance quality.

In a showcase comprised of solos and a duet, a group piece with ten dancers is bound to stand out. When that piece is Going Nowhere, Getting Somewhere by Robert J. Priore, you are bound to leave the theatre elated, exhilarated, and filled with inspiration. This piece, in three distinct sections, illustrates how seamlessly we go in and out of each other’s lives on a day-to-day basis. The flawless partnering sheds light on the distinct groupings of people in our lives, and how they intersect. By adding or subtracting one person, the dancers show how the dynamic may shift to the polar opposite.

The eclectic pairing of musical genres gave a beautiful arc to the work. I was with the dancers every step of the way, from the rhythmically complex percussive piece of music, to the French ballad, to the frenzied, adrenaline rush of semi-techno. The crisp, calculated nature of each moment kept me guessing, and wanting more. The piece builds to an absolute climax, with the motif of running on and off stage become more prevalent, along with a greater frenzy and abandon. It peaks with one last techno note and a dancer racing toward the audience, as if she is going to run directly off the stage. The uproarious applause after this piece speaks to the exciting note on which the concert ended, thanks to the burst of choreographic energy this piece provided.

The 30th Annual Choreographers’ Showcase was deeply engaging and innovative. There was a definite overarching theme to the night with these similar yet different works having an urban feel. The works, as a whole, were rather dark. I wonder if these similarities that I felt are a sign of the times in which we are living or a reflection of the aesthetics of the adjudicators, Sidra Bell and Charles O. Anderson. I am a firm believer that, even if inadvertent, the art of a place in time is a reflection of the time in which the artist is creating it. I hope that each and every audience member left the theatre as invigorated and excited as I did.

Running Time: 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

30th Annual Choreographers Showcase played January 26, 2013 at 3 PM at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center – 3800 Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the intersection of Stadium Drive and Route 193 (University Boulevard) at University of Maryland in College Park, MD. For future events, check their calendar.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here