‘The 2013 Dance Connect Commissioning Project Showcase’ at INTERSECTIONS at Atlas by Rick Westerkamp

This past December, Dance Metro DC, a community building and sustaining organization centered on dance, awarded five choreographers (Sarah J. Ewing, Laurel Victoria Gray, Sara Pearson, Dr. Janaki Rangarajan, and Erica Rebollar) with commissioning grants for $1,000. The choreographers applied for this commissioning project to “facilitate the creative process and encourage the development of new dance work.” The commission also includes a shared showcase on The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage for two of the choreographers and individual professional development sessions. On Saturday, March 9th, audiences were given a look into what the choreographers have been creating.

The five choreographers selected for The 2013 Dance Connect Commissioning Project Showcase are an eclectic mix, and each brought something different to this showcase. Laurel Victoria Gray showed a piece entitled The Underwater Kingdom, from a larger work The Pearl of the Gulf. This piece was an elaborate and theatrical celebration of Arabian/Persian dance, however the piece was an odd choice for the showcase. The section presented is the final section of the full-length work, and I was introduced to too many characters in a short amount of time, and unable to process anything beyond the precise dancing and the beautifully colorful costumes. If nothing else, this piece was intriguing and made me want to see The Pearl of the Gulf, even having seen the end before I saw the beginning.

Nate Bond (left), Erica Rebollar in 'Space Junk.'  Photo by Photo by RacHael Shane.
Nate Bond (left), Erica Rebollar in ‘Space Junk.’ Photo by Photo by RacHael Shane.

Erica Rebollar showed an excerpt of her full-length work Space Junk. I was intrigued by this decision, having seen this same excerpt in her show Cardinal Points, the night prior to this showcase. While I still found the full-bodied jumps and runs taken by the dancers to be exciting and the nuanced ticks and idiosyncratic gestures to be quirky, this performance space was not right for the piece. Having seen the piece the night before, Rebollar’s work is at its finest when the dancers have the space to exert themselves and take full-bodied runs and leaps without worrying about each other, the cyc, or the audience. I must commend the dancers (Nate Bond, Heather Doyle, Yoko Feinman, and Kjerstin Lynse) for their stellar awareness of each other in the space. They were equally as entertaining, full of abandon, and in the moment as the night prior, while making smart adjustments in the smaller space.

Sarah J. Ewing showed D:GET, a work that she choreographed and performed. I was particularly excited for this work, as I participated in the online survey she created to fuel her creative process for the piece. Ewing asked such questions as “On the evening of March 9th, in consideration of the day you expect to have, what will your mood be (on a 1-5 scale, with 1 as tired and 5 as elated)?” and “Which of these people do you most identify with: Holden Caufield, Katniss Everdeen, Moses, Laura Ingalls?” While I didn’t find any correlation between the questions themselves, or the questions and the movement for that matter, I did thoroughly enjoy the piece. Ewing is a strong dancer, with gorgeous lines. She is adept at floorwork, and her combination of control and release was thrilling. I found myself celebrating an artist grappling with collected data, what with the constantly shifting, growing and colorful projection, which I assumed to represent said data. Ewing embraced simplicity and efficiency in her movement and overall aesthetic, and I luxuriated in it.

Dr. Janaki Rangarajan,
Dr. Janaki Rangarajan,

Dr. Janaki Rangarajan performed a solo she choreographed, entitled JUDA-Ode to Separation. I found this piece to be the most entertaining and riveting of the showcase. Using the Indian classical dance technique of Bharatanatyam, Rangarajan performed both staccato and languid gestures at fast and slow speeds with equal amounts of control. She was able to transcend the precision and intricacies of the choreography and give a soul-stirring performance that had me on the edge of my seat. I was impressed and awe-struck at the universality of the message, and reminded of the language of dance. Granted, I have little knowledge of Indian classical dance, but this performance inspired me to want to broaden my horizons and explore styles of dance with which I am less familiar.

Sara Pearson showed the work Take Me With You, an excerpt of a work-in-progress. While I still don’t know what to make of this piece, I know that I felt the longing and the loss that Pearson elaborates on in her program notes. I found beauty in the sequence in which her dancers (Bethany Disque, Connor Voss, and Patrik Widrig) performed an at times seductive and apathetic pattern of footwork while wearing high heels. This homage to androgyny, what with two men in heels, was tastefully done. I am a little confused about what a helium balloon of a shark and the poem the dancers performed mid-piece had to do with the overall intent, but this is a work in progress. These factors may or may not make it into the “final” version of this work, or they may, and in a longer piece the audience may understand and adore the balloon and the poem. I am reminded that the beauty of art is oftentimes found in its subjective nature.

The 2013 Dance Connect Commissioning Project Showcase left me with a myriad of feelings. I love that this commissioning project happened, and hope that audiences and artists alike continue to support Dance Metro DC and allow them to provide much needed support to choreographers making work. I also hope that Dance Metro DC takes into account which artists are already being shown in INTERSECTIONS, so that audiences aren’t seeing repeat performances of the same people’s work. If nothing else, this showcase was a reminder of the eclectic mix of styles and aesthetics that comprise the DC-area dance scene. My hope for future commissioning projects is that the overall flow of the show receives some consideration, because while I appreciated what each artist presented, it was a bumpy ride. Showings of works-in-progress and excerpts of evening-length works are exciting, and allow the audience to get a sample of what different people are creating. By attending The 2013 Dance Connect Commissioning Project Showcase, the audience exposed themselves to the familiar and unfamiliar, and that balance is exciting and helps these artists build their individual audiences.

Running Time: 45 minutes.

The 2013 Dance Connect Commissioning Project Showcase was performed on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at INTERSECTIONS at Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H St NE, in Washington, DC.

To stay connected to the goings on in the DC dance scene, check out www.dancemetrodc.org. To ensure that Dance Metro DC can continue to bring programming such as the 2013 Dance Connect Commissioning Project to the DC area, consider donating to the Love Dance Fund.


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