Review: Kennedy Center Local Dance Commissioning Project Performance of ‘EroSpace’ and ‘When Snails Collide’ at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage

It’s often difficult to shake off the pre-conceived notions and expectations of what a particular dance concert is going to be like. I am not exactly clear on what I expected with from EroSpace and When Snails Collide on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage last night, but I came away with the feeling that my senses were awakened and I had been moved.

Kyoko Ruch’s EroSpace. Photo courtesy of the Kennedy Center.

Still, it was more than the cutting edge dancing that stirred these emotions. A walk through the spectacular display of Japanese fans, hanging above the grand Hall of States; a visit to the upstairs Grammy Museum where Leonard Bernstein at 100 is currently on exhibit; Happy Hour in the Lobby Bar; a gorgeous sunset on the Terrace.

All free, except for the drinks.

In the usual hectic rush to enjoy an evening concert – ballet in the Opera House, classical music in the Concert Hall, a performance in the Eisenhower Theater or the newly refurbished Terrace Theater – we often catch only the last few minutes of a show on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, the only U.S. institution that presents a free performance 365 days a year. We often pass by the broad spectrum of performing arts each day at 6 p.m. Fortunately, since 1999, every performance has been broadcast live over the internet, and more than 7,000 of these shows have been digitally archived on the Kennedy Center’s website.

Just about the time you’re thinking there’s nothing new in the land of the lively arts, along comes something unexpected and wholly different. It’s enough to renew one’s faith in the world’s artistic future. Kudos to dancer/choreographer Kyoko Ruch who shares the 2017 Local Dance Commissioning Project Award with MK Abadoo who performed on the Millennium Stage earlier this month. The Project was created by the Kennedy Center in 2001 to foster new works by local dance artists. Tonight’s presentation of Ruch’s EroSpace and When Snails Collide will delight both old and young, especially those who like their dancing accompanied by videography. Or catch it online.

I watched simultaneously both the live dancing and the projected version on a large screen above the stage. It was particularly advantageous in the collaboration between Kyoko Dansu British Artist Robin Rimbaud, listed as the “Scanner.” Dancer Delphina Parenti gobbled up the space on stage and displayed her acro-balletic technique, soaring in the air, stretching on the floor, while the musician/composer demonstrated some fancy hand maneuvers on a projector/recorder downstage left.

Shanice Mason and dancers in When Snails Collide. Photo courtesy of the Kennedy Center.

There was little need for high-tech stuff in the satirical romp, When Snails Collide, choreographed by Ruch with a six-member cast of talented triple threats, singers/dancers/actors. Dancer Shanice Mason, in particular, should be noted for her style and technique; however, the whole gang is having a ball in this piece.

This quirky dance/theater piece mixes a drag queen show that runs amok; a spoof on a lawn tennis match circa the F. Scott Fitzgerald era, and an unabashed tribute to our gender-bender times. Through a combination of movement, live and recorded gibberish and gypsy music, and some outrageous costumes – loved the silver tap shoes – this piece is a hoot.

Running Time: 45 minutes

Local Dance Commissioning Project: When Snails Collide and EroSpace played on Thursday, September 28 and Friday, September 29, 2017, at 6 p.m. on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage – 2700 F St. NW, in Washington, DC. Free admission. For a listing of free future Millennium Stage concerts, go online.

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Carolyn Kelemen
Carolyn Kelemen is an award-winning arts critic and feature writer for the Baltimore Sun, Howard County Times, and Columbia Flier - 45 years and counting. The Columbia resident earned her Masters Degree in Dance at Mills College in California and has taught college and graduate courses at Goucher College, Loyola, the College of Notre Dame and Howard Community College. A professional dancer throughout the East Coast in the late 50s and early 60s, she was trained in classical ballet, modern dance, jazz and tap. Her TV/film career includes MPT’s “ weeknight Alive” and years of local productions in the Maryland/DC area. Carolyn is a longtime member of the Dance Critics of America, the American Theatre Critics Association. She has proudly produced the “A Labor of Love” AIDS benefits since 1988.


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