2023 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Finding Home: Dance Journeys’ (3 1⁄2 stars)

Five DC-based dance creatives — Sylvana Christopher, Kyoko Fujimoto, Rachel Lawal, Giselle Ruzany, and Malcolm Shute — share their works.

Sharing a stage is a great way for small and fledgling dance companies and choreographers to get their works performed before they have the resources to produce a full program of their own choreography. With the dearth of such opportunities since the COVID-19 pandemic, the artist-driven Capital Fringe provided a stage for five DMV dance creatives to share their works.

The six modern-dance-driven works feature duets, a solo and group pieces ranging from storytelling modern pieces, to improvisation-based partnerships, and an autobiographical solo turn. Giselle Ruzany’s “Mané” proved to be the evening’s most successful and richest work. A quick Google search revealed that mané is Portuguese for “underdog” and that aptly describes the story of Ruzany’s grandfather, a Polish Jewish refugee who during the dictatorship first finds himself in Brazil, then Israel, while other family made it to the U.S. Using a recorded voiceover featuring Ruzany in English and her grandfather speaking Portuguese, the dancer/choreographer draws an elegant gestural language that illustrates the spoken-word score specifically at times — arms become a clock, or a hand signals stop — and evocatively as sequences unfold in floor-based phrases that rise and fall like her grandfather’s fortunes.

Longtime dancer/contact improviser Malcolm Shute offered two duets finely illustrating the intimate nature of weight shifting and sharing as dancers gently and assuredly support one another. “Personal Space” — performed entirely on a table with Katie Sopoci Drake — and “It’s Complicated” — created and performed with Alexander Short – both demonstrate relationships through reassuring cradling holds and a comfort level with close contact.

Two group works, the opener “Resonance,” and the closer, “decisions, decisions,” allowed individual dancers’ personalities and technical facilities to shine. Sylvana Christopher’s “Resonance” is an idyllic romp set to John Lee’s jazz-inspired score, while Kyoko Fujimoto’s “decisions, decisions,” a balletically infused quartet, is a lighthearted look at various personality traits from fear to creativity, courage, and logic. The choreographic vision plays with Romantic ideals of ballet as fully expressive, while leaning into contemporary floor work, costuming — simple, colorful practice wear — and structures. The grandiose and popular Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major accompanied.

The 65-minute mixed-bill program is a terrific way for dance newbies and stalwarts to see a variety of choreographic voices in one setting.

Running Time: 65 minutes.

Finding Home: Dance Journeys plays July 15, 2023, at 7:00 pm at DCJCC – Cafritz Hall. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online.

Genre: Dance
Choreographers: Sylvana Christopher, Malcolm Shute (with Alexander Short and Katie Sopoci Drake), Giselle Ruzany, Rachel Lawal, Kyoko Fujimoto
Performers: Sylvana Christopher, Jordan Daugherty, Victoria Davis, Katie Sopoci Drake, Rebecca Dunphy, Chynna Golding, Rachel Lawal, Melissa Lineburg, Maggie Lockhart, Sarah Moore, Kat Mortellaro, Maya Richard, Nilton Rodney, Giselle Ruzany, Alexander Short, Malcolm Shute, and Deanna Woodman
Age appropriateness: Appropriate for All Ages

The complete 2023 Capital Fringe Festival guidebook is online here.

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Lisa Traiger
An arts journalist since 1985, Lisa Traiger writes frequently on the performing arts for Washington Jewish Week and other local and national publications, including Dance, Pointe, and Dance Teacher. She also edits From the Green Room, Dance/USA’s online eJournal. She was a freelance dance critic for The Washington Post Style section from 1997-2006. As arts correspondent, her pieces on the cultural and performing arts appear regularly in the Washington Jewish Week where she has reported on Jewish drum circles, Israeli folk dance, Holocaust survivors, Jewish Freedom Riders, and Jewish American artists from Ben Shahn to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim to Y Love, Anna Sokolow to Liz Lerman. Her dance writing can also be read on DanceViewTimes.com. She has written for Washingtonian, The Forward, Moment, Dance Studio Life, Stagebill, Sondheim Review, Asian Week, New Jersey Jewish News, Atlanta Jewish Times, and Washington Review. She received two Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Arts Criticism from the American Jewish Press Association; a 2009 shared Rockower for reporting; and in 2007 first-place recognition from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. In 2003, Traiger was a New York Times Fellow in the Institute for Dance Criticism at the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C. She holds an M.F.A. in choreography from the University of Maryland, College Park, and has taught dance appreciation at the University of Maryland and Montgomery College, Rockville, Md. Traiger served on the Dance Critics Association Board of Directors from 1991-93, returned to the board in 2005, and served as co-president in 2006-2007. She was a member of the advisory board of the Dance Notation Bureau from 2008-2009.


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