Three premieres in evening of rhythm, striving, laugh out loud satire
Adam and Eve retold; New York runners mocked in comic anthropology
Heart and strength in varied program by talented troupe
Annabella Gonzalez’ well established dance troupe outdid itself on Saturday night (Mar 23 2013) with a program of dance numbers ranging from evocative abstractions to highly readable riffs on themes as familiar as Adam and Eve, though always with new twists as in the finale, a fine amusing satire on New York runners warming up.
The audience was immediately stirred at the outset by the premiere of Path, a rhythmic study by a group of four dancers (Lucia Campoy, Jorge Fuentes, Marcos Emanuel de Jesus and Carolina Santos Read) in purple in a kind of conga line jerking and swaying their broad shoulders and pleasingly rounded bottoms to a warm and catchy Latin beat (specially composed by Peter Sivalia) while intermittently breaking apart to perform interactive dance sequences of uplifting, joyous spirit as they proceeded along their journey.
Three more essentially music driven pieces followed, the first in sharp emotional contrast, a solo by Ms Gonzalez herself in a reprise of her Tableau from 1985 which struck a more introspective note, as she emerged, to the music of a string quartet by Elzbieta Sikora, first toe and finally whole body from behind one of a pair of Japanese screens to portray internal anguish under pressure from without, a punishing struggle to stand up never quite achieved before quietly giving up and reaching stillness on the floor.
The premiere of Talk Back, created by choreographer-dancer Jinah Parker, gave us a couple (Shauntee Henry and Carolina Santos Reid) in broad black tops and bottoms accompanied by an ominous soundtrack (by Justin and Jade Hicks) of drumming music with hummed and growling words seemed to pursue the same escape from oppression of some kind, perhaps from each other, before the essentially abstract depiction gave way to Pastoral Latino (2012) with three couples (Campoy, Juan Echazarreta, Fuentes, de Jesus, Heather Panikkar and Parker) that suggested much the same search for substance amid turmoil, accompanied by a soundtrack of unresolved modernist rumination (a sonata for two cellos and piano by Seymour Barab), both dance and music without obvious narrative framing but rewarding as a sequence of interesting explorations of possibilities.
From Adam and Eve to Central Park, through guilt to fun
Post intermission, metaphor was reasserted with Genesis, a highly readable version in three parts of Adam and Eve and the Fall, where the lights turned up to reveal a large red bean bag all alone on the stage resembling a huge tulip from which emerged Eve (Panikkar), her struggle (to music by pre-Colombian instruments) to be born ending at her waist, until a naked Adam (Echazarreta) appeared. When he managed to strip away this concealment of her nether regions, their joyful dance (to bird songs arranged by Panikkar) was interrupted by an apple, plucked by Adam from the tree projected on the back wall of the stage, handed to Eve and finally rolled across the ground to Adam. The sequence culminated with Eve pulling Adam off stage left in gleeful anticipation of sexual mischief. After a minute, they appeared from stage right rear, parted, and then an unexpected turn – a solo Adam exploring the red bag, heaving it on his shoulder and staggering off stage with its heavy burden of puritanical guilt.
A brief performance by the often intriguing choreographer Maxine Steinman of her premiere of Upon the Air, where dressed in a loose cream top and long black pants she twirled lightfooted to Thai flavored gong music in a dance to the idea of floating in air on a ray of light, was followed by the piece de resistance of the evening, Joggernot, from 2005, the company’s irresistible study of a group of New York runners warming up, and occasionally even speaking up, as they humorously flounced and postured through a set of satirical routines fondly exaggerating the behavioral tropes of their subjects to a level of foolery that had Whitney, a suntanned young dancer sitting in the front row next to me, giggling and even bursting out in a laugh at one point.
This irreverent riff on runners in New York assembling, stretching, and interacting with a view to finding partners came unexpectedly with snatches of spoken script from the dancers (Campoy, de Jesus, Fuentes, Panikkar, Parker), in what is always a stimulating departure from conventional art dance. A superb Bach-like violin and harpsichord sonata (String Quartet #1 by the exquisite 17 Century composer Elisabeth Jaquet de la Guerre) played a continuous lively background as dancers briefly standing in a group stretching and chatting (Lucia Campoy coquettishly extended her straight leg over the shoulder of Jorge Fuentes from behind, provoking a hilarious level of exaggerated appreciation from that comic master) made remarks like “Where are you from?”, “Arkansas!” or even – a male to another using a cellphone – “Use text! You’re so in the past!”
Not only was it amusing satire as dancers pretended to wobble or flay their arms when they fast walked or stretched in splits far wider than possible for most real runners, but there was much about it that had the visual flavor of a Feiffer cartoon, a comparison we had noticed earlier – Ms Gonzalez’s earlier emergence from behind a screen into angst on the floor, and the hand of Eve slowly emerging from the red bean bag, had something of that witty cartoonist’s vein of observation about them. That sociological comment can be implied in an art of purely physical expression, even as in this case with voice added, is always illuminating, even if the anti-war The Green Table blazed this trail eighty years ago.
A key satisfaction of the last piece came from the paradoxical placement of poised and athletic performers in a context where they ape the clumsiness and dating distractions of the deskbound as the latter go for their daily run around the Central Park reservoir, a contrast in the physical realm which pointed up how beautifully dance tunes the bodies of those who dedicate themselves to the art, especially those with the heart and strength of these dedicated young performers.
Hard to describe effectively in words, this fine entertaining finale can be sampled in an FZ35 video excerpt of some six minutes (Talk in New York Photocalendar Mar 23 Sat Video #53) which conveys pretty well why such departures into full mimicry and voice from the conventional silent restraint of standard stage dance promise much for the art as it is expanded to touch musical theater, and even musical comedy.
Dance as essential art
After prolonged applause from the packed theater Ms Gonzalez and the dancers greeted all in the foyer where at one point we asked Carolina Santos Read what kind of description she would like for her dancing. “Dynamic, fearless artistry, and character driven!” she replied in a burst of enthusiasm characteristic of the company as a whole.
All in all, an evening of continuing achievement for a perennially young and talented touring group that may be limited by time and money from equaling the biggest international companies but who embody the dedication and passion for the art that allows them to work at a high level to inspire the same satisfactions and joys in their audience, and serve as a model of how important it is that dance remain a lively and productive element in schools and in society.
[spoiler title="The Program (click to display)" open="0" style="1"]The Program:
ANNABELLA GONZALEZ DANCE THEATER
March 22 & 23, 2013
Principal Choreographer: Annabella Gonzalez
Path – Premiere
Dancers: Lucia Campoy, Jorge Fuentes, Marcos Emanuel de Jesus
and Carolina Santos Read
Music: Rhythmic Study by Peter Sivalia
Costumes: Elena Comendador
Tableau – 1985
Dancer: Annabella Gonzalez
Music: String Quartet No. 1 by Elzbieta Sikora
Talk Back – Premiere
Choreographer: Jinah Parker
Dancers: Shauntee Henry and Carolina Santos Read
Music: Justin and Jade Hicks
Pastoral Latino – 2012
Dancers: Lucia Campoy, Juan Echazarreta, Jorge Fuentes,
Marcos Emanuel de Jesús, Heather Panikkar and Jinah Parker
Music: Sonata For Two Cellos and Piano by Seymour Barab
Costumes: Jorge Fuentes.
Genesis links and completes three earlier pieces from 1979.
Part I – Exit – Heather Panikkar
Part II – The Fall? – Jinah Parker and Juan Echazarreta
Part III – Innocence Lost – Juan Echazarreta
Music: Part I, Mexican pre-Columbian instruments,
Parts II and III – bird songs arranged by Jon Panikkar
Costumes Parts II, III: Benjamin Briones/ubcostumesdancewear.com
Upon the Air – Premiere
Choreography, dance, music design and costume by Maxine Steinman
Joggernot – 2005
Dancers: Lucia Campoy, Marcos Emanuel de Jesús, Jorge Fuentes,
Heather Panikkar and Jinah Parker
Music: String Quartet No. 1 by Elisabeth Jaquet de la Guerre.
Annabella Gonzalez Dance Theater (AGDT), founded in 1977, has
eighty abstract, theatrical and comedic dances with highly varied music
ranging from classical American and European music to Mexican pre-
Columbian instruments and nature sounds. Critically acclaimed by
major newspapers, AGDT appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music,
Carnegie Hall and in prestigious festivals including Joseph Papp’s
Latin Festival in NY and Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors. It led a US State
Department program in the Dominican Republic. It has performed and
taught dance locally and nationally. Educational programs uniquely are
available in English, Spanish and French. AGDT videos can be viewed
at Lincoln Center’s Performing Arts Library. It has been awarded repeat
grants by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New
York State Council on the Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council,
and important foundations and corporations. It participated in the First
National Encounter of Artists & Creators in Chihuahua (Mexico, 2008),
and performed at Chihuahua’s 2009 Palomar International Festival,
National Autonomous University of Mexico and Museo del Templo Mayor
(Mexico City, 2010) and San Luis Potosí International Lila López Dance
Festival (2011). Awards include an ACE Quintero and a Mayor Bloomberg
Annabella Gonzalez (Founder & Director), born in Mexico City,
performed with Atelier de Danse in Geneva, Switzerland, and co-directed
The New Choreographers Ensemble in NY before launching AGDT. She
studied ballet with Vladimir Dokoudovsky and Dick Andros, modern
dance with Bertram Ross, music with Ted Dalbotten and acting at HB
Studio. Annabella holds a B.A in Art History from the University of
Minnesota, three language degrees from the University of Geneva,
Switzerland, and an M.A. in Dance Education from Columbia University
Teachers College where she created and taught Traditional Mexican
Dance. She has choreographed for Repertorio Español and other theater
companies and lectures nationally on Mexican dance and masks. Her
work has been presented in the United States, the Dominican Republic and
Lucia Campoy (Dancer) has danced with AGDT since 2005. She is from
Murcia, Spain, where she began dancing at the age of eight. Thanks to
the great teachers and choreographers who encouraged her education and
gave her the opportunity to grow as a versatile artist. Special mention to
Annabella Gonzalez for her constant support. Lucia is also a Feldenkrais
practitioner, a new career she is very excited about and that she practices
at City Center Theater. All her love to her husband, family and friends.
Jorge Fuentes (Dancer), a native of Tamaulipas, Mexico, attended Booker
Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where he
performed the works of renowned choreographers Robert Battle, Adam
Hougland, Donald Byrd and Jessica Lang. He received honorable mention in
choreography, folklorico and modern from the National Foundation for the
Advancement in the Arts. Jorge has performed as a guest dancer throughout
the US. He has danced for the New York Baroque Dance Society, Calpulli
Danza Mexicana and Akjun Ballet Theatre. He joined AGDT in 2010.
Juan “Nacho” Echazarreta (Dancer) joined AGDT ten years ago. He began
dance training in Mexico and studied modern dance at Bates College where
he performed with the Bates Modern Dance Ensemble and had the privilege
of working with Mark Morris, Doug Elkins, Katiti King, and Michael Foley,
among others. New York credits include Dance Conservatory of NY, Staten
Island Ballet, Orange County Ballet, Ballade Ballet and Eglevsky Ballet. Juan
holds an M.P.A in Nonprofit Management and Policy from NYU.
Marcos Emanuel de Jesús Wille (Dancer) returns for his sixth season
with AGDT. He is an alumnus of the UW-Milwaukee dance program, the
Ailey School, the Graham School, and “La Escuelita” Don Rafael Cepeda in
Santurce, PR. Other dance credits include Errol Grimes Dance Group, and
NDTTV Arts. Marcos is active in arts ministry (trinitylutherannyc.org), and
his musical projects are unfolding at guaguaelectrica.com. He offers his thanks
to the community that has supported him and all praise to God.
Shauntee Henry (Dancer) was born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn where
she began dancing at the age of eight. She has worked with the Alpha Omega
Theatrical Dance Company for several years and is very happy to have the
opportunity to work with AGDT. Special thanks to Jinah Parker.
Heather Panikkar (Dancer) currently performs and teaches in New York
City and has toured nationally and internationally. She has performed works
under the direction of Chet Walker, Derik Grant, Charles Moulten, Rhonda
Miller and J.T. Jenkins. Other credits include Carousel, Rigoletta, Giselle,
Hansel and Gretel, The Little Mermaid, The Nutcracker, Norwegian Cruise
and Texas the Musical. Companies include The Illinois Ballet, Notes in
Motion, Steps Ensemble and Kimberling Dance. She joined AGDT in 2005.
Jinah Parker (Choreographer & Dancer), a Buffalo native, has an M.A. in
Dance Education from New York University. She received a B.A in dance
from The University at Buffalo, Phi Beta Kappa. Prior to her graduate studies
at NYU, She was a member of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company 2,
Lehrerdance, and presently performs with Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance
Company. She participated in regional productions of AIDA and Beauty and
the Beast. Jinah is a full time teacher with the NYC DOE and launched jewelry
company Collage. She joined AGDT in 2010.
Carolina Santos Read (Dancer) A graduate of the Fordham University with
Alvin Ailey BFA in dance program, Carolina has performed with the Eastern
CT Ballet and Ballet Hispanico’s ensemble. She was in the musicals “Evita”,
“The Producers” (ensemble), “Home for the Holidays”, Gifford’s Circus
“Yasmine! A Musical” UK tour, “La Revolucion,” “Moctezuma” and “50
Shades! The Musical parody (Off Broadway). She has performed in “Canto
Flamenco” with Melinda Marquez dancers and solo “Flamenco Nuevo” in
the 2012 Provincetown Dance Festival. Carolina appeared with AGDT in
Maxine Steinman (Choreographer & Dancer) has danced with Eleo Pomare
and with the José Limon Dance Company in the LINKs Program, as well as
other NY companies. She has been teaching, performing, and presenting her
work in numerous festivals and venues in the US and abroad for over 20 years
with awards from the O’Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation and the
92Y Harkness Dance Festival. She teaches at The Ailey School, Montclair
State University, Hofstra University and Marymount Manhattan College. She
has a B.F.A from Adelphi University, an M.A from Columbia University
Teachers College and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin Peck School
of the Arts. Maxine has collaborated with AGDT since 1995.
Ulric O’Flaherty (Lighting Designer) has worked in New York, regionally,
nationally and internationally. He has designed the lighting for many AGDT
Spring Series since 2002.
Seymour Barab (Composer) has a long and distinguished career. Born
in Chicago, he began his professional career as a church organist at age
thirteen. His proclivity for musical theater has led to his operas being the
most performed of any American composer, although he has written for every
concert medium. He has been on the faculties of Rutgers University, Black
Mountain College and New England Conservatory of Music. His work has
been commissioned by the New York City Opera, Charlotte Opera Theatre,
Detroit Opera, Manhattan School of Music and Adelphi Orchestra, among
others. Mr. Barab composed “4 for 20” for AGDT in 1996.
Peter Sivalia (Composer), born in Syracuse, studied music at Onondaga
Community College where he played in the OCC Jazz Ensemble and,
later, taught himself jazz and modern compositional techniques. Peter has
composed various pieces for modern dance companies in various parts of the
world, including Nicholas Andre Dance Theater in NY, Mariana Bekerman
Dance Company in NYC, and TILT Dance Company in Hawaii. His work
mostly focused on rhythmic drum and percussion music using current
technologies. Peter also plays jazz guitar at cafes and restaurants. This is his
first collaboration with AGDT.
Founder & Director: Annabella Gonzalez
Consultant: Ellen Ryan
Photographer: Richard Grimm
Graphics: Sharon Klein Graphic Design
Lighting Designer: Ulric O’Flaherty
Technical Director: David Ojala
Special thanks to Sharon Klein and Rachel Neville.
Board of Directors
Lutecia Gonzalez Quintanilla
Sidney B. Joyner
Lutecia Gonzalez Quintanilla
José and Maria Teresa de Lasa
Kirby and Mark Grabowski
Helen McNaughton Grimm
Richard E. Grimm
Moore Brothers Wine Company
Ana Maria Hernandez
Michael M. Biggers
Meredith Boylan and
Chobani Greek Yogurt
Michaele B. Elliot
Ana Maria Hernández
La Palapa Cocina Mexicana
MOVIMIENTO is supported, in part, by public funds from the New
York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City
Council; and by The Harkness Foundation for Dance, The Mexican
Cultural Institute of New York and Friends of AGDT.[/spoiler]