ICONS ChoreoGraphic institute thesis dance concert 2022 at Dance Loft on 14
Featuring works by William L. Miller, Jr., Mimi Noorani, Millicent Parker, Elizabeth Watson
Sunday May 15, 2022
DANCE LOFT ON 14
4618 14TH ST. NW, DC
By SYLVANA CHRISTOPHER, BFA
Mimi Noorani’s film Richard with prolific dancer Rasta Thomas personifying Shakespeare’s King Richard opened the show. This dizzying black and white film pictures Thomas brooding over himself and his title of king. A strong outline of his side eye, rounded nose, beard and lip through a bent arm stand out. In one moment he is suspended hanging over a barre at the waist. Another he is seen laying on the floor and later pointing at himself. One has to wonder what is eating at this man?
Next up was work by Millicent Parker called Look Up. Parker’s work visualizes the effect of social media on people’s lives. Her introduction included the reminder that “It is OK to step out and be your own character”. Set against clouds, all too familiar sounds of iphone swiping and dings hit our ears while aimless people wander around glued to their phones. Rachael Alexandra gives someone else a hand shaped big heart while dancer Rachel Lawal gives someone a huge thumbs down which devolves into a human conveyor belt and robotic movements from the ensemble.
Various computer icons of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. are mapped out on a dizzying web of digital connection in the background. The ensemble was positioned in different facings doing different things which was very interesting. Thomas Downey and Rae Grey cartwheel over prone bodies. Enjoyed a hardware ensemble section with different speeds of insomnia, prayer hands and zig zagging. Modern genuflecting occurs again and again. This choreographer really knows how to manage an ensemble, remarked esteemed guest critic Dr. George Jackson.
Communication between Sarah Laughland and Downey upstage seemed tense with bladed hands. A charged male duet with an uncomfortable sense of being stalked occured between Angel Ramirez and Downey. The music was often pulsating and driving. One of the music artists Parker sampled, Kangding Ray, has 23.5K followers on their Instagram page. Fluttering hands descending down the body was a stunning texture as if shredding. Dr. Jackson also remarked, “The performers like performing. That is important.”
In the final tableau of Look Up, Deanna Woodman does exactly that. From the get-go Woodman steps out of the crowd to analyze the directions of people blindly following one another. Perhaps Parker is reminding us that the screens holding our attention 24-7 are preventing us from establishing true trusting relationships. The work challenges viewers to untether from the addictive platforms and instead relate eye to eye as human beings rather than the sum of our likes and dislikes, hearts or frowns.
The next piece, Forget Me Not Yet is about the four different types of memory: sensory, implicit, short term and long term. Choreographer Elizabeth Watson crafted a collage of the dancer’s memories with their original recordings and photos. Watson framed Rachel Lawal’s story with an endearing full screen photograph of Lawal’s child in the woods. Lawal then becomes a child “My mom was doing my hair. It was sunny. It was a good day.” Later a window into the memory of her grandparents. Magical layers unfold. Lawal wraps her head then a striking juxtaposition of a wide parallel jump forward with parallel hands then a hopscotch dash off stage. Watson takes us through personal snapshots both heart wrenching and uplifting in detail. Rain falls in the background and we are subsumed with the very real fear of forgetting all the things one has done in their life. Robin Rodbell bravely reveals the loss of her three aunts due to breast cancer. Grey recounts an inclusive collegiate choreographic process and the feeling of being actively seen for the first time.
Watson parallels the fear of memory loss within the Simon section. Covenant Babatunde and Drew Scammell’s hilarious struggle to remember choreography ends with “Anyway just land on eight” with a triumphant tuck jump from Babatunde. Chelsea Wilson’s loss of a soldier felt like the “whole body giving out” and “something I will never forget” with a reminder to “never take a day for granted”. The choreography and multi disciplinary work is well done with eye-catching cannons and levity amidst an otherwise heavy piece.
Onto the next film Hamlet by Noorani starring Thomas again. The second film in contrast to the first is in color out in the grass rather than inside a dance studio. Atop a bench Thomas is clean shaven. Noorani portrays the character as mad but not as crazy as Richard. The subtlety of the words was overshadowed by the music. Thomas’s artistry shines in this work and a subtle confidence in even the tiniest glance or movement is convincing. This videographer and choreographer duo showcase an important tool for dance filmmakers that the person holding the camera is moving just as much as the subject to give the work dimension and multiple perspectives.
Last up, Deus X by William L. Miller, Jr. a third ensemble piece and a feast for the eyes with beautifully costumed dancers. Intergalactic projections of dotted waves, snake skin or portals of different dimensions made for fantastic imagery. At times Miller evoked purple rain or sweat. Felt transported into a mind and body, creative soul or being, or a London nightclub. My guest Costas said this piece felt like “real life”. The male soloist Scammell gave face tossing his ideas around drafting feverishly. He etched movements into and onto the dance floor. Loved the simple yet effective framing and active watching of the corps de ballet seated under their umbrellas. The umbrella section was perhaps too long. The costumes designed by Anne Liberman were a striking mix of burgundy, black mesh and leather straps. Elements of vogue and posturing directly toward the audience by Margaux Lieser and crew were confrontational in a sexy good way. Deux X was a beautiful piece.
Overall, the dynamism of all the performers combined with the strong messages of pro-individualism, tortured monarchs, gratitude for memories, and unrepresssed creativity from the choreographers was truly remarkable. Kudos ICONS Cohort 2022 – Onto your next masterpiece.
Photos by Robert Cannon.
Copyright by Sylvana Christopher 2022.Tags: ICONS Sylvana Christopher