Philly has a vibrant (and underrated) dance scene. Tonight, I watched a choreography showcase curated by local dance photographer, Bill Hebert, also known as Bill H.
Bill H invited choreographers from Philadelphia and New York City to participate in this show. Two were Koresh dancers, two were former Paul Taylor dancers, one was a former teacher of mine from high school, and another was the artistic director of the company some of my co-workers are in. It was dynamic, inspiring, and clearly it represented some of the best choreographers Bill has photographed/worked with.
Overall, there were a lot of remarkable and mesmerizing moments. Bill handpicked a range of sophisticated performers and choreographers. Tonight I learned that how you command a stage is what completes the thing you’re actually doing. How you perform is what brings the dance to life and it’s the force that takes the dance to that evocative emotional/spiritual/thought provoking place.
Sometimes when I watch shows I notice things like the composition of the dance (is it predictable or inventive?), whether or not the lighting cues worked, how much I can’t stand biker shorts as costumes, decisions I would have made, whether or not my personal preferences/expectations were met, what I thought was satisfactory, moments I enjoyed, “yaaaazz!!!!" moments, etc.
This show was so great because across the board, every piece said something. The crafting of the dances and the transitions were all buttoned up so nicely. The performers had a solid technical foundation, but this was not a show where I was bored of watching technique. Their creativity was superb. Their stage presence and the way they carved pathways with their bodies, transitioned between shapes, and directed their energy was riveting. For several pieces, I wanted to see at least three more minutes of material.
Whenever I see local shows like this, I feel as if I’m seeing my new benchmark. I see what I want to work towards when I notice how much a dancer is in control of her body and focus, how strong her artistic sense of self is, how well she edits a solo, and the way a performer’s life experience and maturity really enhances the work. I walk away with an experiential grasp of what makes a dance performance effective and memorable and I hope to create moments like that myself.
It was such a treat to see Annmaria Mazzini perform. Before tonight, I’ve only ever seen her on YouTube and in excerpts of Dancemaker. In person, she’s very petite and shy. On stage, she is emotional, dramatic, raw, and perfectly in control of every explosive layout with a flexed foot, attitude balance, airy gesture, and each arresting change of focus. The Taylor legacy is so beautifully prominent in the way she performs and in her movement vocabulary. I’m excited to see more from her pickup company.
Another favorite was a minimalist duet by Steven Vaughn which mimicked a bike ride as portrayed by two very different cyclists. I especially enjoyed it because I just started cycling in the city this summer and because I knew exactly what each moment on a bike felt like.
I was pleasantly surprised by Micah Geyer and Joe Cotler of Koresh Dance Company. I’ve only ever seen them do Roni’s work and it was delightful to see how well they performed in another context. I learned that both of them have a tap dance background. Their acting skills and sense of humor was right on point in the call and response tap dance duet. Talk about multitalented!
I’m so glad that I’m in a city where I can learn from great artistic minds. It’s refreshing to be outside the politically correct environment of academia where teachers will be mean and demanding in class if it means coaching dancers like me to work to their full potential and dig deeper. I can only benefit from continuing to involve myself.
"Awake, awake, put on your strength. Shake yourself from the dust and arise." // Isaiah 52.
Miguel Gutierrez joined thINKingDANCE for a talk about his relationship to writing. He spoke for two hours about his development as an artist and how his writing practice has played a role in that journey. He discussed his writing as a performance…
A great piece that addresses writing about dance!
I went to an audition/workshop about a month ago and one of the girls I met was talking about how professionalism is so much more important for women because they are easier to replace. Choreographers so often feel that men are needed, so they get away with a lot more-like giving less than 100% and being divas. In my own observations, I do notice that a slightly lackluster work ethic for women is tolerated a lot less than it is for men. Bindler also talks about how grassroots venues present more work by women, and I think it’s because women tend to emphasize cooperation while men emphasize prestige. Women dancemakers, let’s fight to present our work and earn recognition! I’m learning that you have to be persistent about putting yourself out there.
My lower legs, particularly my arches and calves, feel cramped and fatigued after taking hip hop and modern jazz back to back tonight. But I got picked on and mildly made fun of in modern jazz for the second week in a row, so I feel like I’m doing something right because the instructor only gives attention to the dancers he likes. I even got a “I like your hair, it’s so big!” I’m glad to have connected with another teacher who can push me and I hope I’m able to keep up with his overbearing mannerisms. I don’t 100% agree with his pedagogical approach, but his dissatisfaction with mediocre performance motivates me. He’s impatient and little on the arrogant side, but he can push dancers to their fullest potential. I’ve gotten so tired of constantly hearing the “your movement is really fluid but you need to be sharper” feedback. I’ve had plenty of teachers who weren’t picky enough about my technical performance. I want to be more versatile and to refine the way I syncopate my energy. It gives me hope when I know that teachers see potential in me.
It’s amazing what a change of clothes can do. I felt my entire demeanor completely transform.
I’m so used to raggedy dance clothes that when I zip up a business casual dress tailored for an average woman’s body I can’t help but think to myself, “Whoa! Where did that figure come from?”
I’m still so proud of the bag full of name brand dresses and pair of wedge heels I got from a cute consignment shop in University City. I’m definitely going back soon for more dresses that make me feel elegant. I get to dress up for work like a normal person!
After today’s orientation at a school in Center City, I will finally start teaching lessons next Monday! I will have 10 weeks of 8 am three times a week. The early mornings will be challenging especially winter starts to crawl in, but I feel confident in the curriculum I’m teaching and I’ve already located a coffee shop two blocks away so I can get other work done during my break. I’m really proud of this particular gig because of how effective the program is and its reputation in schools.
I’ve only heard and experienced good things, and something about the way my dress made me stand up nice and graceful and tall helped ward off any shyness I may have felt when I met the teachers and 5th graders.
Postcards are here! 😊