[Otto Ramstad in a still from "Moving Image: Minnesota," video by Olive Bieringa]
When a critic's "Best of" list departs significantly from my own, I'm inspired to go public with a list of Philly dance events that most excited me in 2009-2010. Here it is, in no particular order. The list leaves out plenty of worthy, interesting artists whom I might have missed or whose work was, in my estimation, not quite as strong this time around.
At the CEC, a triple-threat show featured Anna Drozdowski’s choral village made up of "Our Town" types in pedestrian actions and patterns. Like each Drozdowski work I've seen, it oozed off-kilter charm. Sharing the program, Zornitsa Stoyanova used hand-held lamps to cast artful shadows and illuminate single parts of herself in an inventive trio. And Jenn McGinn’s piece showcased her brother, James McGinn, a wondrously articulate dancer, tracing and retracing his Cecchetti-inspired steps (their mother taught the Cecchetti method of ballet training). It had the ineffable quality I associate with work that’s really going somewhere: a diving in deep to its “itness” as Andrew Simonet/Tere O’Connor would say. Both McGinns are definitely artists to watch.
More, the product of Headlong Dance Theater’s investigations with Tere O’Connor stretched this Philly favorite into new terrain. See my notes on it here.
In Only Sleeping Subcircle partnered with great physical actor Geoff Sobell, taking big leaps in their work fusing projected video and live performance.I wrote about it and about Pennsylvania Ballet dancing one of William Forsythe's most celebrated works here.
Forsythe's In the Middle Somewhat Elevated is a dance that PA Ballet could do every season if I were calling the shots. The dancers are pushed out to the edges of their range of motion and stamina in this fierce, dark and swift gush of ballet steps turned sideways.
I wasn’t planning to see the Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet again this round, but wanted to experience the “audio description” they occasionally provide for visually impaired people. It’s a wonderful idea but has a ways to go before it captures the vividness of the spectacle. The performing by Julie Diana, though, was utterly stirring. Best acting in a ballet onstage in Philly.
Thanks to Dance Celebration, Fraulein Maria by Doug Elkins came to town. Humor in dance is tricky (it’s easy to get schlocky or to pander). But Elkins, remaking the Sound of Music, hit it just right. Glee!
Lucy Guerin Inc. performed Corridor at Bryn Mawr College and likewise astonished with spectacularly able dancers and rugged, ominous material. I wrote about that too (and, full disclosure: I curate that Performing Arts Series).
Another out-of-town favorite was Otto Ramstad on one of the programs in Philadelphia Dance Projects' Local History Project. Ramstad seemed to be using his highly sensitized body to tune into frequencies imperceptible to us, acting like a guide to other realms.
Camille A. Brown’s New Second Line in the International Association of Blacks in Dance showcase, set to New Orleans marching band music, was full of clever sass. Also in a showcase, this time the excellent smorgasbord put together by DanceUSA/Philadelphia, Rennie Harris Puremovement put the ladies front and center in Harris' new work set to Nina Simone’s smoky voice.
Nrityagram at Montgomery County Community College may have demonstrated the finest (East) Indian dance I have ever seen. The group lives and works in a “dance village,” regarding art as a spiritual practice, and it shows.
Also, Jumatatu Poe’s show at Performance Garage was full of precise but full throttle contact. Merian Soto presented yet more hypnotic permutations of her Branch Dances. Meg Foley at Susan Hess was engaged with intriguing explorations. Gabrielle Revlock can do anything, including hula hooping, and I’ll be riveted.(Disclosure: both Foley and Revlock have worked with me). Philadanco’s dancers dance their hearts out utterly. And…