writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition

An Acrobatic Showcase

Choreographers Showcase
[produced by the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission]
Dance Theatre
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
University of Maryland
February 28, 2004

by Tehreema Mitha
copyright 2004 by Tehreema Mitha
published 1 March 2004

Programs like 21st Annual Choreographers Showcase are usually a good opportunity to see a variety of companies and styles. But if I had been told that one person had choreographed this whole show and that it was presented by just one company, I would have believed it. There was an amazing uniformity to the language used to create the pieces, an even keel that ran throughout the whole evening.

Gesel Mason’s Is this seat taken?, described as "a humorous and unorthodox look at theatre etiquette,” sounded like an immensely interesting way to start the evening. However, there was no etiquette to observe and too much made of too little in the end. Stretching the definition of dance with this item, performed in the middle of the audience using the actual theater seats, is a happening that happened a long time ago. While it was funny for the first few seconds, to give it some meat it needed more substance in the form of a variety of movements, which could actually produce some difference in pace rather than the disorderly scuffle that ensued.

By the end of the second piece Crosslaggad, danced by Tommy Parlon and Julia Smith, one felt exhausted as if one had just been to a gymnastic session. Their overloud breathing, “ha’s”, and exhalations of breath were unnecessary and distracting. The tender moments in this dance were beautiful, but barely held, with not enough to really invest in them and then on again to shoulder stands and jumps across the stage that did not have any place in the themes of “interplay and interdependency of people striving to communicate with each other”. A toning down of constant movement would greatly benefit this dance without in the least taking away from the dancers undoubted prowess.

And perhaps that was the overall feeling with the program. A lot of attention paid to the acrobatic qualities of dance, and to the fine-tuned abilities of the dancers, and not enough to the “feel” of the dance. I don’t necessarily need a “message”, but I do want some variety in movement and approach, some definite moods, something ephemeral that moves me.

Perhaps Jane Franklin’s The Mountain near Luray and Douglas Nielson’s Run Ruben Run should have allowed themselves to be even more abstract. There seemed to be a need to inject movements every now and then that were recognizable to the audience to define the story laid out in the text.

Najla Y. Yatkin was, as always, a strong and graceful dancer with total control of each muscle. When she turns in profile, she looks like she walked out of an Ancient Egyptian painting from some tomb; strong and striking. From a person who comes from a very mixed background it makes sense that there be Journeys—Lost and Found. As with so many of the other dances there was the idea, and then…? The music was a mix of very different cultures further mixed with text. It was jarring, unpleasant, and had nothing to do with what was danced. A dancer as good as Najla should not need to fill a short item with so much athleticism. She can do so much more with so much less and there were a few of those precious moments in her choreography.

"Short piece" brings to mind Subconscious Faults danced by the choreographers themselves, Lisa S. Jones and Darby Iva Pack. Perhaps because they did not overdo the timing and their music (amongst the heavy mixes and scores we had had till then) was upbeat and uplifting, (Tracy Chapman’s “Nothing Yet”), it was among the most interesting dances of the evening. The combination of movements was interesting, the lack of periods of walking around, the right amount of contact work with individual dancing, made the piece compact. Though not given to much facial expression, they were nonetheless fully there in their bodies, no separation of face and fact.

As for their theme, “the struggle of African American’s in the past”...well...another time.

First: Ruben Graciani. Aaron Jackson and Brent Lawrence in Run, Ruben Run.  Photo: Stan Barouh
Second:  Tommy Parlon

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 9
March 1, 2004

© 2004 Tehreema Mitha




Back issues

Index of Reviews
Back Issues
About Us
Contact Us

Sister Sites:
Ballet Alert! Online
Ballet Talk
Ballet Blogs



Clare Croft
George Jackson
Jean Battey Lewis
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Tehreema Mitha

Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Lisa Traiger


This site is the online supplement to DanceView, a quarterly review of dance published since 1979.

DanceView is available by subscription ONLY. Don't miss it. It's a good read.  Black and white, 48 pages, no ads. Subscribe today!


Copyright ©2003 by by DanceView
last updated on February 9, 2004