Performing Arts: Dance
January 9, 2017
As part of The Joyce Theater’s second annual American Dance Platform, the California-based RAWDance and CONTRA-TIEMPO take to the stage in what proves to be an evening of shaking perspectives.

RAWDance Co-Artistic Directors, Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith, open with their 2016 work, “Double Exposure.” Together, they deliver duet after duet, with video-recorded karaoke and conversation during the occasional costume change. In the prologue dance, credited to choreographer Joe Goode, the pair introduces one another and delves into their personal lives, instantaneously shattering the fourth wall. “Can you see the dancing when I’m talking?” one asks.

The collection of following duets are choreographed, respectively, by West Coast talent KT Nelson, Holly Johnston, Tahni Holt, Kate Wallich, David Rouss?ve, Ann Carlson, and Amy Seiwert. Johnston creates a stormy, physical piece, in which the pair stays grounded, their bodies linking and unlinking. Rouss?ve makes a political statement in his work, incorporating footage of the 2015 police shooting of Walter Scott. Video, in the form of stream of consciousness text messages then splay the backdrop, citing dance as a form of powerful emotional expression, ultimately asking if that—dance—is enough. Later, Carlson’s piece transforms the pair into young children, while Seiwert embraces a playful, rag doll-like partner dance.

Though the movement fluctuates in style and tone with each choreographer, Rein and Smith remain direct with the audience. Their performance is aptly “raw,” with costumes changed on stage, props left in plain sight, and the concept of live performance practically discussed as a breathing, real-time art susceptible to dancers’ physical injury and ability.

In the end, the smart movement experiment that is “Double Exposure” calls on us to broaden our viewpoint and think more deeply about what’s happening on stage. We witness a one-work dialogue surrounding the diverse realm of contemporary dance.

CONTRA-TIEMPO (“against the times”) closes the program with “Agua Furiosa” (2016). The company’s focus on social and political activism is as relevant a mission as it is incessant, resulting in works that thrive in their physicality, intense theatricality, and dynamism from creation to performance. “Agua Furiosa” is no different, tackling the issue of racial conflict in this country, to identity and the environment—no small task. And that’s not all; the piece simultaneously serves as nod to Oya (the Afro-Cuban deity of wind and storms) and a counter narrative to Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Choreographed by Artistic Director Ana Maria Alvarez, in deep collaboration with an array of “artists, thinkers, activists, believers, dreamers, and fighters,” this work is an aggressive theater piece. It’s sprinkled with Afro-Cuban movement, hip hop, breaking, contemporary dance, and hints of salsa, collectively qualified by Alvarez as urban Latin dance theater. Throughout, talented vocalist Electra Weston adds a calm yet commanding presence.

However, the movement falls second to the busy contextual themes and visceral production elements: strobe lights; the tossing of plastic water bottles; the drumming, stacking, and knocking over of buckets; water dumped centerstage. It’s the angst, the sense of urgency, the chaos; these sentiments are undeniable. Still, we’re left overwhelmed. With evident artistic passion and such important messages at stake, it seems less would be more.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

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