Friday, September 30, 2016

RoseAnne Spradlin marks her Joyce spot with "X"

L-r: Dancers Asli Bulbul, Connor Voss and Kayvon Pourazar
of RoseAnne Spradlin/Performance Projects
(photo: Glen Fogel)

 A quadrille is an 18th century dance performed in a rectangular configuration and viewed from four sides. To kick off its 2016/17 season, The Joyce Theater will be transformed for the NY Quadrille, a sensational two-week engagement created by renowned choreographer Lar Lubovitch and commissioned by The Joyce featuring a specially constructed platform stage designed to create viewing from four sides. Following through with the spirit of “four,” Lubovitch has selected four exciting choreographers—Pam Tanowitz, RoseAnne Spradlin, Tere O’Connor, and Loni Landon to create contemporary dance works on four sides. Each quadrille will be performed on its own program, with each program performed four times over the course of the two weeks. This transformation of The Joyce is sure to challenge audiences to embrace a new concept of the theater’s physical space and to appreciate the artistry of the four choreographers chosen to participate in this exciting event.
 --for promotional material for NY Quadrille

Lar Lubovitch's design and curatorial experiment, NY Quadrille, has landed on The Joyce Theater like an alien mothership scorching circles into a cornfield.

I hear that square performance platform now eating part of the regular stage area and part of the regular audience seating cost the Joyce a lot of coins. My first sight of it--from the vantage point of one of the remaining front-facing seats--made me think I must have overshot the mark and ended up a few avenues away at The Kitchen. Or maybe really overshot and ended up at BAM Fisher. To be honest, this was both exciting and unsettling. And that disturbing ambivalence only intensified when I saw what RoseAnne Spradlin had created for her turn at the quadrille--X, a trio for contemporary dance stars Asli Bulbul, Connor Voss and Kayvon Pourazar, all of whom deserve a hefty pay raise.

Kudos to Lubovitch for giving multiple Bessie-winning Spradlin her Joyce debut. NY Quadrille, on the whole, is an intentional risk. One Times writer, previewing the two-week series, actually called out the Joyce for habitual "staleness," and Lubovitch's initiative certainly throws open a new set of windows. But how will it play with the typical Joyce-goer?

I don't know how Tanowitz fared or how O'Connor and Landon will fare during their runs, but dance press seemed to outnumber civilians at Spradlin's opening night. And, yes, I'm wildly exaggerating, but you get the picture. Someone in the Joyce lobby wondered aloud if City Center's more affordable, aesthetically-accessible Fall for Dance might have drawn the usual Joyce fans uptown.

The evening did not go easy on those who took up the challenge. Spradlin's audience grew quite fidgety--in one man's case, openly surly. Even early on, people started bailing out of the show. And with Joe Levasseur's lights keeping dancers and their gawkers in constant view of one another, those departures were not exactly subtle.

X deserved better, certainly its dancers did, maintaining prodigious concentration and composure even in the face of one man crying out, "Just stop!" But, hey, I'm a downtown girl. I've sat through gnarlier (and less rewarding) stuff. Spradlin is kind of my jam.

Still, even for me, the hour-and-change with X was not without struggle. The audience annoyed me. A lot. I did not want to see or hear them. Glen Fogel's sound work reminded me too often of the less-decorous aspects and processes of life in a body. The repeated and repeated and repeated use of "Love's Theme"--Love Unlimited Orchestra's era-evoking instrumental--got under my skin. The dancers' stately, ritualized tasks of lifting and shifting and rearranging their gymnastic bars--suggesting, by rapid turns of association, heavy gym weights, portable ballet barres, monkey bars and barricades--eventually wore me out, too.

Yet these X-cesses read like a poem meant to burrow its way under the viewer's skin. A continuous push-and-pull between what cannot be easily controlled--human bodies in the wild--and the overlaying, controlling law of structure. Shifts and returns, both unexpected and, of course, expected. Voss's supple, sylph-like form rendered strangely weighty and awkward by Pourazar lifting and handling. Pourazar's unexpected reverse of this pattern--all floaty, slidey grace as he slips his body around Voss's with just a lightly-firm pressure from Voss's hand. Metal rods that, straddled first by Bulbul then by the others, combine the utilitarian with the suggestive. Sniper maneuvers mimicked, with dead seriousness, over disco sound: I'm never, ever gonna quit/'Cause quittin' ain't my stick.

Pourazar, Voss and Bulbul don't quit--even when some viewers do--'cause quittin' ain't their stick. With and for Spradlin, they refuse to compromise for our love but work damn hard for our respect.

X continues through October 2. For schedule information and tickets, click here.

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (corner of 19th Street), Manhattan

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT podcast: Sydnie L. Mosley

Sydnie L. Mosley
(photo: Farima Faye/F.F. Visual)

Sydnie L. Mosley is an artist-activist who is interested in creative work that is both artistically sound and socially aware. Sydnie earned her MFA in Dance with an emphasis on Choreography from the University of Iowa, not long after she received her BA in Dance and Africana Studies from Barnard College at Columbia University. Sydnie’s creative and research interests lie at the intersections of modern dance, movement in the African Diaspora, spirituality, feminism, and literature.​
Her choreographic work with her company SLMDances actively engages audiences, and often reflects the experiences of black peoples and women. Her evening length dances The Window Sex Project and BodyBusiness, their creative processes and performance experiences are a model for dance-activism. ​​​Her dances have been performed extensively throughout New York City and she was listed by as one of twenty-five “Up and Coming: Young Minority Artists and Entrepreneurs.”​

Sydnie is a recipient of the CUNY Dance Initiative (2016 Artist in Residence), Dancing While Black Artist Fellowship (2015-2016), and The Field Leadership Fund (2015-2017). She produced her most recent evening length work with The Performance Project @ University Settlement (Artist in Residence 2015-2016). She is a 2013 alumna of the Create Change Fellowship with The Laundromat Project, and the Gibney Dance Institute for Community Action Training. In 2011, she became the inaugural Barnard Center for Research on Women Alumnae Fellow.

​A versatile dancer, Sydnie performed most recently with ​INSPIRIT, a dance compan​y, and Brooklyn Ballet. Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times writes of her performance in David Parker’s Nut/Cracked Redux, “I won't soon forget… the woman who stood in the center of a sea of floor-bound bodies, allowing her arms to bloom up and open luxuriously in a gracious, centuries-old convention with radiant pride and pleasure.”​

As a dance educator, Sydnie specializes in teaching modern, jazz and West African dance, amongst other styles.  She teaches babies (really!), K-12, undergraduates, non-dancers and professionals alike, with the motto: if you can move, you can dance! She designed and teaches Dance in the City, Barnard College's Pre-College Program in dance.

Sydnie’s skills extend beyond the creative. She is an independent scholar who earned honors for her Barnard College senior thesis, “​Dancing Black Christianity: Revealing African American and Ghanaian Cultural Identity through Movement in Christian Worship.” She is a new contributing writer to The Dance Enthusiast and has contributed to Dance Magazine. She is also an advocate for dance currently serving on the Dance/NYC Advisory Board, after a four year tenure on the Dance/NYC Junior Committee which represents the interests of dance professionals in New York City ages 21-30.​​​ She served as Vice Chair 2014-2015.

Sydnie currently resides in Harlem, New York City. When she isn’t dancing, she is writing, listening to music, and cooking.

Serious Moonlight--hosted by Eva Yaa Asantewaa and produced with Tei Blow--is a production of Gibney Dance Center's Digital Technology Initiative.

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SERIOUS MOONLIGHT podcast: Jessica Chen

Jessica Chen
(photo: Vanessa Gonzalez-Bunster

Jessica Chen, Artistic Director of J CHEN PROJECT, graduated from the University of California in Santa Barbara and continued her dance training in NYC at The Ailey School and Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts, where she received a full scholarship.

She has taught master classes at institutions such as Yale University, Boston University, Mt. Holyoke, DeSales University and Orange County School of the Arts, as well as her alma mater.  As a speaker, she presented “If I Can Dance It, Then It’s Possible” at the 2014 TEDx organized by Semester at Sea and was honored as the Keynote for Cornell University’s 2011 Celebration of Asian American Women.   Her choreography has been showcased throughout NYC including NYLA Studio Series, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Ailey Citigroup Theater and she choreographed and directed a Featured Float in the 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Ms. Chen started a Mentorship Program – Summer Intensive for aspiring professional dancers and curates an annual choreographers’ festival at Dixon Place ‘TRANSLATE (voices of dance).’

J CHEN PROJECT is creating an evening length show title “The Shadow and The Like,” based on real-life tragedy, which addresses the psychological struggles behind a glossy Social Media image.  This show will run at Dixon Place from September 29 to October 1, 2016.

Read more at "Unbreakable Spirit: dancer Jessica Chen" 
by Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody, September 3, 2103

Serious Moonlight--hosted by Eva Yaa Asantewaa and produced with Tei Blow--is a production of Gibney Dance Center's Digital Technology Initiative.

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to InfiniteBody.

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT podcast: Cassie Mey

Cassie Mey

Cassie Mey is the Oral History Coordinator and Audio Archivist for the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Formerly, Cassie was NYPL's project Cataloger for the Merce Cunningham Audio Collection and she was the Oral History Archive Assistant from 2009-2015. Additionally, she conducted a focus group on “Documenting the Creative Process” in 2013 for the Dance Heritage Coalition’s Artist-Driven Archives project. Alongside her work in archives, Cassie is a lifelong dancer, having most recently performed in Dean Moss’s multimedia work and 4 year project, johnbrown. Over the past 15 years, she also danced with Molissa Fenley , Jillian Peña , and other choreographers, as well as presented her own dance works and collaborations in NYC. Cassie holds an MSILS degree from Pratt Institute and a BA in Dance from Mills College.

Serious Moonlight--hosted by Eva Yaa Asantewaa and produced with Tei Blow--is a production of Gibney Dance Center's Digital Technology Initiative.

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Serious Moonlight dance podcast launches on iTunes!

I am over the moon about Serious Moonlight, a new dance interview podcast I'm producing with Tei Blow for Gibney Dance Center's Digital Technology Initiative. (Big thanks to you, Tei!) Our first shows are finally up on iTunes. (Subscribe, please!) 

Episode 1 is a recording of my final Not The Master's Tools panel of speakers--Katy Pyle, Nia Love, Benjamin Kimitch and Kazu Kumagai. Episode 2 is a chat with Cassie Mey, archivist for the New York Public Library's Jerome Robbins Dance Division. In Episode 3, choreographer Jessica Chen talks about her blooming life and career following a devastating accident. And in Episode 4, dance artist Sydnie L. Mosley of SLMDances discusses her multifaceted work as a performer, dancemaker, scholar, educator, administrator and activist dedicated to social justice.

I hope you'll enjoy Serious Moonlight. Let's dance!

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Serious Moonlight here.

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