Friday, January 6, 2012

A new year starts with APAP

Top, L-R: Bergen Wheeler, Douglas Gillespie, Leslie Kraus and Luke Murphy
in Kate Weare's Garden
Below, front: Leslie Kraus with Bergen Wheeler in Garden
Photos ©Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang

My illustrious guest for The Joyce Theater's second evening of Focus Dance, faced with no project to showcase for APAP this season, was jazzed about being able to run around seeing lots of stuff, just like the rest of us. "It's like New Year's Eve all over again!" she said--only one of many encouraging things she said--uttering what might be my motto for this APAP season and more. Every encounter, greeted with openness and genuine interest: Perhaps that could be a worthy New Year's resolution in dance and beyond dance.

If so, my first APAP event, Focus Dance--one of the latest in a cluster of APAP-related dance festivals--certainly snapped into focus with presentations by Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion and Kate Weare Company on their shared program on Wednesdav evening.

Weare's Garden is a keen, satisfying journey into what could be an alternate universe's sexually-fluid, seductive and treacherous Eden crafted by an alternate, wilder-minded Martha Graham. Weare's dancers, as always, are all gems but, as always, it's impossible to take your eyes off the two women--Leslie Kraus and Bergen Wheeler--whose performances are larger than life.

Scene from Kyle Abraham's Live!: The Realest MC
Photos ©Steven Schreiber

Abraham's company opens the Focus Dance evening with excerpts from Live!: The Realest MC, a dazzling, emotionally affecting ensemble on the complications of Black masculinity. It is this young choreographer's best effort to date. From the glittery costumes by Abraham and Kristi Wood to the rich, gorgeous lighting design by Dan Scully, this production holds together in a seamless system and  shows evidence of a bright artist who knows who he is and has something worth saying. His movement scheme draws ideas from popular culture without settling for the easy, familiar image. He always wants to find out what else he can do with it, what's underneath it, how it might look on a different body. And he has not stopped exploring new ways to cut and shape space. A wizard of a dancer in his own right, Abraham is joined here by a snazzy, diverse group of performers--Rena Butler, Chalvar Monteiro, Elyse Morris, Rachelle Rafailedes, Hsiao-Jou Tang and Maleek Malaki Washington--who I hope will stay and continue to grow right along with him.

If tickets are still available, don't miss the second and last Kyle Abraham/Kate Weare evening, this Sunday at 7:30pm. For information, click here.

Eighth Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets, Manhattan

Members of chelfitsch Theater Company
in Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner and the Farewell Speech

Photos ©Julie Lemberger 2012

Below: Mari Ando and Taichi Yamagata

chelfitsch Theater Company's return to Japan Society--as part of The Public Theater's notable APAP fest, Under The Radar is cause for celebration. And that's true even though Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech (2009)--a trio of nutty little workplace scenarios written and directed by Toshiki Okada--takes off from a boring, antiseptic environment that is anything but celebratory. I love the way these guys just smack woozy sound and banal, obsessive text up against fidgety, painfully askew movement in a depiction of a way of life that is seriously out of whack. Even so, their characters often have a charm that relieves the cartoonish abstraction. Trust me, it's all fun, and all expertly done--particularly the movement and particularly when Mari Ando and Taichi Yamagata do the Air Conditioner duet (photo above). Do not miss!

Seats are limited. Hurry to see chelfitsch at Japan Society now through January 14. For information, click here.

Japan Society
333 East 47th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues), Manhattan

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