Sunday, February 5, 2012

Up by their bootstraps!

You go to omnibus dance shows featuring emerging choreographers with hopes that you'll catch someone worth following. Last night, The Bootstrap Festival--a multidisciplinary showcase created by the New York Foundation on the Arts--devoted an hour to short pieces by five up-and-coming dancemakers, all women, at Joyce SoHo.

Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie, whose solo Brothers I enjoyed at Dixon Place last year, led the evening with Sonatina (in three movements), a title offering no hint of what would come. The Israeli-born dancer, steeped in the ways of hip hop and club dancing, is compact and forceful. In Sonatina, she flings and splatters angular movement against space but manages to do so with wit, musicality and the kind of upfront, audience-snaring presentation I associate more with jazz dance than contemporary dance. Bounce is, I think, working on being a star and should get there in due time. I also liked Cristina Jasen's Mouth for String, a quintet that displays a sensibility that's intriguingly off-centered and roomy. Discover this artist.

Caitlin Trainor's (un)Square dance is a refined modern-ballet hybrid for a quartet of women--Alison Cook Beatty, Aditi Dhruv, Julia Lindpaintner and Leslie Ziff, all lovely performers. Trainor has a fresh eye for picturesque lyricism and unusual transition but deserves a conclusion that doesn't look pat, like a quick snip and tuck.

Sydnie L. Mosley showed an excerpt from The Window Sex Project which raised a bunch of questions for me, including: Who are the four women in this piece? Are they sex workers (sort of judging by their costumes and the title)? Or are they everyday Black women who, as can happen, get showered with all kinds of verbal harrassment, like the ones litanized here, from Black men just for simply walking down the street? I ask because not only the costuming but the flow of the dance blurs these identities. The overall loopy chorus line vibe and neutrally energetic dancing also makes me wonder: What's Mosley's point of view? That doesn't really become clear until the very end when actress Leah King delivers her final line, "Is this the kind of culture we want to see?"

Throughout Shandoah Goldman's vivid ensemble piece, 23 skiddoo, I kept thinking of Pina Bausch (wacky doings among women in evening gowns and their dashing dans) and wondering if I should be tickled or alarmed by the clever resemblance. I still haven't decided. But if Goldman can marry an original vision to the kind of brazenness on display in 23 skiddoo, I'll certainly want to see more.

The Bootstrap Festival continues through February 18, culminating with a "Celebration of Movement and Interdisciplinary Art" at Brooklyn's new Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance. For complete schedule and venue information for all festival events, click here.

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