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Friday, April 8, 2016

Harlem's "E-Moves" spotlights emerging dancemakers

Tap artist Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards
with trumpeter Igmar Thomas
in Jason Samuels Smith's Going The Miles...
(photo: Marc Millman)

The coziness up at Harlem Stage Gatehouse for last night's E-Moves opener was enhanced by Simone Eccleston's generous, frequent expressions of welcome and thanks. As Interim Director of Programming--replacing the now @large Brad Learmonth--Eccleston has much to uphold and to celebrate: a unique, beautiful home for the arts in Harlem, a strong international community of creators and performers, a history of events that have made and continue to make memories.

Of the four commissioned dances, Jason Samuels Smith's Going The Miles... deserves to enter venerable Harlem Stage history. You'll never go wrong featuring tap champs like Samuels Smith, Derick K. Grant and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. But the combination of that triple-threat sonic powerhouse with the intimacy of the Gatehouse was mindblowing. The closeness offered the chance to watch, but never quite fathom, how six feet can split musical moments into flickering microseconds, lending the overall fabric of music a refined, shimmering texture. Grant loves, is especially adept at, small, unexpected delicacies. Collaborators Igmar Thomas--a masterful trumpeter--and bassist Alex Hernandez take a journey through a trio of Miles Davis works, from 1955-1963 contributing to one of the most satisfying musical performances of this or any season.

Although already world-renowned in tap dance, Samuels Smith joined the E-Moves lineup as an "emerging choreographer," mentored by Broadway's Ted Levy.  Okay. But what of his lesser-known colleagues on the Harlem Stage bill?

Davalois Fearon in Water, Thirst & Storm
with video art by André M. Zachery
(photo: Marc Millman)

Davalois Fearon--actually a frequent critics' favorite for her dancing with choreographer Stephen Petronio--is not new to the spotlight. But as she ventures out more as her own dancemaker, we can see a personal, introspective focus that tempers crowd-pleasing, quirky agility. In her and her dancers' movement for Water, Thirst & Storm--as well as a bewitching video by collaborator André M. Zachery--she puts a quiet, ritualistic beauty in the service of expressing nature's power and preciousness. The work shown here has been excerpted from her developing project, Consider Water, "inspired by domestic and global water issues, like water scarcity, water quality impairment and water-related natural disasters." Without seeing Water, Thirst & Storm within this bigger context, it's hard to know how those issues might be integrated into a work of performance, but the piece is a good introduction to Fearon's evolving aesthetic.

Laurie M. Taylor's entertaining Deeper, Higher reflects a fusion of influences from modern dance to Broadway to hip hop, from African to the Afro-affirmative work of Urban Bush Women. An abstract ensemble for five women, including Taylor, it has the uplift of a signature piece, an appetizer. You definitely want to know what Taylor and her shining dancers might do next.

To appreciate Desiree Godsell's WONDERLAND a GO-GO, you're best advised to let go and let the psychedelics take your mind. Otherwise you might not know where you are or why--particularly if you happen to be way younger than me. While not exactly my flavor, despite the era it evokes, WONDERLAND a GO-GO has theatrical audacity. Salsa dancer Elvis Collado performs with stellar presence, and Godsell, herself, overflows with daffy charm best seen in her "Little Surfer Girl" number. Again, for those of you young ones, that's the Beach Boys.

E-Moves continues through Sunday, April 9 with performances at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

Harlem Stage Gatehouse
150 Convent Avenue, Manhattan

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