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Cecly Placenti, Artistic Director

  • Writer's pictureCecly Placenti

Fast Forward at Dixon Place

NewBrese Dance Project and Kachal Dance

Dixon Place

Jun 14, 2023

NewBrese Dance Project

Co-Directors: Rachel Calabrese and Sawyer Newsome

Dancers: Rachel Calabrese, Eliza Frye, Sawyer Newsome, Rebecca Pavelko, Emmy Wildermuth, Robbie Weatherington

Choreography: NewBrese Dance Project in collaboration with the dancers

Kachal Dance

Director: Alia Kache

Dancers: Shay Bland, Benjamin Freedman, Alia Kache, Chloe Marveaux, Paul Giarratano

Sawyer Newsome reaching forward  with dancers fallen on the floor behind him. One dancer follows behind him on foot.
Photo by Sangeeta Yesley

Split bill performances offer wonderful opportunities for independent artists to expand their audience base, overlapping different crowds that are engaged with one artist, dancer, or musician. However, attending as a spectator can at times be an unpredictable experience; audience members may only be familiar with one company’s work yet sit through the other acts. Sangeeta Yesley, curator of Fast Forward at Dixon Place, leverages this variable and presents an evening of themed dance from two individual artists. Kachal Dance and NewBrese Dance Project explore June’s theme of “uncertainty” in unique ways.

In Kachal Dance’s #Cray, choreographed by Alia Kache, uncertainty is met with humor, and absurdity abounds. Kache, in a dress of puffy white tulle, performs elegant arm gestures as if practicing for a corps de ballet role in Swan Lake. Dancer Chloe Marveaux appears from behind her voluminous skirt, mimicking Kache’s gestures. As the two dancers vie for the audience's attention, an underlying sense of anxiety arises as the polished lines begin to break and they push each other’s arms away. When four more dancers appear in their own white wedding-like dresses, themes of perfection versus reality become clear. Paul Giarratano, bare chested and wearing tight white briefs and ruffled wrist cuffs, emerges from the center of the group, twerking and shimming with abandon as the others try to maintain the classically based choreography. One by one, the dancers appear in scantier costumes dancing like club kids and evading norms of polite decorum.

When Kache appears with her white dress on a mannequin it has a hypnotic effect on the dancers, especially Shay Bland. With a highly expressive and engaging face, Bland follows the dress longingly, wide eyed and uncertain, but she is not allowed to touch it. The dress, sometimes appearing on a life-sized form and at others on a miniature, taunts Bland who never seems to be in step with the other dancers. Tangling her through complex footwork, the group traverses the stage like a band of catty bridesmaids, vying for Kache’s favor. Earnestly, Bland is determined to fit in.

With a mix of almost manic freedom and restrained elegance, Kache’s contemporary ballet choreography is serpentine and complex, masterfully danced by her company. #Cray requires subtle yet precise acting to achieve camp without cliche, and Kache’s company toe this line well, provoking boisterous laughter from the audience. When Bland successfully mimics Kache’s movements in call-and-response fashion, she is rewarded and handed the dress.The spiteful bridesmaids quickly expose her, pulling her skirt to reveal a long red train, the only appearance of color in the piece’s all-white costuming. Alone again, Bland’s ensuing solo is heavy as she rolls to the floor, eschewing classical ballet for more contemporary vocabulary. In a dream-like sequence, Kache again appears holding the miniature dress. In a dream-like sequence in front of the stage lights, Kache reappears holding the miniature dress which reflects on the back wall, larger than life. Moving into the shadow, Bland looks hopefully over her shoulder. As she aligns her body with the shadow, they become one. The dress is finally hers.

Two dancers sitting on the floor legs intertwined. One touches the other's forehead with their palm.
Photo by Sangeeta Yesley

Vastly different yet equally compelling, NewBrese Dance Project’s In Which We Find Ourselves captivates through highly athletic and fast paced choreography that explores the complexity of interpersonal relationships in an uncertain environment. Dancers Robbie Weatherington, Eliza Frye and Sawyer Newsome (co-director), although close together performing a series of complementary gestures at varied times, seem to move independently of one another. When their movements gather speed, arresting and beginning again, audiences bear witness to their internal dialogues made visible. In contrast, Rachel Calabrese (co-director) and Emmy Wildermuth are closely connected in a methodical duet taking place at the same time. Their touch is careful, sensual without being erotic. As their hands slide together, fingers unfolding and grasping, trust builds between them. Daring weight shares and smooth lifts intensify this sense of trust. When Calabrese and Wildermuth join the trio, all five dancers meet and fall out of alliance with kaleidoscopic fascination.

Dancers in a clump touching eachother's backs and hips looking up towards the ceiling.
Photo by Sangeeta Yesley

Calabrese and Newsome utilize simple choreographic tools to mesmerizing effect. Their repeated use of momentary unison amidst a whirlwind of dancing provides a pleasing rippling effect to the choreography. When the performers echo each other from a distance, the audience has barely enough time to register a partnership before it dissolves. Calabrese and Newsome’s compelling choices in craftsmanship also serve to draw attention to the relationship between performers. At times the dancers circle the space, warily watching each other before joining together for fleeting moments, as if surveying where to safely place their trust. Occasions of partnering are both challenging and supportive, the dancers sometimes sharing each other's weight readily and at others forcefully pushing each other away. During one particularly gutsy lift, Wildermuth is propelled high into the air. She lands on her feet far from the group eliciting a gasp from the audience. While NewBrese Dance’s movement style is incredibly powerful, it is also nuanced. Newsome enthralls with wave-like movements that undulate through his body. Calabrese moves like a respiring lung, weighted and elastic. Breathy and sequential, the intense physicality of their choreography is motivated by momentum, not by force. The dancers surrender to gravity rather than resist it, melting into each other and the floor with genuine ease.

When the quintet arrives on stage again after Newsome and Calabrese’s spongy duet, there is a new cast member with them. Dancer Rebecca Pavelko seamlessly replaces Weatherington and once again the audience is provided no preamble. The dancers themselves hardly seem to notice. As they continue in their sweeping athletic phrases mixed with subtle meetings and partings, they solidify their places in an uncertain world.

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