The Annual Richmond Choreographers Showcase showed powerful and diverse movement from across the East Coast
Starrene Foster built her craft and company on understanding human nature through dance, but her talents were not alone during this past weekend’s 15th Annual Richmond Choreographers Showcase.
Each year, the Annual Richmond Choreographers Showcase aims to enable both new and established choreographers to premiere work, while Foster’s company, the Starr Foster Dance Project, produces the show, finances performance space and advertising. Choreographers from all over the East Coast submit their proposals—everything from existing choreographies to concepts that only exist on paper—to a panel of blind adjudicators, and selections are made.
Saturday’s six selected choreographers [note, seven choreographers were scheduled, but the number was reduced after one choreographer’s family emergency caused them to cancel] came to the Grace Street Theater to embody the many complicated branches of the human mind and imagination.
These dancers hailed from New York City to Atlanta and everywhere in between, and the standards were high for both the audience and the performers themselves.
Bodies in a Glass Jar
Cain Coleman, a current dancer in the respected Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Matthew Perez of the Coleman Collective hail from New York City, and the integrity of their resumes showed in the quality of their dancing. Their choreography, “Bodies in a Glass Jar,” was executed with a level of grace and command that was beautiful to watch.
The overall work was expressive and inventive, beginning with Erykah Badu songs “My Eyes Are Green” and ending with her song “20 Feet Tall,” with a live singer in between. While themes of inter-personal struggle presented in “Bodies in a Glass Jar” called for a greater sense of connectedness and linking motif between acts, the movement presented by the Coleman Collective was first-rate.
Richmond, Virginia native Samantha Nelson explored the reliance and desperation of codependent relationships in her choreography, “Power I>.” The choreography did well in portraying the alternating soft and hard feelings that are born in the deepening of codependency between two people, with tender movements being followed by heavy exchanges of weight between the two dancers on stage. At times, the piece seemed to long for more energy, yet was exhausted, and this is perhaps how “Power I>” was most thoughtful in portraying the mental exhaustion of Nelson’s theme.
The Emily Cargill and Dancers of Atlanta, Georgia brought a true spectacle with their work, “Fields,” which explored the duality of worlds. Of all works presented at the showcase, the ECD had the most dancers on stage, and the energy of the choreography was encapsulated by the recurring motif movement of dancers furiously performing bent-arm windmills. Movements like military-style stationary jogging and the demanding head-grasping of one dancer to another were well executed and perfectly disorienting, evoking the mental space between dreaming and waking up.
The Last Time, The Last Time
Baltimore, Maryland, native Tarik O’Meally’s choreography “The Last Time, The Last Time,” was deeply emotive. Dancers Lateisha Melvin, Shanice Mason and Tyesha Nance entered and exited to Barbara Lewis’s “Hello Stranger,” a song whose pleasant sounds are undercut by the deep sadness of, and nostalgia for, a faded relationship and time—something that wasn’t lost on director Barry Jenkins when he used the song in a pivotal scene of his Oscar-winning film, Moonlight.
Dancers performed repeated motifs of throat clutching and the frustrated flinging of hands, occasionally joining in wilted relief or getting as far away from each other as possible, dragging their feet while raising their hands up their necks and above their heads. Through the carefully orchestrated choreography of “The Last Time, The Last Time” a story of sadness and resilience in a cyclical environment made a clean delivery.
“Copal Smoke” by Maeve Talbot and Emma Stewart were choreographers selected based on their written proposal, inspired by the alebrije (brightly colored creatures of Mexican art) sculptures of Mexican artist Pedro Linares Lopez, who would sculpt alebrije he saw in his own fever dreams. This theme had difficulty coming across in the work, but the fact that Talbot of Staunton, Virginia and Stewart of Astoria, New York choreographed the entirety of their work together via FaceTime and Skype put an innovative spin on their dance.
Sleep of the Guilty
As part of the showcase tradition, the Starr Foster Dance Project presents its own work within the showcase. “Sleep of the Guilty,” choreographed by Starrene Foster and performed by her company dancers, brought anxiety dreams to life through rigid jerks and frazzled collapses of the choreographed movements. The dancers were charged and precise in costumes resembling tangled white bedsheets, and the work lived up to the company’s reputation as the cornerstone of Richmond’s modern dance community.
It’s that time of year again, y’all. Graduation is upon the dancers at Virginia Commonwealth University. This semester nine talented seniors showcase their capstone projects in CONVERSATIONS, a performance highlighting the creative strength of the students at VCU Dance. The show opens with Samantha Williams’ At This Moment…Love Liberates. Emotional extremes of relationships are explored [...]April 25, 2014
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