Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Summer Soiree

Sobers & Godley hosted their summer Dance Soiree at Ailey Studios on Saturday, July 21st. It was certainly a soiree of versatile dance performances from emerging choreographers. And as a dancer myself, I was physically moved by each piece and had the desire to get up and dance throughout the entirety of the performance. I could not have been happier as a spectator. These emerging choreographers truly emerged with a BANG in one of New York City's finest dance facilities. A very intimate, yet grand setting, of one of the larger studios allowed a close connection between the audience and dancers. With this showcase, I hate to use the word "favorites", because I truly did enjoy the ten pieces of the performance. However, there were 3 pieces of the night that had me over the edge and emotionally fastened.

Photo credited to Richelle Gribble
Pictured:  Sage Caprice Abowitt, Allison Beler,
Sean Hatch, Katie Philp, and Rachel Rizzuto
"Elleman-O-P (NY Premiere)" was a unique and intriguing piece with comedic puns that kept a smile on my face from start to finish. The piece was choreographed by Mari Meade Montoya of the Mari Meade Dance Collective and featured music from...well, the dancers! With each letter of the alphabet, the dancers' full commitment to their characters, which appeared to be a dad, pregnant mother, and 3 kids, had executed different sounds and recognizable themes. The dancers: Sage Caprice Abowitt, Allison Beler, Sean Hatch, Katie Philp, and Rachel Rizzuto should be commended for their superb acting in addition to the movement throughout the piece. Their acting and deliverance was believable and had me completely connected. The bright-colored costumes and cartoonish makeup heightened the humor of the piece. I was eagerly waiting for each letter's comedic presentation, and I loved it from A-Z!

Photo credited to Richelle Gribble
Pictured: Khadija Ahkmaddiyah, Ashley Chavonne,
Angel Chinn, Kayla Hamilton, Nathalie Thomas, Tiffany Webb
"Pluto", choreographed by Angel Chinn of the Nonalee Dance Theatre, definitely took me on a trip with its dynamics and high intensity. There was a strong, quick start to the piece that demanded the audience's full attention in order to keep up with the pace of the dancers. Featured dancers: Khadija Ahkmaddiyah, Ahley Chavonne, Angel Chinn, Kayla Hamilton, Nathalie Thomas, and Tiffany Webb took full control of the floor with athletic movements and powerful execution. Each dancer had a strong use of her core, with great transitioning from a quick leg tilt to a contraction movements in the back. There appeared to be elements from multiple genres, including Horton, African, ballet, and contemporary. Overall, the movement was interesting and captivating to the eye and had me fully connected from their entrance to exit of the stage.

Photo credited to Richelle Gribble
Pictured: Jacqui Defranca, Bahareh Ebrahimazadeh,
Renee Kester, Devin Oshiro, Lavinia Vago
Lastly, "A slant to the right", choreographed by Mike Esperanza of BARE Dance Company, had me on the edge of my seat and eager to dance with the performers. Featured dancers, Jacqui Defranca, Bahareh Ebrahimazadeh, Renee Kester, Devin Oshiro, and Lavinia Vago
were a collectively strong female unit, with passion and devotion to Esperanza's intent in the choreography. The piece started off with a rocking motion from each dancer and evolved into impressive and interesting movement that seemed spider-like and animalistic at times. Esperanza's choreography included a sense of inverted movement that reminded of contortionists as well as jagged and twitchy motions that perked my attention. The dancers had a great awareness of each other with intertwining moments and cannons of dance sequences. Each female had outstanding body control, leg extensions, and were blessed with gorgeous feet! I was intrigued by the interesting movement and wanted more choreography. This was truly a well-done piece.

BONUS PIECE: One of the showcase's directors, Gierre Godley had choreographed and performed in "II. Twins" and "III. Misfit" from "Project 44". "II. Twins" featured Godley and dancer Nile Baker, in which they demonstrated great unison. They had an individual aesthetic in how their bodies took the choreography, in which they looked different but performed the same movement. The choreography worked well with the music and had moments of working against the music, creating a pleasant contrast to the piece's overall character. There were unexpected but beautiful leg extensions and a penche moment that was picture perfect. The choreography transitioned well with "Misfit", which featured soloist Patrick John O'Neill. He proved to have great ballet training, with his battement going up beyond his head. Godley incorporated great moments of stillness, great floor choreography and use of space, as well as contrasting O'Neill's movement to the "twins" solidified gestures. The dancers performed in socks, which enhanced the transitions across the floor and with lifts. The piece was well performed, and I would love to see it again!

As I mentioned earlier, I could not have been happier as a spectator to this performance. The arts are truly an important factor to society, which sometimes gets overlooked and under appreciated. Godley commented on the festival's mission, saying this is an "outreach to each other and the audience"  and going further to say, "emerging dancers and choreographers need to stick together". I am in full agreement and support of Sobers & Godley's mission.

Be sure to support and look for upcoming showcases by visiting
And for more pictures from the show click on "Dance Review Pix & Vids".

This was a soiree to remember, and I look forward to the next showcase. Sobers & Godley is on the right track of promoting the arts and educating the community through the media of dance.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

So People Vote for the Wrong Reasons (SYTYCD Top 20)

Last week's results of "So You Think You Can Dance" were quite interesting. After Tabitha and Napoleon's group piece, choreographed to "Beautiful People" by Marilyn Manson, they announced 4 dancers would be going home:  2 male, 2 female. It sounds like a harsh number, but after all, this was the 2nd week the top 20 performed without elimination. Though I had a few favorites of the night, this post is really about covering my pros and cons of the show, which might make sense for why there are "favorites" and why those who get eliminated REALLY get eliminated.

pictured: Alexa & Daniel
photo credited to
Pros of "So You Think You Can Dance"
1. A variety of dance genres on the show educates the public of different styles.
     -Having different genres allows for different tastes and promotes that one style isn't necessarily "better" than another, but simply different!
2. There is great exposure to great choreographers.
3. The show helps flourish dancers in all genres, which develops well-rounded dancers.
4. Honest opinions and feedback from professionals in the dance world allows for constructive criticism from which to grow for dancers and choreographers on the show.
5. This season, dancers are being "saved" by judges, rather than voted off for "not being good enough".

Cons of "So You Think You Can Dance"
1. Dancers are getting voted off by people who are voting for looks, personalities, and tricks in the choreography!
     - Non-dancers are easily impressed by dance pieces that are flashy and have tricks. They may not appreciate the beauty of a piece with simplistic character, movement, or emotional commitment, nor understand different types of dance with different means of technique and standards for that specific style. Therefore, if a choreographer on the show isn't showcasing "wow" turn-sequences, "bam" leg extensions, and "uhhh-mazing" flips and lifts, voters don't "like" the piece and won't vote.

The beauty of dance is the array of styles, choice of music or use of silence, different body types, and the list goes on and on. But I feel like viewers are instantly connected to dancers on the show who have an interesting life-story and are emotionally drawn to them. Or they are attracted to the personality of a dancer who is funny, outgoing, and is handsome or pretty with a nice physique. Agreed, this might enhance a dancer's overall persona, but I feel like voters are forgetting about dance ability and are giving up too quickly on well-trained dancers with mounds of potential. Opinions are opinions, so I'm not mad at those who vote: I just wish they were more aware of what factors to consider when they pick up the phone, text, or click online for the dancers they want to stay in the competition. Granted, all the dancers on the show have talent and deserve growth and exposure, but there's a lot more to the dance world outside "So You Think You Can Dance" that most people may not be aware of.

With that said, the pros clearly outweigh the single con! So, yes the show is definitely still worth watching, but for all the voters out there: know WHO you are voting for and WHY.

I thought the results of last week's episode were quite interesting, because I was surprised at the dancers who were sent home. There were 4 great, strong, technical dancers that were the first to be eliminated, despite the fact a few of the remaining dancers had weaker performances but prevailed on the show. The dancers sent home were two girls, Janaya and Alexa, and two boys Nick and Daniel. I wish them nothing but the best with their dance careers. So for all the voters out there, don't vote for the wrong reasons for upcoming episodes of "So You Think You Can Dance". Your vote affects the future of talented dance hopefuls: it's no game show, it's the epitome of "live, laugh, & dance"!

photo credited to:


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Latin Flare: Muy Caliente!

To view a set of dance performances through a means of cultural empowerment is truly a beautiful experience. From July 12th-15th at the Dance New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City, The Latin Choreographers Festival celebrated its 5th Anniversary, dedicating the season to the memory of Mexican choreographer, Jose Limon. After hearing the title "Latin Choreographers Festival", a major question popped into my head: is this a Latin event solely presenting Latin dances? However, after looking into the festival's background, I discovered the set of performances was an opportunity to highlight a versatile group of Latin choreogrpahers with pieces that varied immensley from each other. This set of performances, and the goal of the festival in general, break away from Latin stereotypes of just Latin-based dance. I believe these choreographers have pulled from their culture and heritage and immersed their individual personalities into their work.

The run of the show included two sets of programs: program A, which featured Limon Company's dancer, Daniel Fetecua Soto on opening night. and program B. Overall, both programs featured works that were aesthetically pleasing to the eye and greatly displayed variety. Each piece was memorable for its own reasons, and I wish I could talk a little bit about each piece! However, with limited space, I'll cover the top 5 pieces, of the two shows combined,  that really stood out to me in a positive light and had me emotionally connected.

Photo credited to Rachel Neville
Pictured: Katia Garza and Sebastian Serra
"Ojala" was choreographed by Ana Cuellar and featured dancers, Katia Garza and Sebastian Serra. Cuellar's pointe work was performed beautifully by Garza, with great strength and body control. There was a great level of difficulty in the technique through solo moments as well as the partnering, which was done effortlessly; it was smooth like butter, but had the perfect touch of spice with dynamic jumps and movement. Cuellar enhanced the choreography with the great depiction of presenting the relationship of the dancers. I could see the sense of not wanting to leave each other through Garza and Serra'a emotional commitment to the piece, and I commend them for drawing me into their emotional journey. There was a chic, simplistic look with the costumes and lighting, and I also loved the use of a Latin song to salute the theme of the festival. Overall, the piece was well- choreographed and performed.

Photo credited to Rachel Neville
Pictured: Steven Gray
"Tree" was choreographed by Eloy Barragan and performed by Steven Gray. This piece legitimately had me melting in my seat. It started off with Gray in a center spotlight, all the way downstage, with his arms outreached to the side and his back to the audience. A strong start eagerly had me waiting for what was to come next. Gray is quite a tall dancer, and I must say, most tall people with long limbs do not know how to use their body very well. Gray proved me wrong: he had total control and awareness of his body as he moved elegantly across the intimate setting of the stage. He had beautiful leg extensions, gorgeous attitude turns, and great commitment to Barragan's movement. Gray had moments where he released his neck and threw his head back, and when he did, I felt so connected. I was breathing for him and with him as he danced. I was so mesmerized, I could barely write during the piece! I commend Gray and Barragan for a successfully graceful piece.

Photo credited to Rachel Neville
Pictured: Charli Brissey and Felix Cruz

"Other Side of Someday" was choreographed and performed by Felix Cruz and featured Charli Brissey. The piece started off with Cruz, wearing a loose-fitted tank top and underwear, downstage center in a dim light with Brissey starting upstage and walking from the shadows towards Cruz. The music reminded me of buzzing mosquitos and with little movement onstage, I was curious to know how the piece would develop. Well, it certainly developed when Brissey abruptly pulled Cruz's hair and yanked his head back as he fell to the ground. There were violent gestures of throwing Cruz around the stage, slapping him across the face, and Cruz even slapping himself across the face. It had to hurt! I had never seen a piece quite like this. People in the audience began to laugh at the self-mutilation, but I didn't feel comfortable to laugh because of the uncertainty about the piece's meaning. The piece completely shifted when Cruz turned toward the audience and lip synced "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". It was a provocative piece that evoked many emotions and kept me guessing through its entirety. The piece made a huge statement and was most certainly memorable. I would say it was in a category of its own and was one of my favorites of the night!

Photo credited to Rachel Neville
Pictured: Manon Parent and Manuel Vignouelle
"In A Box" was choreographed and performed by Manuel Vignoulle and featured Manon Parent. This piece was "best in show" for my taste! The piece started off with great suspense: no lights and the sound of breathing through the speakers. Soon after, with the lights still off, the breathing turned into a spoken word segment. Parent was in a center spotlight with movement that paralleled the spoken word about being in a box. She then opened her "box" and movements and allowed Vignouelle into her kinesphere as he entered the stage. There was great unison of choreography, a beautiful connection between the two, and admirable control of the body. The dancers were not afraid to breathe onstage; it was as though, the breath was choreographed into the movement and heightened the energy of the piece. They also proved to be fearless of making noise with their feet as they took advantage of the stage and fully embodied the movement. I appreciated the fact my seat shook from their moments of exaggerating their stomps across stage. There was a great quality of movement of fluidity with moments of sharp, jagged motions. Parent's raw energy and movement  reminded me of  Leigh Lijoi, who performed Nicole M. Corea's "Conversations of One", featured in program B. Both Lijoi and Parent shared great technique, emotional connection, and full embodiment of the two different pieces. I commend them both! But in all honesty, Vignouelle's "In A Box" stole the show. I felt like crying, smiling and dancing when the piece ended. A job well-done.

Photo credited to Rachel Neville
Pictured: Sevin Ceviker, Ahmaud Culver, and Nejla Y. Yatkin
Lastly, "2 Long 2 Love" was choreographed and performed by Nejla Y. Yatkin and featured Sevin Ceviker and Ahmaud Culver. This piece had an elegance and visual set up that was captivating to the eye. The rose petals over the entire stage were a tangible establishment of love and connection. I had goosebumps watching the leg extensions and strength in Ceviker's body. She was in total control of that stage, emotionally and through technical execution. The duet between Ceviker and Culver had beautiful lifts and grace and intertwined perfectly when Yatkin joined in the movement. There was a great balance of solo moments and group choreography. The piece was certainly delightful and very mesmerizing to watch.

As a bonus piece, "Hidden Souls", choreographed by the festival's founder and director, Ursula Verduzco, and featured dancers Lucia Campoy and Jorge Fuentes, with Laura DiOrio, Shannon Maynor, Kelli Youngman, Mary Susan Sinclair, and Saki Aoyama was another great work. The sound of cathedral bells echoed from the stage at the start of the piece, with Fuentes dismissing the pleading motions of Campoy. She wore a black dress and had a black veil over her head, covering everything but her eyes. She appeared to be searching for freedom, especially freedom of speech. Fuentes pushes her away as she visually cries out to him. Verduzco's choreography displayed strong movement and had a great use of the stage. Campoy brought out the other five female dancers, similarly dressed, as Fuentes exits the stage. The choreography was set very well and wasn't overwhelming with the six women on the relatively small stage. As an audience member, I can see the sense of wanting to speak and the piece ended with Campoy being carried offstage by the other females dancers overhead, as though it were a funeral march. Perhaps Campoy was able to speak but speaking out was the death of her. The piece was well choreographed, and I was quite impressed.

My "pointe" is that overall, the Latin Choreographers Festival's 2012 season was a success and receives  4/5 stars from me! Be sure to support and get more information by checking out their website.

And get more pictures from the show by clicking on "Dance Review Pix & Vids" under pages. Great set of performances, and I look forward to next year's season!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dance Moms: Worst Birthday Party Ever (Episode 19)

Well by the results of this week's poll of "Who do you want to see at the top of the Abby Lee Dance Company pyramid this week?", majority of votes got what they wanted! Chloe was at the top this week, followed by Maddie, Nia, Brooke, who was off probation, Mackenzie, and Paige. I have to side with Abby for making Paige the bottom of the pyramid. You never purposely change choreography and put it onstage without discussing it with the choreographer. As a choreographer, the piece you create becomes your baby and really does represent your reputation as a choreographer. Paige and her mom, Kelly, need to learn that you don't change choreography without permission, even if you don't like it!

When the camera switched over to Cathy and her Candy Apples, I was surprised to hear Kendall and her mom, Jill, left the studio and the competition team! I guess Jill's reputation as a studio hopper is true, and I'm curious to know where she and Kendall will end up next. Back to Abby's perhaps with more bribing gifts?

I thought it was exciting both the Candy Apples and Abby Lee's girls got the opportunity to audition for "Drop Dead Diva". It would be a great experience for any child, whether it be a student of Abby's or Cathy's.

When Abby discussed assignments for the Starbound competition they would be attending in Atlanta, she mentioned Mackenzie was not in the group number but that an older girl would be joining them...Welcome back Payton! She's a strong dancer and has great potential, and I think she learned from her mistake last season when she joined the competition team for a week and mentioned she thought she was better than most girls in the group. Little bit of a cocky attitude and a bold statement to say aloud, but I think she's learned from her experience, and Abby hasn't held it against her.

The camera switched to the viewing room with all the moms, who were discussing the assignments, which included Payton having a solo. Although Payton's mom, Leslie, really does get on my nerves with her attitude and some of her comments, she made a good point that the other moms really are never satisfied. They have the tendency to complain if one of their daughters has a trio, doesn't have a trio, another girl has a solo, but another one doesn't. You can't always get what you want in life, which brings me to Abby's being upset with Chloe going on a class trip.

I understand the girls and their mothers sign a contract before the dance season starts, and they do have certain obligations and standards to maintain as a dance company member. However, they are KIDS! Just like in life, you may have plans, but there are bound to be detours and side streets that come up. In Chloe's case, she should have gone to her school trip and had no hounding from Abby. It's not like she missed the last rehearsal before the competition! She had one more rehearsal before competing, and she nailed it! When it came time for the competition, Chloe performed beautifully! She did so well and had great control of her technique. Afterwards she commented, "I came onstage with a new confidence, and I killed it. That's what I'm going to do every week." She even got a hug from Miss Abby! That's a first!

Maddie really is a great young performer, and she has such a better attitude this season. She said she was proud of Chloe and happy for her. And Maddie seems to display a sense of vulnerability. Before going onstage she mentioned to Chloe that she was nervous, which is behavior she never used to display in past episodes. She has humbled herself and is maturing beautifully.

With the trio's performance, Nia's fall out of her front aerial had a dramatic music change. Paige, Nia, and Mackenzie were so hard on themselves after their dance, with Mackenzie, saying, "We're gonna be in trouble!" I mean I'm a dancer, and I can't do an aerial or front walkover! They're acro skills are great! There's a difference between fearing a teacher and respecting a teacher. The girls "respect" Abby because of the fear they have of her, which is so sad! Even Chloe was nervous to go into rehearsal a few days before because of her absence while she was on her school trip. It's nice to be committed and have the desire to win, but it shouldn't be the basis of everything. Take responsibility, but remember to have fun with what you do! As viewers of the show, I feel like we don't get to see the girls have fun during class or rehearsals. We always see Abby yelling at the girls or at their moms. (Which on a side note: it's so inappropriate to yell in front of kids the way the conversations get so heated between Abby and the moms!)

And at awards we saw Chloe's solo got 4th, Maddie's solo got 1st, Payton's solo got 2nd, the trio placed 5th, and the group got 1st. Overall, the girls did a great job, and Abby and the moms should most certainly be proud. After all, they are extremely talented, young dancers. They should be happy their girls have been blessed with such talent. Simple as that!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

1st Step!

Wow! So after about *cough cough* hours *cough*... I think I'm finally starting to understand and get into my blog world. It's all about taking steps, right? And I am doing just that! My 1st post! Woooo! So, welcome to my mind and my thoughts about current dance events. I have a lotttt of great stuff coming up this week, including coverage from "Dance Moms", "So You Think You Can Dance", and a stage performance of The 5th Annual "Latin Choreographers Festival" that was held this past weekend at Dance New Amsterdam Theatre. Mmmmhmmm, you are all in for some dance-y treats. Yummy! Don't forget to take the poll about who you want to see at the top of Abby Lee's pyramid this week on "Dance Moms"! Oh, and don't forget, live, laugh, & dance!