By Walter Rutledge
One of the many obstacles an emerging artist faces is visibility. The philosophical riddle, “If a tree falls in the forest but nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” addresses the differences of the observed and unobserved worlds. The Dance Gallery Festival provided visibility in a professional venue for sixteen emerging and established dancer makers.
The two-day festival took place on October 15 and 16 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater located in Midtown Manhattan. The state of the art 250 seat theater was an ideal venue to present works of from across the national landscape. These artists were given the opportunity to share their vision with audiences in the epicenter of dance- New York City.
The performances mark the fourth year of arts presenting by The Dance Gallery Festival. In that relatively short period of time the number of entry requests has grown from twenty to over two hundred. Founder Astrid von Ussar has curated a diverse and noteworthy group of artists of the 2010 season.
The program opened with Loni Landon’s Nothing is Ever Finished. Christopher Ralph and Rachelle Rafailledes performed the duet with great presence and physical agility. Arresting would by an accurate synonym for the work; the movement started, stopped and suspended time creating a premeditated level of tension.
What More? by Houston Metropolitan Dance Company choreographer Joe Celej was a very different duet with a brave approach. It had a Zen-like quality, void of violence, melodrama, or conflict. It was sensual and sensory satisfying; bringing to mind lying in bed with a lover, an old movie on the television and the New York Times strewn across the comforter.
Jeremy McQueen channeled George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco for his offering Concerto Nuovo. The work boasted strong choreographic structure and a conscientious use of the music. Dancer Camille Workman, currently a dancer in the Broadway cast of Disney’s The Lion King, has a quality that makes her an immediate standout.
Francesca Harper’s work Meet me for Cocktails was more a of theatre work, than a pure dance offering. The sophisticated tongue and cheek work featured a witty well-scripted dialog, a great soundtrack, and cleanly crafted dancing by Harper and Karine Plaintadit. Ms. Harper’s a cappella version of Chain of Fools was dead on, but the scene-stealer was a song parody performed by Plaintadit.
Von Ussar is truly addressing a need in the performing arts community. To share the vision of the next generation of dance makers with one the savviest audiences in the world. The sixteen works presented in The Dance Gallery Festival were an example of the diverse and abundant talent in need of exposure.
The event was a true gallery of performing art, and the evening was reminiscent of traveling from room to room in a quaint downtown artist’s enclave. To its determent there was just too much art on the walls.
A project of this scope demands more days with fewer works presented on each program, so we can truly savor the works. This ultimately comes down to finances. It is our sincerely hope that The Dance Gallery Festival will attract the financial support needed to continue and expand on it’s important mission.
In Photo: Camille Workman and Company
Photo by: Yi- Chun Wu
Videographer Jamar Carr