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Memorable performances in 2006

The year in dance 

Our datebook of memorable performances

Life during wartime: Doug Varone's    Boats Leaving at American Dance Festival

Photo by Lissa Gotwals

Life during wartime: Doug Varone's Boats Leaving at American Dance Festival

Jan. 14: Bickett Gallery begins another year supporting developing dance artists (one of the traits that will win it an Indy Art Award in July) as Renay Aumiller curates an adventurous evening in Five Points. Megan Mazarick and partner Les Rivera use industrial-grade hip hop to explore the inner rooms of a biracial relationship in the suddenly chilling Lovejoy Diver, after Aumiller and Ashlee Ramsey probe the aesthetics of high-speed collision—with eyes closed at times—in a harrowing Wasted Time.

Jan. 21: Despite systemic technical glitches, Steve Clarke's photo-choreographic experiments with dancers effectively comment on memory and alienation from the body in a concert at Carrboro Yoga Company. Before veering into melodrama, Camille DeSantis and Zahra Lohr's impressively kinetic Something shed, this I become, seems to relive an abusive relationship.

Jan. 27: The N.C. Dance Festival's opening night at Meredith College is blighted by uncooperative sightlines and personnel changes (alban elved's Lena's Bath), melodrama (B.J. Sullivan's knowing my emptiness) and poor editing (Martha Connerton's If Anyone Asks...). Locals Katherine Ferrier and Joan Nicholas-Walker start off strong—but then filibuster—in their respective Latitude and Mental Picture.

Jan. 28: Footnotes Tap Ensemble finally steps forward with Robert Perera'Alleppaca and Mimi Benjamin's Jam, in an otherwise disappointing Bantapba! collaboration with African American Dance Ensemble. They wisely take those works to ADF's Acts to Follow (July 15), before backsliding during a disappointing Oct. 14 Hybridance concert.

Feb. 10: Independent Dancemakers returns after a year's hiatus. In Niki Jurlaewicz's Dulcinea, dancers negotiate angled boundaries as they close in on one another with mathematical precision, before Laura Thomasson returns to the regional stage with the fearless solo, Length and Breath. Her large work, Human Anatomy, needs editing, but clearly represents a quantum leap in multi-media dance, as Bridget Kelly's character embodies a series of gestures—and still images from personal pictures and war and news photography then show their origin. But when other acts don't begin to match the accomplishment of these works, we worry about the curation for the first time.

March 18: Choreo Collective's downward spiral in curation and choreographic achievement largely continues during its annual "Current Collection" concert. Subsequent gaffes at ADF's Acts to Follow (July 8) and Hybridance follow. The only hints at a needed change in artistic fortunes: intriguing dance theater works by Nancy Simpson Carter and K. Rain Leander in a June 3 "Choreo Third" concert, and a Dec. 21 resurrection of Carter's ". . ." at Bickett Gallery.

March 23: Shapiro and Smith reach and fumble for The Big Picture with Anytown, a suite set to music by Springsteen at Duke. Still, affecting character studies made "Saint Genevieve" and "Big Muddy" worth getting through what surrounds them.

April 12: Rafael Lopez-Barrantes' highly stylized and amusing stage movements, in which characters dance their individual suspicions in a tango of surveillance, make Duke Theater Studies' The Special Prosecutor more successful as a work of modern dance than a number of concerts we'll see this year.

April 26: Heather Tatreau's notes from the C train marks an impressive debut in an otherwise lackluster Modernextension concert at UNC.

May 28: Sculptor Siglinda Scarpa invites Art in Motion, an Italian multi-media troupe, to perform at Goathouse Gallery outside Pittsboro. The audience is mesmerized as painter Cinzia Fiaschi translates the heartfelt thoughts of composer Dario Arcidiacono and choreographers Claudia Pellicia and Aida Laterza into real-time images on canvases, during the show.

June 8: Paul Taylor opens the American Dance Festival with an emotionally counterfeit reading of the classic Aureole and the pointed Banquet of Vultures, in which a dapper little man with a very familiar, bow-legged swagger leads a group of soldiers and protesters to their doom. It's a convincing indictment on Bush's war in Iraq—until Taylor spokesperson John Tomlinson hastily notes after the show that it's "universal," and certainly not about the current conflict.

Moments after that breathtaking failure of nerve, an 11-year-old girl in the audience asks him, "Why are they making the president look like that?"

June 17: K. Rain Leander chills ADF audiences at an Acts to Follow concert by slowly walking toward an elevated stage—and then slithering onto it, backward and upside down, in a Butoh-tinged excerpt from her full-length Beauty.

June 28: Chinese ADF student He Jin Jang turns the game Rock, Paper, Scissors into a choreographic horror film when the warring commodities possess various parts of her body against her will.

June 29: In Alex Shmurak's impossibly intricate solo in Emanuel Gat's K626, after a woman repeatedly reaches upward as if to try on different images of the feminine, we see how they don't fit—and how hard they are to take off. The ADF's only rival to Gat's super-compressed choreography was Doug Varone's Boats Leaving (July 6), a cascade of morphing segues in which a band of refugees negotiates a disaster zone equally suggestive of Baghdad or post-Katrina New Orleans.

July 3: The destruction of a blue-and-white mandala symbolizes the shattering of Tibetan culture in Shen Wei's Re—(part 1), a ritual of stoicism and longing we'll see finished at ADF in 2007.

July 8: Helen Simoneau's passionate, character-driven choreography in Celui qui regarde at an ADF Acts to Follow concert seems a tribute to painter Egon Schiele.

July 10: Choreographer Larry Keigwin impresses most when he cans the comedy. The ADF premiere of his Urban Birds proves his company's strongest work, an exquisite expression of one brief moment where a human love triangle achieves perfect equilibrium.

July 15: Though it needs editing, Marsha Connerton's 5,4,3,2,1 baffles us with the fluidity and stability of its interlocking duet, trio and quartet sub-groups. The closing quintet makes a fantastic machine of five gifted dancers.

July 18: ADF students Yo Smith Kwon and Daniel Senning impress with aesthetic savvy and advanced quick-change technique in a midnight showing of At the Joshua Tree.

July 19: ADF student Catherine Galasso had impressed audiences the week before with a showing of Hold Me While I Make It, a satire on modern love. That was before her screening of Distant Commotion, a video work that manages to channel Patti Smith and Anais Nin.

July 20: In Maria—Alegrias, Noche Flamenca dancer Juan Oglalla walks a polyrhythmic tightrope of 64th-notes strung by master cantaores and guitarists. The concert reminds ADF audiences of the passion we've been missing most of this season.

Oct. 26: Ratan Thiyam's Nine Hills One Valley at UNC's Memorial Hall is not the last foreign language work that will apparently lose the majority of its content in translation. A similar fate awaits Eo Sola's lengthy Rain and Drought, Vol. 2 in the same room—and concert series—on Nov. 16.

Dec. 17: A year after their formation, Air Borne Dance Theater, Cornelia Kip Lee's aerial dance troupe, presents their first works at Carrboro's ArtsCenter. Whispering Sophia enchants us with Kelly Colbert's layered Celtic vocals, and Caedra Scott-Flaherty and Lee's nuanced mid-air choreography.

Dec. 21: Griot, elder, choreographer and force of nature Chuck Davis celebrates his 70th birthday—and 50 years in dance—in a gala African American Dance Ensemble performance on the American Tobacco Campus. As they say in West Africa, Ago! (Attention!)

  • Memorable performances in 2006

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