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    Gaining Voice

    "Gaining" by losing

    Jenny Rocha overcame the last-minute loss of her performance space to present "Gaining Voice," including a stunningly beautiful piece about the experiences of women set to the women's recorded interviews.


    To say that emerging choreographers face an uphill battle is an understatement of mammoth proportion. Case in point: Imagine organizing an evening of dance, pouring fists of your own money into rehearsal space, costumes and publicity, only to be forced to cancel two weeks before the scheduled opening because the theater that's presenting you suddenly refuses to honor its end of the bargain.

    Choreography by: Jenny Rocha.
    Dancers: Jenny Rocha, Jill Meadows, Christine Poland, Abbey Silverman, Shevaun Smythe, Becca Rozell, Leah Thomas.

    Related links: Official site
    Such was the nightmarish predicament of Jenny Rocha, the 26-year-old artistic director of Rocha Dance Theater only a few short weeks ago. Fortunately, the god of creative fulfillment looked kindly down upon her and all was recovered in the nick of time. Refusing to be silenced, Rocha's "Gaining Voice" and Other Works is currently showing at the Chashama Theater on 42nd Street through June 17.

    The most vital work on the program is "Gaining Voice," a stunningly beautiful meditation on the experiences of women and their often-limited power to express themselves within today's society. Set to a manipulated score of recorded interviews, the cast of six women — Rocha, Jill Meadows, Christine Poland, Abbey Silverman, Shevaun Smythe, Becca Rozell (week one), Leah Thomas (week two) — fills the stage sheathed simply in pure white dresses designed by Fatima Rocha. At first restrained and held tight to the body, the full fabric of the skirts is gradually released, adding a flowing freedom to the movement.

    Gaining Voice  
    The dancers weave in and out of symmetric patterns with an earnest honesty that appears at times angelic. Growing in intensity, the whirling skirts create a mesmerizing blur that becomes a visually electric metaphor for the driving spirit that conquers adversity. Listed as a work-in-progress, Rocha has already achieved a poignant commentary that speaks boldly as it unfolds with intelligence, insight and beauty.

    On a lighter note, "Bitter Sweet" presents a comedic flirtation firmly grounded in Chaplin-esque charm. Rocha and longtime collaborator Christine Poland are lady and gentleman respectively who clamor onstage, meet abruptly and begin to communicate coyly through clever manipulation of costumes and props.

      Gaining Voice
    The real fun is achieved through a brilliant costuming coup, as it becomes obvious that both characters are covered head to toe in opposing strips of velcro. Poland and Rocha literally stick to one another and dive into a series of humorous configurations that are made even more delightful by the sound quality of the velcro. Gradually, Rocha creates a dynamic rhythmic interplay of foot stomping, prop tapping, skirt scratching and velcro tears that accelerates into an impressively intricate frenzy.

    "Molds of a Girl" chronicles the transformation of a woman from automaton to free thinker and manages the difficult task of moving from comedy to introspection to touching vulnerability in one cohesive oeuvre. Thoroughly convincing, Christine Poland is especially strong in this solo as she embraces the role in a nuanced and mature performance. Rocha has a notable talent for creating dance that is both aesthetically interesting and powerfully communicative.

    Rocha Dance Theater is just one of countless startup dance companies struggling to express themselves and stay afloat in the New York's vast ocean of culture and entertainment. While nothing worth having is easily obtained, Rocha's emerging Voice is a promising example of what hard work, determination and talent can achieve.

    JUNE 15, 2001

    Reader comments on Gaining Voice:

  • About Jenny Rocha's Dance Theater   from Jenny Rocha, Feb 9, 2005

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