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    VON USSAR danceworks

    Showcasing strength

    VON USSAR danceworks offered refreshing, original and vigorous works ranging from the soft and lush to the sharp and birdlike.


    VON USSAR danceworks presented a program at Joyce Soho that traveled from languorous and smoldering to full-out explosive, only occasionally stopping along the way. Astrid Von Ussar's choreography has a strong Ailey sensibility, with most of the dancers being Ailey-trained, but there are usually enough unique elements to give the dances originality as well. Excellent lighting design by Stephen Petrilli and costume design, especially by Colleen Leung, really added to high quality performances by the dancers to give the evening a polished and accomplished feel.

    Choreography by: Astrid Von Ussar.
    Dancers: Nasha Thomas-Schmitt (guest), Colleen Cintron, Seiko Fujita-Maekawa, Dominic Guerra, Danon Hinty, Bostjan Ivanjsic, Meredith McGovern-Cooper, Anastasia Soroczynski, Alvon Reed, Tina Vasquez, Andrew Vaughn, Nichelle Wright, Nicholas Wright.
    Costumes by: Colleen Leung, Elena Comendador.
    Lighting design by: Stephen Petrilli.
    Joyce SoHo
    155 Mercer (btw. Houston and Prince)
    July 15-18, 2004

    "Enter My Silence" began, as most subsequent pieces did, softly and beautifully, with low light and soft music. Blues and purples set the mood in sheer hanging fabric and in lighting, with well-chosen music adding layers of lushness and dimension. Much of this piece worked well, especially the partnering of Bostjan Ivanjsic and Seiko Fujita-Maekawa and a section of quickly shifting partnerings as dancers encountered each other passing through the space, but there was also a forced feel to much of the unison floorwork, heavy sliding falls and occasional hard contact. Though it began and ended quietly, this was a piece more about entering/invading space than about silence.

    "Hearts Divided" showcased Nichelle Wright in a well-designed red dress, dancing her heart out in trying to choose between two men, the younger, more awkward Dominic Guerra and the smoother, more sophisticated Alvon Reed. The following trio, "Time Shows No Face," showcased another Wright, this time Nicholas, wearing a flowing skirt that only enhanced his sharp physicality. Lushly expressive dancing by Anastasia Soroczynski and Fujita-Maekawa gave the piece good range, especially the quick smooth beauty of Soroczynski. Music by Wojciech Kilar also made this piece strong but occasionally drifted very close to syrupy.

    VON USSAR danceworks  
    "The Search Goes On" was an aptly titled solo by ex-Ailey dancer Nasha Thomas-Schmitt, who gave a masterful performance of powerful choreography. Brief blackouts cleverly separated the piece into sections, with movement ranging from sharp and birdlike, to dramatic and deliberate, to quickly spinning.

    "Three Ways to Love" presented a second two-men-one-woman triangle, with the men getting the attention this time, especially in a solo by the supersmooth Andrew Vaughn. Reed again played the suave suitor role well, and Danon Hinty gave the woman character a sad, soft and slow quality.

    "And Nothing But The Truth" was an excellent finale. A soft introduction of strings and light percussion gave way to a strangely over-the-top bombastic choral music section that felt somewhere between a Greek tragedy and a Richard Wagner opera, though vigorous movement onstage kept the part from crossing the line, and soothing yet tribal drums soon brought the piece back to an intriguing bit of slow and fast floorwork. Perhaps the most successful combination of music and choreography came with a section of atmospheric strings and "sonar" percussion pings, with a line of dancers slowly crossing the stage like tracings on a radar screen, occasionally broken by single dancers breaking off into airplanes of activity. The music for this piece and for the evening was excellent but truly all over the place. A solo by wild-haired Colleen Cintron stood out after a beautiful quintet of women gradually dropping to the floor as if unable to resist its pull. The active, exciting end of the piece built well and left the audience hooting in appreciation.

      Brief blackouts cleverly separated the piece into sections, with movement ranging from sharp and birdlike, to dramatic and deliberate, to quickly spinning.
    Other than occasional hyperbolic or syrupy moments, the evening was refreshing and successful, with bits of really excellent dancing in wide-ranging choreography, lit exquisitely.

    JULY 23, 2004

    Reader comments on VON USSAR danceworks:

  • super   from Barbra Drnac, Aug 15, 2004
  • good show ;-)   from jahnis, Feb 6, 2005

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