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    2017-2018 reviews:


    Whole Sky
    Photo by Anja Hitzenberger

    All of it

    Choreographer Risa Jaroslow's latest search for wholeness yields the successful "Whole Sky."


    Risa Jaroslow's evening-length piece began forming shortly after 9/11 with an attempt to discover how people define and manage to find "wholeness" in their lives. On so many levels, this piece feels complete.

    Company: Risa Jaroslow & Dancers.
    Choreography by: Risa Jarolow.
    Directed by: Risa Jaroslow.
    Dancers: Takemi Kitamura, Elise Knudson, Omagbitse Omagbemi, Rommel Salveron, Christopher Williams; with Adwoa Akhu, Chris Cruz, Attila Pomlenyi, John F. Regan Jr., Nancy Rosensweig .
    Music by: Steve Elson.
    Production design by: Clint E.B. Ramos.
    Art direction by: Clint E.B. Ramos.
    Costumes by: Clint E.B. Ramos.
    Lighting design by: Chloe Z. Brown.
    Video: Barbara Bickart.
    Dance Theater Workshop
    219 West 19th St.
    0, 0000 - Nov. 13, 2004

    With sheer beauty of movement, the five company dancers: Takemi Kitamura, Elise Knudson, Omagbitse Omagbemi, Rommel Salveron, and Christopher Williams — are seamlessly smooth and effortlessly interconnected, all equal parts of a whole.

    With apparent ease, five 'community' dancers: Dr. Adwoa Akhu, LGBT teens Chris Cruz and Attila Pomlenyi, fireman John F. Regan Jr., and midwife Nancy Rosensweig — complement the 'pro' dancers and make the piece a shared experience for the entire audience.

    Perfectly simple music by Steve Elson played on clarinet, upright bass, acoustic guitar and bari sax, fits the clean lighting design by Chloe Z. Brown and tasty video bits by Barbara Bickart. They are projected onto versatile costumes by Clint E.B. Ramos.

    Jaroslow's choreography is filled out with recorded narrations of the performers. The storytelling ranges from simple explanations of dancers' names to definitions of wholeness: 'mangoes,' 'the complete acceptance of my parents,' fireman John Regan's experience on and after 9/11, and his great description of social dancing as something tingling and exciting that lets you walk away totally content. The stories further a sense of shared experience and commonality even as they are uniquely personal.

    The very act of breathing remains central to the choreography.  

    With a wonderfully upside down and abstract video intro of breathing and bare people projected over blue on the back wall, Jaroslow herself opens the dancing with a beautiful solo in front of the five core dancers. The very act of breathing remains central to the choreography, with breath in the soundtrack and in the movement.

    Throughout, too, there's a sense of people passing each other off to one another as a communal, supportive act. The core dancers do this so fluidly that when the non-pros join them it simply adds texture and fullness to the dancing and gives the piece a feeling of inclusiveness and truth.

    Among the many well formed groupings, Takemi Kitamura's solo and the duos of Kitamura with Elise Knudson, and Knudson with Christopher Williams stand out for their beauty, but the duets between core and community dancers may be the most powerful.

    The full-cast ending has Kitamura walking slowly across the shifting backs and shoulders of the others with their help. All softly fall down and then finally rise together to continue breathing This caps off the hour-long "Whole Sky" beautifully and, yes, makes the evening whole.

    DECEMBER 17, 2004

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