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    Mana Kawamura and dancers in New Steps Spring 2008
    Mana Kawamura and dancers

    still fresh

    newsteps keeps showcasing interesting new work


    The newsteps series has been presenting new choreographers and new choreography since 1994 and has been consistently interesting and innovative, with a broad range of styles; it is a good representative cross-section of dance in NYC. This doesn't necessarily mean that all the pieces are consistently good; there are usually one or two sparkling gems and one or two duds, though which are which depends somewhat on the perspective of each audience member. Balletophiles may eat up pieces that hew closer to ballet and Judson Church/Movement Research fans may find quirky solos their favorite pieces. The unifying element in all the newsteps choices is a feeling of taking a choreography or performance style and pulling it just that much further, in quality and/or originality.

    Choreography by: Mana Kawamura, Dorian Nuskind-Oder, Jennifer Lott, Beth Simons, Heidi Latsky.
    Dancers: Mana Kawamura, Juri Onuki, Ari Someya, Satoshi Takao, Nana Tsuda, Dorian Nuskind-Oder, Sarah Atkins, Jennifer Lott, Marcos Vedoveto, Brent Whitney, Beth Simons, Meredish Fages, Annette Fletcher, Jillian Hollis.
    Lighting design by: Chung-Jung Liao.
    Video: Margaret Weber.
    newsteps choreographer's series Chen Dance Center April 24-26, 2008

    One of the gems of this series was certainly Mana Kawamura's "Celebration". The dancing, by Kawamura, Juri Onuki, Ari Someya, Satoshi Takao and Nana Tsuda is sharp, clean and dynamic. The choreography is a mixture of focused stillness and bursts of precise abandon, often by one or two performers breaking out of the bigger, slower group. Kawamura dances with the clarity of crystal, and the choreography plays with the idea of people as robots or mechanical toys, especially as the piece begins. The celebration element is a bit unclear, but interesting movement motifs, creative structuring and seamless group work make this piece a joy to watch.

    Dorian Nuskind-Oder's "An Unfolded Place" is an odd, sometimes humorous, always interesting solo, danced fluidly through sometimes extreme positions. There is a vague cowboy/cowgirl theme reflected in a song about cowboys capturing hearts and then riding off further up the trail and in the plaid Western shirt Nuskind-Oder wears, and "unfolded" captures the feel of the piece in a word.

    Jennifer Lott's "In Light" takes ballet and adds some flavor and floorwork. The attractive quartet of Sarah Atkins, Jennifer Lott, Marcos Vedoveto and Brent Whitney dance mainly as couples, with plenty of spinning lifts, usually smooth and sensual. This piece feels fresh and manages to be pretty without being precious.

    "Folly Road Boulevard" is more or less on the other end of the spectrum. This piece by Beth Simons is primarily a video (by Margaret Weber) of a woman being watered as if she were a plant. The dancing is fairly rudimentary and almost childlike, which could be humorous or just silly depending on one's perspective.

    Heidi Latsky's "Luxxury Suite" manages to take punk-inflected high-energy techno music and pour it into frenetic ballet solos, each of the three being delicious on its own. Meredith Fages, Annette Fletcher and Jillian Hollis (and Jeffrey Freeze as synchronous duet partner in the third piece on Thursday and Friday) tore it up on pointe shoes or not, with the middle solo spotlit like a disco movie highlight performance. Light drama at high speed, this suite was a great show-closer. This piece is far more interesting than previous Latsky pieces I'd seen and regains the bright energy that made Goldhuber & Latsky such fun.

    Each of the five pieces felt like it arrived at its intended destination and made the journey worth watching, which means newsteps continues to make good choices. There will be a second series later this year.

    MAY 2, 2008

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