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    the women of Ashley Leite's Zoo in Dance Sampler 2
    Photo by Christopher Duggan
    the women of Ashley Leite's Zoo

    Three More Make Two

    The second Gotham Dance Sampler at the Joyce Theater


    The second Dance Sampler (first) at the Joyce presented by Gotham Arts Exchange featured three more choreographers, each one on their game, though each game is quite different.

    Choreography by: Ashley Leite, Julian Barnett, Sydney Skybetter.
    Produced by: Ken Maldonado.
    Dancers: Ashley Leite: Jessica Jones, Beverly Kerr, Jessica Rajko, Madeline Wilcox, Breckyn Drescher
    Julian Barnett
    Sydney Skybetter: Kristen Arnold, Liz Beres, Norbert De La Cruz III, Kile Hotchkiss, Wheeler Hughes, Jennifer Jones, Jordan Isadore, Delphina Parenti, Gary Schaufeld, Dana Thomas
    Costumes by: Martina Kessler (Leite), Karen Young (Skybetter).
    Joyce Theater
    June 11 and 12, 2011

    Ashley Leite showed by far the best piece I've seen her make — The Zoo, a quintet of femininity. An opening section unlike any other has all five flopping and rolling on knees and thighs, like some sort of exotic animals with no feet to stand on. Their lunging locomotion is elegant, awkward and impressive; it is a bizarre way to move bodies around the stage but also somehow beautiful. Perhaps this is a wholly female species, one that can move without feet and mate without men. But they do evolve, like tadpoles to frogs, into creatures who are quite good on their feet. Unlike frogs, though, they are in no way ugly or ungainly. They are lush creatures, all whipping hair and soft skin, wearing only smooth white sleeved shirts. Their "adult" movement unmistakably shares DNA with the Stephen Petronio company, but this physical skill only enhances their beauty. By the end, they are a fierce tribe of women who stand as a bloc, ready for anything.

    Julian Barnett in Dance Sampler 2
    Photo by Christopher Duggan
    Julian Barnett

    Julian Barnett seems ready for anything, too, but he is never afraid to allow doubt and vulnerability into the mix. Echologue is a solo of b-boy beatboxing and layered soundloops, ethereal and almost religious. The pace and development of this piece are leisurely, in the best way; we continually wait expectantly for the next thing, be it physical or vocal, never knowing what to expect. We certainly don't expect him to stop the sound, well into the journey, and thank us, quietly, for listening. He plays with clothing, hiding in a hoodie or shedding his pants, and wears several options. And he dances, in his own style, awkward and beautiful, and ends, his back to us, with arms up in an offertory V, either delivering or accepting spiritual/cosmic energy.

    Sydney Skybetter seems set on delivering spiritual energy in the softest, least disturbing choreographic way. The result is beautiful and flowing but ultimately bland. Temporary Matters, the first of two pieces shown here, features four dancers in flowing blue, dresses for the women and skirts for the men, with red linings flashing occasional accents of color. Unison, canon, and classical music and movement are Skybetter preferences, though this is not contemporary ballet. Everything has an easy feel on the well-trained dancers, who soothe us with their smoothness. The second piece, Halcyon, has a cast of ten and a musical chairs feel, as a grid of 9 dancers is continually being gently disrupted and reshuffled by the entry of a tenth. It is pretty, again, and the rippling reshuffles are fun to watch for a while, but midway through, any touch of angst would feel like a relief. Alas, this halcyon dance has no room for angst.

    JUNE 23, 2011

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