REVIEW: Here and Now, Choreographers Presented in Austin

Choreographer–dancer Katherine Hodges, with her producing organization Ready|Set|Go!, in is her fourth season of presenting plurality. What sets Hodges apart from other organizations doing the same types of performances—short, unrelated works ripped from any context they may have had—is her dedication to mostly serious choreographers. While I applaud her effort to curate in a city where, as I recently heard it put, no one is a hobbyist, the gala-style performance model is still fluff. But what’s an indie choreo to do? The artist-to-audience ratio is too low to support, say, an annual evening-length performance of work by each of the eight choreographers represented in Here and Now, at the Mexican American Cultural Center on June 16th, so the artists must glob it together in collaborative concerts. The effect, even when the work is very good, is rushed.

For example, Hodges’ Sinking, which opened the program, was an ebb-and-bob for five dancers, whose stretchy, feel-good movements turned dangerous with a leaning-back plank that required them to twist out of it to save themselves. To the lulling minor meditations and dissonant strings of “Lust” by Cinders, the piece, as has often been my experience with Hodges’s work, may have been less simple than it presented. Her work is sensitive, quiet in its approach. To go anywhere, it requires time to develop its context. Listen to “Lust” on Soundcloud here.

But Lorn MacDougal, choreographer, and Alain Le Razer, composer and musician, have learned the difficulties of giving free-standing concerts in Austin. A year after they arrived here, from New York by way of Europe, their eccentric but fascinating and affordable concert was poorly attended, and they haven’t self-produced since. In their Round the Bend, three dancers in midriff tops tried to respond to the reverberating sounds from Le Razer’s aqua Telecaster, but they were unrelentingly cute where an edge seemed to be required.

It seemed strange, despite the inclusion of two other films on the program, that MacDougal and Le Razer’s cinematic work was excluded.  Nevertheless, the work-in-progress film by Bug Davidson featuring dancer-choreographer duo two left feet (Danielle Casey and Maia McCoy), and Tiny Bubbles, a movement study by Ruta Perzynska and Hodges, were thoughtful pieces. (Excerpt from Bug Davidson’s work in progress, with Danielle Casey and Maia McCoy featured below.)

The studio-theater space at the MACC lacks raised seating but has wood flooring, high ceilings, and a central white wall that creates the backstage space. Julie Nathanielsz, in her sensation-based solo, Yo, Genesis, was the only choreographer to embrace the context of the space itself. In her good-natured sourcing of movement, she explored the wall’s effect and acknowledged the room’s characteristics and energy.

Julie Nathanielsz (photo by Charlie Llewellin)

A comic improvisation piece, Prism Prisoners Theme Song, by Kelly Hasandras, Todd Mein, and Jay Byrd, had oddball charm but was much too short to garner extensive interest. In contrast, Piece of Sheet, by Janna Rock, developed a concept more fully (although length doesn’t equal development—it could have used some editing). Early on, Carissa Topham and Mariclaire Gamble, shrouded in sheets, echoed butoh with slow movements and poignant poses, while Brent Fariss drew singular notes out of his double bass. Later unshrouded, the dancers shifted and made fitful poses in and out of taped-off squares on the floor.

Symbolism had too heavy a hand in Statement #8: Mind Your p’s and q’s, by Amy Myers in collaboration with the dancers. While there were moments of depth when individual performances became intimate, the trope of makeup (white) getting inevitably smeared on costumes (black) did not gain poignancy despite a full house of eight dancers.

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