Fringe Festival Blog – Part 8?

I have no business going on vacation this weekend.

I had an amazing dream last night that I was in Berlin. I hate being cliché, romanticizing Europe as much as I do. It’s just nice to have that muse in my mental Rolodex. I am totally stressed about getting some things done before next week having only about 2/3 of the show constructed. Having time off and away this weekend could be a little detrimental to my blood pressure later when I am cramming all this new choreography into a few days. So the story goes. But if there is anything the Yerps have taught me, it is that you have to remember the life part of life.

The last time I was in Chicago it was for a nerdy conference covering the topics of gaming and libraries. I went to about 1,000 sessions and presentations and by the end of it was pleasantly saturated with puns referencing obscure geek culture. I was staying with a friend (and his scowling boyfriend) who lived in a town just south of the city that was not a city at all.

With the free time I had on Sunday I drove down Lake Shore Drive ogling the parks the lake and the architecture. It was kind of sweet because I got an upgrade with the car rental and ended up with a Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible. I was hot shit. Outta sight.

There was a vibe in Chi-town that made me want to explore her more. To really see what she was all about. I’m taking a chance with that this weekend and I cannot fucking wait. I just hate the guilt that comes with the “live a little” bit even though I know that this will be good for my art. . I am just so strapped to my work.

There is much to do in the next coming weeks. I will be happy to be done with the burlesque show only because I have a better plan for Fringe. There is already choreography in place, costumes will be less exhaustive and I will have so much more time to put it all together. I think I am going to slim things down for a change and try to focus on movement alone, sans the fluff.

-Update: I feel much better about going away for the weekend now that I had rehearsal last night. I put all the major pieces together and now I just have to do some touch ups and teach people their individual parts. I’m relying a lot on technology. It is a big help. I post the rehearsal footage online so that the girls (and guy) can review the material during their free time. It helps with memorization, it’s hard for me to retain all the choreography from the show but somehow I manage.

I love the studio where we are rehearsing. It has a great energy to it. It’s located on a major thoroughfare and attracts onlookers, kinda fun. The lovely woman (my new best friend) who owns the joint let me rehearse for free. We had a cute little heart to heart and empathized and sympathized with one another. I get sick thinking about the possible demise of her establishment. I think they have great classes and an awesome space that needs to be used more. I can’t help but to try to think of a way to help. One of the best parts of putting together these shows is the people you meet. It’s a fun part of the game of taming the beast. The end product is so worth it, but it’s never ending.

I busted my ankle last week and had a hard time dancing on it last night. I’ve been resting (read: sewing costumes, doing marketing stuff, planning tech issues) but it is bothering me a bit. The emotional pain is more annoying though, to feel so helpless when your body gives out on you, the one tool I need the most for choreography.

I trust that this show will reach my goal of entertaining a crowd. It has a little bit of mostly every part of me in it. The girls (and guy) are really golden and are a motley group of talent. For now, I have to leave for a couple of days. I miss Philly already and I haven’t even left yet, but I am sure there is plenty of inspiration in Chicago that will help me along on the next project.

Fringe Festival Blog – Part 7

I hate crunch time.

The show is just about 2 weeks away and I feel like I am chewing more than I should have bit off. I have no choice but to keep working at it all until I have something less to swallow, even if it’s a tough pill at that point, and it always will be. Wearing too many hats is a burden and a necessity for me. I take all of this on because I want it done the right way (read: MY way). I can’t imagine that someday I’ll be able to put someone in charge of everything I need done no matter how much facilitating I do, I just need to be in control of the end product. It is a big job.

I sent out the first round of press releases and solicitations that always makes the skin a little thicker. I fear that I won’t be able to pull off a preview show since I am going away this weekend and won’t have time to plan those efforts. I don’t know who’s even available to perform for it, but I still want to do it, I think it would be a nice gathering for people who like entertainment in a social context.

The biggest fish to fry is securing a venue for the Fringe. An insurmountable amount of unreturned phone calls have ricocheted back to me and have thrown me in a fit of disorganization, something I usually am not. I wish I had elves, or better yet, clones.

I’m looking forward to this burlesque show but I’m having second and third thoughts about how I want to go about crafting the Fringe show. I struggle with the amount of ideas I come up with and I wonder if it might be conscientious for me to focus strictly on movement for “Man Bites Dog”. I have so many things I want to do with props and costumes and dialog, perhaps I should just strip it all down to the dance and let it speak for itself without all the spectacle. This is something that I always struggle with because part of my style is incorporating different media and objects into my work, but I think for this piece that will be so plot driven and focused on attitudes and frankly, judgment, I think I might just put the dancers on stage to be dancers.

It’s one of 1,000 thoughts.

Fringe Festival Blog – Part 6

Whew.

I am utterly exhausted right now, physically and emotionally. I am so happy I got through the 4 hour rehearsal for the burlesque show today. We got a lot done. I have all but one solo choreographed and only about 4 major numbers to choreograph. The rest is pretty golden and will rely on the girls (and boy) really taking their time to review the material and add their own style and personality to the dances.

Yesterday I had a horrible scare. The festival organizer mistakenly told me that we would be having the show in a different venue and I kind of imploded. I was in the middle of putting together the text and photos for the program and all this other mess and then I kind of shut down. Then I tried to send all the program materials to the marketing director and the email bounced back because her inbox was full. Grrr.

I went into work, stressed out, worried about all the advertising I did, plus the space that it got changed to was way too small for my original plans. I woke up this morning to three text messages, one from the videographer saying he was stuck in traffic, another dancer saying she was horrifically ill and another dancer who didn’t know where the rehearsal was. I couldn’t find the power adapter for my video camera and then when I finally did, my camera wasn’t working. Then I had to find my regular camera and find the battery charger. Meanwhile, I go out to the basement to put my wet laundry in the dyer and the landlord has locked me out of the basement (he’s paranoid I’m going to steal his rusty old junk while he’s out one day, as if he doesn’t know where I live). All this was happening while I was trying to pack costumes and politely and reluctantly fend off some sexting from a “friend”. I got to the studio around 10:15 and met up with my stage manager. Then one after another, people came later and later. It was fine. I worked on as much as I could and we all sweated our asses off. I had to clean up some stuff and come up with some new stuff. It was fine. I’m happy with what I’ve got going. There will be a little bit of something for everyone.

Now as it stands I have to go work at the restaurant again tonight even though it’s raining and we probably won’t open the outside. There are already too many servers scheduled, so we’ll see how that works out.

I love the space that we’re rehearsing in, I hope to use it again this week. The owner is awesome and we’re totally gay for each other. I hope it all works out. I’m just glad that I got an email just now from the technical director that the originally scheduled place is where I’m having the show.

Fringe Festival Blog – Part 5

Last night I was posed with the question, “What’s the difference between stripping and burlesque?”. What a sticky question.

I was happily boozing at Bob & Barbara’s (or “Barbara and Bob’s” for the sober impaired) for Swellco & Swellco’s Amateur Go-Go Contest & Hip Hop Dance Party Benefit for Baby Cheezwitts. The benefit was an attempt “To help raise awareness about puppet persecution.” Now, while the details of this event are vague, uncanny and quite amusing, droves of people gathered to the Pabst laden bar to experience yet another Philly style night of debauchery.

Two of my girls were involved with the event, one hosting and one participating in the contest. There were the usual Bob & Barbarians roaming around, foolishly throwing caution to the wind ordering “Special” after “Special” (a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon accompanied by a shot of Jim Bean for the bargain price of $3). B&B’s is one of those places that is hard to describe but once you’re there, you understand that it’s a first-hand experience like no other. The walls are adorned with an insurmountable amount of Pabst memorabilia, from old calendars to advertisements to cheesy (in an awesome way) rotating lights and toys. The place is timeless in its decrepit vintage-ness, and the local color is blinding. The out of place digital jukebox has everything from heavy metal to hip hop (old and new school) and the bar is a plush red vinyl with holes and tears throughout, with rickety stools scattered about the place.

The patrons run the gamut. There are neighbors that have been going there for too many years to count, in all shapes sizes and colors. There are sporty dudes and gals, yuppies, hipsters, slutty bike messenger types. The place is not only known for its mind boggling diversity but for its live jazz and extremely popular drag show.

There’s nothing bad I can say about my neighborhood bar. It is conveniently located within stumbling distance to my stoop and it screams “So Philly So You!”. Always a good time.

This night was no different. There was the usual motley crowd, this time all seemed to be there for the main event, the amateur go-go contest (not to be confused with stripping). The rules allowed for both sexes to compete as long as no genitalia or areola were exposed. Fair enough.

The first few competitors weren’t shy thanks to copious amounts of alcohol but as the show progressed, more and more was revealed thanks to the berating and coercing of the judges, all formidable members of the underground art scene. One after another, the contestants bumped, grinded, shook and danced for the audience, invoking hollering, clapping, oohing and ahhing amongst the spectators. Looking around I thought, “Don’t you people have jobs?”.

It has always been hard for me to participate in these night owl events, especially on a Tuesday night. I am an early bird and with 3+ jobs, staying out late just isn’t my cup of tea. I wonder how these people do it. I suppose it is just as captivating to them that I can get up at 5am and clean my whole house, get some work done, iron, make coffee, shower, cut my hair and get to work by 8am.

I admit I had ulterior motives. I wanted to see my girls yes, and have a good time, yes, but I was also handing out fliers and promoting my upcoming burlesque show. What a better audience than the people who were there to see half naked women, and of course to support “Baby Cheezwitts”.

I did in fact succumb to that evil “special” it was an offer I couldn’t refuse and before I knew it I lost control of my “inside voice” and I was happily shoving dollar bills in the faces of these beautiful, proud women. I ended up talking to a cute little reporter from the City Paper about an article she was pitching and she asked me what the difference between “Burlesque and Stripping” was.

I told her that burlesque is striptease but the difference is that stripping is done specifically for money and it’s really just about taking your clothes off. With burlesque, it is more about adding satire and having a gimmick in order to produce an enticing form of entertainment. It’s more theater based and because of the humor that is injected into it, it provides a point of reference for the audience, helping them to relate to the performance rather than just ogling a pair of boobs. Sure, much of it is extremely sexual and burlesque is about celebrating sexuality, but it’s much more about the tease than just taking it off. Plus, burlesque has such a history that spawns from theater that it really is in a category all on its own.

From doing my research about burlesque, it has made me nostalgic for my late-night life. I always wanted to be a star of the underground art world, but I like paychecks too much. If my server job provided me with benefits, I might just find a roommate and live cheaply and do my art much more full time than I do now. Problem is, I like expensive things and I love fine dining, so slinging trays isn’t enough to support my career as an artist and as a lover of the finer things in life.

Reading about some of the burlesque stars who felt as though they weren’t good at anything else, I can empathize. When you get on that stage and you see all those smiling faces, the applause, it is so validating. And then you are showered with compliments. The attention can be awful, but at the same time it is so gratifying to know that you have the ability to take people’s minds off the drag of daily life. You have offered them the most simple distraction from stress. It is a blessing to be able to do this. I love that I have that affect on people.

It is still a struggle to be an artist in Philadelphia. Without getting on my soapbox, I have to say that I can’t deny that being black, gay and doing the kind of work I do is easy. I pulled away from the burlesque scene right when it was starting to become popular again because I thought if I choreographed modern and ballet, I would be considered a more “legitimate” artist. Looking at the crowd at B&B’s that night, they were all human beings craving entertainment. There were all kinds of people, young and old, black and white, gay and straight, and they were having the time of their lives. These are the people I want to perform for, the people who appreciate it. This is not to say that the patrons of the mainstream theaters do not enjoy what they see, but they are part of an elite group (dare I bring the word “class” or “caste” into this) who can afford to pay upwards of $200 in a big theater with a big name where big performances are produced. I want to be a part of that, but then I would lose so much of myself.

Reading about Lili St Cyr and Josephine Baker, and how they had to leave the country to inspire them and to claim success, it is something that is very dear to me. Having traveled to Europe, it is the first time I felt that I have fit in somewhere. I came back from Paris and Berlin, glowing, and people asked me, “Did you fall in love with the city” and I’d say, “No, the city fell in love with me!”.

I desire the possibilities of the culture in Europe. The divine respect for art. The support that the entire community gives to its artists. Here, it is a bloodsucking power struggle, a who-you-know place where there is scandal and exclusion. I don’t understand it. I am no patriot but at the same time, I love and respect my place in this city. It’s a great city with great talent, but there is little support for the work that goes into show business.

I left refreshed (and dehydrated) that lovely evening. It was good to be back, to see old friends, to have that electric energy surging through me again. And then I laid in my bed, set my alarm clock and fell asleep dreaming about reality all over again.

Fringe Festival Blog – Part 4

Oh blog, I’ve been neglecting you again. My sincerest apologies.

As far as Fringe is concerned, it’s in full swing but at the same time on the back burner. I am juggling this beast of a project with my more current upcoming gig at the GLBT Arts Festival in June, “Viva Burlesque!” which I must admit, is coming along swimmingly. I am seeking out a venue for my Fringe show “Man Bites Dog” and I have a new idea in mind. I’m trying to think of new ways to use space for my work without losing the pith of what it is I am producing. I have looked at two churches so far and I’m considering using both of them. I think it would be cool to have different venues for the same show (perhaps with some adjustments) to see how each place creates a new type of performance. I am interested in engaging the audience in some way without being intrusive but I have yet to figure out how to incorporate that into the scheme. I have a few other places to work with and depending on the feasibility (price, location, technical concerns, etc.), I may end up having “Man Bites Dog” in three different locations.

In the meantime I am working hard on “Viva Burlesque!”. I’ve added a pick up girl, one of my friends I worked with at the Peekaboo Revue. She is so multi-talented, an accomplished singer, model, actress etc., she’ll be the scantily clad one picking up the disrobed garments off the stage after the end of the stripteases. I have a fire breather clown guy who will be making some provocative balloon animals for one of the routines and I may include him in some type of cabaret capacity, interacting with the audience. I had a cast change, one of the girls bit off more than she could chew so I replaced her (regrettably) with one of the girls I cast for the Fringe show. I’m glad she’s going to be in this show too, she’s kind of really adorable and will round out the cast nicely. My stage manager has been a tremendous help, really excelling at helping me to keep things organized. I have a friend helping out with marketing/fund raising who just so happens to be a godsend. I also have a videographer and last night one of my close friends asked if he could help so now I have a stage hand. Another one of my friends is running the door and I’m waiting to hear back from a volunteer about ushering and helping with odds and ends.

I am about 1/5 through the choreography. I have 23 numbers in the show, some of which are spoken dialog scenes. The rest is pretty hard core choreography and I am comfortable with the way things are progressing. My only problem is I want to get it all done and finished so we can rehearse the shit out of that shit, that’s the only way to make it perfect and I expect nothing less of this show.

My favorite number so far is one of the first acts in the show that is a duet with two of my veteran dancers. It is a Charleston inspired dance. When coming up with the choreography I wanted to use the basic moves but add a little touch of DeVo to it. I never realized that the Charleston is a very complicated and exhausting dance style. I now realize that the people who used to do it must have been drunk out of their minds. It is one of those freestyle dances that is hard to put into composition, but I am really pleased with the results. The girls hate me though.

I am really pushing my dancers this time around. There’s some ballet in the opening number that isn’t too challenging, but it has to be executed gracefully. I’m utilizing movements of a boxer in another number, again, that is much harder than it looks. I am trying to rip some of the girls out of their usual modern dance comfort zones and I think that they are all enjoying the challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing the result.

The hardest part right now is all the back end stuff (no, not that back end). I really need to raise money for this show. Not only do I need to pay salaries and make sure that everything is taken care of for production costs, but I really need to start investing in the Fringe Show because I will have to shell out so much more money.

I am trying to plan a preview show and a booze reception before the show. It’s an ambitious undertaking but I’m a Capricorn so I think I can handle it.

I am lucky in that I found a great studio to rehearse in after the loss of the Hess Dance Studio last month. It is about a block from my apartment and is currently used for salsa and hip hop classes. It’s brightly colored and has an awesome sound system and the floor is nice. There are mirrors but no barre and it is settled on South Street in my rad neighborhood. There were lots of passerbys and one of the local business brought us free cupcakes.

So far I have about 60 RSVPs on the facebook invite page and I’ve been marketing the crap out of the show live and in person. I think it’s not only going to be a great show but a wonderful opportunity to meet up with people I haven’t seen in a long time. Things are looking up!

More Human Than Human

Sense of Human
Koresh Dance Company
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Suzanne Roberts Theater

Many artists struggle with complacency throughout their careers. Like Picasso, with his tumultuous ride through evolution, abandoning the fundamentals of foundation, becoming an artist adept in portraiture- from his blue period to cubism and abstraction, he managed to find his niche after many stages of development. The arts breed such versatile, chameleon characters. In music, in performance, in writing, in dance, there is the never ending desire of improvement. Not only does the artist have to struggle with becoming better, if not perfect, there is a perpetual labor involving the importance of innovation in order to stay relevant. It is a ghost that haunts the element of creation. It is no wonder then that Ronen Koresh has given us something unique and personally unprecedented in his newest work, “Sense of Human”.

I left the Suzanne Roberts theater impressed, confused, surprised, curious and for the first time, a little disappointed. This is no doubt one of the strongest pieces of choreography Koresh has assembled, but certainly a departure from his signature work. I went into the theater admittedly with a closed mind; I always expect a good show from the ensemble. After following the troupe for so long I was thrilled that the shows were sold out and I actually had to wait to get a ticket. Unfortunately I missed the Youth Ensemble, choreographed by the Assistant Artistic Director of the company and prominently featured principal dancer, Melissa Rector.

I was ushered in just in time to see “Passomezzo”, a commissioned work choreographed by Ohad Naharin, Artistic Director of the Batsheva Dance Company. “Passomezzo” was an intricate and witty pas de deux that boasted some intense athleticism and charming simplicity. The creative use of lifts and falls and body contact depicted the highs and lows of personal relationships between man and woman. There was no real creative design in the costumes or stage or lighting, that provided the audience with a blank canvas with which to see the elegant playfulness of the duet unfold. Elements of square dancing, jazz, modern and ballet technique were intertwined with a new sort of dance that is hard to put into words, but comes from a simple place that breaks down movement into simple gestures. The backdrop was a compilation of various types of music including traditional folk music. Overall, it was a quick and dirty representation that didn’t take itself too seriously and was perfectly executed despite the sheer difficulty of the piece.

After intermission it was on to “Sense of Human”. As the lights dimmed down, the red velvet curtain remained closed as a spotlight shone on part of the curtain, traveling across it from stage left to stage right as if a ring leader was about to appear. Dim, eerie, nostalgic music played in the background almost as if there was someone behind the curtain playing an old record player. The music dimmed and the curtain rose as the spotlight went out. The stage was bare with the back wall of the stage exposed, painted all black. A metal bar was half lowered near the front of the stage with an industrial style lamp hanging from it, positioned right over a solo dancer laying on the floor. This was a captivating centerpiece to start the show.

After a short intro from the soloist onstage, soon the stage was crowded with company dancers dressed all in black wearing deconstructed costumes with exposed seams and uneven hems. This was the backdrop for the opening piece that had the namesake of the overall dance. The full company engaged in deep isolations and contractions of the body in almost animal-like form, crouching and kneeling, holding their arms and hands behind their necks, keeping their heads lowered. It was an intriguing start to the overall piece, creating a sense of drama and a raw passion that was thoroughly examined through this expository sequence.

The next section, entitled “Sometimes”, came about in one of the first of many incoherent transitions in which the dancers began a series of hard and soft movements the likes of leaps and turns and floor work. As they danced mercilessly, dialogue played in voiceover: “Sometimes I don’t know my name, where I’m going. Sometimes I get lost. Between the trees. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning…sometimes I feel like I’m going to explode…”. At this point, we were left looking for definition in the words, trying to correlate the dialog to the movements. Much of the movement that was done by soloists detached from the overall chorus of dancers was lost due to unorthodox stage placements and choppy lighting, though it did create a sense of “being lost in a crowd”. It was an effective gesture from the choreographer but with the background of human sounds, humming and dialog, the piece was overwrought with depth, perhaps losing the simple meaning of the composition altogether.

The next piece was a bittersweet duet danced by veteran Melissa Rector and third year dancer Micah Geyer. It was a pleasant surprise to see this combination, for these two are rarely placed together in Koresh’s compositions. Rector’s explosive talents really shined in this piece and it was a nice change of pace seeing Geyer utilize his strengths in partnering. While the former was more successful in expressing a great deal emotion (per usual), the physicality of the dance was indicative of Koresh’s previous works down to the random gasps, yells and screeching that Rector does so well. Her visceral talent never ceases to be the highlight of every company performance.

Afterwards, we were treated to “Crash”, surely one of the most explosive components of the ballet. A dazzling and exciting quintet danced to a surprising score of techno-ish music, this piece demonstrated the fantastic abilities of the most powerful dancers in the troupe, newbies Joe Cotler and Asya Zlatina, and seasoned company members Jessica Daley, Kyle McHargh and Alezis Viator. Again, the lighting looked great but some of the dancers were lost, not well lit throughout, but the forceful nature of the piece really woke the audience up.

Next, a fanciful quartet with dancers dressed in blazers and shorts the way of “Gypsy”. The music again took another turn towards a carnival, accordion driven sound. This piece was marked by a superfluous amount of exaggeration exhibited by the dancers in that their expressions were choreographed to a “T” and much of the dance was clown-like. It was another hint of Koresh-ism here, for much of the success of his company is due to the auspicious way that the dancers express their personalities.

The next piece started after some appreciative applause from the audience for the previous engagement in the playful dance that preceded. “Air” danced by Eric Bean, Jr. and Shannon Bramham exhibited the first morsels of color in the costumes that wouldn’t show up again until the final piece. Bramham danced cheerily in a vintage inspired bathing suit while Bean wore an orange blazer and white pants. Their dance had a lot of gymnastic movements in it that was fun to watch. It was playful and engaging, almost a display of lightheartedness matched with desire. More dialog ensued, this time talking about love and the “breath that we share between us”. There was such a creative use of bodies here, marked significantly by Bramham sitting on Bean and using his body as a swing. It was the perfect match-up for this piece and both handled their part with bravado.

“Between the River and the Trees” was one of my favorite pieces. The introduction of the most creative costume designs were introduced here. The men wore an almost Asian-inspired utilitarian looking sleeveless shirt with venting details in the back while the female dancer, Fang-Ju Gant, wore a structured yet deconstructed dress with exposed tulle. She was accompanied by Joe Cotler and Kyle McHargh and they danced a trio curtained by a soft piano and violin piece with a dim blue wash of light on the stage. The piece took us back to the darkness of the work though while the men were quite stoic in their movements, Gant expressed a surprising amount of joie de vivre that contradicted what the piece might have tried to represent. Either way, the choreography was executed magnificently and it was a nice lull of wonderment and delight that allowed the audience to enjoy dance for what it was, not for what it could possible mean on a deeper level.

“Fantastic” was another group piece that was accompanied by a whimsical accordion track, and quick flailing of arms and legs accompanied by stomps and intricate arm work was seen here. In a flash, again, the Koresh technique came shining through but then again he ventured elsewhere with the next piece, “Touch” a dynamic duet danced by Jae Hoon Lim and Jessica Daley. In another wonderful pas de deux that came out of nowhere, the concept of being lost was exposed again over a track of percussion and whispering. Here we saw the next level of dance for the company, this explosive, intricate and demanding partnering that really anchored much of the overall work. Daley and Lim have never been better.

In “Breathe”, the show powered on in another group number where the dancers wore lightly colored, almost nude costumes. This piece almost served as a transition- there were slow, deliberate movements that were exhausted. This led into another successful duet, “Time For Two” danced by Joe Cotler and Alexis Viator.

“Time For Two” was a way for the choreographer to show off his newest talent, Joe Cotler, a massive, powerful dancer that moves with zeal and lust and is an obvious product of animal instinct and pure natural talent. He whips Viator around like a rag doll in this exciting display, and while Viator holds her own, she is almost overshadowed by the brute force and the awesome execution of Cotler’s abilities. He is captivating to watch and the score of distorted guitar fueled his fire of exhibitionism. This was a great recharge to the show that was starting to loose its appeal in the great length of which it was prolonged.

Next was “Go” that was a simple transition into the next two pieces, “Rain” and “Click”, which no one could have guessed would be the denouement of this exhausting ballet. The dancers cited the dialog we heard at the beginning of the piece, one dancer at a time randomly shouting “Go!” prompting some dancers to dance spastically, creating a sense of tension and release. Suddenly, the curtains on the sides of the stage were raised and it left the wings exposed, showing some of the backstage and mechanics of the lighting. Once again the work lifted to a higher, energetic place and then sunk back again into a slower more deliberate pace and we were left with a nondescript ending. Was it really over?

I didn’t read the notes in the program before I watched the show. To me, the title coerced feelings of wondering what it means to be human and to get inside yourself in order to examine how the outside world affects you. I left the theater nostalgic for Koresh’s specialties but was satisfied with having at least seen some of his style, new and old, in a variety of flavors.

“Sense of Human” was full of human error. While the dance itself was virtually flawless (as the company always maintains), this show was the perfect opportunity to exhibit the strength of the company to a new audience. No one could have predicted a sold-out show, but alas, I wanted to tell everyone that this piece wasn’t an accurate depiction of what the company is capable of.

I wondered what had happened here. The lighting, while pretty and interesting, failed in some areas to keep the dancers well lit. While the design did add some drama to some of the pieces, it can be very distracting when a dancer falls out of the light and it is never good for photography. Why not just light up the stage so everyone can see what’s going on? Sure, lighting creates a mood, but the import pales in comparison than getting a glimpse of a dancer’s face, especially in a company that has dancers that actually smile and frown and yell and talk.

Many of the costumes were stylish and cool. I loved the deconstructed look of many in the first half of the show. Most of the pieces were all black or grey sans about three pieces that had color. In the final piece, the females adorned these weird leotards that looked like spanks covered in an orange and yellow, red-ish velvet print. I did not understand. Otherwise, the costumes were spot on, but the injection of color could have been more prominent.

I was curious to know what was going on backstage. For the first time, there was no Melissa Rector solo. The veteran cast was seemingly underrepresented while the newer players were highly featured. This is not to say that I wasn’t virtually blown away by both of the apprentices, Joe Cotler and Asya Alatina, but for such a new, sold-out audience, it was unfortunate that they did not get to see the usual amount of dance from the veteran company members who have helped to make a name for the enterprise as a whole.

I wonder then that with this piece, with such a departure from the norm, was the choreographer just looking for a change? Did he need something new? Was he trying to reinvent himself? Was this the next step in artistic development? Why no use of props that he does so well with, such unbelievable work with? Why so much duet work? Really, no Melissa Rector solo? Really?

I have just cast some new dancers for my show coming up and I am excited to be working with fresh meat. I have so many ideas and so many ways I want to use their skills, so much that the thoughts are overshadowing my older girls, the ones who have helped me to mold my technique, my original muses. I guess that is the way of the artist, sometimes you want to use red paint instead of blue. Sometimes you want to try to paint on wood instead of canvas et al.

I pined over it for a time and while I empathized with the artist’s desire for change (because change is change) I still could not fight the desire to see what he is known for. Artists change all the time and it is met with acceptance, love and/or anger, depending on the viewer/listener. When I finally got around to reading the program notes, it all started to make sense. Quite simply put, Ronen Koresh explains, “My goal while creating ‘Sense of Human’ was to challenge myself by attempting the creative process in a new way.” In this, he also challenged the audience that was familiar with his work. He went on to explain his desire to make his work more accessible. I have seen constant variations in his work, pieces that have ran the gamut to plain weird and whacky to elegant, beautiful, simple ballets. While newcomers are without a doubt impressed with the extremes in which his choreography takes his dancers and the wonderful compositions he constructs, it is those who know that this departure left a little to be desired- more of the him that he left behind. Alas, he is only human.