Dancefusion&Sokolow Theater/Dance Ensemble at FringeArts



(photo courtesy of Dancefusion)

For three decades Gwendolyn Bye, artistic director-choreographer-founder of  Dancefusion has staged reconstruction and revivals of specialized from influential and underrecognized contemporary choreographers, specifically a 20th century modern master Anna Sokolow. Bye’s revivals assuring important choreographic works remain are part of a living repertoire for this generation of dancers.  For Dancefusion’s 9th presentation at the Philly Fringe at the Performance Garage,  Bye partnered with  Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble for a substantive program of Sokolow repertory and Dancefusion premieres.

Opening with Sokolow’s still stunning “Moods” (1975)  scored to music by Gygori Ligeti in a flawless restaging by Nora Naslund, gorgeously performed  by dancers from both companies. “Moods”  entrances with Sokolow’s flowing ensemble lyricism, and more abstract duets and trios mise-en-scenes. The cast included both Dancefusion and Sokolow dancers, with stunning clarity and esprit de corps.

Then three works by Dancefusion choreographer dancers-

“The Space Where You Were” by Jennifer Yackel, suggest a woman looking back on her younger self, or, as a mother/daughter narrative. Danced by Janet Pilla Marini and Kate Lombardi with original music by Philadelphia based composer Cory Neal. The imagery suggests everyday activities moving around in rooms of a house (by way of square spotlights) and when the dancers partner, expressing emotional bonds or conflicts issues coming between them. Both Marini and Lombardi dance with dramatic intensity and unfussy technical artistry.

– “Diaries” by University of the Arts dancer-choreographer Omar-Frederick Pratt with a mix of music by Pratt (& Richter, Zimmer, Winston)and and choreographed for ten dancers in the opening tableau on the floor strewn with rose petals writing on the stage or in the air. Pratt unleashes them in high velocity ensemble movement.

Then Pratt thrilling adagio solo danced by Zaki Marshall that was packed with  technical artistry.  Then followed by an athletic duet with Lamar Rogers, laced with intricate lifts and expressive narrative .  Pratt himself enters the scene in  a mach speed pirouette sequence, turning it into a trio.  The full cast returns for a series of duets, within the group configurations.  Some of the full group passages look choreographically rote- lots of rushing on and off stage, for instance- this is a strong narrative work from Pratt.

“Three Parts Human” choreographed by Camille Halsey, also a  talented University of the Arts dancer-choreographer.  contemporary ballet piece with for five women (in  Athena tunics) and one male dancer.  Halsey also uses some conventional ensemble unison, and some of the duet had a middle draft feel. Still, Halsey’s overall stage composition and ensemble esprit carries the piece..

The second half of the program began with short works by Sokolow from 1984 titled “As I Remember” early work by Sokolow that she  reworked in 1984.  In this revival directed by Jim May, Sokolow’s company co-director and founder of Sokolow Theater ST/DE.

‘Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter’ (1941) Janet Pilla Marini dressed in a black satin gown with a red drop panel that she teased out like bullring cape, a lethal gaze and altogether smoldering precision in this dance of death.

Camille Halsey’s dances ‘Ballad in a Popular Style’ (1936) to music by Chick Corea (which Sokolow changed from the original by Alex North) is a jaunty, skippy free dance, with perhaps some shade to Graham, and anticipating Paul Taylor’s witty approach to postmodern movement.

Kaddish’ (1945) from the music by Ravel, with Kate Lombardi, Melissa Sobel and Elissa Schreiber in dramatic black dresses with black piping coiled on one arm, seemed like a beautifully danced parody of a Graham knock-off.

“The Unanswered Question” (1971), scored to music by Charles Ives, it is a meditative group sculptural piece with both the Dancefusion and Sokolow dancers face down on the floor and their bodies slowly lifting  skyward.  The symbolism of universal human struggle and ultimate shared hope, both earthy and ethereal.  This collaborative concert a reminder that Dancefusion remains one of Philadelphia’s most diverse and vital repertory companies.