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Massachusetts Dance Festival Inaugural Concert, Nov 6 & &, 2009 (review)

As a founding member of the MDF committee, I have been privy to all stages of development for this concert, and I am proud to state the obvious: performers both nights were exceptional, with innovative choreographies captivating the audiences, start to finish. With full houses and one sell-out (night two), I believe the positive results are testament to our core mission of “revitalizing dance and dance-related professions…through statewide education workshops and performance platforms…employing dance performers and teachers … each event attracting audiences and contributing to arts access and education, while successfully establishing dance artistically, financially and operationally, throughout the state.” MDF intends to continue producing dance concerts and festivals, reaching every corner of our great state. We thank all patrons of the arts for your support. Now for the review:

Beginning with Rainbow Tribe’s “Lego Land,” we all got down while (their) hips, ribs, shoulders, bent and twisted knees, poppin’ and boppin’ to the funky beat of Fat Boy Slim (one of my personal favorites) got us all shook up. This group’s high-octane jazz/funk choreography infused this dance concert with blissful head-to-toe body spasm images. Next, “Push,” a modern choreography by Katherine Hooper and Irada Djelassi of BoSoma Dance Company, unfolded in slow motion screenplay, then exploded as super-human physical feats recurred across the stage, twisting turns mid-air stupefying us all – only to ended unexpectedly with all heads back beneath a cloak of silencing white lights. Sokolow Now! continued the sojourn with an original choreography of Anna Sokolow called “Session for Seven” – also combining strength, ?physicality, and technical ?excellence – especially during multiple clockwise “T” and forte turns, flying leaps (various sorts) and oozing first position plies; theirs was a performance so sharp that synergy molecules were literally buzzing between dancers, on stage.

Snake Dance Theater a popular cabaret belly dance ensemble intertwined spicy ‘fusion’ movements with traditional Middle Eastern genres, brandishing opalescent red, white and gold wings that spanned 10 feet horizontally and eight feet, vertically, as they spotlighted the most exotic costumes and movements of the evening, again captivating the audience with their piece “Uncaged.” Diversity ruled the stage, with Billbob Brown, director of Chaos Theory Dance combining movement, voice, video and stunning lifts, in thematic choreography based on quantum physics and astronomy – his “politically relevant, yet highly entertaining” collections electrifying audiences - and combusting laughter throughout the jam-packed audiences. Collage Dance Ensemble founder and artistic director, Ahmet Luleci, harmonized the nine group’s frenetic energy through his piece “Moments” beginning slowly with a tango amongst coupled dancers, culminating in lively folkloric footwork that earned full audience participation - visibly rocking viewers in their seats!

Not to be forgotten is Hilberman & Goldberg, two international tap dancers from our great state. With Thelma heading up “Dance Inn Productions” and “National Tap Day” celebrations, and Josh touring throughout the US and Europe and a featured faculty member at more than 75 tap dance festivals, the duet brought the house down after they skated across a narrow wooden strip, performing barrel turns, pirouettes, toe-heel digs, slaps and spanks that were so fast and utterly riveting that the audience applauded throughout their entire performance – rather than waiting for the end.

Last but not least, are two world dance troupes, Flamenco Dance Project and Triveni Dance Company, each percussive in nature, thus sporting good fun even while dancing on Marley floors that are cushioned and don’t produce the crisp sounds normally associated with either dance genre. Triveni Dance, directed by Neena Gulati, has produced traditional East Indian dances that combine poly-rhythmic footwork (often in compound meters), expressive facial (particularly eye) movements and gestures that tell ancient stories that accurately recreate highly choreographed and historic dances. In this context, they perfected “Yugma Dwanda,” that integrated two classical Indian dance schools, Bharata Natyam and traditional Odissi sacred dance.

Flamenco Dance Project, co-directed by Sabrina Alvires and Maria Galan, danced “Y En Medio Li Rio (Sevillanas),” a traditional folk dance engaged by couples of all ages and sexes, also highly choreographed, composed of 4 parts, each part divided into 3 'coplas', and each copla comprised of 6 movements. Once again, this dance depicts an historic preservation of an extremely complex tradition, with this version more abstract, focusing on visually appealing costuming, danced with bata de cola (skirt with train), abanico (fan) and manton (shawl). Each move was gracefully executed, and looked (almost) easy, from the audience perspective.

Additional to our stellar performers, emcees for Friday and Saturday night were two acclaimed news and anchorwomen, Susan Wornick, Midday Newscast anchorwoman at WCVB since 1989, and Joyce Kulhawik, WBZ-TV Arts and Entertainment anchor from 1978 through 2008. Both are gifted writers, reporters, and talk hosts, and have earned awards for outstanding service. Specifically, Wornick has received two regional Emmy Awards plus the prestigious Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association (ABA), while at WCVB, Kulhawik hosted the station's Emmy Award-winning “You Gotta Have Arts!” magazine program. Each ignited the audiences with their effervescence, humor, and dedicated good will towards the performing arts. Mere words could not express our gratitude to them. It was a spectacular night, all around.

For me, it has been a pleasure working with the other four founding members of the Massachusetts Dance Festival: Karyn Edison, Yoland Greaves, Erica Sigal, and Piinar Zengingonul. Special thanks to Miriam Diamond, Rowan Salem, all other volunteers, and BoSoma Dance Company (for producing the show). BoSoma artistic directors Katherine Hooper and Irada Djelassi proved their talents both in choreography and production during MDF’s Inaugural Concert.

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