Last weekend the emerging modern dance/theater company DOTA Dance Theatre celebrated its inaugural weekend-long festival at the intimate 133rd Street Arts Center. The company was founded just two years ago, inspired by the marriage between film and dance which allows for endless opportunities in creating stories, images, and movement. Under the Artistic Direction of Aren James Hooper - a professional dancer who has worked with Paul Taylor Dance Company, Martha Graham Dance Company, and many others - DOTA Dance Theatre recently transitioned from a pick-up company to a year-round one.
The Saturday, May 3 performance featured Hooper's choreographic works, including two premieres. Opening with an excerpt of his 2012 evening-length piece, Phalanx, four female dancers proceed through a series of grounded movement, heavy stares at one another in stillness, and bursts of squirming, rolling, catching - all set to Pink Floyd. It's an exploratory work on relationships - with oneself, another, a collective. Most memorable is two engaging in a fierce, prolonged kiss, holding each other's heads as they turn together, heads turning up up and rolling down.
Following is the premiere of The Silence of Her, which is loosely based on Rapunzel mixed with the theme of a woman gone mad. Soloist Britt Kamper shines in this work, fully transforming into a character that taunts the audience with provocative moments that quickly spiral into animalistic fits. She frantically crawls towards us or onto a chair, thrusts her head backwards as she laughs, and tosses her body to the floor. All the while costumed in a long, loose red dress, the motif of erratic meets erotic is well portrayed in this piece.
He Said Go To War is a duet between Rachel Bier and Erin Dillon donning gas masks as they evolve through repeated and escalating gestural movement phrases to an eclectic mix of musical accompaniment. Though it is described as a piece that examines two soldiers and the act of war, the face value of the close contact movement is far more abstract, depicting two individuals physically finding solace in their shared humanity.
The evening performance concluded with the second premiere, Cie Noctum, danced by the full company. Intended to be a multimedia work, this performance features the movement on its own, which has a more pagan, ritualistic feel to it as the dancers resume circular running patterns, occasionally splitting off in a solo or duet. Here, as noted throughout the evening, the five company dancers are strong in the rawness of their performance.
DOTA Dance Theatre lives on the floor; Hooper's underlying, weighted choreography draws the dancers to the ground or to each other as if a magnetic force is ever-present. This certainly lends his work a vividly primal, rhythmic nature, though it would be also be exciting to see him further expand upon this movement quality as both his company and choreographic career grow.
The 2014 DOTA Dance Festival was presented at 133rd Street Arts Center from Friday, May 2 through Sunday May, 4. It featured a different focus each night in an effort to engage audiences with all angles of DOTA Dance Theatre's mission. Friday evening presented the work of five guest choreographers - a nod to the company's belief in artistic collaboration; Saturday marked DOTA Dance Theatre's 2014 Season with works by Hooper; and Sunday offered a dance film screening (including the film version of Hooper's work The Silence of Her) and a modern dance workshop.