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The Kathryn Posin Dance Company Dances Through Darwin

by Bonnie Rosenstock
September 20, 2019
92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10128
(212) 415-5552
The Kathryn Posin Dance Company kicked off the 92nd Street Y’s Dig Dance Series, running through May 2020, with three new works (September 13-14). Posin’s accomplished seven-member ensemble premiered “Triple Sextet,” a three-part celebration of movement, and “Evolution: The Letters of Charles Darwin,” which featured spoken word, dance, low-tech projection and delightful costuming. “Memoir,” with music by J.S. Bach, was a tender solo by Lance Westergard, 73, the company’s co-founder, which he choreographed with Posin, 76.

During her welcoming remarks before September 13th's evening performance, Posin paid homage to many of the giants of the dance world who influenced her. “From Hanya Holm I learned discipline, from Alvin Ailey I learned humanity, from Anna Sokolow I learned truth, from Louis Horst I learned structure, from Martha Graham, I learned the deep metaphor that movement can be and from Merce Cunningham I learned chance.”

Posin herself has created her own distinctive contribution to the craft. She is known for fusing ballet and modern dance, which the two ensemble works deftly displayed. “Triple Sextet” is set to Steve Reich’s 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning (for Music) “Double Sextet.” The composition has two identical sextets comprised of flute, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, violin and cello playing against each other to produce one overall polyrhythmic interlocking pattern. Posin has added a third sextet of dancers. For the three distinct sections, fast-slow-fast, the dancers performed as duets, trios and as one well-oiled unit. The women wore colorful short skirts and ballet slippers and performed lovely pirouettes on pointe. The first fast section had a very well-executed lifting sequence for the three couples. The slow section featured all the dancers holding hands while dipping, balancing forward with leg back and hand-to-leg holding. The energetic ensemble equaled the fast driving rhythms, but my favorite duo was Cristian Laverde Konig and Claire Mazza, who brought great joyfulness to their in-sync movements.

In the entertaining, and also informative, 25-minute “Evolution: The Letters of Charles Darwin” (In Memory of Frederick Burkhardt) Posin read excerpts from the writings of the naturalist/geologist/biologist to and from his family, friends and fellow scientists in which he described his voyages around the world on the HMS Beagle up to the publication of his seminal “On the Origin of Species,” which shook the establishment with his controversial discourse on evolution. The readings were drawn from “Origins, Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822-1859” and “Evolution, Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1860-1870,” both edited by Frederick Burkhardt (d. 2007), former president of Bennington College in Vermont, Posin’s alma mater. The piece originated from an idea by his daughter, Jane Burkhardt.

Posin’s longtime lead dancer, the towering, lean, long-legged Momchil Mladenov, embodied Darwin, appropriately outfitted in explorer gear and a hand-held telescope. While Posin narrated, the characters emerged: Darwin’s father, his wife-to-be, his three sisters, two finches (head gear with differing beak forms), indigenous people (in short brown outfits), an insectivorous plant (green speckled unitard and over-the-top flowery hat with tentacles) and Victorians. A portrait of the person the dancers represented as well as maps and writings were projected onto their clothing; the visual effects and drawings were created by Frederick’s grandson, Jonathan Burkhardt, who sat in front of the stage with a camera. The dancers excelled at their multiple roles, especially Daniel White as the insect-eating plant, Chanmee Jeong and Alejandro Ulloa as the indigenous couple and Camila Rodrigues and Claire Mazza, who represented two of the many finches Darwin observed on the Galápagos Islands.
The Kathryn Posin Dance Company in “Evolution: The Letters of Charles Darwin”

The Kathryn Posin Dance Company in “Evolution: The Letters of Charles Darwin”

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown


The Kathryn Posin Dance Company in “Evolution: The Letters of Charles Darwin”

The Kathryn Posin Dance Company in “Evolution: The Letters of Charles Darwin”

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown

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