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DANCE NOW ENCORE! Program a Winner for All

by Bonnie Rosenstock
October 3, 2019
Joe's Pub
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10003
212-967-7555
On Thursday, September 26, DANCE NOW presented its one-night only ENCORE! Program, which featured the overall winner and ten finalists of the 2019 DANCE NOW Challenge. The winning dancers/choreographers were selected by the producers from a field of 40, who showcased their work in groups of ten over four days (September 4-7). The annual Challenge is to create a clear and complete artistic statement in five minutes or less for the tiny stage at Joe’s Pub. The Challenge winner receives a development stipend, creative residencies at DANCE NOW Silo on Kirkland Farm in Bucks County, PA, and at Arts On Site in New York City and a future commission to create a new work for Joe’s Pub.

I was unable to attend the four days, but thoroughly enjoyed the unique talent of the ENCORE! program. The well-deserving Challenge winner was choreographer Nichole Vaughan-Diaz, who presented an excerpt from “a portrait of them,” a duet she performed with Ryan Roulad-Smith. Smith was seated on a chair with Vaughan-Diaz behind him. She wrapped her arms around him in various ways, all of which he pushed away. An interesting sequence was when he lifted her straight up, then turned her upside down. Then they reversed it. Many pushes, pulls, no real eye contact. Not a very happy couple, but wonderful choreography with quick, slow and razor sharp movements.

In the whimsical category was Adam Barruch’s “Carousel,” accompanied by Jacques Brel’s song of the same name. Barruch appeared via video due to an ankle injury. (Not present in any form was Isaies Santamaria in “The Untitled Love” because he was kicked in the head in another show and required five stitches.) Barruch’s movements, mostly in place, featured manic arm swinging and upper torso movements, which got faster and more intense, keeping pace with the breakneck music. His movements reminded me of the car dealership inflatable one-legged air dancer, or as the show “Family Guy” called it “Wacky, waving inflatable arm flailing tube man.”

Also quite humorous was Mark Gindick’s “SoLo,” in which his lip synching to Frank Sinatra and Patrick Swayze was literally blown away by his stage collaborator’s vacuum cleaner, which vibrated and distorted his lips, flapped open his jacket and blew into his face. In Claire Porter’s riotous solo “Sentenced to Sentences” she took to feather pen to narrate a “Once Upon a Time” story about a goose, swan and duck with fits, starts and squawks. As she sat at her desk, wrote and talked, she pulled out bigger and bigger feather pens, which ultimately covered her upper body and "Swan Laked" her down to the floor in a heap.

In a gutsy performance, Nicole Walcott in “Emergent Past,” threw herself on the floor, flailed her arms, flung her body around and exorcised her demons, barely moving at the end. Megan Williams’ solo “Sure, Am,” with music to Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” once again addressed the issues of being an aging dancer, with leg lifts, pelvic rolls, jumps, crotch clutches and knowing nods. The iconic Gus Solomons jr performed “Duet” in which his partner was “Li’l Gus,” a hand puppet. At first, it was humorous, with Solomons, cane standing stationery nearby, manipulating the puppet through his clothes and around his body. Li’l Gus laughed when tickled, waved at the audience. Then Solomons killed it. Audience gasped. Solomons seemed pleased.

Two thrilling solos were by Orlando Hernández in “Aguacero,” in which he tapped danced to Totó la Momposina’s African-driven music, and Tsiambwom M. Akuchu’s “K3mwet3 (Revelations),” a traditional Babanki (West African tribe from Southern Cameroon) word for the New Testament book of Revelations. He performed earthy stomping, clapping, lighter and softer foot movements, some hip-hop and did some fine tricks on pointe in his sneakers.

Besides Vaughan-Diaz, the only other multi-performer presentation was a trio, “Arrangement” by the Rock Dance Collective, choreographed by Cleo Mack and performed by Blair Ritchie, Kelli McGovern and Mandy Stallings in black dresses and pearl necklaces. Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is” set the tone for the dead-panned trio, who danced wonderfully on the stage, but repeatedly returned to their chairs to slouch and sink further down into themselves.
Gus Solomons Jr.

Gus Solomons Jr.

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


TruDee Deborah Lohse

TruDee Deborah Lohse

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


Mark Gindick

Mark Gindick

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


Nicole Wolcott

Nicole Wolcott

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


Cleo Mack

Cleo Mack

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


Megan Williams

Megan Williams

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


Nicole Vaughan Diaz

Nicole Vaughan Diaz

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


Tsiambwom M Akuchu

Tsiambwom M Akuchu

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu

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