writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition

A Company Debuts

District Dance Project
Jack Guidone Theater
Joy of Motion Dance Center, Friendship Heights
Washington, DC
Saturday, March 6, 2004

by George Jackson
copyright 2004 by George Jackson
published 8 March 200

J.S. Bach's music prompted very different responses from Ruben Graciani and Connie L. Fink, the founding choreographers of District Dance Project, which gave its debut performances on one of the busiest weekends of the DC dance calendar. Both of the Bach works grew from a dramatic situation. In each instance we were shown the situations' symptoms but not its specific cause.

Graciani elaborated on conflict, doing extrapolations and variations on tensions among and within 6 individuals. The scene was faintly reminiscent of a revival meeting. At first and again finally, Graciani, the one man in the cast, dominated as if he were a preacher and the women his congregation. In between there was complexity and people were sometimes at each others throats. All of the action was paced very distinctly to the tempi of Bach's Concerto in F Minor, the throat throttling being very effective done slowly, during the adagio section of the concerto. Using the entire body thoroughly, the choreography hilighted sometimes leg work, or arms, or the torso. The dance's long title, A Vacant the face of unrelenting optimism, helped only a little in terms of specific meanings.

Fink, in Pushing Past Forward, used Bach (a cello sonata?) to pare down her ideas to essentials. She showed four women who were wary of something that lay ahead of them. They couldn't agree on a leader, they approached but then retreated from what they feared. We never learned what it was that lay ahead, but we got to know the women better than in Fink's other dance, Tres Meninas, which was giddy but also haphazard.

Graciani's solo for himself, Before & After, had lots of circling movements, different types—turns on one foot, air tours, run arounds, rolls. There were also torso twists, swinging arms and hammering hands. Yet the flow was lyrical, like that of the lovelorn pop songs which were his accompaniment as he danced intensely, dressed just in slacks. He's a true performer with an appetite for space and no aversion to balleticisms—so its no surprise to learn that he was with the Mark Morris Dance Group for five years.

Jennifer Dorsey, like Fink, choreographed for women. Of Dorsey's three pieces, two—the trio Just Start Again and the duo Right in the Next Room—were polished exercises in gymnastic activation and relaxation. Neither was without emotional shadings, but the solo Thanks, which she performed herself, had sweep (abetted by pop music) and was a dance.

What links Distric Dance Project's choreographers and nine of its ten* other dancers, are their studies—past and/or present—at the University of Maryland. All pieces on the program were performed barefoot and, apart from the two Bach works and the songs used for the two solos, the aural environments in which the choreographies happened seemed disposable.

* Rebecca Boniello, Regina Daniels, Mabel Ferragut Smith, Emily Giza (the non-UMd one), Kristen Kushiyama, Omoro Omoighe, Christine Sandifer, Megan Thompson, Maolly Sue Welch and Winnie Wong.

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 10
March 8, 2004

© 2004 George Jackson




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