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This August marked the 2-year anniversary of The CURRENT SESSIONS, a semi-annual, New York City dance series founded by artist, creative director, and producer Alexis Convento.

The premise of this series is simple and invigorating— celebrate and investigate what’s trending in dance by presenting innovative choreography in an environment where artist-audience interaction is encouraged.  Spanning from August 23 through August 25, 2013, The CURRENT SESSIONS Volume III, Issue II was a weekend filled with dynamic and varied programming.

On Sunday, August 25th I attended one of the final dance performances held at The Wild Project. The theater is located at the outermost edge of NYC’s über-hip East Village, where the sidewalks teem with beauty and grit, charm and disgust, amity and animosity. So, long though it was, my walk from the subway may have been the ideal preamble to an afternoon of cutting-edge dance.

Upon entering the theater, I was welcomed by Convento and Co-Creative Director Allison Jones who greeted audience members as they took their seats The gesture made their dedication to audience engagement immediately clear. In the program, I saw offers for discounted Double Feature tickets and reduced ticket prices for East Village residents. Convento and her production team obviously had a keen understanding of effective customer service, and it no doubt paid off. The theater was full, no small feat for a Sunday afternoon in August.

Given the production team’s efforts, I expected an afternoon of performances that took advantage of the engaging performance environment that had been established. I was surprised and disappointed when many of the works performed left me feeling disregarded, forgotten, or actively ignored.

This was especially true of Roya Carreras’ A Table, a cryptic, dramatic, and sometimes violent work for 3 dancers, a watering can, three potted plants, some tube socks, and one lemon.

The piece consisted of disjointed and noticeably under-rehearsed movement phrases interspersed within extensive, esoteric use of props. Though she succeeded in establishing a surreal atmosphere onstage, Ms. Carreras’ message to her audience—if there was one—remained unclear.

Charli Brissey’s solo, Human Friend, was similarly frustrating. The dancer’s fixed, downward gaze combined with the compact choreography that relegated movements to a small perimeter around the her own body and the periodic episodes of introverted “conversation” with an invisible Other made the experience of watching Human Friend thoroughly disengaging, Though the dancer’s face, hand, and arm gestures were memorable, that may have been because they were the only parts of her body that remained clearly visible on the dimly lit stage.

Both Jaxon Movement Arts’ Trio Undone and Yin Yue Dance’s Shapeshifter appeared to have been composed with audience engagement in mind, though neither completely achieved it. Trio Undone was long, dark, and heavy, picking up for a moment when Grace Whitworth ran up, across, and around the stage’s back wall, a la Fred Astaire. Yin Yue’s trio Shapeshifter consisted of mostly mundane movement phrases arranged in standard formations. The dancers performed as though they faced their reflections in a mirror instead of an audience.

Mixing hip hop and contemporary dance movements, Daniel Holt morphed Grumpy the Dwarf with OK Cupid’s newest victim in his movement vignette Grump-Tastic…hahaha! More a rough sketch of a work-still-very-much-in-progress than a dance, the piece had artistic merit. I just wished there had been more to it.

My favorite by far was slants revisited/take away the mountain, a bright and colorful collaboration between Maree ReMalia and David Bernabo. ReMalia and Bernabo used light, movement, and recorded sound to create a delightfully weird, self-referential commentary on the experience of presenting experimental art. Save a few rushed moments, this piece was a pleasure to watch and the only time I felt actively engaged by a performance that afternoon.

The idea behind The CURRENT SESSIONS is compelling. If Convento and her team can curate works that match their equal regard for innovation and interaction, this series will thrive and fill a much-needed niche in NYC.

 

All Photography by Corey Melton

 

Written by Alejandra Iannone

Alejandra is a dancer, philosopher, and educator who lives and works in
New York City. She is a cum laude graduate of the Fordham University/Ailey School
B.F.A. program in New York City, NY, and has had the honor of dancing works by
various choreographers, including Take Ueyama, Jacqulyn Buglisi, Neil Ieremia, and
Donna Salgado. She is a faculty member at The Ailey School—Junior Division, where
she teaches creative movement and ballet and teaches at Astoria Fine Arts Dance + Fitness. Alejandra also holds an M.A. in Philosophy from Temple University, where she did work in the areas of Aesthetics, Philosophy of Dance, and Philosophy of Mind. She is an adjunct lecturer at The City College of New York, where she teaches philosophy.

Whether she is working in philosophy, dance, or some combination of the two, Alejandra
is interested in asking and perhaps answering questions about embodied knowledge.