Hello, Baltimore!

Hello, Baltimore! I’m Shianne, a local professional dancer and dance writer. I began writing as a pre-teen, and actually have a book published that I wrote when I was 12, but let’s focus on dance. I began dancing at age 3 and have been dancing since! I attended Towson University for dance performance and dance education, from the class of 2016. I enjoy watching dance, teaching dance, talking about dance, dancing, you name it – anything dance related, I love! I’ll be posting my dance reviews for dance companies in Baltimore and share my love for them. Thanks for stopping on my page! ❤️

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Inside the Block Outside the Box Preview Review

Inside the Block Outside the Box is a dance production hosted by The Collective, a Baltimore based Modern dance company. Other artists will be performing along with The Collective. These artists are LucidBeings Dance, Chiles VandenBosche and Lea Williams, In the Dark Circus Arts, and DeAundre Drisdom. The show will be held at Creative Alliance on Sunday September 16 at four o’clock. Sonia Synkowski, the Artistic Director of The Collective, gave me a tour of Creative Alliance and shared great details about the upcoming production.

The show will begin with a trio of dancers, from The Collective, dancing down a set of wooden stairs. “We try to keep each piece five minutes or less…we want to give hors d’oeuvres of dance to the audience, which makes it more exciting” Synkowski said. The trio will transition into the theatre, which is where six pieces of choreography will be performed. This portion in the theatre will begin with an aerial dance piece, by In the Dark Circus Arts, and will finish with a Hip Hop styled piece, by DeAundre Drisdom. When audience members enter into the theatre, there will be a colored card on their seat. The card color would determine what space the audience members will explore after exiting the theatre.

The spaces used in Creative Alliance for this performance are the stairs, gallery, Marquee Lounge, and the theatre. The theatre is the most traditional space the performers will use in this show, creating an exciting and creative environment for dance. The Collective has hosted a production for dance in Creative Alliance for the last nine years, and this is the second year they have used all of the spaces in Creative Alliance for performing, rather than staying in the theatre. Synkowski expressed that she is dreaming of one year using the outdoor space as well as the inside space of Creative Alliance, that way the audience will be greeted with dance before they even buy their tickets inside.

LucidBeings Dance will be performing a trio in the Marquee Lounge, a quaint lounge space with a bar and tables and unique miniature airplanes hanging from the ceiling. LucidBeings Dance is a Contemporary Modern dance company originally from Fredrick, MD. In the Gallery, a Lindy Hop piece will be performed by Chiles VandenBosche and Lea Williams. This piece will be a partnered dance inspired by the style of West Coast Swing. A Collective quartet will also perform in the gallery space. This piece is choreographed by Lynne Price, The Collective Company Member, and was inspired by the artwork on display on the gallery walls.

The gallery artist, Gina Pierleoni, titled her piece “What Makes Us (Us)”. All over the gallery walls, there are many drawings of people on small rectangular canvases. Each canvas is completely different in color, media, and style, as each drawing is of someone that Pierleoni has met and cared for in her life. She began the series “What Makes Us (Us)’ twenty six years ago in 1992. The artwork Pierleoni created was inspired by people she would see on the train, models in her art classes that she would teach, and new friends she made. On the back of each canvas, she has written a short story about each person she has drawn about. “We look at people all the time and don’t know what their stories are” Pierleoni told me as she looked at her artwork on the gallery walls. She was inspired to create this artwork by her love of people and wanting to know the story behind each person she was captured by. “We need to connect, not just in the age of Trump….we are better when we connect” said Pierleoni.

The idea of connection draws into the inspiration of Lynne Price’s piece that will be performed in the gallery surrounded by Pierleoni’s artwork. Price was heavily influenced by the dancers and how different they are, but also how they connect. Price was also inspired by a particular drawing in the gallery, which looks like a colorful ribcage. Price imagines adding on to the choreography, transforming it into something even bigger. As I walked around the galley space, the dancers were rehearsing the choreography given to them. “Embody them, allow them to influence your sense of space” Price said to the dancers, referring to the drawings of people around them. Price feels that there are so many layers to the piece, in the rupture versus repair feeling, connecting, and even meeting Gina Pierleoni for the first time a week prior to the show added another layer onto their creation. This piece will be performed twice, both times to a different song, which will be giving the audience two different feelings about the performance. This piece will definitely be a must-see.

It was so exciting for me to be in the space the dancers will perform in and meet with some of the choreographers and the gallery artist. I can truly say, without a doubt, this is going to be a thrilling show. The audience will get a taste of dance in Baltimore and will even get to view beautiful artwork at the same time. This is definitely the show to see this fall!

By Shianne Antoine

Inside the Block Outside the Box presented by The Collective and special guests

9/16 4pm $12 per ticket

http://www.collective-dance.com/     http://www.creativealliance.org/

Permeating Presence Review

Permeating Presence is a piece of choreography that was performed at the “Drawing the Universe” show, hosted by BlueShift Dance, at Baltimore Theatre Project. This piece was performed by LucidBeings Dance and was choreographed by Franki Graham and Jeanna Riscigno. Riscigno and Graham explained in an interview that their creative process included contact improvisation and phrase creation based on various ideas, such as pouring or dissolving. They allowed the movement they created to move the audience to choose to view the journey of an individual dancer, duet, or the whole group. LucidBeings Dance is directed by both Franki Graham and Jeanna Riscigno and is based in Fredrick, MD.

Permeating Presence opens with limbs reaching out of the wings in surprising ways. A pair of legs were hanging out of the stage right wing at the height you’d expect someone’s head to be. Rolling slowly, four dancers slowly seep onto the stage to get into a clump that feels like a living breathing organ. The dancers then extend into a standing vertical line and strike their left elbow directly sideways. Then, they each broke away from the line into individual seamless flowing movements of turning with sporadic pauses. One dancer runs to the downstage right corner and gasps loudly for air. The rest of the dancers followed to the downstage right corner and gasped on their own timing. I acknowledged that this corner is very important to the dancers, calling it the “mothership” in my mind. The dancers then did their own variation of movements that involved double turns, large ball changes and shifts of weight, and large windmills of the arms.

“We are just visiting” is heard in the sound score and that shifts the dancers to move into two duets. One duet is downstage and one of these dancers is floating limply on her partner’s hip, and they both swayed forward and back in this lift. The other duet, in center, was consistently shifting and rolling onto one another on the floor, one wrapping her arms and legs around the torso of her partner to lie sideways in her lap, as well as finding moments to support and hold each other. This duet felt very warm in that they were individuals in relation with each other, while the duet downstage seemed to create one static energy. The downstage duet’s lift transformed into a sinking and rolling on the floor to follow the movements of the trio in center. The dancers perform a beautiful weight share of one dancer hinging backwards to lean her back on the shoulders of her partner sitting below her. Riscigno shared with me in her interview that her and Graham’s choreography explores “existence as energies continually changing form and eventually experiencing that brief moment where our physical form and consciousness meet to create life”. The dancers emote different energies in this piece ranging from sharp, to free flowing, to trancelike, demonstrating this exploration.

Next, the dancers move into new duets with similar partnering from the previous pairings. One exciting moment was when two dancers stood with their backs facing their partners and the other dancers laid on their backs with their legs lifted in the air. The standing dancers arched backwards and rocked back onto her partner’s suspended feet to be held in the air. Both duets went into this lift at the same time and it was gorgeous. This reminded me of when children would do this with their parents to feel like they’re flying as their parent would place their feet onto their child’s hips to suspend them in the air. While the duets are supporting each other, one dancer escapes from her partner and keeps beckoning towards the downstage right corner, the “mothership”, with her hands and her focus, reaching towards something we cannot see.

The movement throughout the last half of the piece felt trancelike. It was as if the dancers were moving without being in control of their actions, like another entity controlled their movements. Each dancer moved with a floating quality and kept their focus intentional yet dazed as they looked at the downstage corner. Then, all four dancers traveled downstage center and created a tableau with each dancer in contact with another. One of the dancers rested her head on the shoulders of a lunging dancer, and had her feet lifted in the air by another dancer behind her as the last dancer connected with them while perched low to the ground. It was a very eye catching snapshot moment.

One by one, the dancers broke away from the tableau to reach their arms and gasp at the “mothership”. They each gasped and reached both their arms diagonally up on their own timing and drifted forward and backwards in this corner, repeating their gasps. In this moment, I began to feel like the dancers were part of an alien invasion of sorts, like they were being pulled back onto a spaceship after exploring a new region. Out of the downstage corner came surprise unison in duets that flowed out of individual phrases that were filled with sharp parallel turns, quick strikes of the arms, and fast surprising jumps. These movements lead each dancer back into their vertical line. The piece ended with the dancers reaching their arms back up and then one dancer gives one big gasp. In the blackout, the audio said “We’re just visiting”.

Permeating Presence is a gorgeous piece of choreography that had my eyes shooting from one dancer to the next throughout the performance. This piece was filled with surprise moments and many overlapping segments. I found myself widening my eyes and saying “wow” when I saw this performed for the first time at the Baltimore Dance Invitational. I felt the need to see this piece a second time to really wrap my head around what was happening and not get caught up in the consistent surprise moments and beauty. This piece is definitely one I could watch over and over again and still find something new and wonderful about it each time I view it.

 

 

By Shianne Antoine

And&And&And Review

And&And&And is a piece created by Peter Redgrave and Lynne Price. The two artists created their work by the structure of various improvisation games leaving this show performed with only improvisation. Audience participation was used multiple times in this performance. Redgrave and Price created their own live soundtrack of breathing, stomping, clapping, spoken word from audience members, and singing within the performance. This performance was the first featured in the second BIDA season and was performed at Church on the Square.

When viewers entered the space, they saw gorgeous swirl patterns of red yarn all over the floor and white Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling. We were told to sit in different areas in the space, ranging from the sides of the room, the front of the room, and the balcony in the back of the space. This created the effect that there wasn’t a ‘front’ facing for the dancers and each viewer would have a different perspective of the performance.

And&And&And begins with Redgrave standing in the doorway and Price enters from the opposite direction. They slowly walk on the red yarn facing each other, both wearing a short blue patterned toga with yarn tied around their waist, while holding green yarn in their hands. They began flinging their green yarn loosely toward each other, which mushed the beautiful red yarn pattern all together. They both shifted their weight front and back as they swung their green yarn and rotated to face the opposite wall they were facing, still swinging their yarn. Redgrave remained with an up and down swing of the yarn and Price swung hers side to side as she twisted her torso right and left. The red yarn became a pile of noodles at their feet after the shifting and swinging of their green yarn.

Naturally, their individual green yarns get tangled like a web. They each take turns sticking their arms and legs into the holes of the web they created. The two found a beautiful counterbalance with each other, pulling their green yarn away from each other. Price then shifts to the floor and Redgrave pulls her around, by the yarn, slowly and then eventually running fast in a circle with the green yarn at his hips. Price slides along behind him holding onto the yarn.

Price then breaks away from the green yarn to perform indirect and flowy, yet powerful movements. Her head swept down to the floor and suspended her body up before her head led her to roll. She continued by putting weight into her hands, extending her leg up. Price then does a slight wiggle of her knees and pelvis while actively exhaling. Redgrave then moves into the same characteristic of movement quality of his dance partner, but done in a different way. He did many turns while off balance, which were so fun to watch, and carved his arms in space. Suddenly, Redgrave looks as if he can’t breathe. He points to his open mouth and stiffens his body. Price began making an “ahhhhh” panting sound to accompany her wiggling. She walks backwards with her head up and mouth still open. Redgrave moves internally, creeping forward with little steps, and gets smaller in his steps by holding his knees with his hands. It is as if he is trying to find his balance in this moment if he were walking on a tightrope. Price changes her exhale sound to an “ohhhh” and she slowly descends to the floor and finds stillness there. Redgrave finally audibly inhales, which initiates the next movement.

Price pops up from the floor and begins moving her body in different directions very quickly as she was saying things like “And I’m going to keep talking while I’m moving”. Price’s movements involved many twists and scooting of her feet. Redgrave began talking and moving as well saying things like “I choose not to stop it”. His movements involved stomping and jumping to make percussive sounds with his body. Price noticed her dance partner stop talking during his percussive movement and said “use our words Peter!” This section of the performance was so full and striking because the dancers were saying two different things in two different ways and moving completely different at the same time. I really wanted to listen and watch both of their dancing dialogues individually since they were both doing and saying such interesting things. Price was talking and moving very fast while Redgrave was speaking very intentionally, like a monologue, and he moved in a similar manner. Redgrave then says “It. Just. Keeps. Going” which initiated Price’s aerobic bouncing on her feet and a skittering bourree from Redgrave. Price then grabs the red yarn, which is now a tangled pile, and wears it around her neck like a scarf.

These two artists work so well together throughout this piece as they really listened to each other physically and audibly. A beautiful moment that demonstrated this was when Price was lying on the ground face down and Redgrave laid his body on top of hers for a moment of stillness. One of them exhaled a big puff of air that broke their bodies apart into their own individual movement again. Finding that long pause and breaking away at the same time after that long puff of air took great body communication. These two were performing their own movement phrases after they separated, but they both were throwing their arms up repeatedly. Redgrave then stood by a group of viewers and Price stood by another. They were throwing their arms up and looking at us intently. They kept doing this and Price started laughing. Then one audience member caught on: the dancers were trying to get us to do the wave! Eventually, almost all of the audience members were doing the wave around the whole space.

While we were still doing the wave, Price gets a microphone and told one of the viewers sitting behind me to start talking about waves. He began saying things like “it starts calm and then it grows”. The microphone got passed on to the two other people beside me, and to me as well. “Ice in the waves”, “Huge waves!”, “There is salt in your hair”, “Woosh!”, and “Waves” were said by the viewers. What was fun about this part of the piece was that an audio tool was used to make the viewers’ words record and repeat on a loop as it was played. “Huge waves!” was my favorite part to hear. The viewers’ recorded voices became the soundtrack for this duet’s movement. As these words were heard, Redgrave reacted to the words. He moved his body loosely one side to another as if he was being tossed about in the ocean. Price joined the physical reactions as well as our voice recordings continued to play. Price waved her body beginning with her head and snaked down to her tail. She also scooped her arms in and out, moving as if she were the waves we were talking about. Price then got audience participation again. Hanging from the balcony were strings of green yarn and Price prompted the people sitting in the balcony to twirl the yarn to add to the wave inspired movements.

This led into Price directing one side of the audience in singing “na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye”. Redgrave led the opposite side of the audience in the same tune, so the whole audience was singing in a canon. The artists finish this piece by chasse-ing sideways in a circle facing each other and playfully swinging their arms with smiles while the audience was still singing. They end by giving the musical ‘rest’ symbol in both of their hands held above their heads.

And&And&And was one of my favorite pieces that I’ve seen a while. This piece invigorated me as it was so playful and was filled with games and movement, for movements’ sake. I left the Church on the Square with a smile on my face and wished that all dance could be this fun. I am so pleased to know these artists and I definitely applaud their bravery because being so free and so bold in front of an audience is not easy.

 

 

By Shianne Antoine

 

BIDA 2nd Annual Showcase Review

The BIDA 2nd Annual Showcase was a two day performance of ten different pieces. Each piece was choreographed by a different artist. The showcase was made of different themes and movements, but there were many similarities between the pieces. This was a show of many solos, chairs, and contemporary dance. The audience was very lucky to witness such a rich performance.

Ronderrick Mitchell’s Boy En Vogue

The first thing the audience saw is Mitchell sitting on chair and putting on red shoes that match his fierce red costume. The audio began with a debate between two people and transformed into a melodic soundscape with Hilary Clinton speaking in the background on LGBTQ rights. Mitchell performed a repetitive motif of giving the sign of the cross on his body with two fingers while sitting on the chair. His solo felt like self- discovery with his wavering between quick smooth movements and slow direct reaches with his limbs.

Samantha Hopkins’ Contents May Shift

This duet opens with Hopkins sitting in a chair and Polly Hurlburt lying her head in Hopkins’ lap. Throughout this playful duet, the two dancers found creative ways to lift and share weight with each other. A striking moment was when Hurlburt goes into a handstand and Hopkins grabs her partner’s feet behind her back and over her shoulder. Hopkins leans forward and Hurlburt gets back onto her feet, like a front walkover. The two emote a kind friendship with each other as they support each other in playful ways. A memorable moment was when the two counterbalanced with their necks pressed against each other, and they walked around in a circle in this counterbalance. That is something I definitely wanted to try after seeing this duet! Contents May Shift ends with a surprising lift: Hurlburt sits on Hopkins’ shoulder blades and presses her feet into her back. Hopkins then walks offstage out the door with Hurlburt on her back. This audibly wowed the audience.

Imani Shabazz’s Extra Terrestrial Bodies

This was a duet that was filled with gracious energy flowing through the dancers’ arms and torso that was accompanied with Wassoulou music. This piece felt like a religious offering as the dancers often beckoned their arms upwards. A memorable moment was when the dancers were kneeling facing each other and tapped their stomach, chest, forehead, and then opened their arms in a high release. They repeated this movement in different speeds, which was very satisfying to watch. Shabazz and Tadesse danced with smiles on their faces and kept the high energy flowing throughout Extra Terrestrial Bodies.

Zakari Jaworski’s Scheduled Interruption

This trio begins with three dancers rolling onto the stage. The music that played with this piece changed many times and it dictated the feeling the dancers were portraying. As I watched this piece, I thought about the transformation of television over time and how the dancers were seeming to tell that historic story. The music and movement raged from playful to aggressive to soothing. An exciting moment was when Ledesma climbed onto Jaworski’s back with effort and then drapped his body sideways over Jaworski’s back. Jaworski then held onto Ledesma’s body and spun him around rapidly. This piece had beautiful moments and comical moments, such as the ending of the piece with the dancers replicating the well-known painting “The Creation of Adam”.

Domineka Reeves’ Your Day Will Come

Reeves’ solo began with her running onstage and slowly rubbing her hands on her arms and body. This piece felt very emotional as Reeves performed protective gestures such as covering her head with her hands and caressing her body for comfort. Your Day Will Come encompassed the emotional melody of the same titled music very well and was performed with evident passion.

Madeline Maxine Gorman’s Bitten Tongue

Bitten Tongue is a solo performed by Kayla Clancy. This solo was incredibly energetic and manipulated movement sequences with repetition that was not overdone. Clancy performed beautifully as she was seen repeating a backwards roll and quickly lunging to the pulsing beat of the music. This piece began with Clancy standing in a spotlight and she began to speak, but the sound of gunshot interrupts her and shoves her out of the spotlight. An eye catching moment was when Clancy was ticking and twitching her head and arms very quickly like a malfunctioning robot, but she crumbled to the ground as a human when laughing becomes audible in the sound score. Clancy builds her movement back up to its ferocious quality. The solo ends with Clancy back in the spotlight and finally getting to speak saying “I am not afraid, I am not ashamed, I am strong!” This piece was a great energetic conclusion to the Saturday night show.

Melissa Hudson’s The Weight of Waiting

The Weight of Waiting is a group piece of seven dancers. This piece displayed a gorgeous flow and technique from the dancers. The beauty of the canons and individual solos was the consistent backbone of this piece. This group also worked with chairs and seeing seven of them, used by seven dancers, was so appealing. The dancers moved the backs of their chairs into a small circle and the group moved from chair to chair smoothly. A favorite moment of mine was when one dancer stood on her chair in center stage and slowly leaned her body into a long lateral T. The movement grew from direct with ease to strong and quick as the piece progressed. Another memorable moment was when the dancers had their chairs in a vertical line and one by one they tip toed slowly and carefully down the line of chairs. It reminded me of walking on clouds while they were lifting their arms freely as they stepped from chair to chair. Hudson’s choreography is inspiring and stunning.

Natalie Boegel’s Verguenza

This was a solo performed by Hannah Soares. Soares performed this solo with such power and grace. There is no doubt that she is a powerful dancer and can quickly change movement quality, as this was a theme in Verguenza. Soares spent most of her time swiping her legs and arms on the floor in various movement phrases, but what remained, whether on her knees or standing, was a motif of her right hand creeping around the back of her head and spoking her elbow towards her left knee sharply. The contrast between the smooth movements and the sharp movements were massive and made this solo stimulating.

Colorful Soles’#NineTen

This was performed by a group of seven dancers. #NineTen was made up of lovely canons and graceful movements. The dancers’ movements made me think of angels. The dancers were lifted and moved their arms in carved shapes through the air. It was clear that these dancers work well together and dance seamlessly as a group.

Torens Johnson’s In My Head

This is a solo performed by Diedre Dawkins. This was an expansive solo that showcased Dawkins’ lovely technique and power. She performed jumps, penches, and high releases, all while dancing on and around a bench. Dawkins performed Johnson’s choreography with a pleasant smile on her face, which made this solo even more exciting to watch.

Overall, the BIDA 2nd Annual Showcase was a success. I am so thrilled with the performances on both days. The performances showcased the Baltimore dance community in all its similarities and differences. The choreography was emotional, comical, graceful, beautiful and powerful. This was such a great opportunity for the audience to see great choreography performed by great dancers. I am definitely looking forward to what the 3rd Annual Showcase will bring.

 

 

by Shianne Antoine

“I Know I Can’t Do This Forever” performed by The Collective

I Know I Can’t Do This Forever Review

Performed by The Collective

At the Baltimore Dance Invitational, twelve different dance companies located in Baltimore and North East region, came together to perform and promote their dance companies. Every piece presented a new element to the stage raging from grace, risk, and ferocity. The host dance company of the Baltimore Dance Invitational, The Collective, performed the piece I know I Can’t Do This Forever choreographed by Gianna Rodriguez. This piece displayed the beautiful performance quality and togetherness of the dancers in The Collective as well as utilizing a difficult prop: a long thick rope.

This piece began with a dancer rolling onto the stage with a thick rope wrapped around her body. As she rolled, the rope began to unravel and leave a trail behind her. Another dancer entered the stage as the rolling dancer approached stage right. The second dancer grabbed onto the rope. The two dancers have a tug of war of sorts with the rope, which is very intriguing. The second dancer is tangled in the rope by the first dancer, and she begins rolling downstage as the first dancer did.

A second rope emerged as four dancers rolled onto the stage in a canon. The rope is unraveled diagonally on the stage and a quartet begins with these dancers lying their backs onto the rope. The dancers perform a phrase of rolling onto their side to pick up the rope with intention and then dropping it loosely. The movements that followed initiated with the head to bring them back onto their backs. They walked their feet around in a circle as their backs slid around following their feet. The quartet now faced upstage and they hooked their right leg over their left knee. They then began repetitively picking up and dropping the rope, each in their own timing, but this action became more aggressive the more they did it.

It then became clear to me: the movements that are performed without the rope feel very soft and gentle, but movements with the rope feel bound as if you are kept prisoner to this object. The rope is as much binding emotionally as it is physically. The rope seemed to drain the energy and control away from the dancers, and when they were away from it, they moved with much more ease.

This piece continued on with such striking moments, one being when a group of dancers are dragged by the rope. There were dancers lying motionless on the rope before this moment, and then dancers from the quartet pulled the rope swiftly. This swift pull made the dancers on the rope drag their bodies on the floor while holding onto the rope. The dragged dancers looked so limp, yet they held onto the rope. This was such a memorable moment for me. Other striking moments involved a worm like movement of the spine while lying face down, a motionless duet in center with the rope wrapped around the two bodies, and dancers running freely around the stage as the duet remained in center while twisting their arms around themselves, as if they were creating their own rope. This center duet was interesting as the two remained in a slow tempo as the other dancers ran quickly in the space.

The most beautiful moment in this performance was when all of the dancers found themselves caught in the rope after running around the stage. Each dancer was tangled in the rope, on the floor, and actively fought their way out of the rope. Seeing each dancer being bound by the rope in a unique way was so interesting. One dancer was tangled in the rope around her torso, another around her shoulders, the other around her legs, and so on. Since each dancer was tangled differently, their struggle to be released by the rope was unique. The group all found their way out of the rope which lead into a unison movement of twisting their legs inwards, dropping their heads, and bourree-ing with their hand gradually lifting up.

I Know I Can’t Do This Forever comes to conclusion with all the dancers running on the stage again with one dancer in center standing still. The dancers running around the center dancer place the rope around her still body. The rope is tangled around her arms and shoulders and she seems stuck in this end moment with the rope hanging on her body. The conclusion of this piece feels very open ended yet continuous as if the feeling of the weight of the rope remains on the center dancer, whether she has the rope around her or not.

This conclusion also raises some questions for me: What is the rope really representing? It can be seen as our own individual personal struggles. Each of the dancers experienced the heaviness of the rope at some point, which reflects life: every person endures a weight to bear at times. But is this what was trying to be portrayed? I question this because when the dancers were away from the rope, their demeanor never changed. Sure, their movement seemed easier and lighter without the rope, but it never seemed like their journey was actually easy or sprinkled with moments of happiness at these times. I am also left wondering why the dancer at the end of the piece, which is wrapped in the rope, is different from the first dancer we see rolling in the rope. Because of this factor, my wondering began about the true meaning behind the rope. Ending the piece with a single dancer wrapped in the rope alters my idea about the rope representing everyone’s struggles in life; it leads me to believe that this rope struggle is about one person. Yet, the person we see ending with the rope is different than the person beginning with it. Overall, it is clear that the rope holds a binding heavy force to it and that it’s not completely escapable throughout the piece.

The Collective dancers performed with great movement quality. Being able to completely release your body while using a prop is not easy, and I applaud their beautiful ability to do so. I Know I Can’t Do This Forever demonstrated this dance company’s professional performance quality. Gianna Rodriguez’s choreography did not disappoint as it was intriguing and thoughtful. This piece is one worth seeing.

By Shianne Antoine

Are We Dancing for the “Likes”?

*Disclaimer: this is from my personal experience and humble opinion from my dance career. I would be honored to hear your honest opinion on this topic as well as your experiences. Please be respectful, my Mom is reading this!*

Dance has become so popular through the media. Various dance genres are shown on television with World of Dance, SYTYCD, Dance Moms, and other shows. Dance is very prevalent on social media as well. Often, dance studios post videos from their classes online. The growth of the dance world has increased in awareness through the media, especially with its overwhelming presence of dance online. Every day on social media, I come across videos of my friends, and dancers that I don’t know, showing their improvisations, choreography, and dancing in class. There are pages on social media specified for dance videos, which post nearly every day. Dance videos from individuals, studios, and companies worldwide can be found right at your fingertips. What are the long term effects of these videos online? Are dancers posting videos for “likes” and popularity? What makes me question the use of cameras in the dance world the most is when I see it in the dance classroom.

Growing up, I saw the studio as a home. A place that is always familiar and always safe. Dance studio walls and mirrors saw me mess up, fall, cry, triumph, laugh, cheer, and feel at home. The studio is a sacred place for students to grow and just be. Dancers make friends at the barre, warm up sore muscles during roll downs, sweat it out across the floor, and dance their hearts out through it all. Dancers do all this as a unit, with the security and familiarity of dancing in front of mirrors, walls, fellow classmates, and teachers. And then, a camera is pulled out. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have danced and had been recorded doing a combination from classes a few times in the past, but when I did it, I did it to promote what organization I was part of or event I was participating in. The secure home feeling is so important to some dancers that there are studios I have took classes at in New York that don’t allow the use of recording within their studios. While in those classes, I would see signs stating the “no recording” rule on the wall of each studio I visited, and I appreciated the message that came across to me: we are here to dance for ourselves, this special moment is not for all to see.

Seeing dance videos on my timeline every single day is wonderful, yet also questionable to me. Many things come to my mind, such as

• Why do I mostly see Hip Hop and Ballet in class and performance videos (not just only; exclusively)?

• What lengths do these dance studios go through to make these videos?

• Do these teachers feel pressure to make their combinations “camera worthy”, or pressure to film their classes often from their studio owners?

• How do the dancers feel about this? Do they think that this is normal classroom etiquette now?

*My biggest question remains as is this what the dance world is expected to be like now?

As a dance teacher, I record my students for my own records, to remember what we did in class in case I want to revisit a combination for the students’ benefit. I have allowed students to record combinations that they have created themselves in my classes, as well as some of my own, but it is not something I do often. Seeing that I have mixed feelings on recording and posting videos in the classroom, I don’t see myself allowing my students to post videos taken in my classes, unless it is posted in the beginning of a dance season, with the dance studio page tagged in the video, as promotion for the studio enrollment. I see the value of the use of dance videos for promotion, but not for “likes”.

In the age that we are in of documentation, I can’t say that what dancers are doing aren’t benefitting them. Dancers are getting hired and recognized by different artists by simply posting a video of themselves dancing online. Studios are being recognized worldwide as well as dance companies. It’s a great business venture, putting yourself on camera and hoping that the right person will notice to make your business (i.e. yourself) take off. But, are some dancers taking videos of themselves for the attention?

Dance is a field of validation in ways. When you grow up in dance class, you want approval from your teacher to know that you are improving and that you are a good dancer. In college, you want approval from your professors to know that you can become a professional. As a professional, you want to be hired by a company or a show to get the approval that you are, indeed, a professional dancer. So, are dancers adding in the approval of the public eye to validate their hustle while they are still in school for dance, better yet, in between dance jobs? I know the feeling, as a freelance dancer, of wondering whether all the years of working on technique was actually worth it. “Am I good dancer? Am I still a good dancer if I don’t have a dance job?” My advice is to look within and see whether you dance for yourself or for something else. You can validate your own self in the dance studio without millions of eyes having access to your work.

My hope is that dancers who post videos of themselves aren’t doing so for the “likes”. If we allow ourselves to take a step back and re-evaluate the action of posting videos of ourselves and how it affects us and those around us, posting these videos is potentially harmful. By seeking approval through “likes”, you are allowing other people into your journey. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but in a field that thrives on critique, opinions, and comparing one dancer to another, you put yourself in a position to get more opinions than necessary. By letting more people see your progress online, this can harm your self- esteem and confidence if you don’t get as many “likes” as you would desire, or if someone posts a negative comment about your video. On the other hand, you could very well get all the “likes” you desire and feel very happy with your work that you posted online.

Yet, with regard to the dancers watching these videos, their self-esteem can be harmed by comparing themselves to the dancers they are seeing online. Maybe they don’t feel confident that their own dancing is worthy enough to be recorded and posted because they don’t dance with the same quality as other dancers online. Maybe they don’t have many followers on social media, so they fear they’ll receive a low number of “likes”. These dancers could also feel very happy and supportive towards the dancers they are viewing and give them that blue thumbs up we all enjoy. But, what does it mean to get more “likes”? If you get numerous “likes”, does it mean you’re more talented than someone that doesn’t get many “likes”? Absolutely not, we are all valuable dancers, but some people might view our talent that way. In the end, we’re all just trying to make it and enjoy our craft. Dance is already so competitive: with auditions filled with one hundred girls to fill one role, being typed out by casting, and judged on whether we look like a princess while performing a twenty-four count combination during a Disney audition; and now we’re just creating more competition by comparing ourselves to each other 24/7 through the work of social media.

Our sacred place does not need to be exposed, our progress does not need to be shared, but I acknowledge why some dancers are doing so. Personally, I feel that our work should be left on the floor, along with our sweat, as a reminder of the hard work that we put in each class. How we feel after we perform in class and on stage is the validation that we need, and earned. I urge you, my fellow dancers, to lift each other up in person, as well as yourself. Thinking of posting your amazing improvisation? Go for it! Just remember that every dancer is not the same, how other dancers can be affected, and every dance journey is different.

What are your thoughts? How are dance videos affecting your work? Why do you record and post your dancing?

By Shianne Antoine

Unshamed: performed by Full Circle Dance Company

Unshamed

11/4/17 Performance Review

Unshamed was a concert of eight different pieces of choreography. Each piece differed from each other and demonstrated each choreographer’s unique creation. From thought provoking …Skinned Deep to comical Daydreams, Full Circle Dance Company demonstrated their diverse ability to wow an audience with emotional, controversial, and light hearted choreography. The concert’s namesake, Unshamed, was performed by the entire company and was commissioned by the Ruby grant from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. Full Circle Dance Company is a professional dance company, founded in 2000, and is made up of sixteen women.

Director of Full Circle Dance Company, Donna Jacobs, choreographed Unshamed. Her choreography was inspired by the true stories of various people experiencing domestic abuse. The proceeds from the performance will be used to benefit the Bridge Program, a domestic violence intervention organization.

Unshamed begins with audio of voices saying “I do love this person”, “I went into a depression”, and “love doesn’t hurt this much”. A soloist, Shaela Davis, enters the stage talking on the phone, happily, and begins to move in a blissful way. Davis performs a beautiful solo full of sweeping arms and legs, suspended turns, and smooth arm gestures. She returns to her phone and her happy mood changes drastically. The audience sees her face drop from her smile as she shakes her head frantically. Davis’ movement changes into quick walking, sharp slides to the ground, and aggressive bound arm movements. Another dancer, Stephanie Crockett, enters and comforts Davis. The dancers perform a duet, Davis turning quickly away from Crockett refusing the comfort, and Crockett continues to provide support by catching Davis as she leans into her arms.

The next section of Unshamed follows with a unison of dancers. These dancers perform lengthened extensions, various jumps, and a striking suspended plie in parallel with their hands held above their heads in fists. The dancers’ strong movements are interrupted by broken shaking and bending at the waist and knees. The audience sees the once strong dancers as now vulnerable. This section closes with some dancers curled up on the ground being physically comforted by other dancers.

A trio forms in the next section leading with a striking stag leap. These dancers covered the stage with beautiful suspended moments cut with sharp moments. The trio impressed me with a low scoop of the arms into a surprising high suspension before a powerful fall on their side. It is evident that the dancers are beginning to bear their brokenness and find comfort through one another. These dancers comfort each other with such genuine gentleness and care evident from the audience.

A large group of dancers enter the stage slicing their arms and falling to the ground with strength. I could greatly feel the dancers’ breath and intention with each arm pattern, slice of the leg, and turn they performed. The dancers then transition into internal movements by slowly caressing their bodies with their hands to comfort themselves. These slow moments are also interrupted with quick movements of the feet and arms. I see these quick movements representing the dancers remembering their past abuse within their moment of comfort and overcoming the pain. The dancers all seem to have a look of pain or a look of searching on their faces, as if they are looking for a way to find their happiness. The dancers all ease down into a clump, laying near or on one another.

An audio of voices is played once again, this time we hear phrases like “there is hope, don’t give up”, and “I never thought I’d find someone who’d love me, but I did”. The dancers rise onto their knees and perform a beautiful unison, on the floor, extending their arms and legs with great suspension into a smooth roll. I interpret this ending section as representing hope. The hope of the dancers can be seen in gestures upwards and lifted movements filled with living breaths. The duet from the first section returns, but with such ease from Davis as she accepts the comfort and support from Crockett. Davis ends the piece performing blissful and beautiful lifts of the leg and various turns. She is blissful in a new way that brings happiness from within herself.

This conclusion to Unshamed felt satisfying and hopeful. This piece bears the truth of many people who endure abusive relationships of any kind. Unshamed showcased Full Circle’s incredible ability to tell a difficult story through movement. Full Circle did not disappoint during this performance and the Bridge Program will be grateful for the awareness Full Circle brought to the community.

By Shianne Antoine

Foodless Food: performed by Blue Shift Dance Company

Foodless Food

5/27/17 Performance Review

Foodless Food is a piece of multimedia choreography, performed by Blue Shift Dance, inspired by food deserts and their effect on Baltimore City. Video, audio, and movement are together throughout the work, which altogether was thought-provoking, complex, and chilling.

“It’s important for people to see that this is experiential, were not putting this on, we can really feel this.” Caitlin McAfee, the director of Blue Shift Dance Company, said.

Foodless Food opened with a video compilation of sugary food and drink advertisements throughout history. The dancers and choreographers, Caitlin McAfee and Adrienne Latanishen, enter with happy smiles glued on their faces while trotting around the stage to artificially enthusiastic circus music. They offered the audience Twinkies and Pepsi cans as the piece proceeded with projections of different facts about food deserts, such as “1 in 4 residents live in a food desert” and “fast food chains disproportionately target black children.” The audience members were given paper to answer “what does it feel like to be in a food desert?” as Caitlin, who represents the food industry, sits and eats Twinkies.

During the creation of Foodless Food, the choreographers reflected on what it feels like to be in a food desert, which is why they asked the audience that same question. “Blue Shift Dance Company is collaborative and immersive, we like to involve the audience in our performances,” McAfee said in an interview.

Latanishen began to perform gestural movements that were variations of circular motions of the body and circular pathways on the stage. Her energy quickly changed between internal and external reaching. The pauses she gave between her movements were valuable and lovely as it allowed the audience to view the facts on the screen and back to the dancer.

“That’s what I think dancers bring to the table: the human connection. So having bodies on the stage along with the facts is meant to humanize.” McAfee said.

Latanishen, representing affected by food deserts, then collected our papers and placed them intentionally in a circle around herself. We heard audio from real people who are affected by food desserts as Latanishen wrote with her finger on the floor, kneeling in the circle she created. Her writing evolved from being defined and clear, with her pointer finger, to being muddled and difficult, with her shoulder. I saw in her struggle to write with her body a reflection of her struggle to live well. The statement, “They always forget about us,” was repeated consistently on the audio throughout this moment on Latanishen’s knees.

A motif of rubbing the fingers together on one hand, as if trying to spread seeds, or begging for cash, can be seen throughout Foodless Food and interpreted as searching — but search for what? Searching for food? Searching for answers? Searching for a way out? The audience is left to determine this for themselves. Latanishen often returned to this idea of “searching” with her fingers. The audience saw this dancer fighting her emotions as she stood in front of us, holding her chest, then exploded into a large strike of the leg. Latanishen performed a strong solo full of direct movements and reaching with her limbs leaving her barely standing by the end of her movement.

McAfee returned to the stage with the smile from the food industry glued on her face again. She began partnering with Adrienne to help her stay standing on her feet, but it did not work as Latanishen could not remain standing. This section was quite comical as Adrienne moved like a rag doll in McAfee’s hands.

There were many additional striking moments of complete weight sharing, one being when Latanishen was face down on the floor and McAfee was lying on top of Latanishen face-first in a back attitude position. As the duet ended, McAfee walked off the stage cracking open a Pepsi while Latanishen was left on stage rubbing her fingers together again.

In the last movement, Latanishen fought  tears and the screen behind her reads “can you drown in sugar?” She is struggling to move her body and eventually lays her body flat on the stage. This solo was heartbreaking to watch, and I felt an urge to run on the stage and embrace her. McAfee walked on stage observing Latanishen’s body on the floor, and began creating a body chalk outline with Twinkies around Latanishen.

Foodless Food came to a close with a spreading of seeds throughout the stage by the dancers and the audience members. Both movers performed a reverent duet to conclude this impactful, thought-provoking piece of choreography. The seeds and the duet revealed to the audience that this ending is not the end, that there is hope to resolve the issues regarding food deserts.

There are ways to move to make solutions.

By Shianne Antoine