Randy James is the founder and artistic director of the inventive 10 Hairy Legs.
This might sounds sexist, but there’s something about a group of men dancing together onstage. They pump more power, grab more air and shoot their authority through souls of an audience in a way that a troupe of women simply can’t.
And that’s the initial appeal of 10 Hairy Legs, an all-male ensemble of dancers. But then there is the technique – a fizzy brew of old-school modern and contact improvisation with acrobatics and marital arts. The meld is stunning to watch because the five men seize it with such natural fluidity and flair. They are like one body wrapped unto itself that is constantly undulating in ways that viewers cannot pull their eyes from.
The company, a brainchild of choreographer Randy James (a once frequent artistic guest at Skidmore College), previewed its “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” on Saturday night at the Kaatsbaan International Center for Dance. Choreographed by James, this is an atypical work as it opens the company up to female artists – five in all. It’s also a work that can appeal to children, families and those who are tepid toward dance, telling the tale from the first book from C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” series.
While a preview, it’s not fair to fully review. Let’s just say the final battle series is epic. Sarah Houspian’s depiction of the White Witch is chilling and her annihilation by The Lion, danced by Alex Biegelson, and his band of faithful is triumphant.
Before it premieres, however, I hope the costumes by Abraham Cruz become more literal. I couldn’t tell the beavers from the birds. And it was Biegelson’s regal portrayal of the Lion that keyed me in on his character because he looked like the Wolf.
The music, a mix of Mozart pieces, was ideal for the tale between good and evil. The personalities of the selections, bright and bouncy and dark and disquieting, set a perfect tone for the episodic telling.
The evening also featured 10 Hairy Legs doing what they do best –interlocking and bouncing their bodies off each other in a hypnotic dance. “Trouble Will Find Me,” choreographed by Doug Elkins, is set the robust music and vocals by Pakistani artist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
The five men started off strong and kept up the heated, but playful exchange in which they started off as five independent spirits who eventually explore every open space of their fellow dancer – from ear to arm pit and through the legs. The timing at which they attack the movement is pinhead precise.
They assemble and disperse like a living puzzle. It’s fascinating and makes me and, anyone with eyes, long for more of 10 Hairy Legs.
Collage Dance Collective is a sharp ensemble that dance audiences deserve to see more of.
When I think of Memphis, I think Elvis and barbecue. Not ballet.
But I’m now certain that ballet is growing an audience in the Home of the Blues thanks to Collage Dance Collective. This ensemble of fine classical dancers who appeared at The Egg on Friday night offered an uneven program, mainly because the choreography ranged from powerful to mediocre. But none of the dancing from this octet came off as anything but strong, capable and beautiful.
The moment the dancers took the stage in “Ella Suite Ella,” it was clear the night was to showcase refined technique from committed artists. But it’s premiere of this ballet, created by Arturo Fernandez to celebrate the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth, was less than auspicious. Featuring just three songs, this suite felt undone.
The opening duet with fluid Kimberly Ho-Tsai and Daniel Cooke was liquid gold. It was followed up by a sharp, syncopated solo by ultra-focused and taut Bernard DuBois II. The choreographer brought them back for finishing trio that didn’t coalesce or say anything about the music or their relationship. It was disappointing.
Nicolo Fonte’s “Left Unsaid” was also dissatisfying, but less so. Set to a Bach on violin, the dance of with folding chairs did speak of relationships unfulfilled. And while the construction was sensible, the ballet did not emit the heat that one wants from a ballet of tangled alliances.
But throughout, the dancers lent integrity to everything they did. Even when technical problems, such as long, mysterious pauses, befell the program, or when they themselves were out of synch, the dancers shined with their purity of intention.
This served them well in two potent pieces -- “The Rate of Which I Am,” by Joshua Manculich, and “Wasteland” by Christopher Huggins.
“The Rate of Which I Am” was a disturbing piece in which the dancers, all people of color, were isolated and placed in the glare of a single spotlight. In the light, they ran, they tried to fly, they contorted and tore at their skin. It brought about thoughts of over-policing, profiling and imprisonment.
Even when they appeared under the glaring light together, they were quickly separated, showing the expelling of support for those who need it most.
A gentle duet with Daphne Lee and Rickey Flagg II gave some respite from the flight, but “The Rate of Which I Am” resonated long after the curtain came down.
Also compelling was “Wasteland,” the evening’s finale. This ensemble piece, to music by Jonsi & Alex and Savanj Rooms, felt like a spiritual awakening after nuclear destruction. The eight radiated a force that overrode the lifelessness around them. They were the world and it was a robust, redeeming one.
The evening was rounded out with “Sweet,” a work by Shawn Hounsell with music by Njo Kong Kie. This glorious series of duets with Flagg, Lee, Dubois and Luisa Cardoso was a delight.
So too was the company. I hope we seen more of them soon.
Tango Fire radiated heat at The Egg on Saturday night.
On Saturday night, Tango Fire was on fire. This body of dancers and musicians from Buenos Aires ignited The Egg stage in smoking number after number that could best be described as sex with clothes on.
This is not the first time that Tango Fire has come to The Egg. The dancers and their excellent musical ensemble ripped across the board there in 2013 and 2011. But this showcase of the original dance of Argentina stands out as its best.
Five couples and four musicians gave their all to the small audience sliding and gliding, kicking and stomping, to music that was rhythmic and pulsating. The costumes – an array of gloriously shimmering evening dresses for the women – were gorgeous. And nearly every dancer, paired with their faithful partners, was polished to perfection.
The first thing you notice about the ensemble is their grooming – slick, clean and elegant. Dressed in black and white, the men in billowing ascots, the women in sparkling skirts with their hair drawn back in tight chignons, they are the vision of elite. But it was their dancing, confident and flawless, that proves they are exceptional.
Unlike most tango showcases, the stage was not cluttered with the usual table and chair. Rather the stage was wide-open so that the dances pedaling and scissored legs, slides and tosses were unimpeded.
The phenomenal musical quartet, Quarteto Fuego, comprised of a pianist Matias Feigin, bandoneon player Hugo Satorre, violinist Gemma Scalia and bassist Facundo Benavidez. Feigin hammered the keyboard while leading the other three who rose above the dancers on a platform. The music, punctuated by the soulful clips of Satorre’s bandoneon, set the exotic tone.
Of the dancers, Eber Burger and Sabrina Nogueira were the most enchanting. Their long lines and sharp attacks and immaculate execution were captivating.
Julio Jose Seffino and Carla Dominguez displayed astonishing athleticism. Dominguez was often tossed through the air, caught in the most picturesque ways by Seffino and then swept across the stage along the floor seamlessly.
Both of these couples had dazzling style.
Sebastian Alvarez and Victoria Saudelli did not quite fit the idealized Tango Fire image. Their acrobatics were awkward and painful to watch. Their duets, especially the one in which she wore a bodysuit decorated with shimmering green designs shaped like leaves, drew whoops and gasps. But these two feel short of their companion dancers’ exquisiteness. More finish was required here.
Aside from Alvarez and Saudelli, there was nothing to criticize – except for the fact that turnout for the show was low. It’s a shame that more people couldn’t have felt the generous heat radiating off Tango Fire.