NW Dance Project’s Bolero + Billie = A Rollercoaster of a Night of Dance

Dance Review, Entertainment Review

Let me start this review by reminding you all where my dance lover’s heart resides: in Portland.  More specifically, with NW Dance Project.  I simply adore this company, more than I can say, and was absolutely heart broken that my inability to plan well cost me the opportunity to see their fall show in October, and the final performance of the marvelous Ching Ching Wong.  So, when I realized there was a winter show, I simply had to drive myself down to see it, because not only would I get to see my beloved NW Dance Project dancers do what they do best, but it was a relaunch of Ihsan Rustem’s Bolero +, which as you’ll recall from my review of the premier, it is one of my all time favorite pieces I’ve ever seen. And I love me some Billie Holliday, so to Portland I trekked.

The evening started on a wonderful high, dining with two of my favorite people on the planet at the nearby Raven & Rose (I highly recommend you check that out, btw), and then off to the performance hall we went.  As I took my seat, and looked through the program, I saw that the choreographers for the Billie part of the program were the dancers themselves!  And Artistic Director, Sarah Slipper explained during her curtain speech that at NW Dance Project, they are not only developing outstanding dancers, but also the next generation of choreographers, so the winter show is the time in the season where the dancers get to flex their creative, choreographic muscles.  Intrigued?  So was I.  So let’s get into it, shall we?

So Billie came first, and it was set to a montage of songs sung by the incomparable Billie Holiday.  And the dancers set up a scenario of a holiday party where Billie is the musical act, and the cast of characters navigate their way through the evening as Ms. Holiday sings all the feelings, and for me, this program took me on a rollercoaster of an experience with some lovely highs, and some unfortunate lows.

Concept and design were two of the major high points!  I loved the lighting, the minimal set, and the single old microphone with a single spot light on it where I could almost see the ghost of Billie Holiday standing there crooning.  The costumes were era specific, fit beautifully, and seriously, nobody wears a fedora like my beloved Franco Nieto!  Bellissimo!  The show opens with the entire company slowly entering the party, where each dancer played out a different character (some as couples, some as hopeful singles looking to meet someone new, some as smooth swaggering studs) and all were wonderfully done.  Good acting all the way around. An outstanding start.

And from there the dancers navigated through 13 different pieces each set to a different song, and each song brought a new level of intensity and catastrophe because the characters were getting drunker by the 8 count.  And to be frank, the more the program went on, the more my stress level went up, because in the first few numbers, the intentions were clear, the narrative of each piece beautifully danced and executed, and the story was believable.  But as the program went on, intentions got muddy, the narrative got confusing, and the story took a weird tangent before it found its way back.

I found Kody Jauron’s choreography on Franco Nieto during the Leonard Feather announcement section in the first half of this piece particularly stunning.  A short piece, but very powerful and impactful all at once.  Then, be still, my dance lover’s heart, not only are Elijah Labay and Franco Nieto two of my favorite dancers, but seeing the beauty they created in their first pieces set to What A Little Moonlight Can Do and Summertime Billie - Katherinerespectfully put them on the list of future choreographers I will no doubt fall in love with because the work was good!  Creative, flowing movements, that matched the easy, haunting beauty that flows from Billie’s voice, fully embracing the sultry tempos, and utilizing the stage and the light to really showcase the music as well as the dancer.  Loved it!  And this was my first time seeing Katherine Disehof perform, and she absolutely won my heart dancing Mr. Labay’s piece.  What a wonderful addition to the company!

Although I must say, my favorite piece in the first half of this program was created by Lindsey McGill to On the Sunny Side of the Street.  This piece, danced by Mr. Jauron, Mr. Nieto, and the always stunning Andrea Parson was witty and fun, and to be honest, was such a nice wrap up from the pieces that came before it, I thought it was the finale piece.  Ooops!  But in my defense, it was such a well rounded creation, with a strong story, clear and crisp phrases that highlighted the talents of each of these dancers, and the whole company was involved, and the piece was beautiful and amazing and it just felt like a perfect end to a party on a high note!  I was really impressed, and look forward to seeing more choreography from Ms. McGill in the future.

Sadly for me, that was where the magic ended for a bit, because as the program went on, the dance, the dancers, and the energy got extremely frantic and uncontrolled to an uncomfortable level.  As the characters got deeper into the party, I felt the dancers got too deep into their characters as to forget that the dancer must control the dance to ensure that no one gets hurt.  And to be frank, I was seriously concerned during a couple of lifts because the landings, or better phrased, the falls, were completely out of control.  Additionally, there was a lot of pushing and falling going on, and either the fallers weren’t falling where they were supposed to, or the catchers weren’t where they were supposed to be, but something felt very chaotically off, and I had a hard time relaxing and enjoying the show as I was worried about my beloved dancers getting broken out there!  One moment in particular, where Mr. Jauron was launched into the air with such reckless abandon, that he landed, stumbled, and fell quite loudly onto the stage (and I wasn’t sitting that close!), the impact had me clutching my pearls and the leg of my friend sitting next to me out of sheer fright for my favorite sprite’s tail bone!

The story also moved on to include a brawl between Mr. Labay and Mr. Jauron, and while I adore them both, I don’t think either of them have ever thrown a punch, or have been punched in their lives, cuz the movement was completely over the top, and not in a dramatic artistic way, but in a “I think this is how drunk people would brawl” kind of way.  So many unrealistic falls, and pulled punches, it was rough to watch.  Stage combat is a true craft, and getting it right is a challenge, and I hope in the future, should any fight sequences be utilized in the winter shows where the company choreographs themselves, that they’ll recall the beauty and grace with which they pulled that off during Carmen, and emulate that style more than what I saw on Saturday night.

So the midsection was a bit all over the place, including a very uncomfortable spoken word section that felt very forced, and out of place because there was no Billie beneath this section, and it just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the storyline.

Billie1 - Sam and AnthonyHowever, as the company approached the end, they won back my heart through the lithe and graceful lines of Samantha Campbell and Anthony Pucci dancing to Mr. Jauron’s choreography once again.  These two, the most adorable storyline of the night, tugged on my hopeless romantic heartstrings as these two adorable lonely souls find each other, and danced so beautifully together that it truly re-anchored the show into what it started out as: beautiful movement gliding and flowing around the stage while Billie Holiday croons on all around them.  This section, was, in a word, lovely.

And the finale, set appropriately to I’ll Be Seeing You, was a wonderful bookend to the beginning of the show.  Character appropriate exits, tons of good acting, witty movement and humor, wrapped the show up in a pretty decent bow.

All in all, my biggest cheer for Billie was the main concept of a Billie Holiday holiday party, and it was when numbers strayed from that concept and/or pushed the concept too far into the ridiculous that it didn’t work for me.  Choreography is a different animal from performing, and I applaud the dancers for taking this on, and I applaud Ms. Slipper for giving her dancers this opportunity to explore this side of their creativity and grow as artists. While the entire company looked like they were having fun up on the stage throughout every section of Billie, with stronger editing and conceptualization from start to finish to ensure there aren’t random tangents that don’t fit, this show could turn into something timeless, and I hope to see a stronger edited show next winter, because I’ll definitely be back to see what new creation these dancers come up with next time.

Now, onto Bolero+….(those dots are me heavy sighing)….where to begin….this is a relaunch, and I was sooooooooooo excited to see this piece again, although Ching Ching Wong had such an epic part in the original, so I was already going into it like, who was going to dance her part, and how would that look, and all those wonderings you do when you follow a dance company as closely as I follow NW Dance Project.  So upon arrival, I was given a tip that sadly, there was a snafu with the body paint, and so the dancers would be dancing the whole thing in the costumes from Mother tongue, which are black pants, shirtless for the men, and flesh toned bandeau tops for the women.  And my heart sunk.

The body paint is the main design component of the piece, and when painted on the dancers, creates this fluid, sensual, naughty kaleidoscope of sorts that pulls you into the piece as you are almost hypnotized by the paint patterns on perfectly taut bodies.  So to not have the paint on the dancers, and instead have them all in garments literally devoid of color, well to be honest, it was weird.  It was like going from seeing it in Ultra HD Technicolor to seeing it again in black and white.  Picture seeing the Wizard of Oz, except when Dorothy gets to Oz, the color doesn’t show up.  It’s just black and white the whole time.  Something about the body paint added to the camp and wit of the piece and without it, the piece just didn’t have the depth of concept I got in the original.

There were also some tech challenges with the flower props/drops, missed lighting cues, and ill-fitting pants for a few of the men.  It was like going from a campy flirty rom com to a dark, strange film noir.  I preferred it as the former.

On the upside, the choreography is still brilliant, and I will say again, I was highly impressed with the new dancers, Mr. Pucci and Ms. Disenhof.  They definitely hold their own with the dynamic dancers of NW Dance Project.  Their stealth technique and gorgeous lines add to those of the company, and they performed Mr. Rustem’s movement very well.  I am very excited to see what all they are capable of in future programs!

Overall, I always enjoy being at the Lincoln Performance Hall watching my favorite dance company, because a day I get to watch these wonderful dancers dance is better than a day I don’t, and Saturday was no exception.  The rollercoaster ride of this show left me with some lovely highs and some opportunities where I see growth for the company, and as a fan of the company, that is exciting to find out what new heights they will grow to from each experience.

I can’t wait to come back in the Spring and see what they do next, and until then, as always, I leave my heart in Portland with these amazing artists, and I will gladly make the trek from Seattle any time I can to see them perform.

Well, that’s all on this one.  Here’s me wishing everyone who reads this a very happy 559112_332957660122406_1191550343_nholidays and wonderful New Year, and to NW Dance Project, I send you all my love and support!  I will see you all in the Spring to meet Hedda and find out what she’s all about!

Ciao for now,

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Photos from NW Dance Project’s Facebook page

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Hope & Love: NW Dance Project’s Spring Show Redefined Both

Dance Review, Entertainment Review

Ok, so let me start this post off with an apology that it has taken me so unbelievably long to write this review of NW Dance Project’s Spring Show.  Day jobs and life have been so distracting until now that today is the first day I’ve had to sit down and devote the time needed to do this beautiful program justice.  The choreographers and dancers have all moved on to other productions and other shows, (their current show, Summer Splendors, opens tonight for Christ’s sake!), and I just want them to know that even though its been over two months since I saw Visible Darkness and Carmen, the nuance and details and haunting beauty of both performances have been floating constantly through my mind.  So, please accept my profound apology for my tardiness and sharing with the world how you all pulled off yet another set of masterpieces that absolutely blew my mind!

As you’ll recall, I had the profound gift of being able to watch the birth of Carmen as she evolved and showed herself to the world through the imagination of the always brilliant Ihsan Rustem.  Mr. Rustem, along with Artistic Director Sarah Slipper, so graciously allowed me behind the curtain into the first days of Carmen rehearsals, and I’m telling you, people, I am forever changed by that experience.  To see brand new steps being created is something I will never forget, and it felt like forever until I got to drive back down to Portland to see the finished product!

As usual, I only get to see closing night, which is such a shame given how wonderful these shows always are, but when I arrived at the theatre, there was something different about the energy in the room.  It had a different electricity that I hadn’t experienced before from a pre-show at NW Dance Project.  And when I walked up to get my ticket, I saw what the buzz was all about.  Three words explained the excitement rippling through the lobby and Art Bar like electricity: Show Sold Out.

OMG! You guys, I almost cried when I saw that, because I’d never seen a full house at NW Dance Project show before, which always baffled me because they are so damn good.  Why were the houses not full?  Not enough promotion?  Portland folks just don’t know what amazing art is right in their backyard? So I immediately sought out Mr. Rustem to wish him Merde and tell him how excited I was about the sold out crowd and he told me this was their first sold out crowd in the history of the company!  Whaaaaat!?!?

All I could think was that finally, finally, finally these amazing dancers and choreographers will perform to the packed house they deserve!  And if I played even the smallest part in getting a few more people to the theatre to see it that night by being able to go to a rehearsal and write a promo piece about them, I am thrilled!  And you bet your ass I’ll be doing that again as often as I can to do my part to keep up momentum to get all art appreciating butts in those seats to make full houses the norm for NW Dance Project.

Ok, back to the show.  So off I went to my seat, and readied myself for the show.  And first up on the program was Visible Darkness by Patrick Delcroix.  This piece told Monsieur Delcroix’s journey back to dance after a horrific accident where he suffered major injuries and brain trauma.  This dance was the first piece he has created since his 17861810_1301594579925371_1060764376150142067_n-1.jpgrecovery, and people, it was spectacular!  My beloved Elijah Labay, ever the stunning dancer, showed me a new level of acting I hadn’t seen from him before as he danced the role of Monsieur Delcroix.  Watching Mr. Labay struggle physically as the injured Monsieur Delcroix was heartbreaking.  His ability to portray a broken body, broken spirit, to then push back against the universe as if to say, “The hell you will keep me down!  I will dance again!” was so real, so raw, so emotional that I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my face.  And at first they were tears of sadness that Monsieur Delcroix had suffered such trauma.  Tears of anger that he had to struggle physically to get back, while internally and mentally he was always moving, always dancing, always fighting.  And then tears of joy at the end of the piece when Mr. Labay walked confidently tall and strong around his company of dancers as they moved to his chroegraphy.  He was back!  He was healed!  He was creating!  He was home!

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This was a performance of Mr. Labay’s I will never forget.  The entire company did an amazing job in their parts for this piece, but the journey Mr. Labay went on for this one, the honesty and bravery by which he told Monsieur Delcroix’s story through his powerful execution of Monsieur Delcroix’s movement touched me at the very center of my heart. I’m so grateful Monsieur Delcroix was brave enough to share his story with the world.  I’m so proud of Mr. Labay for telling it so beautifully.  And I am so honored to have seen the world premier amidst a full house of dance loving people so that we could all jump to our feet and applaud this magnificent piece together and embrace the hope and the love it represents.

After this wonderfully emotional piece, as I went to the lobby for a tissue to dry my eyes, and get a quick glass of wine to prepare myself for the reveal of Carmen!  I was like a kid at Christmas counting down the sleeps until I got to the day where I would get my presents in the form of the NW Dance Project dancers moving to Ihsan Rustem’s choreography to one of my all time favorite scores! Shivering with anticipation like a crazed fangirl in my seat as the lights dimmed and the curtain rose on what I am going to call the single most powerfully haunting portrayal of love through dance that I have ever seen.

There is so much to say about this show, so lets get the fun logistics out of the way.  The costumes were epic!  The protagonists in white, the antagonists in black, and the men affected by both sides dressed in both colors with 1950s Vogue/Vanity Fair silhouettes with these chic edgy touches of sheer fabric, leather pants/jackets/harness (yes, daddy, you heard me say harness!) and metal chains strategically draped over the equisite specimens of humans that these dancers are, and from the moment the light hit them, I guarantee you, not a dry seat in the house!  This show slams into you like lust at first sight, and it damn near took my breath right out of my chest!

And all this deliciousness is set amidst the backdrop of a men’s barber shop and a women’s hair salon, again more black and white décor, but with vibrant pops of color in the forms of yellow hair dryers and electric blue light washes.  The aesthetics were off the charts on this one, just adding to the sexiness of it all!

NWDP_3-16-2017_1051ver1fil3crpsml-e1489792828739-1.jpgNow let’s get into the best part of this show, shall we?  The characters.  The ladies, the amazing, outstanding ladies, whose characters were all so clear and mesmerizing, even more so than when I watched them all in rehearsals.  The fierceness of the “Wolf Pack Ladies,” as Mr. Rustem dubbed them, were ferocious and feral and yet synchronized like a pack who stalked and moved this piece forward.  To quote Ching Ching Wong in a promo video for Carmen, she described these amazing characters perfectly when she said, “…We are vicious and feisty and we love gossip and we’re in this kind of utopia town where our world revolves around us and our men, and then Carmen comes into it, and the worlf pack ladies are fearful and jealous and this mob against her.”  And oh, individually they are fantastic, but when they all dance together in their pack, they are down right mesmerizing!  Each character so clear in her intentions, so honest with her emotions, and so beautiful in her movement.  Loved it!

And then the men, oh these gorgeous, brilliant men, being pushed and pulled around the stage, all in some form or another manipulated and used by Carmen.  Their characters added so much to each scene, their wants and desires so clear and obvious (including a little ass grab made by the devilishly playful Kody Jauron that was hiiiilarious and hot!) that the audience was absolutely entranced by them!NW DANCE .jpg

But when one thinks of Carmen, they think of a love triangle filled with passion, betrayal, and murder and the trio that made up that triangle were phenomenal!  Let’s start with the jilted lover, DJ, danced by the ever sensational Franco Nieto!  Oh, this man, this gorgeous, talented man, with those feet, and those lines, and the unabashed way he embraces emotion so real and so raw that you can’t help but feel everything he is feeling unnamed-35.jpgas you watch him dance whether you want to or not!  Every scene he was in from the adorable puppy love section with the lovely Lindsey McGill, to the lustful encounters with Carmen (danced by the spectacular Andrea Parson, who we will get to in a second), so the solo he danced just after discovering Carmen’s betrayal was full of truth like a light beam split through a prism to be a fragmented rainbow of emotion from joy to despair and everything in between.  The acting from this dancer was out of this world, and that post-betrayal solo, my god, all I wanted was to run up on that stage and hug him and tell him it would all be ok, and then smack the crap out of Carmen for daring to hurt him!  Mr. Nieto, as he often does, stole every scene he was in for me, because his intentions were so clear, his reactions so genuine, and his artistry was so breath taking.

And the man in Mr. Nieto’s way, Eli, danced by my beloved Elijah Labay, oh people…this character that Mr. Labay brought to life was walking sex!  Every time he slithered and stomped around the stage, demanding Carmen’s attention, igniting passion in the Wolf Pack Ladies, even as the damn police siren (You’d have to have been there to understand or appreciate this), made every person in the room sigh with wanting!  His pas de deux with Ms. Parson as they gave in to their carnal desires so openly and powerfully that they don’t notice when Mr. Nieto catches them in the act, staged epically across the stage simultaneously as Mr. Nieto danced his solo of betrayal, was so erotic, so full of fire and want and need that when they were done, so help me God, every person around me picked up their program to fan themselves off!  Mr. Rustem, you dirty devil, you pulled no punches with this lust filled, sensual encounter, and we the audience thank you for letting us play voyeur to one of the most gorgeous combinations that has ever raised my temperature and made my mouth water at the same time!  Bravo!

And while you all sit there and picture the raw sensuality that I was priviledged to witness, let me finally come to the star of this piece: Andrea Parson.  You’ll remember my gushing about her in my promo piece, but people, I was NOT ready for everything she brought to this performance, including the drastic makeover of a platinum blonde pixie haircut that reflected so fiercely off of all of her black costumes, making her eyes pop as electrically as the blue light often washing over her, that they pierced everyone in the audience.  She completely embodied passion in this piece.  A true antagonist, always selfishly going for what she wants at all costs, Ms. Parson was the perfect Carmen.  She danced this role so perfectly that I don’t think I’ll ever hear this music again without picturing her face.  She anchored Mr. Nieto and Mr. Labay so wonderfully, and complimented every scene she was in with them, that I found myself rooting for this brazen siren to get everything she wanted whenever she wanted.  Any woman would want to be the Carmen Ms. Parson created for at least a day, to just grab life by the balls and say “You’re mine, now,” have life respond with “Thank you, Mistress, as you wish!”  Ms. Parson’s Carmen was sexuality unleashed, and she matched Mr. Labay’s carnality and also provoked Mr. Nieto’s romantic passion.

But the reaction she evoked that moved me the most was that of Ms. McGill, who, when discovering she was losing the love of DJ due to his lust for Carmen, danced one of the most riveting duets I’ve ever seen, and with a hair dryer on wheels, no less!  Ms. McGill, her entire life in the palm of Carmen’s hands, refusing to give up her love without a fight, ultimately ending Carmen’s life to stop her, with a final moment so hauntingly, gorgeously vicious, blew my freaking mind!

While her act was vicious, it was driven by love, which is the theme of Carmen, isn’t it? Wanting, loving something, and not always thinking of the consequences.  But that final moment, Carmen’s death, still haunts my dreams sometimes, it was so impactful and beautiful.  Well here, take a look:

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I loved this show so much.  I hate that I only got to see it once.  But I am so grateful for the experience.  Once again, NW Dance Project has taken me on an emotional journey I won’t soon forget.  Once again, the entire company moves me to tears with their brilliance and their bravery.  Once again, I am filled with hope and love and excitement for this Company, and look forward to many more experiences with them.  Once again, I left my heart in Portland, so that I can come visit it again to see what magnificent program they will put together next!

18951187_1357315634353265_8211540830725458457_n.jpgSadly, I am missing their Summer Splendors show opening tonight, but if you are in the Portland area, please go see it!  I’ve no doubt it will be outstanding, as its a new work by Artistic Director, Sarah Slipper!!!!

Thank you, Ms. Slipper & Mr. Lewis, Mr. Rustem, Mr. Nieto, Ms. Parson, Mr. Labay, Ms. McGill, Mr. Jauron, Ms. Wong, Mr. Couture, Ms. Barber, Mr. Rohayem, Ms. Radick, and Ms. Campbell.

 

Ciao for now,

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Photos from NW Dance Project taken by Blaine Truitt Covert

 

NW Dance Project’s Carmen: Be Still, My Heart!

Dance Show Promotional, Entertainment Review

Let’s be honest.  I’m a very small time blogger, who happens to adore all things performing arts, but as of yet, this blog is not read by zillions of followers, nor am I a well known force in the arts world.  So with all of that, I don’t expect any perks from this gig.  It’s just an outlet for me to express my feelings on shows I see.  So, imagine my surprise that when I reached out to NW Dance Project and asked if I could come watch a rehearsal as the unbelievably brilliant Ihsan Rustem began creating his latest work, they said yes! The ultimate perk!!

Now, this ‘yes’ is so exciting and important to me because it means one thing: they trust me!  They trust me enough to let me into their world as they work out the steps to their latest program, and I literally got to watch brand new, original steps being created out of the mind of the always brilliant Ihsan Rustem and on to the agile, lithe, powerful beings that are the NW Dance Project Dancers!

As I don’t live in Portland, I only know NW Dance Project by the wonderful productions I’ve been blessed to attend, and through the generosity of Sarah Slipper, Artistic Director, Scott Lewis, Executive Director, and Katie Holliday, Company Manager in sharing the reviews I have written about their company.  And while I had connected with a few of the dancers via the magicks of social media, I had never had the chance to meet them face to face and get to know them personally.  So to be allowed to come into their space and watch them all work, meet them, and get to know them was an opportunity I was not going to pass up!  So I packed up the car, and off to Portland I went!  And People, I was not ready for what was waiting for me.

16473596_10210825635531722_4515968238184693784_nFirst of all, let me talk about the amazing space that NW Dance Project has created for their company and choreographers to work within.  It’s gorgeous.  There’s no other word!  It’s luxurious white decor that flows from the lobby to the education studio to the office to the dancers’ locker room, to the main studio, creates an inviting and enveloping canvas that just makes you want to create something colorful to fill it!  The staff were all so wonderful, and just welcomed me in with open arms.  I instantly felt like one of the family!

And as the dancers were just finishing up ballet class, Mr. Rustem and Ms. Holliday escorted me in to the main studio to meet the dancers.  And one by one, they were so gracious and inviting, and I’ve been such a fan of all of them for almost two years, that while I kept my exterior cool, inside I was fan-girling out like you wouldn’t believe.  These artists, these unbelievable artists, were about to literally create art with Mr. Rustem, and I was simply giddy with anticipation.

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Choreographer Ihsan Rustem creating with Carmen, danced by Andrea Parson

And every hope I had of what this experience would be came true within the first few minutes.  Creation. Collaboration. Chemistry.  All of these elements collided and intertwined in a way that only happens when people have worked for years with each other.  So much trust between Mr. Rustem and the dancers, evident in the way they digested and interpreted his movement, and in the way he would step back and watch them move through and past his latest phrase to gain inspiration from them. Ms. Slipper joined rehearsal multiple times, and seamlessly joined in on the collaboration, and it’s one of the most pure, organic moments of creating art I have ever seen.  I had no idea there would be as much collaboration as there was, and it absolutely blew my mind.

For seven glorious hours I watched them work, frantically taking note after note on what I was witnessing.  And if I told you everything I experienced in this blog, you’d be reading for days!  So, I’ll keep it to this: what they are creating for the Spring show of Carmen is something phenomenally exciting, and I am begging you all to find a way to go see it.

The women in this company are collectively some of the strongest dancers I have ever seen, and individually they take my breath away.  And the men, as technically brilliant as they are powerful are the perfect compliments to these ladies.  And in those 7 hours, I was able to learn more about each dancer’s personality as well as their tenacious work ethics.  Mr. Rustem knows these dancers so well, and that knowledge is utilized to perfection in the roles he has created in his version of Carmen.  I am not going to give away too much now, because I will be gushing about them in my review, I’ve no doubt, but I do want to tell you about Carmen, herself. (The pic below of her…those eyes, though!  Right?!?  People!  She’s the physical embodiment of ‘fierce’!)

NW Dance Project,"Carmen" studio rehearsal,Ihsan Rustem choreography

NW Dance Project,”Carmen” studio rehearsal,Ihsan Rustem choreography

Carmen, a story you’re all very familiar with if you love dance, is not a new story.  However, Mr. Rustem’s twist on it is genius, and the promo pics give a hint to the time and setting, but I won’t give it away if you haven’t figured it out.  Anyway, Carmen, placing herself purposefully between two lovers, causing havoc wherever she goes, leaving angst and devastation in her wake is going to be danced by the beautiful and powerful Andrea Parson.  You’ll remember how Miss Parson moved my heart and soul when she danced the lead in Ms. Slipper’s piece in last year’s Louder than Words, well she is back with a vengeance as Mr. Rustem’s Carmen.  Her commitment to this role, her depth of character development on day 8 of creation has me all in a frenzy over how much deeper she will go with this character between now and performance.  I swear, watching her work this part, her majestic ability to embrace everything being thrown at her, to play this very dynamic character so fully is the stuff that makes me think Shakespeare was describing her when he wrote “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”

And the two men tangled in her web are danced by the incomparable Franco Nieto and Elijah Labay.  Mr. Nieto, dancing Don Jose in the heartbreakingly emotional way that only he can.  Any day I get to watch this brilliant artist dance is a wonderful day, but to get to watch him explore his journey, find nuance after delicious nuance as his character’s story is pushed and pulled by the two antagonists danced by Ms. Parson and Mr. Labay is something I’ll never forget.

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Franco Nieto and Andrea Parson

And then there is Mr. Labay, in case you’ve forgotten is my beloved dancer in the purple shirt who I adore more than words can say, so to get to meet him, and to get to watch him work was something I was looking forward to more than anything!  Like Mr. Nieto, watching Mr. Labay discover the layers and dimensions of the swaggering character of Eli was something I was very much looking forward to, and I was not disappointed.  Something about the way Mr. Labay dances just speaks to me, and I could watch him dance all day long!

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Andrea Parson and Elijah Labay

And then, oh you guys, there’s a scene, this heavenly, steamy, sultry scene danced by Mr. Labay and Ms. Parson, and people you are not ready!  I wasn’t ready, and I should have been ready, but I was NOT ready, and it was just rehearsal!  By performance that scene, lord honey, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to handle it!  Mr. Rustem, you fantastically devilish man, I am so excited to see how this evolves!  And in tandem to this steamy scene is a solo danced by Mr. Nieto that brought tears to my eyes.  He’s going to make you feel all the feelings you’ve ever felt, and probably a few you didn’t know you could feel.  It’s going to be glorious!  GO SEE THIS SHOW!

Both ferocious in their movements, both exquisite in their roles of protagonist and antagonist respectively, Mr. Nieto and Mr. Labay create a trio with Ms. Parson that had me clutching my chest, for be still, my beating heart, they’re so good in this piece!  I mean it, damnit, go see this show!

Carmen is not just a story, it’s a journey.  It’s emotional for the choreographer, it’s emotional for the dancers, and the audience will be pulled into the fray, trust me, and you will be being tossed and jostled amidst the emotional waves that this piece generates, and you’ll thank them for the delicious torture of it all, I promise you!

This company was born to dance this piece, and every single dancer brings exactly what is needed to create the many layers of the story.  When you come see this show you’ll be dazzled by solos, mesmerized by duos and trios, knocked to your core by wolf packs, and forever impacted by secrecy, seduction and murder.  And all of that will be performed by dancers so brave, so willing to open themselves up emotionally that you feel everything they are feeling, and I don’t want any of you to miss this!

This gift of getting to spend not one, but two days with NW Dance Project makes me so happy because I am able do share this show with you before it happens for the first time, because sadly, NW Dance Project only performs their masterpieces for one weekend each season.  And I am going to do everything I can to continue to promote this phenomenal company to hopefully increase attendance at their shows so that they are able to add performances to their schedule because as hard as these dancers work, as amazing as their seasons are, they deserve to have more than three performances for each program!

15895382_1212524365499060_4991593005079827235_n.jpgSo please join me in coming to see Carmen at NW Dance Project in March.  Shows will be Mar 16-18, I myself will be there on Mar 18, and really hope to see you all there! Show times and ticket info can be found on NW Dance Project’s website.

Thank you so much to the entire NW Dance Project family for making this dance lover’s heart soar by allowing me behind the curtain to watch you work.  I am so grateful for the opportunity and forever changed by the experience.

Ciao for now,

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Photo Credit to Blaine Truitt Covert & NW Dance Project’s Facebook Page