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

 

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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 

Through Control and the Forehead, NW Dance Project’s Louder Than Words was Epic!

Dance Review

Portland is about 3 hours away, by car, from Seattle, and there are few things that would entice me to make that drive knowing that I have to turn around and come back the same day.  And the thing at the top of that enticing list is NW Dance Project.

You’ll recall I raved about this brilliant company in my last review of them back in October, and I had no doubt this show would be as wonderful as that one. However, I was shocked and awed this go round, because this show, titled Louder Than Words, is the best piece of art I have seen since I took fingertips to keys to start this blog!  I was not prepared for the impact each choreographer would have on me, both as a dance lover and as a human being.  My only regret is that I’m only ever able to see these shows on closing night, because I wish I could see it early enough to tell you about it and have you get the chance to experience it yourself.  But since that is not an option, let me walk you through the mesmerizing brilliance of three spectacular choreographers:  Alex Soares, Sarah Slipper, and Ihsan Rustem.

The first piece of the night was titled Trace in Loss, and was choreographed by Alex Soares and took the audience on a journey through three phases of a relationship, and was danced  beautifully by Samantha Campbell, Elija Labay (still have a huge crush on this one!), Franco Nieto, Andrea Parson, Viktor Usov and Ching Ching Wong.  The movement Mr. Soares placed on these six stunning dancers was as bold as it was bashful, as controlled as it was charismatic, and as delicate as it was daring.  The first phase took us through the beginning of love; that delicious time where you’re exploring and learning about your lover, falling deeper the more you learn.  The second phase told the story of friction when in love; possibly betrayal, definitely anger the more you learn.  And finally, the end of a relationship; perhaps through death or through walking away, but loss none the less.  The story was so clear, the choreography so perfectly placed on individual dancers, the collaboration of this company and Mr. Soares was breathtaking to behold.

The two themes throughout this entire show that impacted me the most were control and the forehead.  Mr. Soares introduced both to me in this piece, because there were so many phrases where the dancers, the female dancers especially, would hold seemingly impossible positions effortlessly, with complete control.  And then in the middle phrase where the anger came in, the push and pull of control within the movement, and with each other, Mr. Usov and Ms. Wong blew my mind!  And the final phrase, loss of control over the relationship’s mere existence mirrored in the movement.  Stunning all the way around.

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NW Dance Project,Dress rehearsal,”Louder Than Words”,Choreographers: Sarah Slipper, Ihsan Rustem, Alex Soares

And the forehead, Mr. Soares had so many moments where the male dancer would touch his female partner’s forehead with his palm; sometimes leading her, sometimes caressing her, and sometimes violently pushing her away.  The forehead is such an intimate place to be touched.  We all know the impact of someone kissing us on the forehead.  Buddhists greet each other by touching foreheads.  It’s a connection that Mr. Soares really played with beautifully in his piece and it really spoke to me.

Lastly, I want to mention that Mr. Soares, along with lighting designer Jeff Forbes, utilized a white draped fabric with a projector behind it which gave the most intense geographic shapes on to the screen that enhanced each phrase in the most beguiling way, especially the end moment where a relationship ended amidst the lights.  It was absolutely brilliant!  I’m an instant fan of Mr. Soares and hope to see more of his work in the future.

The second piece, titled Airys, was choreographed by NW Dance Project’s Artistic Director, Sarah Slipper, and people, this piece, this glorious piece literally knocked the wind out of me with its power and beauty.  I didn’t know anything about the story going in, but afterwards, in speaking with Ms. Slipper, she told me she was inspired by news footage of the war in Syria, where a female reporter was inside the war torn area, and behind her was a woman holding her dying child who had been mortally wounded in the bombings.  The child died during that broadcast, and it impacted Ms. Slipper right down to her soul.  The next day, the female reporter was killed as well, and all of that loss, all of that violence, all of that sorrow inspired Ms. Slipper to create one of the most hauntingly stunning pieces I’ve ever seen.

The piece opens with two black curtains draped from the ceiling to the stage floor, and they are placed in such a way that depending on where you are sitting will determine how much of the dancing you will see.  From my seat I could see the featured dancer in this piece, Andrea Parson performing phrase after gracefully controlled phrase in a soft light wash.  However, those to my right couldn’t see her at all, and I could hear murmurings from the audience members expressing their frustration with not being able to see what was going on.  It was in that moment, I realized, that was Ms. Slipper’s intention.  She didn’t want everyone to see the same thing.  She wanted limited views, limited frustrations, because that energy fed the story being told on stage.

Ms. Parson, oh Ms. Parson, this sensational dancer, ebbed and flowed through this piece, a dazzling combination of control and emotion, so in the moment during every phrase, she literally stole my breath.  The rest of the company, dancing in and around Ms. Parson added to the story in the most impactful way.  They physically embodied struggle, heartbreak, loss and fear.  One phrase, with Ms. Parson downstage twisting and turning, all the while the company running around the stage in a group, lost, as if not knowing where they would be safe, eventually pulling Ms. Parson into their herd.  And as the audience, you just want them to find a safe place!

The curtains eventually fall in two large clumps of fabric, and while the company frantically rolled one curtain off the stage as quickly as they could, Ms. Parson handled the other with the care and gentleness a mother would have holding her infant.  And Ms. Slipper confirmed for me that is exactly what she intended.  The complex dichotomy of these two moments happening simultaneously brought tears to my eyes that continued to flow down my face for the rest of this emotional kaleidoscope of a piece.

And what I mean by that is just when the sorrow and the loss and the grief began to take over the room, the music changed, and the lights changed, and suddenly there appeared a soft waterfall of earth pouring down onto the stage.  And Ms. Parson, who had been clothed in a tight black top and pants turned her back on the audience, removed her top and simply stood and breathed for a few beats, and something in that subtle movement brought me peace.  And then Ms. Parson was joined by the single most stunning male dancer I have ever seen dance live in my life.  And his name is Franco Nieto.

Mr. Nieto’s movement, his lines, his ability to complete a movement all at the same time being so emotionally connected to every moment was something I was NOT ready for!  Mr. Nieto did not perform with NW Dance Project last October, so this was my first time seeing him, and people, I think I found a new religion, and its name is Franco Nieto!  Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, because I was so mesmerized by the charismatic authenticity this dancer brought to this role, I was afraid to blink for fear of missing one single moment!

So when the graceful sprite that is Ms. Parson was joined on the floor by the heart-stopping dance God that is Mr. Nieto, both topless and vulnerable to the element of the earth falling around them, connected immediately in both rhythm and soul, my dance lover’s heart was so full I feared it would burst in my chest from sheer joy!

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NW Dance Project,Dress rehearsal,”Louder Than Words”,Choreographers: Sarah Slipper, Ihsan Rustem, Alex Soares

This entire series, Mr. Nieto lifting and leading Ms. Parson, in and around the earth falling around them was full of intensity, and yet had a lightness that signaled a bit of peace for Ms. Parson. She was headed to her grave, you could sense that the moment this phrase began, and as the section went on, Ms. Parson’s movement because more and more peaceful and calm, while Mr. Nieto’s became more intense with a push and pull of ‘stay with me just one more moment’ and ‘I know you have to go.’  More forehead touching came in during this piece, in that same tender way, and I would give anything to have Mr. Nieto palm my forehead, because he does it with such an intimacy, such controlled connection, and it hit me how much the forehead was featured throughout Louder Than Words.

When he finally laid her to rest amidst the the pile of earth on the floor, and allowed the earth to fall on her still body, Mr. Nieto’s weeping could be heard throughout the theatre, and it was the perfect ending to this magnanimous story.  He wept for her, and we wept along with him.  And when the lights went out, there was that hush.  You know the one I mean, that delicious hush that comes when the audience is so impacted, so moved by what they just saw, there’s a brief pause while their heart reconnects to their brain reminding them that it’s over, and time now to bring the thunderous applause that these dancers deserve.

Afterwards I thanked Ms. Slipper for this piece, because it truly changed my life.  I’ve never been affected by a piece like that which I knew nothing about going in, and not only was the story clear, the artistry with which she reminded us of the very real horrors that people in war torn places endure is something everyone should see.  Bravo to Ms. Slipper for her bravery to take this on, and Bravo to the company for bringing her vision to life.  We are all the better for having seen it!  And I will never forget it.  Thank you all!

The final piece of the night came to us through the creative genius that is my beloved Ihsan Rustem!  It’s no secret I’m in love with Ihsan’s choreography, but last Saturday I saw a whole new side to Mr. Rustem, and good Lawd, was it a good time!  After all the heaviness and emotional turmoil in the first two pieces, Mr. Rustem ended our night by reminding us that comedic genius is also something that is Louder Than Words!

Le Fil Rouge, a delightful and whimsical journey soundtracked by the likes of Doris Day, Edith Piaf, and La Lupe was gorgeous from moment one!  It started with Mr. Nieto on stage in front of the curtain, wearing the very French ensemble of black pants, a black and white striped shirt, and a black tuxedo jacket.  And when he slid, albeit was pulled, under the curtain to kick off the laughter, I knew we were in for a treat.

The entire company was in the same outfits, with one single red balloon looming over the stage making me wonder how that would play into this piece.  The dancers moved through a black and white world with their black and white costumes changing from the striped shirts/pants to booty shorts and tuxedo tops, to shirtless men and bandeau top wearing women, but always with a bright red accent somewhere within the piece.  Loved the choice, loved the colors, loved it all, loved it!

Whether the entire company was on stage, or just two or three dancers at a time, the through line of this piece was evident: Fun and Flirty!  There was a pas de trois where three female company members danced practically in the dark with red bicycle lights in their mouths, and they were lip synching along with the music, so whenever they opened their lips, this glowing red light shined and contrasted the dark lighting, and it was hysterically hypnotic!   I also loved the moments when the whole company was on stage, where two to three dancers would be downstage dancing solos, and the rest of the company would be all the way upstage, backs to the audience, flirting with us in silhouette utilizing their coats over their booty shorts in a very Gypsy Rose Lee montage, and it was tantalizingly spectacular!

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All the dancers were brilliant in this piece, but the one who stood out to me this time was Kody Jauron.  Mr. Jauron truly embodied the comedic style that Mr. Rustem was trying to achieve.  He sunk down into each phrase, and was giving some serious face to the audience in the best possibly way.  He stood out from the company, phrase after phrase, and I hope there are more opportunities for Mr. Jauron to do comedic dances in the future, because he was friggin fantastic!

And speaking of Mr. Jauron, my favorite section of this amazing piece was danced by the captivating Mr. Jauron and the devilishly handsome Elijah Labay (we’ve talked about how much I’m in love with this dancer, right?  Oh, right we have, from the last blog, wanting to be a  purple shirt soooooo badly, right, ok…moving on!) Anyway, Mr. Rustem created a pas de deux for these two to Doris Day’s Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, and people, I can’t!  It was so good!  So, Mr. Jauron spends the number trying to tempt Mr. Labay into a delectable sexual tryst, and Mr. Labay was seriously playing hard to get, but in that way that a spider plays with a fly.  Like, I totally want you, but am not going to give it to you that easily, so how hard will you work for it?  And Mr. Jauron werrrrrrrked for it! Loved it!  It had a very Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor feel to it.  (And if you don’t know who those two characters are, I suggest you Google search those two and then invest in some Netflix time, because it’s all kinds of hot!)  And Mr. Labay and Mr. Jauron were just as hot, and fun, and flirty, and sexy, and naughty, and Bravo to these two men for committing so fully to these characters!  I loved it!  And just like the purple shirt moment from the last show, now I also never wanted to drag someone across a floor by their ankle so badly in my life! Yummy!  Thank you, Mr. Rustem, for this tantalizing piece!

This witty and whimsical creation was the perfect ending to a dazzling night of dance.  And in Mr. Rustem’s piece, guess what else showed up?  More touching of the forehead!  I know these three choreographers didn’t collaborate on these pieces, especially since both Trace In Loss and Airys were created in 2012, whereas Le Fil Rouge was world premiering, and yet the forehead being such a dominant movement choice really struck me.  I simply adored it.

The control with which the NW Dance Project company dances is an inherit talent that I’m not sure can be taught.  Because with that control comes the ability to know when and how to let go of that control.  And with dancers with that innate bravery, it has to be such a gift for any choreographer who is blessed enough to get to make dances on them.

I know I said I left my heart in Portland in my last blog, and I meant it.  It’s still there.  And I look forward to the next time I get to visit it to see more beautiful art created by choreographers who Ms. Slipper brings in to collaborate with her company.  And as always, I can’t wait to see what else Mr. Rustem has in store for this company because it really is a match made in heaven!

I hate that there isn’t an opportunity for you to go see this show, but trust me, if you can make the trip to Portland to see this company, please do!  And if you want to go with me next time, shoot me a note and let’s go see it together!

559112_332957660122406_1191550343_nBravo to NW Dance Project for the brilliant art you create!  I can’t wait to see you all
again soon.

Ciao for now,

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