Wild West Moves
N4th unveils variety at sixth annual contemporary dance festival
Athleticism. Dynamic shapes. Seductive rhythms. Thrilling feats. And this is just on video. The website of Dancing Earth, one of the companies featured in the Wild Dancing West festival, shows clips of svelte performers of every shade moving with grace and primal sensuality. In photos the company members look like models (but fierce ones) in face paint, who can spring like lions or balance on one hand. As an indigenous contemporary dance ensemble, Dancing Earth creates work that is experimental yet reflects the cultural heritage of its artists. The company will present Walking the Edge of Water, a work in progress that uses themes from creation stories as metaphors for threats to the environment. In 2007, Dance Magazine included the company’s director, Rulan Tangen, in its “25 to Watch,” a list of the best up-and-coming dancers and choreographers. Dancing Earth, which is based in Santa Fe, says “Ancient and futuristic, our dances are an elemental language of bone and blood memory in motion,” when describing its work.
Wild Dancing West is curated and produced by VSA North Fourth Art Center. The festival runs three weekends and features contemporary dance works by five groups. Cross-disciplinary by nature, contemporary dance mixes styles and might also include poetry, theater and multimedia. “Contemporary dance is totally anything,” says Susanna Kearny, marketing director for North Fourth and one of the curators of the festival. She says when the curating board is seeking out festival guests, they’re aiming to show Albuquerque audiences a wide range of aesthetics and styles.
The regional festival focuses on new work being created in the Southwest, pulling talent from as far as California, but also from right here at home. Kearny says it’s about presenting contemporary dance from the professional scene as well as “fostering opportunity for local choreographers.” Beginning artists might find it hard to get a whole run or even be presented by a theater. But if they’re on a bill with other groups, Kearny says, they get to try out new work and grow their audience.
To that end, two Albuquerque companies Kearny describes as “preprofessional” are on the festival program in an evening titled True Colors. Loren Fletcher-Nickerson is artistic director and choreographer of a company comprised of young, aspiring professionals, Oxygen Contemporary Dance. Fletcher-Nickerson’s style blurs the boundaries between dance forms. He describes the piece as “moving, cutting-edge, authentic” ballet/modern fusion. Naomi Elizabeth Montoya leads the Contemporary Dance Ensemble, comprised of high school students at PAPA, the Public Academy for Performing Arts. The Contemporary Dance Ensemble will also showcase new works.
Wild Dancing West unveils a huge variety of aesthetic, rounded up and brought right to Albuquerque.
This year’s festival features one of the most renowned companies it’s ever presented, ODC/Dance. The San Francisco-based ensemble is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and its three resident choreographers have received six Isadora Duncan Dance Awards. “This one is a very established touring company,” Kearny says. ODC/Dance is often lauded for the physical prowess of its dancers, as well as the intellectual depth of its pieces.
ODC/Dance will present an evening of three picks from its repertoire. “Grassland,” choreographed by KT Nelson, is a full company work inspired by the power of nature. When “Grassland” premiered in 2009, the San Francisco Chronicle called it “sensual and physically aware” and noted the dancers had “an appealing sense of curious innocence.” Nelson will arrive in Albuquerque a week early for a residency teaching local dancers—another first for Wild Dancing West. Second on the bill is “Unintended Consequences: A Meditation,” set to music created by performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson. The work investigates political affairs and people’s inadvertent complicity in them. The third piece, “Investigating Grace,” explores love, loss and transcendence. Both Investigating Grace and Unintended Consequences were choreographed by ODC/Dance’s founder, artistic director and Guggenheim Fellow Brenda Way.
Current and former UNM faculty and their cross-disciplinary collaborators round out the festival. Mixing video, music and a nine-person movement ensemble, their piece, RE-FORM, explores contrast and conflict through music. Choreography by Jennifer Predock-Linnell, is meshed with original score from composer Panaiotis, the visual art of Joyce Neimanas, and contributions from other artists.
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Wild Dancing West unveils a huge variety of aesthetic, rounded up and brought right to Albuquerque. It should be easy for audiences to find something that makes their hearts race. “The underlying theme is, there is so much going on in all the arts,” Kearny says. “More variety in dance, in particular contemporary dance, than most people would even realize.”
Wild Dancing West
Runs through June 11
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
4904 Fourth Street NW
Tickets: $5 to $15
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