( photos: Whitney Browne)
In a tiny corner of west midtown Manhattan, (when they say between 10th and 11th they really mean corner of 11th) is a snug little shoebox, the Donaghy Theatre at the Irish Arts Center, where I joined a pretty awesome team of artists last weekend.
Carr’s style “ModERIN,” is a playful combination of American modern dance and Irish dance vocabularies and aesthetics. This sensibility was well paired with the oeuvre of her collaborators Dana Lyn and Kyle Sana, whose album, The Great Arc, the company illustrated over the course of the evening. Lyn and Sana take “trad” tunes into new sonic environments, punctuating with unusual pauses, condensing and expanding rhythms, and in this case, layering subtle natural references- frogs, crickets, mechanical sounds. The evening followed their album in two parts, the constellations, dedicated to extinct animals, and the ark dedicated to endangered species. These were represented in the performance by subtle projection design by Dave Hannon, based upon drawings by Dana Lyn.
The pieces subtly referenced natural images, but allowed the movement and music to exist without imposing a narrative or character.
Some standout moments:
Alexandra Williamson’s strong and elegant homage to the Stegosaurus, with angular jumps and Irish inflected “classic Modern” moments, – took my breath away.
Michelle Esch’s and Trent Kowalik’s rhythmic play between tap and Irish rhythms, while sliding through space with a contemporary abandon, winked at the Blue-tailed Skink.
Jonathan Matthews‘ expressionistic “accidental sound” creation, exploring taps on feet hands, and knees – on floor and walls, dedicated to the Sumatran Orangutan.
Melissa Padham Maass, with characteristically masterful lines, poignantly, gracefully, obliquely penned a letter to the Yangtze Finless Porpoise.
Trent Kowalik, slowly and methodically enunciates a Jig rhythm with his feet, gradually building sliding, scraping and multilayered percussion, decelerating and returning to a meditative rhythm, as if contemplating time passing, honoring the Great Auk.
New Company member Kendal Griffler shines in highly complex foot patterns and elegant partnering in “For the Trilobites.”
In a subtle nod to conservation, four dancers, Matthews, Kowalik, Esch, and Carr seated at the edge of the stage make music out of refuse. They accompany Lyn and Sana with a percussive improvisation using plastic bottles, gravel, junk metal, and plastic bins.
Reconnecting with these remarkable individuals again highlighted the immense effort it takes to maintain an artistic practice ( anywhere, but in NYC specifically). The catching up elicited remarkable tidbits: how many applications have you completed in the past few weeks? how many colleges are you working at right now?, and you’re balancing how many clients plus teaching gigs,and you manage to take your children to school? Etc.
I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to these individuals and our broader creative community for continued dedication to generous creative practice despite all the reasons not to.
And to all of the individual audience members who came to share in the experience, without whom the work really doesn’t exist.
*Check out our mention in the Irish Echo – highlighting solos by yours truly and Jonathan Matthews!