Momentum Choreographic Showcase Debuts New Voices in Dance
WORDS BY AMANDA SIERADZKI | IMAGES BY DENZEL JOHNSON-GREEN
We filter in and out of Studio@620, a visual and performing arts space in St. Petersburg, witnessing staged spaces that proved they need not be florid to be effectual—the abandoned bank teller window and drive-thru next door, sidewalks, discreet corners. Outside the Florida humidity coats us, beads of sweat glowing on the dancers’ faces. The programs are digitized QR codes, the indoor space is segmented; a longer stage off to one side, a smaller square stage on the other.
projectALCHEMY’s Momentum Choreographic Showcase brushed every inch of the palette from bitter to tongue-in-cheek saccharine. The evening was the culmination of a five-month process for the Momentum choreographers mentored by Artistic Director Alex Jones and projectALCHEMY’s company members.
There is renewed anticipation with each arrival in the traveling program, every changed vantage point. These works require us to take the bodies for where they are, like jumping into a story right in the midst of it being told. There are murmurs as we navigate one another, the choreography of crowd control.
Fernando Chonqui’s Three.Two.One waltzes us onto the gallery’s front doorstep, unraveling Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Kirsten Standridge holds the book, her recitation quickly transitioning into twisted forms.
There’s broken promises with every turned page as the book is later torn from dancer Carissa Bishop’s hands. Her hands scrape down her knee as Standridge vocalizes that change is impossible. Heidi Brewer steps in, initiating a slow dance that loosens into a line before knotting itself up again.
We move indoors for Luis Torres’ Labeled. He slows time, chest dislocating from the body, extending walls newly built from his forearms, crumbling with a single turn to the knee. Lit red from above, blue from below, Torres’ statements move in diametric opposition. Wandering outside a second time, we walked in on Heidi Brewer’s already ticking clock, her piece titled, …
Bishop and Standridge do not pause or acknowledge the eyes that peer at them from the dark parking lot. Reminiscent of Trisha Brown’s Accumulation, the dancers’ shadows rise taller than the bank teller blocks, synchronized in khaki jumpsuits.
Methodically, like a surgical procedure, like the sun will rise again, we see them come around the bend again, sure as the sun will set again, they disappear, foot, grab, release into a high arcing dome. The gravel crunches underneath their sneakers. Their shadows grow longer, backlit, white halo silhouettes. Their cycles complete, they run past us back into the studio.
Tulle hangs from the rafters, a projection of a torso gyrating. Rachel Lambright’s You have to make sense of it first gives glimpses of a barely imperceptible shadow dancer, her presence made known only by her breath. Is she breathing life into the projection? Is she fighting with it?
We wait for her to burst through the tulle but it never happens. We wait for the lights to come up but they never do. The breath, a reminder that there can be war within. The breath, a signal for exiting this quarantine. The breath exits down the hallway, a shot down the spinal cord. We’re left with an exposed midriff, ghost image, breathless.
We catch our breath again, ushered into tight quarters of the Ellis gallery. We are unprepared for a solo serenade to Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell hit single. Bishop’s it’s not unless it is is a testament to needing nothing more than a projector and a sense of humor to break contemporary dance wide open.
I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that. But she will dramatic toe grab, and give a minimal arm with aggressive eyebrows. Bishop commits to her caricature, the purple and pink competition dance garb with a deadpan stare. The screen says, give the people what they want. Bishop achieves lowbrow shtick with highbrow flair, encourages our laughter, gestures for applause.
Bishop leads us back into the main gallery space for the finale, Dakota Kuharich’s The Beast That Dwells. Four dancers drop to their knees, heartbeats bleating, fist fist snap. Broken feet. There are feverish outbreaks between pairings as Caleb Bearse and Brandon Rodriguez scoop a resistant Sam Tumnicki up on their shoulders.
The two stages, broken apart, pull focus from one duet into another. Sickly green light casts a parasitic glow on Angelina Graves. Each dancer vacillates between gentle fingertips outstretched to rigid bodies grabbing, punching, and screeching as they consume one another. A final exhale and we’re released.
Lights up, bows all around.
Artistic director Alex Jones’ parting words are that the night is young as he encourages us to meet the minds who have been at work on our senses for the past hour. We mingle, and the future of dance in Tampa Bay feels heavy with promise.
Another Momentum Open Floor is open to the public on April 24th at The Studio@620