4th Annual Santa Fe Dance Festival: Moving People Dance Santa Fe

by Janet Eigner


Shaken down to the DNA, that’s how audiences responded to a number of Moving People Dance Santa Fe (MPD)’s contemporary works during this season’s fourth annual festival concerts, particularly Curtis Uhlemann’s premier, “DANCE PIECE #14 in GREEN.”


“#14″‘s dancers moved so swiftly they blurred in their green-swirl unitards. Using simultaneous movement in closely positioned lines, soft yet energetic limbs, the 11 rushing dancers evoked a feeling of warm water, rivulets and streams, pooling in eddies and whirlpools, creating not the chaotic frenzy of a flood but the pleasure of nonstop, lapping currents.
Uhlemann’s work distilled, in its choreographic organization, the dominant style of dance MPD’s choreographer-teacher-performers produce: (led by Ronn Stewart, MPD’s charismatic Artistic Director and driving force, along with Associate AD, Uhlemann, and Assistant AD, Echo Gustafson.)


MPD’s choreographers frequently offer both dancers and viewers an earthquake of movement, always technically masterful, sometimes gifted in its clean choreography, like Stewart’s 2008 premier, ” THE TITLE IS 7/8 SEVEN,” using spare, spoken word and movement to uniquely describe uses of 7/8 rhythms in dance.  Other abstract and dynamic dances in  MPD’s powerfully minimalist style lack a clear enough conceptual development, so get repetitious, as in Uhlemann’s (2006) “Roda de Agua” and Stewart’s (2007) “See Oh! Too SATURATION.”


In addition to MPD’s resident choreographers, their repertory choreographers included Robert Moses, Max Stone and Sam Watson. These works had easily discernable themes, adding contrast and comic relief, like Moses’s (2004) sextet, “Drop Pillow,” Stone’s folding and unfolding movements, and lovely geometric lifts in the trio,  “Undetermined Composition” ( 2006), Watson’s super-jittery duet “Wired,” (1988), a riff on electricity, and his also wildly witty (2003) “Punctuations:”


The 14 professional dancers in this ten-year-old company bring experience and personality differences that mesmerize: Gustafson looked like artisanal melting butter throughout her 2008 work, “Turn;” Erica Gionfriddo’s tall, willowy body swayed like a rooted tree in a hurricane in “#14”; Kevin Gallacher’s droll humor in “7/8” and utter command of his play-dough elasticity during multiple pirouettes in “#14,”  Phylicia Roybal’s in-your-face strides and aggression  in “7/8,” Sarah Goldstone’s needling speed and design precision in “Undetermined Composition, ” Aaron Carr, Luke Reid-Grassia and Kyle Robinson’s feral muscular power,  back-arched leaps and turns in “#14,” Sarah Lustbader’s sustained and leggy lyricism in “Punctuations,” and the men’s command of lifts and partnering – no bobbles and lots of lifting variety in “See Oh! Too.”


Many of the artists both performed taught in the three-week dance intensive, Guest Artists Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and dancers from Ballet Austin performed in the opening concerts, then taught in the three week intensive with Jock Soto, Sam Watson, Rulan Tangen, Susan Quinn, Jeffrey Hughes, Fletcher Nickerson, and MPD choreographers. The festival closed  with a Community Dance Showcase on June 27th, and an Intensive Showcase June 28th.

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