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…of Landscapes, Horses & a Little Red Car | Satellite Collective at BAM Fisher, Sept 3 – 5, 2015….

September 26, 2015
 Esme Boyce from “A Pair of Ideal Landscapes" Photo: Lora Robertson

Esme Boyce from “A Pair of Ideal Landscapes” Photo: Lora Robertson

The Satellite Collective is a group of 29 artists from across the nation that work together to produce interdisciplinary works. They just completed their second season with seven world premieres created specifically for the BAM Fisher Space. Those seven works premiered consisted of post-classical music by four composers, contemporary dance works by three choreographers, a new animated set, two new short films, and spoken work. Damian Smith, former principal of San Francisco Ballet, is artistic advisor for the program.

Now, I have a lot of respect for the Satellite Collective but was their second season as successful as their first…for me sadly not. David Moss opened the evening by performing his composition for the cello. I’m not in the least bit qualified to critique music but I did found it interesting in a new age sort of way…

Michaela Mann performed Individuate, a solo work set to a score by Nick Jaina and choreographed by Devin Alberda, who dances with the New York City Ballet.  Ms. Mann’s performance was impeccable and Mr. Alverda’s choreography reminded of work I seen in the early 80’s by dancers who were trained in Erick Hawkins’ Technique and I mean this in the very best of ways.

Michaela Mann performing Devin Albeda’s “Individuate” with music by Nick Jania. Photo: Lora Robertson.

Michaela Mann performing Devin Albeda’s “Individuate” with music by Nick Jania. Photo: Lora Robertson.

Mr. Hawkins’ technique has a serene quality as well as a stately elegance in how a dancer’s body employed its kinetic energies. I found many similarities in Mr. Alberda’s choreography. The piece had a light airiness to it that was wonderful to see. Though I found the costume, a brown and tan body suit, distracted from the work as a whole.

A Pair of Ideal Landscapes was an interesting piece using dance, film and voice. Richie Greene created a score that was hauntingly captivating and the way he incorporated the sublime voice of Catherine Hancock was sheer genius…

Lora Robertson created a film that produced an abstract thread of shifting imageries, green grass moving in a breeze, a copper satin dress with a long train that flowed with the wind. The film focused on several women, all in various states of contemplation in which they seemed fascinated with their hands. Esmé Boyce is seen wearing bright red lipstick as she seductively places her hand against a man’s, reflected in an antique mirror, Kit McDaniel’s face is seen in a moving moment of meditative emotion.

The only problem I had with the piece was that during the showing of the film Ms. Boyce and Christopher Ralph performed a duet that was also choreographed by Ms. Boyce. There is so much to say about this duet and none of it positive, first and foremost it was not needed.

In regards to the mechanics of the duet there was nothing original neither in content nor in its construction. They choreography was dated and lacked imagination, There was nothing exciting or innovative in regards to how Ms. Boyce utilized the body in space. Everything about the duet, sadly, has been seen before. I have seen Ms. Boyce’s work twice now and both times I left wishing she would be more willing to take chances, for her to stop thinking of how to move but instead let her emotions speak though her body to create her own unique language.

Ms. Robertson’s exquisite use of her camera combined with Mr. Greene’s score and Ms. Hancock’s sublime vocals were strong enough to stand on their own. Frankly, I found Ms. Boyce’s duet more of a distraction than anything else. I found myself focusing purely on the film.

Edie Leaves Twice was a beautiful stop motion short film by Lora Robertson, with libretto by Kevin Draper and scored by Ellis Ludwig-Leone. The film is the second installment of an ongoing trilogy, the first installment, Twin Star Event, premiered in the Collective’s first season at BAM in 2014. (“Tornado Fighter” will be  third installment of the trilogy  and is in production, set to be premiered in June, 2016.)

The imagery was rich, colorful and deliciously abstract. The film begins with the credits super-imposed over several lit birthday candles that as the melted would flow and morph into imagery that was as worthy as any abstract painting hanging in the Whitney. There is a model of a wooden horse that has moveable parts (that I think I remember seeing in the first installment…but don’t quote me on that…) Also, a Red Ford Mustang toy car, then there are a herd of marbles that flow across an embossed gray fabric, at the top of the frame a rotating globe partially seen. It was a brilliant, fun and a unexpected sweet treat…I’d love to see again…..

Elena Valls in Manuel Vignoulle’s “Walls Are Here to Fall” with Score by Nick Jaina. Photo: Lora Robertson.

Isaies Santamaria in Manuel Vignoulle’s “Walls Are Here to Fall” with Score by Nick Jaina. Photo: Lora Robertson.

Manuel Vignoulle’s career as a choreographer I have been following closely since I first saw his work Shifting Shadow at the 2013 :pushing progress Showcase Series. I was immediately drawn to Mr. Vignoulle’s emotional yet at the same time athletic approach to dance.

I found his latest work Walls Are Here to Fall exciting, fast-paced and thought provoking. (Mr. Vignoulle found the words Walls Are Here to Fall written on the Berlin Wall.) This piece is more intricate in its construction then past works, more complex in his use of the body in space and he masterfully wove Nick Jania’s composition with Kevin Draper’s imagery in to a flawless statement. Also, Brandon String Baker must be commended for his lighting design that added so much depth to the work.

Wearing all white, the dancers would suddenly start to spasmodically jerk their bodies like some escaped mental patients. Then each dancer stands in a square of light and begins to move individually but there is still a unifying theme. It’s as if you enter a room with four people all discussing the same subject but with each having their own point of view and each determined to be heard over the rest.

Isaies Santamaria has this ability to tie his body into knots of movement that should be physically impossible. Rena Butler, who also dances with Bill T. Jones, dances with an inherent lyricism that is delicious to watch. Gage Self is a recent graduate of the Ailey/Fordham BFA program and of whom I had not seen perform before but he was wonderful, naturally falling into Mr. Vignoulle’s movement as if born to it. Elena Valls I have had the good fortune to see perform before and if you have not seen her perform I would suggest you do.

Rena Butler, Isaies Santamaria, Gage Self & Elena Valis in Manuel Vignoulle’s “Walls Are Here to Fall” with Score by Nick Jaina. Photo: Lora Robertson.

Rena Butler, Isaies Santamaria, Gage Self & Elena Valis in Manuel Vignoulle’s “Walls Are Here to Fall” with Score by Nick Jaina. Photo: Lora Robertson.

Satellite Collective is a New York based arts non-profit, committed to generating interdisciplinary works of performance and publication. Founded in 2010, Satellite Collective has produced three evening-length ballets, four hours of original music, two hours of original film, commissioned four modern dance works, founded an artistic publication, hosted five annual arts retreats, and has recently launched Telephone, which simultaneously published the interconnected works of 315 artists from 42 countries.

Satellite Collective was selected by the Brooklyn Academy of Music to participate in the 2015 BAM Professional Development Program in collaboration with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

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