Performing Arts: Dance
August 19, 2018
What a way to celebrate the unique, enriching diversity of our New York City dance community! The Battery Dance Festival has highlighted our international dance community at its best. From the avant-garde to the deep-rooted traditional folklore, dialogues between artist’s followers, colleagues, tourists and passing by audiences, gathered at the Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park for this summer spectacular celebration. The dramatic natural sunset backdrop embellished the scene with its chromatic transitions as the coastline lit up, featuring the glamorous Statute of Liberty irradiating her torch, welcoming natives and foreigners. Rain or shine, the exquisitely curated dance companies were showered in applause not only for their commendable artistry but also by their contagious joy.

A highlight of Friday, August 17th’s program was the Mexican dance company Ballet Nepantla, led by Andrea Guajardo as artistic director, where she participates as dancer and cochoreographer along with Martín Rodríguez, Anthony Bocconi, and Argelia Arreola. Their performance opened with Llorona, a pas de deux integrating Mexican folk and contemporary dance idioms, climaxing with Coco, a signature piece in the repertoire from the region of Veracruz. In this huapango genre, Guajardo extrapolated its blend of Spanish and Mexican dance styles with an effervescence of its Afro-Caribbean roots where swirling vaporous white ample skirts played with the air, teasing Coco's jarocho infectious rhythm.

Returning to the festival with the U.S. premiere of Borwa: People of the South, Mophato Dance Theater took the viewers on a journey through stories of encounter and departure. Honoring Botswana traditions, cadences of group male configurations depicted the images of many voyages. Women ensembles portrayed life in the homeland with lyrical blankets and sweeping dry grass, and a contemporary duet enacted the yearning of distant lovers.

The the whole cast reunited, culminating with a feast of vibrating shuffling steps, undulating torsos, suspended leaps, and dynamic rolls, extrapolated by a percussive plethora of stamps, body slaps, claps, ankle rattles, Djembes, and African Xylophones. Final bows turned into a community dance as the company welcomed patrons to join them with the exulting multi-cultural audience response flooding the outdoor stage.

Wednesday's program, August the 15th, commemorated Indian Independence Day, showcasing an array of respected Hindi dance groups in an interactive Kathak program narrated by Rajika Puri, an internationally known exponent of this art form. Parul Shah and Mohip Joarder, portrayed Yugal, an impeccable stylized duet narrative embellished by the harmonic synchronicity of soft spiraling arms contrasting with sharp accents. Within their delicate dance phrases, sequences evolved en manège and Kathak signature rapid series of pirouettes were spiced with the musicality of the silver-bells tied around their ankles.

In Nirityalkatha, Sandip Mallick, integrated musicians and the audience in a conversation within his rhythmic poetry and footwork percussion. His cool command of timing and rhythms in counter-time with the musicians was admirable and enjoyable. Mallick offered an explanation of what each of his pieces was about, which included a tribute to India’s national bird, the counterpoint game between the correspondence of music chords with dance terminology, and an amusing percussive choreographic game based on numbers.

Directed by Anuj Mishra, the company that carries his name, follows the traditions of renowned Kathak guru, Pt. Arjun Mishra, himself fruit of the saga of legends. In Yatra: The Journey of Kathak, Anuj Mishra, Neha Singh, and Kantika Mishra contrasted India’s traditional court dances with a lyrical composition embodying a popular Hindi love song.

Preeti Sharma and Piyush Chauhan closed the evening with Jhankaar which exuded rampage enthusiasm embellished by the heavy costume embroidery. However, their choreographic proposal and technique did not enjoy the finesse of the earlier works. The lengthy program was well received by the benevolent Hindi audience, appreciating this unique opportunity to nurture the new generations with a wide array of references of their dance heritage.
. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

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