on tour in Philadelphia

Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett, co-artistic directors

Annenberg Center, Philadelphia

April 3-5, 2014

 Company website


New on the map in Philly is LA dance troupe Bodytraffic, winning over Dance Celebration audiences with a wide sampling of styles. Artistic directors Lillian Rose Barbieto and Tina Frankelman Berkett (who also danced in the program) chose stylistically disparate works by hot-list choreographers Kyle Abraham, Barack Marshall and Richard Siegal that showed the technical range and personality of the company. Even though the new to Philly company didn’t fill the Annenberg Center, those who came knew they were seeing a vibrant, important new dance company performing work by equally vibrant young choreographers.

The full company of ten is onstage for Barack Marshall’s “And at midnight the green bride floated through the village square” (2012) is a jarringly chauvinistic story dance about brides as chattel. Obviously ironic, it holds a blurry editorial line. The men line up prospective brides and they are lineup like cattle for the marriage slaughter or soon to be dumped. Later the women find camaraderie at the movie house, where they are summarily kidnapped. Somehow, they all end up as male-female couples, with the men instructing some of the women how to prepare their meals and by extension, their sexual allure. Marshall uses old world music from Hassidic and Yemeni scoring hypnotic ensemble sections. Marshall’s character choreography is humorous even in this brutal story line. Ultimately, though Marshall gets lost in storytelling at the expense of his compelling ensemble movement and dancier sequences.

Kyle Abraham’s “Kollide,” (2013) for five dancers captures this company‘s sensual synergy and theatricality. Scored to string acoustical electronica by Hildur Guðnadóttir and Valgeir Sigurdsson, intense interplays with Abraham’s lyrical phrasing, blending technique, requires elite athlete control and a translucent honesty from the dancers.  Through a cryptically connected tableau of solos, duets and trios, Abraham’s phrasing, body articulation, and doesn’t look like anyone else’s aesthetic. Among the many hypnotic passages are the torso snaky solos by Guzman Rosado a mesmerizing central duet with Yusha-Marie Sorzano and Miguel Perez.

Siegal‘s “o2Joy” (2012)“ opens with Sorzana doing a springy free dance to Billie Holiday singing ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street‘, with the men glissading on the periphery. And this mix of jazz greats from Oscar Peterson’s ‘Mumbles’ and ‘My One and Only’ to the elegant Glenn Miller Orchestra’s ‘Taps Miller’ with couples busting into Lindy variations and Gene Kelly-esque tilted turns. There is Andrew Wojtal‘s giddy dance lip-sync to Ella Fitzgerald’s version of ‘All of Me.” Ella breaks into scat singing that has Wojtal camping it up to the teeth with fey gestures and ballroom fan-kicks.

Philadelphia ,
Lewis Whittington writes about the performing and film arts for many publications. He is a renegade dance, theater and opera queen, a jazz-head and a civil activist.