Choreographer Kun-Yang Lin is currently creating his 101st dance piece which will have its premiere at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia next spring. As founding director of KYL/Dancers he has choreographed all of the company’s repertory so far. For the company’s fall program at the Performance Garage he opened up the repertoire to include aspiring choreographers within his company by sharing the program with premiere works created by dancers Weiwei Ma, Evalina ‘Wally’ Carbonell and Mo Liu.
Lin has nurtured the inner company choreographers and one of the surprises in this concert series is their choreography look different from Lin’s own choreographic aesthetic.
Evalina Carbonell’s ‘Seed’ opens with Nikolai McKenzie in an on the floor in a warm spotlight in a fetal position, a literal reference to the choreographer’s newborn son, born just weeks ago. then, dancers, one by one appear in others, symbolic of human connections as a parent, aunt, sibling, etc. The seeds of developing life, idyllic and safe, and exploring. McKenzie & Keila Perez-Vega and Grace Stern & Frankie Markocki in mirroring duets that suggests turmoil and facing life’s obstacles. The soundtrack, by Hauschka, becomes more rhythmic and driving. So does the troupe. They hurl their bodies around in more aggressive patterns. Yogic and balletic movement give way to fearless aerials or tumbles, knee drops and low to the ground choreography that flows into acrobatic couplings. ‘Seed’ is full of unexpected movement, and with a thrilling and dramatic theatrical arc.
‘ Miànjù’ (Mask) is Mo Liu’s ironic quartet scored to dramatic music by Philip Glass and starts abstractly with Grace Stern, Frank Markocki, Barbara Craig and Kyan Namazi on their backs at the back of the stage. In slow motion they rise and advance to the front, lean over the audience and make different expressive faces. Dressed in black jackets, bare legs, and socks, they start to move in expressive ways, they dive around each other, tie themselves in body knots, relationships are hinted at (or not).
Liu is such an exquisite contemporary danseur, powerful in the air and lyrical in his technical artistry and his choreography for Miànjù, in contrast, is angular, grounded and wily, so different from Liu’s own performance style. His dancers end up in a tangled heap, tearing off those jackets, the dancer’s ‘mask’ dropped, as Liu has them dish and debrief each other on their own performances.
Weiwei Ma’s FAN, music by Ito Kayo and Nawang Khechog, variations on fan dances. the first is a fan slam, as Grace Stern, Annielille Gavino and Keila Perez-Vega, the trio of flash red fan dancers. Coquettish, dominant and funny, they were snapping their red fans, striking poses that mocked any perception of sexual inference. The section is Ma’s stunning martial arts/balletic fan dance. Lui hurls himself onstage stage with a large white fan, then Ma flies in wielding a flowing silk black fan, also in the shimmering judo-esque dueling fan choreography. The final section with McKenzie, Liu, Namazi, and Markocki in silky tunics that suggest a ritual or ceremony. They unfurl a fan with a wingspan of five or so feet, which Markocki wields as cultural iconography creating mystical stage pictures.
It was so fitting that Lin’s closed the concert with ARRIVAL 2018, adapted from his 2015 two-act opus ‘HOME’ S. 9th St.’ scored to music-soundscape by composer Cory Neale, a frequent collaborator, Home is already a KYL/D signature work. And danced by the troupe with stellar ensemble esprit and conviction. With its themes of immigrants and refugees coming to America and being facing political, cultural and individual challenges to gain citizenship. Put through what in many cases is hostile and arbitrary screening processes. Lin expresses the psychological stress through dance and character movement. ‘Arrival’ resonates even more now after the US perpetrated the human rights outrage of separating refugee families and stoking substantiating claims of an ‘invasion’ of our borders.
HOME expresses the struggles from every absurd and very real perspective. KYL/Dancers has always embraced the diversity of cultures, nationalities, and community, it looks like 21st century America. Now, with Lin opening up the repertory to other company dancemakers the culture exchange and fusion continues to explore and define.
KYL/Dancers also performed at the 5th annual Come Together Festival, reviving a signature Lin work titled ‘Dreamscape,’ scored to jarring percussive electronica by Daniel Rhodes the choreography is equally jarring. Lin’s choreography in a much different key than many of Lin’s longer ballets. The ensemble clusters in halting and deconstructed phrases- foreboding and hypnotic- that melt into unexpectedly lyrical passages. KYL/Dancers dancing with clarity and conviction and were not lost in Lin’s abstract dream.