The Between the Seas Festival brought performing arts from the Mediterranean – including dance, music, multimedia, and theater – to New York City from July 22-28. The festival’s fifteen-performance line up featured work from nine countries, including five U.S. premieres.
The Thursday, July 25 9:30 p.m. performance was dedicated to dance (following an earlier 7 p.m. theater performance), and it offered everything from a curious world of broken angels, to a multimedia work exploring the metaphor of bridges, to a jarring solo piece as social commentary on the European crisis.
The opening piece, d r t marks the first collaboration between the Mari Meade Dance Collective, Project 44, and Turkish choreographer Korhan Basaran. Described in the program as a, “letter written to a friend who is no longer there,” the dance quickly evokes an otherworldly setting. Four male dances enter in silence with miniature white feathered wings melded to their bare backs with a bloody red substance. Four female dancers follow, soon hopping off the edge of the stage to perch and watch the men, who peel into pairs, pressing against a concrete wall. The music of Mozart, Back and Vivaldi ebbs in and out of pointed moments of silence.
Before long, the gender-specific quartets swap, featuring the females as the male, fallen angel characters hover at the stage’s edge. The ladies are far less mystic, showing a competitive nature, complete with hair pulling and accentuated facial expressions; it is unexpectedly comedic given the piece’s start. The essence of d r t comes when the eight dancers unite – the relationship between the males and females is unclear yet most intriguing. Partner work colors the choreography, each duo’s movement winding through the space well, even using the walls and back doorways. Suddenly the lights dim, and tiny beams of light peek out from their hands, unraveling into strings, bringing a subtle glow to the silhouettes of the dancer’s moving, some still coupled up. The work succeeds in creating a world of haunting beauty.
The Bridge follows, a work created by Vanessa Tamburi, Artistic Director of FLUSSO Dance Project. With a trio of dancers, some props, and video footage, it explores the metaphors intertwined in the literal and figurative “bridge,” including connection, alternatively exclusion, identities, and journey. The dancers are certainly technically talented – the choreography incorporates sustained extensions and intricate partnering – but the choreography is not the sole focus in this work. Rather, we see the dancers through video projected behind them – sometimes featuring a close-up of their face, sometimes a black-and-white image of them slowly moving across the sidewalk of a bridge, people passing by. A robotic voice echoes, “Welcome Stranger,” and the three reappear with boxes that fit over their heads, one side curved. They join together, standing side by side, each needed to complete their own makeshift bridge.
Undoubtedly the most memorable piece of the evening program, Amongst Millions is presented (and performed by) Portuguese choreographer Pedro Goucha Gomes, marking the U.S. premiere. It wasn’t just the fact that the piece was performed in the nude, or that Miguelangel Clerc’s original score is so intense, or that the sole, stark spotlight shined down on Gomes unrelentingly for over a half hour that made this work memorable. Rather, it is Gomes’ complete vulnerability and the total discomfort created for those experiencing the work as he ever slowly moves forward, each move seemingly riddled with pain and frustration. Though, this is exactly what Gomes intends to evoke, as his work is described in the program as a reflection on the frustration and fear he has experienced within in his home country over recent years due to the European crisis. It’s an unabashedly raw, stark, work, certainly not meant to be polished around the edges that is a very postmodern take on a contemporary issue.
All performances of the Between the Seas festival were performed downtown at the Wild Project. To take a look at what else took was featured throughout the festival, please click here.
Dedicated to engaging New Yorkers with Mediterranean culture and arts, the Between the Seas festival was founded in 2010. For more information, please visit the Between the Seas’ website and facebook page.