DC 10th International Improvisation Plus+ Festival

DC 10th International Improvisation Plus+ Festival
Betts Marvin Theatre, Washington, DC
December 1–12, 2004
Reviewed by Lisa Traiger


Blink, and you’ll miss how a wily dancer stuffed himself into the cavity of a grand piano. Blink again and wonder when two dancers morphed into a half-dozen, one tossing a partner ragdoll-like in the air, another groping upward with pulsing fingers, a third fiddling with the metallic handles on an audience member’s purse. The apt title for one of nine performances in the 10th International Improvisation Plus+ Festival, Blink, with its 65 minutes of improvised movement and music, contained moments of serendipity, of boredom, of discombobulation. That’s the nature—and sometimes the beauty—of this free-form technique. Akin to physical jazz with its unplanned approach, improv has been making a comeback in D.C. for a few years now. With stalwart experimenter Maida Withers, a professor at George Washington University, at the helm of the festival (which she began as a lark Garland-and-Rooney-style a decade ago), one performance has grown into a citywide event spanning nearly a fortnight.

Two evenings of headliners featured an international cast including instantly captivating Nikolai Schetnev, a skinny Russian with an Ur-geek look who moves like liquid silk channeled through a street-savvy beat-box pulse. On December 3, Schetnev opened Shocked and Odd—Live Art with a solo featuring a taped score and his edgy, streetwise dynamics—puppet sharp, then melt-away soft. The mostly male cast, supplemented by GWU’s student ensemble, Washington Free Collaboration, relished the physical. They at times engulfed the space with unchecked dashes, blurts of combative attack, and, especially from student Wendell Cooper, facile floor work tinged with touches of breaking and martial arts. Leggy Withers, crowned by a shock of white hair, favored the old-fashioned approach, seeking contact and weight-sharing opportunities whenever she wasn’t entranced by her own space-hugging gestures. The sometimes-piercing sax of Peter Fraize, Steven C. Hilmy’s electronic rumbles, and Jim Levy’s keyboard putterings accompanied the dancers.

The following evening Blink highlighted Magpie Music Dance Company of Amsterdam, with dancer Katie Duck’s quirky mix of the mundane and the out-of-the-ordinary and Vincent Cacialano’s rangy but oddball approach to movement. Gifted violinist Mary Oliver let her instrument speak to and integrate with the performers’ often-chatty set. Seattle-based Cyrus Khambatta, a curator of the performances and workshops with Withers, joined the pair with easygoing rebounds and snaky slithers.

Both evenings provided funny moments but frequently lacked passion and direction. “Yesterday I saw a compass,” Withers remarked during Blink. The dancers could have used one to find stronger endings.

For more information: www.improvfestival.com/main.html

The Conversation
Courtesy Ritzel

Capezio, Bloch, So Dança, Gaynor Minden.

At the top of the line, dancers have plenty of quality footwear options to choose from, and in most metropolitan areas, stores to go try them on. But for many of North America's most economically disadvantaged dance students, there has often been just one option for purchasing footwear in person: Payless ShoeSource.

Keep reading... Show less
Jayme Thornton

When Sonya Tayeh saw Moulin Rouge! for the first time, on opening night at a movie theater in Detroit, she remembers not only being inspired by the story, but noticing the way it was filmed.

"What struck me the most was the pace, and the erratic feeling it had," she says. The camera's quick shifts and angles reminded her of bodies in motion. "I was like, 'What is this movie? This is so insane and marvelous and excessive,' " she says. "And excessive is I think how I approach dance. I enjoy the challenge of swiftness, and the pushing of the body. I love piling on a lot of vocabulary and seeing what comes out."

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Robbie Fairchild in a still from In This Life, directed by Bat-Sheva Guez. Photo courtesy Michelle Tabnick PR

Back when Robbie Fairchild graced the cover of the May 2018 issue of Dance Magazine, he mentioned an idea for a short dance film he was toying around with. That idea has now come to fruition: In This Life, starring Fairchild and directed by dance filmmaker Bat-Sheva Guez, is being screened at this year's Dance on Camera Festival.

While the film itself covers heavy material—specifically, how we deal with grief and loss—the making of it was anything but: "It was really weird to have so much fun filming a piece about grief!" Fairchild laughs. We caught up with him, Guez and Christopher Wheeldon (one of In This Life's five choreographers) to find out what went into creating the 11-minute short film.

Keep reading... Show less
The Creative Process
Terry Notary in a movement capture suit during the filming of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Photo by Sigtor Kildal, Courtesy Notary

When Hollywood needs to build a fantasy world populated with extraordinary creatures, they call Terry Notary.

The former gymnast and circus performer got his start in film in 2000 when Ron Howard asked him to teach the actors how to move like Whos for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Notary has since served as a movement choreographer, stunt coordinator and performer via motion capture technology for everything from the Planet of the Apes series to The Hobbit trilogy, Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and this summer's The Lion King.

Since opening the Industry Dance Academy with his wife, Rhonda, and partners Maia and Richard Suckle, Notary also offers movement workshops for actors in Los Angeles.

Keep reading... Show less


Get Dance Magazine in your inbox