Exhilarated by David Zambrano’s “Soul Project”

January 23, 2010

His performers were all so intense that at times they were hypnotic. Their solos, danced to soul music, were each unpredictable: hell-bent or convulsive, with sudden stops or loosenings. And each of the six dancers, including David (pronounced da-VEED) Zambrano, are unforgettable individuals.


We the audience milled around, wondering who would dance next, and where on the floor of St. Mark’s Church they would be. The dancers seemed to wonder too. The reason for the wondering, I later found out, was that a computer shuffles the mix each time so the six performers don’t know when “their’ song will be up next.


The first solo, danced by Edivaldo Ernesto, looked like he was locked in place and then he would free himself with a gesture or a shout. He was entrancing to watch, wearing a white shirt that extending into lace gloves and collar. The song was “Be Careful, It’s My Heath” by Bola de Nieve, and you really felt Ernesto’s heart.


The second solo was by Nina Fajdiga, a graduate of the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam. She vibratedfrom her pelvis up through her arms and hands so joyously yet grittily that it seemed she was channeling Janis Joplin. With a slew of small pompoms on her upper chest and a swaying grass skirt, she wore her ecstasy well.


Peter Jasko (from Slovakia) moved in ways that amazed, not for their virtuosity but for the willpower. His concentration gave him the power to hurl and scatter himself. You could almost see him think, “I’m gonna fly now,” and his body would propel forward like a child who refuses to think something is impossible. He wore a blue trapeze bodysuit overlaid with an army vest with clumps of sequins sewed on, and he occasionally batted his glitter-encrusted eyelashes.


By the way, all the costumes, designed by Mat Voorter, had were gloriously eccentric with a hint of circus. Like the dances, the more you looked at them, the more you saw.


When it was Zambrano’s turn, he became the magical pied piper and earth father that he is. Part showman, part sensitive actor as if from the 19th century, he has a kindly face and handlebar mustache. He could have been the wizard of Oz, but he was more successful in transporting us to a wonderful place. He ended the whole show by jumping in place with an eternal energy.


One of the pleasures of this event was how presentational each dancer was. (The other two, Milan Herich, from Slovakia, and Horacio Macuacua, from Mozambique, were also terrific.) Yes they were inward and idiosyncratic, but they never lost the generosity of allowing us to see them—from all angles. Another pleasure was the international makeup of the cast. It was no surprise to learn that they have worked with Zambrano for 6 to 10 years. It takes time to instill a particular, demanding vision of performing.


The program notes said that Zambrano was aiming to touch people as deeply as soul singers touched him. I would say he succeeded wildly. He also succeeded in presenting improvisation with enough structure to be, well, a masterpiece. Kudos to the “Platform 2010: I get lost” project at Danspace, this portion of which was curated by Ralph Lemon.



Horacio Macuacua in
Soul Project, photo by  Anja Hitzenberger, Courtesy Danspace