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Timothy Esteves

Latin Folk Music, Velvet Underground and More in Jannetti's "A Weekend of Dance"


Andrew Jannetti. Photo by Eric Bandiero.

"A Weekend of Dance"
Performed by Andrew Jannetti and Dancers and Jessica Lewis Arts
University Settlement, 184 Eldridge Street, NYC
June 17-19, 2016

Reviewed by Timothy Esteves on June 17.

The lights opened on Andrew Jannetti, sitting alone in the center of a room in a lone chair. His arms were slumped at his side, his tie undone in exhausted resignation. His entire being appeared exasperated, even as Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" began to play. Jannetti's dance commenced with him acting out the lyrics of the song, performing actions like reading by examining the palm of his hand and moving pages, and working, portrayed by mimicking the action of a laborer shoveling. As the lyrics of the song evolved into a more free-flowing story, so too did Jannetti's dance, as he went from sitting motionless on a chair, gesturing with his hands, to dancing around the chair, unrestrained.

Lauren Naslund performing "Mother, May I," a dance that portrays motherhood in abstract ways. Photo by Julietta Cervantes.

The dance was entitled "Sweet Jane," and was choreographed by Kriota Willberg, named after the song it was to be performed alongside. The dance was gestural in nature, and embodied the liberation portrayed through the song lyrics, and the eventual and inevitable return to constraint and motionlessness at the close of the dance. There is also an underlying feeling of nostalgia throughout the dance, as if Jannetti was remembering a time since past through his movements. Sweet Jane was but one of many dances presented at the University Settlement over the weekend. A world premiere, Sweet Jane established the multi-faceted tone and atmosphere of the evening early on, and kept the audience excited for what came next.

Following Willberg's Sweet Jane was the premiere of Kitchen, a dance number choreographed and performed by Jessica Lewis, a student and protege of Andrew Jannetti. In addition to Lewis, the dancers consisted of Indra Ramirez Antoni, Kristin Dowdy, Gina Marie Borden, Nadia Hannan, Andrew Jannetti, Clementine Belber-Tierghien, and Elliot Thomas-Gregory. Backed by a jazzy score played live by the Adam Caine Quartet, Kitchen proved to be jam-packed with movement and symbolism, exploring the interlocking relationships of family through common household scenes. The dancers present on stage were continually shifting, initiating new portrayals of relationships, ranging from mother and daughter, husband and wife, and lovers. The synchronization, during the transition of dancers and the ones who were on stage, was laudable, as the dance kept its upbeat fluidity, not stopping for a moment.

After the intermission the show continued with four shorter dance numbers, all choreographed by Andrew Jannetti, and fusing Latin and folk musical and dance traditions. Jannetti's long-time friend and collaborator Marty Beller composed the music for the first three dances. The first number was "...on a darkling plain, performed by Gina Marie Borden, Kristin Dowdy, and Nadia Hannan." Following three women, the whimsical dance explored themes of destiny and how we confront what has come to pass and what may be awaiting in the future. At first the dance was slow, sensual, with lighting that emulated the dim light of the moon, and music that trickled along like starlight filtering from the sky or water flowing serenely down a creek. However, as the dance progressed, the music changed from tranquility to harsh drumbeats, the movement growing more wild and choppy.

Following were the solo dances, "Mother, May I/Dancing with My Father." The first dance, "Mother, May I," was performed by Lauren Naslund, a veteran member of Jannetti's dance company. Her dance revolved around the concepts of motherhood, drawing upon influences from world mythology and contemporary visions to paint the concept of the "mother" in an abstract way. Following, Jannetti performed "Dancing with My Father," which explored the ideas of fatherhood as seen through a son's eyes. The dance was was a solo, like the previous one, and created an interesting parallel to "Mother, May I." This dance seemed more passive, and the music had a static-like sound to it.

The next number was "Quizas," a lively dance set to the background of upbeat Latin music. This was the premiere of "Quizas," and the dancers consisted of Jessica Lewis, Gina Marie Borden, Kristin Dowdy, and Nadia Hannan. Clad in garments reminiscent of Latin culture and design, the dancers once again displayed an unparalleled level of synchronization, a talent made more impressive by the constant fluid motion occurring throughout the piece. A contrast within the dance was drawn between sections of intense and constant movement and abrupt stoppage, without sacrificing the fluidity of the dance. The music consisted of wooden instruments, and there were maracas and drums playing throughout, keeping a lighthearted tone. Overall, "Quizas" felt the most fun of all the works, as if the choreographer and the dancers made the dance for their own enjoyment and ended up creating a professional and upbeat work.

The fourth and final dance of the evening was a duet performed by Andrew Jannetti and Lauren Naslund, and was entitled "...on Sunday." Set to Pink Martini's 1998 song "Never on Sunday," the dance created a balanced atmosphere of both movement and calmness. It was very much a dance of parallels, as the two dancers mirrored each others actions. This, the physical closeness of the dancers, the bright lighting, and the French song lyrics created an image of two people enjoying their Sunday morning, perhaps against a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower.

All in all, Andrew Jannetti & Dancers' "A Weekend of Dance" provided a plethora of thought-provoking dance numbers, both new and old, that challenged the audience to ponder the themes portrayed. The group managed the rare feat of having a little something for everybody, offering a repertoire of dances set to rock, jazz, calming, and lively scores, without feeling as though they were pandering to a certain audience.


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