Psophonia Dance Company Puts Their Finger on a New Pulse

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As the heart of Psophonia Dance Company, co-founders and Artistic Directors, Sophia Torres and Sonia Noriega have been pumping out new dance work for 13 seasons.

Their partnership has even survived a transplant. “Sonia has lived in Chicago for 5 years now and I don’t think in all that time we’ve had a break in our stride,” Torres reflects.

In that vein, the two are keeping the work flowing even while giving up their choreographers’ chairs to some fresh blood – their dancers. New Pulse, which presents at Barnevelder November 18 and 19, will feature original choreography by current and former members of the company.

Nurturing young talent and providing company members with production and artistic support is an idea that’s been on the table for some time. It’s also giving the company’s two matriarchs a chance to clear their heads before scrubbing in on any new operations. “I actually went through a creative spurt this spring, setting three new works on Psophonia, one on University of Houston, and one on Houston Community College students. I was ready to step back and regenerate,” explains Torres.

To assemble the program, Noriega and Torres asked the dancers to submit work that had been previously set. The dancers proffered work created in college or for other companies and events. While the choreographers who wanted to revise sections of their work were given support and suggestions on editing, the content was left in their hands. “Sophia and I have always respected and encouraged each other for our individual choreographic voices to develop,” says Noriega, “so giving them their freedom and encouraging them to express their work as they see fit just seemed natural for us.”

New Pulse will feature seven works from seven new choreographic voices.

Patty Solorzano’s “Entre Irse Y Quedarse/Between Going and Staying” is inspired by childhood recollections of Mexico and her struggle to adapt to a new culture when her family relocated to the U.S.  Dancers manipulate long skirts in this contemporary work influenced by Mexican Folkloric dance and prop photographs represent memories and a boundary between past and future. Fittingly, Solorzano’s challenge was transmitting the movement and emotional context of the piece to the performers in only one week before making her next big transition, a move to Michigan.

Tapley Whaley premiered “Cry of 146 at “Not For Sale”, a concert benefiting the anti-human trafficking organization, Love 146. “The subject matter is current, intense, and tragic, “ remarks Torres. “I applaud Tapley for choosing to tackle such a weighted subject and working with other organizations to raise awareness.” Whaley took time away from the company in March to have a baby. Now raising a seven-month-old, Whaley considers the creative opportunity to re-set “Cry of 146” and time with other dancers a blessing.

Jeanna Vance, who is also on leave from the company to start a family, describes the personal adversity she faced during a two-year period of her life. “It was like a storm that wouldn’t end.” A resulting introspection and surrender, bringing waves of relief and peace, inspired “First Breath.

Collaborators Kendall Kramer and Marielle Perrault provide an element of surprise with some clever light manipulation in “I. Photo II. Synthesis”. “I don’t want to give the ‘secret’ away, but it is great fun to watch,” says Torres.

Meanwhile, Emily Bischoff manipulates sound in “Shenanigans”. Recording discussion from the current cast of dancers, she has edited and reversed their voices to accompany a section of the piece. This work emerged as Bischoff contemplated the complexities of the brain, which seems to generate information in curious ways. “Random events stirring up organized and clear thoughts,” Bischoff observes.

Boroto, set to the contemporary African music of Badenya Les Freres Coulibaly, originated with the music. Choreographer Marielle Perrault explains, “I created movement inspired directly from what I heard. Every step is a reaction to the drums, the vocals, the climactic build.”

But words, specifically ‘lush’ and ‘sensual’, are the foundation for “Strolling le Carré, Stephanie Beall’s nod to the bateleur, street entertainers, of France.

For Beall, putting her work in front of an audience is a milestone. “I’ve never thought I was a good choreographer and had a fear of pursuing that avenue.” She and the other dancers-turned-choreographers express their gratitude to Noriega and Torres for the opportunity to revisit their dances. “I felt their support throughout the entire process,” says Solorzano.

Each also conveys appreciation for the chance to present work on a full stage with costuming, lighting, and ticket sales. Perrault summarizes, “Usually these factors are minimally accessible for beginning choreographers, but Psophonia knows the importance of developing a new generation of choreographers.”

Fans of Psophonia can take heart that Noriega and Torres will produce new work in 2012. Unlike many companies that spend months creating new choreography for a one-weekend show, they will continue to take their repertory on the road to places like Dallas, Chicago, and Cincinnati. This season, look for the company in Imagine Christmas at Moody Gardens. “This was an unexpected performance opportunity and we are excited about going to Galveston in December and performing daily for about two weeks.”

Intentions are to make New Pulse a regular event in Psophonia’s programming, making it an artistic, ahem… artery for future young dance-makers.

Psophonia Dance Company presents New Pulse Friday and Saturday, November 18-19 at 8pm at Barnevelder Movement/Arts, 2201 Preston St. To purchase tickets visit or call 713-802-1181.ext. 4.

Reprinted from Dance Source


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Revolve Dance Company: Premieres6


Wake by Matt Dippel - Revolve Dance Company | Photo by David Bullanday Photography.
Wake by Matt Dippel - Revolve Dance Company | Photo by David Bullanday Photography



Revolve Dance Company is the kind of ensemble that makes dancing look effortless when you know full well it isn’t. On Friday, December 10 they made this abundantly clear to a packed Barnevelder Movement/Arts audience with their sixth full-length concert, Premieres6.

The performance included, you guessed it, six premieres with works by foundational members, Amy Cain, Dawn Dippel, and Matt Dippel, plus guest choreography by Houston dance artist, Lindsey McGill, and nationally known choreographer, Wes Veldink, a frequent Revolve collaborator.

The eleven-member company’s repertoire is decidedly contemporary and somewhere in the jazz genus, but they show restraint when it comes to movement pyrotechnics, particularly for a professional company born and cultivated at a suburban competitive dance studio. All of the overstated power moves and flashy stuff are MIA, unless you consider consistently good dancing, flash.

In the middle of a mostly mellow lineup, Matt Dippel’s Wake is a welcome diversion. Opening under the midnight blues of Jeremy Choate’s contoured lighting, the company sits bowed and kneeling like monks before eventually engulfing Dawn Dippel in a pulsing, dystopian but not quite menacing mob. Ms. Dippel’s flame red hair shines like a beacon in the half-light hues, but it is her command of the stage that makes it difficult to tear your eyes away.

Science revealed recently that Earth’s moon does, in fact, hold water – more than we ever thought, actually. Yet, when has the moon not ‘held water’ for those that look upon it? Lindsey McGill’s romantic ode to moon gazing, …when the moon holds water, is layered with articulated, if not mysterious, gesture. At first it whispers, inviting witnesses to a private slow dance between dancers Amy Cain and Matt Dippel. Nuzzling, tracing, and measuring both the corporeal presence and the space once occupied by the other, the duo are folded into the geometric undulations of the full company. The choreography builds to a splash of unison at its climax, then wanes like the lunar surface, all under the ever-present double orbs in Choate’s orange heavens.

Ms. Cain’s Of This World is an exploration of the four terrestrial elements, capped with an earnest coda set to Antony & The Johnsons’ rhapsodic lament for the natural world. Houston Ballet Academy instructor and former HB dancer, Beth Everitt completed a goddess-like Air trio that also included Cain and Dawn Dippel. But, it is Matt Dippel and Lauren Difede who almost single-handedly cleanse the work of platitude with their breathtaking partnering as Water. (Jennifer Stricklin performed with Dippel in the Water duet for Saturday’s performance.)

Dawn Dippel’s Restful Retreat has familial charm and lives up to its title, though a jumble of images and props sometimes amount to contextual clutter. Everest featured three of Revolve’s junior company members and guest performances by the Senior Performance Company of North Harris Performing Arts, the studio co-owned by multiple Revolve Dance Company members. The dancers looked at home among professionals even if the dance in this context amounted to an exclamation point that NHPA is running a top-notch program. Veldink’s lyrical And I Love You, Bye is winsome but doesn’t fight hard enough to be more notable than its accompaniment. It was Cain and Ms. Dippel that demonstrated they could rival a song as big as Florence and The Machine’s Dog Days Are Over in a go-for-broke torrent of movement that morphed into a curtain call on steroids.

Contemporary dance can sometimes be identified by its boring apparel parade of pants and tunics. Therefore, deserving of mention is dancer and resident costumer, Jane Thayer who works with each choreographer to create a mosaic of costumes that manage to be individual and sometimes even surprising without being ostentatious.

Revolve Dance Company puts on a satisfying show that runs with the same kind of precision shown in the dancing. Their work is imaginative without breaking any rules. A homegrown collective, Revolve’s members are easily some of the best contemporary dancers performing in Houston and can be counted on to impress with a dignified elegance.


Reprinted courtesy Dance Source Houston

Translating Cultures –- Yasuko Yokoshi’s Tyler Tyler Weaves Japanese and American Dance


Photo by Alexandra Corazza; Dancers Julie Alexander and Kayvon Pourazar
Photo by Alexandra Corazza; Dancers Julie Alexander and Kayvon Pourazar

In one hand, a male dancer holds a folding fan, tilting and turning it with subtle precision. On his hip, a pistol rests in a holster. It matches the Old West cowboy hat on his head. Braiding iconic symbols of Japanese and American cultures, this moment is arranged in the exact center of New York choreographer Yasuko Yokoshi’s Tyler Tyler, which opens on Thursday, October 14 at DiverseWorks.

The solo’s accompaniment is “American Flag” by Cat Power (sung by composer and live musician, Steven Reker). “I just play with images and multiple perceptions behind the images,” Ms. Yokoshi says of this centerpiece. “It [the song choice] does not mean anything, but it means something if one wants to find meaning.”

Born in Hiroshima, Ms. Yokoshi has lived in the United States for more than half her life. She began her dance training here and her artistic and choreographic work is underpinned by American postmodern dance. In 2003, while traveling in Japan, her life and work took a new turn when she met Masumi Seyama, the master teacher and premier practitioner of Kanjyuro Fujima’s Kabuki Su-odori dance tradition.

Kabuki Su-odori means “naked dance” and is presented without the make-up, spectacle, and decorative choreography typical of Kabuki performance. The subtly theatrical aesthetic felt like common ground, drawing Ms. Yokoshi to the Kabuki Su-odori form. She began her studies with Ms. Seyama, who was taken with her intrinsic understanding of what was demonstrated to her. The 72-year-old Seyama determined that Ms. Yokoshi was meant to study and be the inheritor of some of the repertory. After a few years of training, during which their unique relationship flourished, the two first collaborated in the critically acclaimed, what we when we, winner of a 2006 “Bessie” award.

Tyler Tyler is a continuation of the pair’s work together and puts traditional Japanese dance and contemporary American dance side-by-side, a concept reflected in the work’s repetitious title. The cast of five includes three Japanese dancers and actors, each trained by Ms. Seyama, who perform traditional repertory influenced by and set within Ms. Yokoshi’s contemporary choreographic structure. This time, however, the traditional Japanese dances have also been passed on to two American dancers, Kayvon Pourazar and Julie Alexander (a Houston native), for cultural translation.

Ms. Yokoshi’s thematic inspiration for Tyler Tyler is “The Tale of the Heike,” a Japanese epic about the battles of the Minamoto clan and their dominant rivals, the Taira who, according to the Buddhist law of impermanence, inevitably fall to ruin. The word Tyler is a play on the mispronunciation of this powerful family’s name. Though Tyler Tyler is presented in a series of episodes like the Tale, Ms. Yokoshi is not loyal to the story’s structure. Repertory based on the saga is unorthodoxly juxtaposed with unrelated traditional Japanese dances, as well as contemporary movement, created in collaboration with Mr. Pourazar and Ms. Alexander.

Like the solo “American Flag,” the layering of Japanese and American iconographies, dances, traditions, and histories are central to Tyler Tyler and can be found in every element of the production. Composer, Steven Reker’s atmospheric soundscapes and original interpretations of traditional Japanese music intertwine with spoken text and vocal selections by songwriters like The Carpenters and Lou Reed, which are often sung by the cast.

For the two American performers, costumes are by turn formal, informal, contemporary, and traditional. Ms. Yokoshi and costumer, Akiko Iwasaki, looked through a book of historic costumes for inspiration. “We wanted to make some kind of formal dresses out of denim material, which are a product of  the USA,” Ms. Yokoshi explains, “but we also wanted to have a look which was somehow ‘European high society.’ Formality, class, grace, elegance and ‘American’ were what we looked for.”

According to Ms. Yokoshi, audience reaction to Tyler Tyler has been “very diverse and
somewhat extreme.” Some viewers are moved to tears by the understated beauty of the performances and for others it seems to get lost in translation. Interestingly, cultural familiarity and perceptions delineate response as well. “People that see it in Japan think it is very American because they can see the changes being made and the lines being crossed. People that see it here think it is very Japanese.”

See it in Houston. Fan or pistol, the tapestry of woven images in Tyler Tyler will linger linger.

Tickets for Tyler Tyler can be purchased online at, at DiverseWorks Art Space, (1117 East Freeway), or by calling 713.335.3445. DiverseWorks offers a special PAY WHAT YOU WANT Thursday evening performance. Tickets for Friday and Saturday are $20 general admission, $10 Members/ Students and Seniors. Information on group tickets: 713.223.8346.

Reprinted from Dance Source Houston

Houston Met Mixes Up A Flavorful Meal

Dancer Kiki Lucas; Photography by Ben Doyle, Runaway Productions

Serving up the menu of a mixed program can be tricky. I’ve seen what goes on in the background on the reality show Hell’s Kitchen. There’s a science to arranging dishes and getting them out on time. Open the oven too early and the soufflé drops. Houston Metropolitan Dance Company cooked up a flavorful bill of fare on Saturday night when they tried Mixing It Up, Again.

As usual in my case, the dessert course was the highlight. Delivering the strongest male performance of the evening, Kerry Jackson is trapped in a box of light. His passionate tirade in Consumed, an introduction to Kate Skarpetowska’s slightly scary world of driven conformists. Leaping from the stage he escapes an army of “suits” that urge surrender to their worker bee mentality. A Julliard alumni, Skarpetowska has danced for David Parsons, Lar Lubovitch, and newly named Alvin Ailey Artistic Director, Robert Battle. These influences are clear in athletic choreography, rich with human peculiarities. The work captivated through to a humorously disturbing finish. An odd sort of dessert I suppose, this was Houston Met at its most gritty and menacing, in no small part aided by Meredith Monk’s eccentric vocals and a pulsating score by Richie Hawthine. Dramatic and robust, the supercharged work accentuated the company’s prime attributes. Not a bad way to send the audience out the door… appetite satiated.

A patchwork of lyrically stirring appetizers, Braham Logan Crane’s History introduced the full company. The piece though, did not come into its own until the majority dispersed and sheer curtains of fabric rained down on female soloists, Kiki Lucas, Lisa Wolff, and Jocelyn Thomas. The choreography twines and twirls around a pristine vocal/piano by Angela Ai, a singer-songwriter with inflections akin to Tori Amos and Kate Bush. The dancers’ performances tightened during the latter half of this collection of excerpts as the songs build to a joyous finish. Joe’l Ludovich and Will Matthews’ well-coordinated visuals of ancient rock, architecture, and surging water filled the expanse of the Cullen stage.

In Kiesha Lalama White’s Unsung Moment, Marlana Walsh-Doyle, Terrill Mitchell, and Lucas depicted fear, denial, and confrontation (respectively) with clarity in this study of the underlying emotional conflicts provoked by war. Unfortunately, odd choices in projection and musical transition were occasionally disruptive.

The optimist in me lost the internal bet I’d waged that a work titled Bound would not include a tether. Convention aside, Houston Met veterans Walsh-Doyle and Lucas are engaging performers and this duet by Joe Celej did not overstay its welcome.

In her turn as choreographer, Lucas infused Semi Detached with powerhouse moves and grooves. There is meticulous structure reinforcing this clever battle for control over a chair. A short, sweet sorbet, Pattie Obey’s Passada provided a tinge of romance, its sensual rhythms kindling a triangle of longing and flirtation.

These four world premieres were diverse enough in scope and theme to keep Houston Metropolitan Dance Company’s full-course meal interesting and the program zipping along.

Reprinted from Dance Source Houston

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LehrerDance Review: Buffalo Welcome to Roam in Houston Any Day

Photo by Nate Benson

LehrerDance, on loan from Buffalo, New York last weekend for JCC of Houston’s 30th annual Dance Month celebration, didn’t have me at “hello.” But it only took until the “how are ya?” for choreographer Jon Lehrer’s musical and intuitive repertory and his plucky cast to ensnare me.

When a company is more than 1200 miles from home in an unfamiliar city for only two performances, it can feel like there’s only one chance to get it right. The dancers were perhaps shaking off some jitters in the opening moments of Iambus but the long and short was they seemed a bit stiff in a rendering of Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma’s “Grace.” They hit their stride with the energetic bounce of McFerrin’s “Kalimba Suite” but at the start of the company’s second offering, Loose Canon, I found myself uncertain about where my encounter with LehrerDance was headed. Continue reading LehrerDance Review: Buffalo Welcome to Roam in Houston Any Day

Tap is Back in Space City

New Festival Welcomes All-Star Faculty

Jason Samuels Smith

Texas New Tap, a newly established production company whose purpose is to promote tap education and enthusiasm throughout the greater Houston area will launch Space City Tap Fest on February 26, 2010. Faculty will include astonishing young talent and 2009 Dance Magazine Award winner, Jason Samuels Smith, as well as emerging leaders Chloé and Maud Arnold. Organizers Mary Lee Kennedy and Emilie Koenig hope that the weekend-long event will give “lift-off” to an annual tradition and put Houston back on the circuit of American and international cities that bring together hoofers to woodshed, jam, pass down their skills, and recount their lineage. Continue reading Tap is Back in Space City