NB: I actually wrote this review immediately after the show, on February 3rd. For the past few months, I have tried fervently to publish it in a magazine, but to no avail. I think it's unfortunate that none of the major dance magazines publish reviews, either from their own staff writers or freelancers, and I apologize that this review is so late -- but I wanted to be sure to share it with the dance community, as I am a staunch supporter of this choreographer's work. Enjoy.
DANA FOGLIA DANCE: I am... We are...
Review by Ryan P. Casey
Last year, in an interview with Boston-based
jazz dancer Adrienne Hawkins, the award-winning master teacher and
choreographer was asked what has excited her in recent years about the
development of dance. She replied:
“The new movement vocabulary that the
younger people are bringing to the table. I don’t think they have figured out
what to do with it, or how to use it as a tool for their thoughts and ideas,
but the use of the body and the use of the music is refreshing.”
Foglia is one of those rare and gifted young choreographers who has already
figured it out. Her unique movement vocabulary, costuming and performance style
have earned her well-deserved attention from coast to coast, and it was only
expected that the New York debut of her new show, I am… We are…, on February 1st and 3rd would
have standing room only. This production, a seamless evening of her
choreography presented in the DiMenna Center’s Cary Hall, an open black box
space traditionally utilized for classical music, was a powerful statement of
the promise of her innovative movement ideas.
event’s black and white theme (even the audience was encouraged to dress
accordingly) was a simple, yet sexy and stylish look for the company of sixteen.
The women were dressed in what has become the company’s signature look: solid
black and white – or, later, striped – hooded leotards, some dancers also
donning blond wigs, making them almost indistinguishable from each other.
Similarly, the men boasted black and white shirts and capri pants embellished
with bowties and suspenders, looking strong and snazzy.
was simple but effective, transforming the space into the feel of an intimate
club and complementing the pulsing – but often too loud – soundtrack, which
consisted primarily of synthesized house music, the Eurythmics’ “Here Comes the
Rain Again” one of the few recognizable tracks.
executing Foglia’s intricate choreography, the dancers embodied the music and
the music embodied them. They hit every accent with a rhythmic sensibility I
have only observed previously in the most musically astute of tap dancers,
attacking powerful hip hop phrases and then relaxing into slinky, sexy
contemporary combinations, lulling the audience into a false moment of relaxation
before surprising them again with another sequence of complicated steps.
is the kind of show that begs to be seen again because it is too elaborate to
be digested in a single sitting: in one second, the dancers are in full splits
in a staggered formation, and in the blink of an eye, it seems, they’re
standing up in a straight line. I didn’t just wonder how they did that; I
wondered how they had acquired the stamina to maintain such sophisticated and
athletic choreography for an hour – an hour that moved so quickly and was
packed with so much dancing, I vowed never again to complain about how tired I
am after my next trip to the gym.
these talented performers, Mishay Petronelli stood out not solely for her
incredible power and control, but her emotion. While many of the dancers
maintained severe, stolid expressions throughout the show, Petronelli’s face
was a reliable window into the mood of each piece and how she felt as she
performed it, and her eyes never failed to flash defiantly or flutter
seductively at the audience while she commanded attention in each of her appearances.
The men were just as strong, Denzel Chisolm effortlessly partnering Petronelli
and young Jose “BoyBoi” Tena displaying remarkable athleticism and ferocity.
many of the dancers were skillfully utilized in solo moments, Foglia’s
choreography is a reminder of the sheer power of ensemble choreography. The
strongest moments of the show featured the cast dancing in unison, nailing
complicated steps at breakneck speed and expertly showcasing Foglia’s rhythmic
sensibility combined with visual appeal. When I found I had been holding my
breath for a large portion of the show, I wondered how the dancers were able to
catch theirs. The audience, for their part, seemed never to run out of breath
as they continually hooted and whistled their appreciation, screaming wildly
for their favorite pieces (one of which has almost 58,000 views on YouTube) as
avid fans at a concert might go wild upon hearing the opening notes of a
beloved tune. Foglia’s work has already attracted a loyal following, and it’s
easy to see why.
of the appeal is her imagination, which was on full display as the cast experimented
boldly with props, juxtaposing strength and agility with risky playfulness. In
one routine, dancers shared playful duets while rolling across the floor on swivel
chairs, showing off their strength and control by stopping at the split second
before a collision. In another, they tossed, bounced and rolled a soccer ball
at each other without missing a beat of the choreography. A trio of female
dancers on mini trampolines showed off their core strength and balance in a
daring trio. It was all exciting and suspenseful, if not a little showy: some
more context and justification for the incorporation of the props, or further
development of the concept behind their appearance, would have made these
experiments more cohesive and satisfying.
concepts, particularly involving the company’s men, were particularly effective.
One routine had them dancing along a grid of black and white lines taped to the
floor (a chore some of the other dancers performed – literally – almost as a
separate routine. Who knew marking a stage could be so sexy?), changing
formations and delivering hard-hitting hip-hop sequences. They added an extra
touch of class in a memorable routine to Missy Elliott’s “The Rain,”
accentuating their outfits with top hats and canes, echoing a previous era of
dance while infusing that elegant, sophisticated style with Foglia’s futuristic
choreography has a commercial vibe, to be sure, but while it is at once sexy
and flashy and edgy, it is sure of itself; it has substance. Everything is
deliberate and, sans some of the prop explorations, developed to a sophisticated,
satisfying degree. The audience leaves with an immediate and lasting impression
of the look and feel of Dana Foglia Dance. Once you have seen her work, her
name immediately conjures images of her powerful, mesmerizing choreography; her
mysterious leotard-clad dancers; her space-age vibe. There are not enough flattering
adjectives to complete the title of the incredible journey that is I am… We are… Foglia and her dancers are
in control of an appearance, style and performance quality that are uniquely
I am excited for the continued
development of this talented troupe…. We
are lucky to have Foglia sharing her creations with the dance community.