InQUAD Review

InQUAD 2019: a smashing introduction to mignolo dance

Jerry Hochman

August 23, 2019

When you attend performances by a group of choreographers described as “emerging,” you often get a mixed bag of results. This was the case with the recent incarnation of “inQUAD,” a program of dances by emerging companies coordinated and presented by Kristen Klein, Artistic Director and Choreographer of Inclined Dance Project (IDP). This program, the fifth in the series, was a step or two above many other such programs, with a smashing introduction to one company (mignolo dance), and another fine piece performed by IDP. The pieces by kamrDANCE (making a repeat inQUAD appearance) and Lauren Beirne Dance Works were executed well, but to my eye were less successful, if only because I’ve seen many prior efforts addressing the common dominant theme.

I’ll discuss the program in the above-referenced order.

Many choreographers claim to have invented a new dance language. Most often, that phrase relates to a step or combination, or use of a particular part of the body, in ways that have, allegedly, not previously been seen or emphasized. Marco Goecke’s choreography is a well-known example. Another, related example is more literal: movement sequences that uniquely reference the moment’s musical or thematic pulse or subject, not so much miming it as describing it, so when the action repeats, the movement repeats. While it may involve some aspect of the former, mignolo dance’s choreographers, sisters Charly and Eriel Santagado, focus on the latter. The result is intriguing, not so much by what the result says as how it says it.

The company was represented by two pieces: Translation Study No. 3, subtitled “A movement translation of Chopin’s ‘Nocturne’,” and, earlier in the program, by Paradox in Translation. The latter, according to the program note based on previous Translation Studies No. 4 and 5, was a more complete dance, but Translation Study No. 3 is a more crystalline indication of what’s being accomplished.

It’s easier to explain what this movement is not. It’s not dance / ballet mime; it’s not a substitute for speech used to describe a situation or condition. It’s not acting in a particular way: there’s little discernable story, and there’s no emotional display. And it doesn’t use the music (or, in the case of Paradox in Translation, the accompanying poetry) as background or inspiration on which to choreograph movement, whether in connection with some narrative or not. What the Santagado sisters appear to be attempting to do is to choreograph the music or the poetry itself, but in a different artistic medium. It doesn’t so much allow one to see the music or the words in a different way as it enables a viewer to see the music or poetry in visual terms, without mimicking it. That may be a distinction without a difference, but they’re not choreographing to the music or the poetry, they’re choreographing the music or the poetry itself.

As fine as Isadora Duncan’s choreography to Chopin is, it takes the music in a natural direction that she chose. And as wonderful as Jerome Robbins’s pieces to Chopin music are (Dances at a GatheringOther DancesIn the Night), they add a narrative of sorts or emotional gloss inspired by the music. In Translation Study No. 3, Eriel Santagado dances to music by Chopin (not specifically identified), reflecting every movement nuance in the composition (if there’s more than a single piece, it’s been stitched together seamlessly). The result is as beautifully crafted as the music. Every movement fits every sound, every timbre, and every tempo.

And while I often criticize choreography that slavishly follows the musical accompaniment (every sound has to be matched by a movement), this is different; this is the sound itself visualized. The music, and the movement that represents it, is all there is; but it’s enough. Watching Translation No. 3, and Santagado execute it, is magical.

Paradox in Translation is choreographed by Charly Santagado to poetry by her and Matthew Menchaca, and includes music by a variety of composers, including Steve Reich and the Books. But it’s the poetry (unfortunately, not identified, and the words were not included in the program) that moves the dance. As I watched the piece evolve (the dancers were Emory Campbell, Frances Fuller, Karolina Holmstrom, and Charly and Eriel Santagado), I became increasingly fascinated by what was happening. This isn’t just the repetition of themes, but of the words and phrases in the poem (it may have been more than one poem), and these visualizations were repeated whenever the poem repeated the words. In simplistic terms, the movement assigned to each refrain is the same – but here it’s more than just a series of refrains. It sounds repetitious and boring, and there’s no question that it’s been done to one extent or another before, but here it was all strung together so well, within an overall sense of love and loss, that the sensation was less repetition than quality craftsmanship. The phrases translated into movement create a whole that’s more engrossing to watch than the poems are to hear.

The Santagado dancers have reportedly been choreographing for roughly ten years, but mignolo dance was formed only in two years ago (possibly to accommodate their choreographic concept to produce a multi-dancer piece like Paradox in Translation. Based solely on this initial exposure to the group, the only thing about it that disappoints is the affectation of using the small initial letters in the company’s name, which to me only draws attention to what appears to be an attempt to minimize attention. But I’ll grant that doing so may have a purpose here: mignolo means small finger or pinky, so having small letters instead of initial caps fits. I don’t know the origin of the group’s name beyond that (thumbing their pinky at established forms of dance?; mocking the “raised pinky effect” in ballet?), but if they can expand this to more than a curiosity, they may be on to something.

Check us out in the latest issue of Interim Poetics!

Carrying Across: Crossing Disciplines as a Form of Translation

Preface to Vol. 36, Issue 3 by Autumn Widdoes

August 31, 2019

The English word translate comes from the Latin translatus, which means “borne” or “carried across”. While the verb to translate is usually applied to the process of bringing the meaning of one language over to another, we wanted to take a more unusual approach by looking at work where poetry had been translated, or literally carried across, to another artform. Often, writers begin and end their writing at the limits of the page. The sui generis work gathered in this issue of Interim pushes against the limits of genre to find the ever-newer spaces where poetry can and does exist. 

To that end, we invited artists and writers working to push boundaries and go beyond the limitations of their disciplines. Some poems in issue 36.3 present as dance and performance art. Choreographer Kota Yamazaki and his dance company Fluid hug-hug “aim to create a choreographic landscape where different bodies, cultures and perspectives come and go, or co-exist freely and equally” and they do so in their translation of the works of Deleuze and Guattari into dance. Other pieces, such as CAConrad’s (Soma)tic poetry ritual originate in a bodily ecopoetic practice. In their poem “Impaled by Sharp Points of Wonderment,” Conrad startles the reader with the ethics of communication, with lines like “telling someone who they are/instead of asking is where/ extinction gets its start.” C Pirloul’s poem “A conversation held over 5 days through 2 hands with a Riga Pine 60 km north of Riga…“proves it is possible to communicate with nature in a foreign language. There is a moment in Pirloul’s poem when the listener, in conversation with the pine, captures the disconnection from the natural world that humans struggle with in the lines “I push-up in to lay my neck upon you as prayer and see/ I’ve listened only through a single latitude.”   

To move beyond a discipline into the unknown pushes our artistic practice towards new ways of looking at our world. Such a practice can break through the monotony, fatigue and overload that constant access to information has produced. It can counter this by offering possibilities and potential solutions where the discipline offers none. There is something truly world-building when a writer, artist, or dancer can imagine the infinite possibilities with their words, thoughts, feelings, and movements. We are proud of all of the poems, dances, video art, and performance in this issue. The future exists now in each of these works.  

InHale Performance Series Review

An InHale to leave you breathless Exerpt

Melissa Strong

August 26, 2018

The intimate setting at the Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (KYL/D) InHale Performance Series is one of my favorite ways to see dance: up close and personal, with the chance to talk to artists after the show.

A welcome return of 'Three Women, Three Bowls.' (Photo by Julieanne Harris Photography.)

This KYL/D series has featured a diverse range of more than 800 artists. This breadth of experience and style makes InHale such an interesting series. The 37th InHale event, curated by Jessica Warchal-King, introduced audiences to new performers and choreographers alongside familiar faces. It was an exciting program with particularly strong opening and closing dances, and some surprises along the way.

“Evolving” and “Untamed”

The first dance was “Evolving,” choreographed and performed by Tingting Zhou with Ziyao Yu, Nadia Kharallah, and Yuanhao Zhang. Industrial music by Steve Reich set the tone for the dance’s exploration of the connections and boundaries between human and machine. Movement portrayed and blurred those intersections as dancers fluttered their arms, twitched their necks, and moved like automatons, then sank to the floor in fetal positions. Zhou’s arrangement of bodies in the space reinforced these images: Dancers moved as a unit, like gears in a machine. While Kharallah’s extreme backbends stood out, all performers were strong in this demanding, energetic piece.

Dancer/choreographer Asya Zlatina performed next, in her solo “Untamed.” I had seen this piece once before, performed by Ashley Searles, but Zlatina’s interpretation was distinct. “Untamed” portrays feminine grace and strength, and Searles’s version emphasized the latter while Zlatina embodied more balance between the two. Graceful turns, pirouettes, and leaps offset athletic flexing and chest-thumping, suggesting a fierce ballerina.

Comedy and colors

I had also previously seen Olivia Wood’s performance of Anne-Marie Mulgrew’s comic “Sad Cat,” and it was just as funny the second time. A robotic voice reads a cat’s diary entries about an evil plant and litterbox drama, which Wood acts out to hilarious results. During InHale’s second act, Wood joined with Kate Lombardi and Leslie Ann Pike to reprise “Three Women, Three Bowls,” which they recently performed in Anne-Marie Mulgrew and Dancers Company’s delightful June concert. This lovely piece suggests serving, offering, and adoring, as women in white dresses move with pink bowls.

Five dancers in long, flowing skirts of various colors performed Natalie Flynn’s “Make It Out Alive,” incorporated the lovely costumes into the movement, holding the skirts in their hands and sending the fabric flying with their kicks. It was strong dancing, but less memorable than the more provocative and imaginative pieces in the showcase. Similarly, Michelle Slavik’s commanding solo, “New Disposition,” was well-executed, but lacked the clarity of message and vision I saw in other dances. Nevertheless, there were several visually interesting movements, such as when Slavik reached a hand to the hair piled on her head and used the topknot to turn her body.

Bodies as instruments

In Katelyn Halpern’s “Three Strikes/I Win,” the knee pads Charly Santagado and Diana Uribe wore reflected the dance’s qualities of competition and athleticism. The duo slapped hands like teammates and linked bodies like wrestlers, and then one dancer seemed to best the other.

“Head vs. Heart,” created and performed by Matthew Zimmerman, captured a moving battle between thinking and feeling, authenticity and expectations. Solo dances can be less engaging beside pieces that fill the stage with bodies, but Zimmerman’s expertly danced piece was one of the evening’s highlights. Ballet steps merged with movement evoking yoga poses to reflect conflict and collision, as when Zimmerman’s arabesque melted into a plank that he flipped into a reaching bend some yogis know as “wild thing.”  

Zimmerman reminded me that dancers’ bodies are their instruments. His was so beautifully played that it even incorporated facial expressions. Zimmerman is a dancer on the rise: he recently signed a contract with West Chester’s Brandywine Ballet.

Fresh translations

The series included two pieces by Mignolo Dance, one of which ended the program. Along with Zimmerman’s solo, these were the night’s most arresting and appealing dances. The first, “Translation Study No. 1,” was created and performed by sisters Charly and Eriel Santagado, using words and sounds in unfamiliar languages twisted into something resembling music. The Santagado sisters performed a kinetic interpretation of remixed language and sound, syncing their head rolls, hip shakes, and hand gestures to percussive utterings. 

“Translation Study No. 2,” however, was an entirely different take on translation: in this final dance of the program, Charly Santagado interpreted familiar classical music—Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—into contemporary choreography. Santagado and six other dancers, wearing black blazers over black leggings, translated musical notes into movement in a variety of modes, from lunges and whirling arms to chaîné turns and grand jetés. Towards the end, a sequence of arm movements evoked a conductor leading an orchestra.

The varied program let viewers to immerse themselves in an incubator of dance bubbling with fresh ideas, solid talent, and interesting work from both established and up-and-coming artists — leaving audiences hungry for the next InHale event, on October 12.