A sure way to introduce audiences to new dance formats (well, maybe not so new), is to mix things up—a lot. Flex dancer, Jay Donn joined Michele Wiles, artistic director of BalletNEXT and cellist/composer Christopher Lancaster to create the new work, Something Sampled for their season “Baroque'd” at New York Live Arts (NYLA), February 10-14. Donn brings the East New York-born, bone-popping flex dance, Wiles brings her years of ballet training (she is an ex-American Ballet Theatre principle), and together, with Lancaster and his instruments that “dance,” they are a wild blend. Something Sampled was last on the program. Get past the long setup which features Donn and all is well. He enters from the back of the house in a black jumpsuit, sneakers with wings, makes his way to the stage clapping, smiling, giggling, and the audience joins intermittently. Meanwhile, the crew and Lancaster begin the long set up. There is bling everywhere, strings of circular light bulbs hang from the ceiling along the back wall, Lancaster's eyes are outlined with shimmers, the dancer’s tutu’s light up, and a barre takes center stage. The costumes are funky (bright colors and patterns, plus marionette-like tutus), there’s hair flying; the primary look was over-the-top, but you just had to go with it. Ballet and flex finally meet, and Donn, seemingly floats along with his Svengali-like wave of an arm manipulating bodies, or positioning himself in their groupings, while the others take off with their deconstructed ballet moves. Most enjoyable was the chemistry between Wiles and Donn in their final duet, they have fun, take chances, exchange moves and deconstruct the ballet formula. Also on the program was Outswirl by Peter Quanz, and Ushuaia by Miles, both with lighting by Ben Hagen that captured the eye at particularly interesting times. The dancers are: Gracie Huber, Tiffany Mangulabnan, Amy Saunder, Jessica Tretter and Landes Dixon. Live music was by Liv Heym, Beth Wenstrom, Anneke Schaul-Yoder and Elliot Figg.
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I am a performer, historian, consultant and dance writer. I am a faculty member at Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College (Guest), Empire State College's online program Center for Distance Learning. I am also a former faculty member of The Ailey School and the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University dance major program, Kean University and The Joffrey Ballet School's Jazz and Contemporary Trainee Program. I write on dance for The Amsterdam News, Dance Magazine and various publications. Click below to read more about me at my home page - "About Me."