Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company presented their Annual Winter Show March 1-2 at the GALA Hispanic Theater. The show was an diverse mix of Bharata Natyam, modern dance, physical theater, and a capella singing. It could have come off as too eclectic, but was united by the common themes of Daniel Phoenix Singh and Ludovic Jolivet, who contributed as both dancers and choreographers. I appreciated the unselfconscious global quality of the program. Too often “ethnic” or “world” dances (as we like to call styles that do not originate in the North American or European experience) are relegated to their own special festivals or events. It was refreshing to see Singh move effortlessly between genres, bringing them closer together in the process.
The high point of the evening was a collaboration between Singh and Darla Stanley on Nomadic Still. In pre-concert remarks, Stanley talked about her inspiration for the piece of constant moving in her adult life– a modern nomad. The piece really dug much deeper than that, examining the impact of that life on the relationships within a family and how moves and changes can cause tension, conflict, and alienation before eventually settling in, reconciling, and adjusting to the new life. Singh and Stanley performed the piece with the cherubic Mac Twining (Stanley’s 12-year-old son). The collaboration had initially begun with just Singh and Stanley, but Stanley added her son “because it seemed more like a family.” A tender (and utterly appropriate) duet between Singh and Twining showed the lengths a parent will go to to protect and nurture a child from scary and uncertain circumstances. For me it was the highlight of the piece, touching in its tenderness.
Theatrical effect and comic relief were provided by Ludovic Jolivet in the form of Roger and Lucie. He was billed in the program as dancing with “Lucie LaFrange,” who turned out to be a yellow mop that when turned on its end, became a very attractive long-haired lady and excellent dance partner. Jolivet played the part of a late-night janitor who ends up becoming enamored with said cleaning implement. He is clearly a master of physical theater. He also choreographed Voy y Vengo, danced by Singh and company members, and employing rolling office chairs for locomotion. It was a little bit poignant, and a little bit silly. It immediately called to mind Anna Brady Nuse’s Chair Dance post (but would beat out all her examples in a heartbeat– watch the videos in that post to see what I’m talking about). Jolivet employed Busby Berkeley-esque symmetrical movement with the effortless and smooth grace of ice skating. Speaking of Busby Berkeley, there is more than a little antique cinema quality to Jolivet’s work. It’s not often you see humor so artfully done in dance, and I hope to see more of this local artist’s work again soon. I found a post on Great Dance that shows some examples of Jolivet’s work.
I felt that the least striking part of the program was Singh’s own choreography. Undercurrents “an overview of subtext” (whatever that means) was difficult to find meaning in, and Against Forgetting, a tribute to peace in collaboration with the a capella group Not What You Think, lagged and failed to strike an emotional chord despite its well-intentioned sentiment. Dakshina’s dancers took the choreography in stride with quiet grace and sensitivity, but I sometimes wondered if they too had a hard time connecting emotionally with Singh’s choreography.
Singh’s dancing, on the other hand (if you will forgive the pun) sang. He posed a strong and sunny figure in Aniruddhan Vasudevan’s Jathiswaram, his part Nomadic Still was beautiful and touching, and graceful and cohesive in Voy y Vengo.
Overall, I really enjoyed this program, for its fine dancing, its many high points, and its (for lack of a better term) cohesive diversity. I have to thank the Washington City Paper for sending me to this show for free– I was actually a winner in the drawing I mentioned a few posts ago.