For nearly fifty years the Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company, founded by Ronn Pratt, Dolores Vanison-Blakley and Miriam Greaves, has provided a special environment for minority dance artists in which to spread their wings.
Now directed by the energetic and warm Enrique Cruz DeJesus, Alpha Omega provided welcome relief from months of quarantine and angst with “Solo Suites,” a breezy—in every sense of the word—outdoor, healthily spaced program created by three choreographers who have had the privilege of working in this inviting space, a beautifully appointed home base in the East Village.
These three choreographers presented four solos as the carefully spaced, masked and wine imbibing audience watched as breezes swept up the costumes.
After calmly (and professionally) enduring a minor audio snafu, Ari Mayzick opened the program with his “Orphée,” a tense study of grief, an intense take on the Orpheus and Eurydice legend.
Wearing a flowing golden Greek tunic (designed by Mayzick and Octave Partait) and accompanied by Antone Pagán playing an assortment of gongs, triangles and gourds along with a moody recorded score by Jóhan Jóhannsson, Mayzick slowly unfolded himself from a tightly held position on a crude bench (designed by Mayzick) to take center stage in a series of labored stretches, lunges and stiff gestures, grabbing his face, aborted backward glances and clenched fists.
Pagán recited a poem written by Mayzick that helped illuminate the emotions expressed in his choreography while Mayzick cut a handsome figure even when he was full of sadness.
Nathan Trice contributed two solos, the first “Is This Becoming?”. Sabrina Petrelli, wearing a chic Trice-designed black outfit danced to pleasant music by Thomas Newman which quietly supported Petrelli’s poses and moves, not quite Vogue-ing, but definitely meant to show off her clothes and her figure (both of which were first rate).
The first indications of Petrelli’s discomfort were furtive glances over the audience’s heads. What was she looking at? As the music changed to a persistent thumping beat her movements became quicker and more distorted: quick darting movements of the arms along with flex-footed kicks, agitated movements of her fingers and whipping leg movements punctuated by sitting on the floor.
This was a mini-study of changing moods and the conflict between superficial looks and inner emotions.
Trice, himself, danced his “Particle Wave Particle.” Dressed all in white, dancing to dark music by Peter Gabriel, Trice seemed to represent yet another person in crisis, his hands tightly gripping his face and his body twisting as he descended to the floor. He repeatedly mimed picking something up from the floor and contemplating whatever it was. Gradually, his discomfort eased as he slowed down and listened to the music as the work ended.
Trice is a fine dancer and made the perfect interpreter of his own choreography. Every movement and every emotion were intensely clear.
The fourth solo was choreographed by Men Ca to the classic Roberta Flack rendition of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” danced with grace and strength by the beautiful Jennifer Florentino, wearing her self-created gown. What might have been a dance school graduation bit to an overused piece of music was instead a lovely, emotionally rich, cliché-free experience.
The second part of “Solo Suites” was a concert of songs by Colin Smith. He was very much into putting his every observation into every song. He had a pleasant, flexible voice that was particularly impressive in his cover of the Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road.”
Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company
“Solo Suites” (October 10 & 11, 2020)
70 East 4th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets and information call 212-749-0095 or visit http://www.alphaomegadance.org
Running time: 90 minutes