Twenty-three moments in a year filled with dance:
1. Tiffany Rhynard: The Memory of Tomorrow . The stark, surreal images in Rhynard's playful goth video dance piece certainly made a lasting impression. After a January '05 premiere at Choreo Collective's "Choreo Shorts," it not only screened ADF's "Dancing for the Camera" film festival, a still from it illustrates the festival's Screendance Conference page (http://www.americandancefestival.org/special_projects/screendance.html).
2. Wandering Star Project. Another "Choreo Shorts" standout. Subversive, subtle and artistically juxtaposed visuals by Carlo Caruso and Todd Jenkins fused with music by Lisa Ray and movement by Jennifer Padilla. The result suggested what Qatsi trilogy filmmaker Godfrey Reggio might have come up with had he sat in on lights at the Fillmore West the night Sigur Rós stood in for the Grateful Dead.
3. Cory Stevenson: Reel. The ghostly, indirect quality of this quartet with Kimberly Herndon, Andrea Long, Jennifer McNure and Kathryn Ullom came from the flashlights the dancers held--the only light sources in a darkened Bickett Gallery. Small white beams of light bounced off white walls and floors, illuminating parts of a protean mystery that kept unfolding as we watched. Mesmerizing, and a high point of Renay Aumiller's first curated showcase for a new generation of dance artists.
4. alban elved dance company: Lena's Bath. The suspense--and humor--in this work came from watching Karola Luttringhaus, Andrea Lieske and Lena Rose Polzonetti test various relationships on a narrow walkway over an abyss--a two-inch deep pool of water in a eight-foot circular pool on stage. Fantastic parabolas of water accompanied a gratifyingly moist ending.
5. Michelle Dorrance at the Ballet School of Chapel Hill's 25th Annivesary. In an evening of bravura turns, Michelle tapped off with incandescent footwork, as she played an ever-escalating choreographic game of "chicken" with gravity and syncopation. The audience roared--with reason.
6. Clay Taliaferro: JAM/More Responsive Reading. The leonine choreographer left Jamien Cvjetnicanin straining, reaching ever upward, outward toward an unobtainable goal, while he recited Wallace Stevens' pitiless, far too timely news capsule "The Death of a Soldier." A poignant portrait of the irreducible distance between us and our ideals.
7. Even Exchange Dance Theater: "C. Elegans." The middle passage from Time: Honored and Embodied juxtaposed designer Maggie Bennett's metaphorical, mid-air doors with the words of Clare Brown, in a visual rebus featuring dancer Sally Fisher.
8. Jack Arnold: Missing Tenderness. At N.C. State Dance Company's concert in April, designer David Ferri's greasy gray lights and Lisa Tireman's metallic eveningwear matched Arnold's insidious choreography, as six cold beauties examined mediated images of the feminine in a dingy cotillion that looked like something from David Lynch.
9. Megan Marvel: Holding Angels. A poignant quartet in mid-century costumes enacted how groups of friends dissolve, either at the end of college or during other transitions. The last woman standing tends the memories of the other three, before the lights go out.
10. Janna Blum: No. 7. One of the few highlights from Steve Clarke's Multiple Exposure showcase at mid-summer, Blum's large-ensemble work convened and dissolved couples and communities with dispatch, demonstrating the tolls the age of speed takes on all relationships.
11. Susan Haines and Bradley Parquette: Aftermath. A balletic-influenced scissordance duet--and another gift from Clarke's curated showcase.
12. Ashlee Ramsey: Clouds and The Falling Experiment. Too bad the Multiple Exposure version of Clouds was foiled: Two days earlier, in Duke University's Ark at ADF, an astounded audience watched a confident woman take major risks with balance and velocity, sure of her surroundings--as long as her eyes were closed. When Ramsey's character opened her eyes, doubt and judgment crept in. This work, plus August's Falling Experiment at Bickett Gallery, certified her as a choreographer and performer to keep an eye on in 2006.
13. Beth Gill and Eleanor Bauer at ADF. During composer Chris Peck's late night improv showing at the Ark, this pair stripped the glitz and artifice from the recent week, confronting us with the raw facts of bodies in conflict. There was nothing "beautiful" about their honest, shocking work--and that's what made it beautiful.
14. Chunky Move: Tense Dave. Of course. This fun, disturbing psychological thriller at ADF used sound, a compartmentalized set, a revolving turntable and dancers doubling as actors to present a multi-media, multi-disciplined work that was one part Hitchcock, one part modern dance, one part independent film--and one part theme-park ride. Whew.
15. Urban Bush Women: Walking with Pearl. This homage to Pearl Primus combined letters and music with a lifetime of authoritative, embodied experience in a moving celebration at ADF. Yes.
16. Anouk van Dijk: Derivatives. The standout at ADF's International Choreographer's concert had an international cast of exquisite young dancers depict the market in human futures--in a world economy where you're fine. As long as you keep running.
17. Huang Yi: Messed. One major discovery from ADF 2005: a student choreographer and dancer from Taiwan who floored us all at the end of a student works concert with a human orrery of couples, individuals and small groups from different cultures in constant collision. Remember the name.
18. Rafi Rama Jaima. Though his later combinations as a student at ADF didn't match them, his brilliant first improvised performance convened a public discussion about standards and practices in dance, in a series of playful and serious questions posed to the audience while he lobbed imaginary softballs at us. Another name to remember.
19. Marigia Maggipinto Shumate. When this instructor unveiled the live foreign film she'd been working on during the festival's six weeks, we visited a colorful European village and spent some time with its eccentric denizens (including the memorable Wendy Brusa, Daniel Abre and Sonja Boehme)--without leaving East Duke 209. Brava.
20. Megan Sipe. When this ADF student took stage, people noticed. We'll remember her work in Neta Pulvermacher's Five Beds, and her self-choreographed jazz homage Roundabout.
21. Melissa Chisena: A Man, A Woman and a Pair of Eyes. This student choreography standout at ADF featured Rafi Rama Jaima, Courtney Cooke and Olivia Eng in a fractured tango to music by Astor Piazzolla. Chisena's wit was remarkable; the dancers' execution delicious.
22. danah bella at Ladyfest NC. This solo choreographer/dancer got our attention in October during the first local Ladyfest with her meticulous, self-contained solo Pr. no. 2, v. 1, to music by Salvador Barajas.
23. Jane Comfort: Underground River. This playful, chilly illumination of the interior life of a comatose child benefited from ambient performer vocals and Basil Twist's mid-show mini-marionette. This must be what e.e. cummings was thinking about when he wrote: "what a wonderful thing is the end of a string ... and will someone please tell me why people let go."