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Natural Movers Dance Concert – REVIEW

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Captivating Choreography and Mesmerizing Moves: The Natural Movers Foundation Wows Audiences at the Kravis Center.

June 16th, 2023

Friday Night’s Dance concert was not just a show, it was an evening of artistic and cultural enrichment. For those who are not familiar, the ‘Natural Movers Foundation’ is a non-profit founded by Ericka Squire with a goal of bringing local dancers, choreographers and teaching artists together to network and deepen their practice. They have offered masterclasses and opportunities for children and professional adults alike. Friday’s performance was the inaugural dance concert, implying that we may look forward to one each year from now on.

The concert was a deeply impactful experience. Showcasing six different pieces, the program presented diversity, artistry, skill, and catharsis. As each piece was created by a different choreographer, it displayed something entirely new with each black out. It was a rollercoaster of sensations.

‘Selah’ Part 1, by Ericka Squire
A black dress on a graceful yet powerful body.  A crimson red cloth billowing overhead, defying gravity. The imagery in the opening number was nothing short of breathtaking. Ericka Squire opened her show with Part 1 of “Selah”. It carried a mysterious air. It almost felt as if the audience was watching something sacred; a person wrestling with something, and desperately seeking to leave it behind. A search for peace. The choreography carried so much weight, infused with meaning in each step. The Soloist Danced with incredible strength and control. Her extensions were stunning, but her artistry really showed through her expressions and phrasing.  All I can say is that it definitely left me wanting to see part 2.

‘Gloria’, by Shizu Yasuda
A group number performed in long black tulle skirts, almost resembling a romantic tutu. This number was a cross between the old and new. Hard and Soft. It felt reminiscent of classic ballets such as Swan Lake in its bird-like gracefulness, yet was still entirely different. It fused lyrical and modern dance into the piece, giving a harder edge than you might originally expect. Shizu Yasuda’s use of her dancers created stunning stage pictures like I have never seen. It was impeccably executed by her dancers who moved together as one organism sharing one brain: Shizu’s.

‘Whisper’, by Jacquline Lopez
Imagine this soundscape- the pitter patter of rain, the shudder of thunder, and the bated breath of a captivated audience. A girl in a red coat walks on the stage. At first, this piece felt very pedestrian, with familiar sounds, images and gestures. However, it slowly morphed into something deeply sorrowful and danced with longing. It almost felt like a funeral. Suddenly, everything changes more rapidly than before: the sorrow turns to anger, and anger to numbness. There was something beautifully haunting about this piece. Jacquiline seemed to capture the very essence of what it feels like to be hurt one time too many. All together a beautiful emotional piece, performed by a beautiful and technically proficient dancer.

‘Moving Layers’, by Ericka Squire
The lights go up on a pile of bodies and melting limbs adorned in glittering diamonds.

‘Moving Layer’s was our second piece of the night by Ericka Squire, and one of my favorites. It was a truly contemporary piece that breaks the rules of traditional dance. I never thought I could see such beauty in a sickle foot, or a broken line.  The piece had a strong movement language, with repeated gestures that told an impactful story about the struggles of moving on and the importance of coming together. The imagery was so strong, I almost felt that it was layered with intertextual references. The three dancers had moments when they seemed to be washing something from their skin in desperation.  I had images in my mind of Lady Macbeth shouting “Out damned spot” as she tried to wash the guilt of her wrong doings off her hands. Later, these gestures were repeated but with calm resolution and love, reminding me more of the story of Naaman washing away his leprosy in the Jordan River. It is apparent that Ericka Squire’s creative process is very intentional and thoroughly thought through. Bravo Ms. Squire on a vibrant and visceral piece of work.

‘The Optimist’, by Kristen Vencel
A breath of fresh air. After four deeply emotional pieces, ‘The Optimist’ was a much-needed respite. Like a rainbow after a thunderstorm (although a very exciting thunderstorm). This trio carried the joy of musical theater jazz while mixing it with ballroom dance such as salsa and perhaps east coast swing. I never stopped smiling during Kristen’s work. It wasn’t at all pretentious, and it didn’t take itself too seriously, which is an underrated skill in the arts world. The three dancers were quirky and silly, with an air of coolness about them. I could have done with more facial expressions from some of the performers, which would have taken this performance even more over the top. Overall, it was a wonderful party on stage that I wanted to join.

‘Discotheque’, by Libby Faber
Imagine Wes Anderson made a ballet. You would be Imagining ‘Discotheque’ by Libby Faber. Libby sets the tone for her piece right away, with such a clear vision, I felt like I knew who she was as an artist in seconds. A group of about 8 dancers are posed in solid-colored jumpsuits on dining chairs with glasses of wine. The song ensues is something I can only describe as ‘retro french party music’. The performance that followed felt like a sort of crazy wonderful fever dream. I felt like Alice falling through the rabbit hole into wonderland. Libby set up her world and her style so well that I didn’t even bat an eyelid when the dancers re-entered the stage after a blackout in full on animal masks. I was fully prepared to go on that journey. The entire piece was unexpected, and yet perfectly cohesive. At the end of the night, ‘Discotheque’ made the biggest impact on me. Although I believe it was perhaps the least polished in terms of synchronicity, it was still my favorite piece of the night.  I felt like I was up there having a glass of wine with some friends saying “alight ladies! Let’s see where the night takes us!’ only to wake up in some magical forest the next day, wondering how I got there. Libby is young, in her early twenties, and will definitely be one to watch in the future.

When all was said and done, The Natural Movers Dance Concert was exceptional. As a dancer myself, I have yet to see anything in Palm Beach county of this caliber, which was very exciting. They even finished the experience with a Q&A, which brought the audience into the creative experience. No one was trying to gatekeep their processes or techniques. It was just a room full of people discussing life and art honestly.  I will definitely be looking out for future performance dates, and other ways to get involved with this foundation.

For anyone who wishes to know more about natural movers, please check out their website https://www.naturalmovers.org/

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