A + B = Artistic Brilliance
Ali Kenner Brodsky And Betsey Miller
By Brittany Lombardi
Nothing is more dynamic than the collaboration of creative individuals. The possibilities are endless, and the defiance against the norm becomes more likely, resulting in an exciting performance. Ali Kenner Brodsky and Betsy Miller gave their audience more than one would expect from an evening of modern dance; they provided insight on the dramatic, sometimes comedic occurrences that happen in everyday life. Whether it was female empowerment, personal losses, or outrageous confusion, Ali and Betsy created works that were relatable to anyone that walked into the black box at AS220 in Providence.
As audience members walked into the quaint black box theater and took their seats, two dancers sat at a table in the corner of the space with glasses of wine in front of them, casually conversing. When it was time for the show to begin, the male dancer blew a silver gym teacher whistle to get the audience’s attention. Upon the conclusion of his small speech regarding the location of the exits and prohibition of flash photography and video, the stage darkened while a spotlight focused on the two dancers at the table.
Staring at each other, occasionally smirking and sipping their wine coyly, a knock at the door emerged from the silence. Once again, the male dancer’s piercing whistle blew - however, this time it was not used to gain someone’s attention; it was used to command the female dancer to answer the door. Fists placed on her hips, torso twisting sharply and walking heel-to-toe angrily, the woman did as she was told.
Returning to the stage with three other female dancers, the four women sat at the table with the whistle blowing male commander. Throughout Ali’s first featured piece, Untitled #5, the women played a ‘cat and mouse’ game, taking turns courting the male and dancing as a strong unity. Combining flirtatious partnering with floor work that continuously changed in speed, levels and direction, the eye was never fixated on one part of the stage. Utilizing a constant total body connection throughout their phrasing, the dancers’ transitions from partnering to descending and ascending to the floor appeared unforced. In the end, after being teased by each of the three women, the original female dancer ended the piece by blowing his whistle, making him understand that she was going to have control and no longer obey his commands. Kudos to girl power!
It takes a unique presence to ‘stop an audience in its tracks.’ Two, choreographed by Betsy Miller in collaboration with its performers, Ali Kenner Brodsky and Katie McNamara featured a connection of two strong female forces that caused the theater to lose itself in the moment. In the piece, Ali and Katie utilized release techniques such as fall and recovery with sudden bound phrases that took each of their bodies from being separate beings into one. Each direction in their partnering enabled their bodies to evenly distribute each other’s body weight in order to support each transition into a lift or close-knitted floor work. Aside from being mesmerized by the artistry through Ali and Katie’s dancing, the connection between them in their eye contact and sounds of their breath captured the bond they shared as they portrayed times of hardship. Every time one or both of the women fell, they were sure to raise each other up, share their struggle and move forward.
Originally derived from the Latin word colorare, meaning ‘to color,’ specifically referred to elaborate melody, particularly in operatic music, Coloratura caused uproar of laughter, applause and a little confusion. Combining an edited mix of Antonio Vivaldi, Henry Purcell, George Frideric Handel, Jean Philippe Rameau and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, this quartet colored the stage with elaborate choreography, unusual slight gestures, and tender solo moments. Betsy Miller’s mix of traditional and contemporary vocabularies, demonstrated that although life can be funny sometimes, it could also be wonderfully messy and random. After performing series of athletic sequences, transferring from one corner of the stage to the next, the dancers would stick their tongues out or rub their backsides then pose. Although these casual moments added to the detailed chaos, this piece celebrated a journey through light and dark times, blending wit and distress, like a painting.
Following intermission, it was time to witness the brilliant choreographers of the evening take the stage. Opening in total silent darkness, Betsy’s solo Not a Tear, but a Petal (Five Epitaphs for a Hard Year), similar to Two and Coloratura, expressed the difficulty of experiencing set backs that make us stronger individuals. While the music slowly progressed, Betsy would turn on one of five light bulbs as she progressed down the line of light. Easing into lunges and sliding across the space, Betsy counter twisted her upper body as she stretched from her limbs through her each personal obstacle, signifying the struggles that seem impossible to recuperate from.
In modern dance, gestures are one of the main components that make this genre limitless. Our bodies are paintbrushes waiting to draw patterns around us. Ali’s solo, Between and final group piece, Dot, embraced the idea of not worrying about choreographing with standard techniques as a base for phrasing, Instead, she used gestures that were pedestrian and had a ‘story’ behind them to fill in gaps of time. Between moments of stillness, Ali would sustain a motion with a loud exhale, slowly transition into another direction as her hands lead the way. Succeeding from subtle airy waves to sporadic uncontrollable actions, her focus never left her hands, making the intent of the piece clearer. Similarly, Dot involved a series of punctuated hip thrusts, winks and scribbles. Though this quartet of women moved in a confined space with colorful origami birds hanging above them, their intricate repetitive ‘dotted’ gestures and constant movement made the small stage appear bigger. It is amazing what one’s hands can do when making art!
Photo Credits: Nikki Carrera