By Walter Rutledge
Cecilia Marta Dance Company performed as part of the City Parks Foundation Summer Stage dance series on July 30th at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park and on August 13th at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. Marta presented a company and choreography that reflected her unique and exotic worldview. On a shared program the company presented five works on July 30th and six works in August 13th in under an hour.
Kush opened both programs. The large ensemble work filled the stage with Middle East inspired gestures and isolated body movements anchored on a solid modern/ballet base. The work also introduced one important and impressive element of Marta’s choreographic canon- the successful use of unison.
Unison is a powerful choreographic tool, but can be a death knell to a less experienced dance maker. It is only effective when it lives up to its true meaning, which requires all the participants to move together, at the same time and with a similar energy and intent. Marta’s well-rehearsed company accomplished this goal creating a distinct visual dynamic and kinesthetic excitement without sacrificing the movement integrity.
Central America became the backdrop of Rituals. This was another large ensemble work, which used unison, strong diagonals and counterpoint with great success. Feathered collars, loin cloths and face paint contained old world and futuristic properties; resulting in a welcomed cross between traditional native favor peppered with Alexander McQueenque theatrics. The dancers use of wooden canes added on-stage rhythms and produced a sensual yet authoritative swagger.
Marta performed two solos, each following the larger works, both were simply entitled Interludes. It is always interesting to watch a choreographer perform, the movement attack and musicality usually defines their style. In both performances Marta had complete command of the stage. Her beguiling stage persona and entrancing sensuality enthroned the audience.
Rehearsal assistant and choreographer Nijawwon Matthews premiered Mother’s Day on the August 13th program. The all female quartet performed a modern dance based work that featured a unifying theme of camaraderie and sisterhood. Matthew also distinguished himself as a dancer throughout the performance. Shelter a solo choreographed by Marta indicated the depth of Matthew’s artistic range.
The performance ended with the season’s premiere a collaborative work by Marta and Matthews entitled S.O.L. The cast size double to 29 performers, and opened with military precision. S.O.L. combined jazz elements with Marta signature tight isolated movements, which at times gave the work a music video quality.
Kevon “Bulletyme” Simpson’s cameo was performed with cobra-like intensity. He had the audience literally spellbound as he moved seamlessly from popular trends to creating shapes that invoked Mayan Hieroglyphs. His ability to transcend the movement made him living art.
It is clear Marta understands how to capitalize on the varied strengths of her dancers. She is comfortable manipulating large groups as well as conveying her message in more intimate smaller works. Her range of movement styles and ability to invoke clear and directed imagery made this fast paced performance extremely audience friendly.
Photos: 1) Kush: David P. France photographer 2) Rituals: Zerina Phillip photographer 3) Cecilia Marta: Melissa Hamburg photographer
Video edit by Walter Rutledge