SpectorDance’s annual festival draws from a world of choreography.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Spin a globe and point. That’s how to find the hometowns of this year’s Monterey Dance Festival choreographers.
One of many source spots on the Dance Fest map is Maribor, Slovenia. Choreographer Astrid Von Ussar cultivated her passion for dance there while she worked in affiliation with the national theater in Maribor. She further developed this passion when she arrived in New York City to attend the Alvin Ailey Dance School.
The diversity of influences affecting the blonde, blue-eyed dancer may have prompted Fran Spector Atkins of SpectorDance studio to send one of 75 festival invitations to Von Ussar’s company last year.
At that time, a lack of funds kept Von Ussar from attending. This year she can make it, and plans to bring one dancer for an originally choreographed solo in what will be the premiere of her work on the West Coast.
The solo, titled “The Search Goes On,” follows a woman looking for herself. The piece serves one of two snippets of Von Ussar’s work, work that has been described as “juicy” and “ferocious.”
(Spector Atkins says that in dance lingo, “juicy” means the movement tends to have less line and precision and more influence from feeling. “It’s full, virtuosic, physical movement,” she says.)
Von Ussar has a harder time of describing her style of contemporary dance. “I guess other choreographers have a line ready,” she says, “but [the dance] is for somebody to see.” Von Ussar does reveal that her choreography, while lyrical, has an athletic, fluid feel.
Von Ussar will teach a master class for the festival on Sunday, July 23—the second snippet of her work.
On the western border of Slovenia lies the home country of another guest choreographer and teacher. Andrea Cognitti of Rome, Italy, adds Monterey to the list of stops for his international traveling experimental dance company, ARSmovendi.
Partnering with a video production company, Cognitti’s dancers create shapes and extend energy in sync with moving projections behind them. Spector says the choreography in Europe lends itself to this experimentation.
With Cognitti, this translates into “release” technique, a soft letting-go of all tension in the body, and the antithesis to Von Ussars vivid, hard-edged choreography. Cognitti will instruct a class in release technique on July 21.
Spector Atkins has also gathered Melissa Autry of Texas, Ginger Cox, and the Linx dance company for a more classic display of jazz dance. Danah Bella Dance works—which draws from Bella’s Asian-Pacific Islander heritage—completes the festival repertoire.
In the six years since the Monterey Dance Fest’s inception, Spector Atkins has seen the attending choreographers grow from one to five, allowing for a broader range of contemporary interpretations.
“It’s not The Nutcracker. It’s not Sleeping Beauty,” Spector Atkins says. “My mission is to heighten the power and beauty and innovation with contemporary dance.”
THE MONTEREY DANCE FEST starts 8pm Saturday at SpectorDance, 3343 Paul Davis Dr., Marina. $20/advance; $25/at the door; classes run July 20-23. 384-1050.