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Dancing on the Fringe
by Vanessa Oswald
The dance troupes of Buffalo exposed at the Infringement Festival
Every year, Buffalo’s Infringement Festival gains popularity and grows, while introducing more people in the community about the art scenes that exist right here in the city.
One category of performance has expanded immensely this year—dance.
This year about 600 artists will participate in the annual event, after 400 proposals were approved by the Buffalo Infringement committee. Of those, there are 18 dance groups that will either be taking the stage, whirling about their studios, frolicking in the park, playing with fire, or lurking in deep grassy yards while putting on their performances between Thursday, July 22, and Sunday, August 1.
“With Infringement dance, we pretty much take anything as a venue,” says Leslie Fineberg, the official dance organizer of the Infringement Festival. “As long as they’re willing to let us into the space, and they won’t charge us for the space, and they understand that our artists can be anything from a dancer to a drummer to a painter to a poet.”
Last year was Fineberg’s first year as the dance organizer. “They didn’t have a dance organizer until last year,” she says, “so they kind of had dance mixed with theater and poetry, and people didn’t really understand the needs of a lot of these dancers.”
Dancers tend to need more accommodations than other performers. In the rules of the festival are that artists must provide their own music, lighting, and whatever else they want to use to complete their performances. For dancers, though, it’s all about the floor.
“The first question I ask is ‘What’s the floor like?’ or ‘What’s the ground like?’” says Fineberg. “People don’t realize that some dancers need a decent floor to dance on, although some of them can dance on anything.”
Differential Flavor Crew
Some artists, such as the Differential Flavor Crew (DFC) from Verve Dance Studio, are not picky about the floor they’re given to dance on, because they bring a portable floor to place over any surface.
DFC is Buffalo’s notorious B-boy crew, whose affiliation with several art organizations, such as Young Audiences Western New York, allows them to expose kids to the urban dance scene. Shane Fry, otherwise known as B-boy Depree, is co-founder of the crew and holds his own dance event called Battle at Buffalo every last Saturday of the month at Verve. At these jams people can watch or participate in all different styles of dance, but the two main events are funk styles and break-dancing battles.
DFC displays their show-stopping moves on the concrete roof of the Broadway Market on Sunday, August 1, 3-4pm. They will also be included in Nietzsches’ dance party on Thursday, July 29, 9pm-1am. And on Saturday, July 31, DFC presents the “BIF Meets Battle at Buffalo Competition” at Verve Dance Studio. The battle will cost $5 and ages are welcome.
Along with serving as the dance coordinator for the festival, Fineberg also appears with her dance troupe Euphraxia, which she co-directs with Diana Miranda.
“Euphraxia is a combination of Latin words that means ‘joyful movement,’” says Fineberg.
The troupe specializes in American tribal dance, which is a fairly new style of fusion dance defined by Carolena Nerrico in the 1980s. Nerrico’s studio, Fat Chance Belly Dance in San Francisco, is sister studio to Euphraxia.
“Every year we try to have live drumming,” says Fineberg. “We prefer Middle Eastern drumming because that’s the base of our dance, but we’ve learned to love African drumming because our dance has elements of African dance and African costuming embedded into it.”
This year Euphraxia and Red Moon American Tribal Style Bellydance are scheduled to perform at the Allendale Theater on Friday, July 30, 7-8pm, with special guests Daughters of Creative Sound, along with the Nadia Ibrahim Middle Eastern Dance Company and Tribe Maya Fire. They will also have a show at the Veda Yoga Space on Saturday, July 24, 6:30-7:30pm, accompanied for the first time by special guests the Miraculous Rhythms of Sankofa. Admission is free for the all-ages show, but the dancers will be taking donations.
The Nadia Ibrahim Middle Eastern Dance Company
Nadia Ibrahim and her company are putting on some performances of their own during the festival.
“She’s probably one of the most old-school Middle Eastern dancers in Buffalo,” Fineberg says of Ibrahim. “She’s been dancing her whole life. It’s her culture and it was something she was raised with.”
The Nadia Ibrahim Middle Eastern Dance Company was formed four years ago. A native of Buffalo who embraces her Lebanese ancestry, Ibrahim specializes Middle Eastern dances, such as belly dancing and folkloric dancing, which includes several authentic village dances.
“You can expect to see a clear vision of the belly dance and the folkloric dances,” says Ibrahim. “You will understand the integrity, authenticity, and respect associated with the dance. You will walk out with a positive feeling towards the culture that is so ancient and rich.”
Ibrahim says that the type of dance she teaches sometimes is misunderstood. Her company’s dancing should never be associated with burlesque or stripping, she says.
“It is truly a dance of celebration and beauty,” she says. “It is joyful and is wonderful for the mind, body and spirit. Women in particular will love the dance because it does not have limits to age, beauty, shapes, or race. It is a dance that celebrates all women.”
The Nadia Ibrahim Middle Eastern Company performs Friday, July 30, at the Allendale Theatre, 8-9pm, with a special appearance by Euphraxia.
The Moné Dance Project
As a fairly new artist on the Infringement circuit, Nakita Moné is introducing what she calls nontraditional works.
“I’m inspired by hip-hop and ethnic dances, and that’s where most of my movements come from,” says Moné. “My style is a fusion of many different styles, and I like to move and choreograph outside of what I’m told dance should look like.”
Nakita, 28, a native of Niagara Falls, started dancing when she was about five years old in various hip-hop crews, participating in local festivals and competitions.
“I’ve danced with local community African dance and Middle Eastern dance groups,” Moné says. “In college I danced with the Tanzen Dance Company for six years and I also choreographed. I’ve also done work in Toronto for workshops for upcoming artists.”
Moné says after the Infringement Festival, she plans to start her own company. But for now, she’s grateful for the festival and its role in the community.
“I think anything where you’re bringing the community together is beneficial for the community as a whole,” she says. “That’s what I love about the Infringement Festival. There’s no boundaries or limits to what you can do. It’s just like a love that you feel being a part of this festival because you’re so accepted.”
Kim Knieriem, adjunct professor and the director of the Tanzen Dance Company at Niagara County Community College, watched Moné evolve as a dancer and choreographer in her company and now has the opportunity to be in one of her student’s dances during the festival.
“It’s really fun to see her step into the shoes that I’ve been in for so many years, and to watch her have her moments of struggle, but to also see her have her very big moments of success,” says Knieriem. “It’s been nice to support her and to watch her change. I’m very proud of her.”
Julia Zdrojewski met Moné in the fall of 2006, when they were both in Tanzen and Moné was her choreographer. They’ve kept in touch ever since, and now Zdrojewski is dancing for Moné for the festival.
“She is definitely easy to work with and she makes you feel if you have an idea, you’re able to bring it in and also make the movement your own,” Zdrojewski says. “A lot of times she tells you, ‘You’re allowed to add your own style to it,’ which is nice to hear and makes you feel as though she knows who you are.”
Each dancer in Moné’s troupe describes her style differently. Many dancers would call Moné’s style fusion, although that term can mean many different things.
“I feel like it’s a hybrid of multiple styles,” Zdrojewski says. “There’s modern, African, and elements of jazz and hip-hop that are incorporated too, so she definitely has a unique vision that goes into her movement that makes it fun for the dancer. It’s a lot of free-flowing movement and incorporating your breath.”
The Moné Dance Project performs at the Allendale Theatre on Friday, July 30, 5-5:45pm, and at the Ujima Theatre on Saturday, July 24, 5-5:45pm.
Whatever Angela Lopez decides to pull out of her bag of tricks this year, hers is surely one of the most anticipated acts in the festivasl.
Lopez, who runs her own dance company Collective Collective, offers only hints at what her new project will entail, in an effort not to ruin the surprise.
“Angela Lopez is one of our coolest dancers at Infringement,” says Fineberg. “She is what I like to call the spirit of Infringement dance because she comes up with this crazy piece, and it’s always like performance art, and then she puts it in a place which is totally nontraditional.”
Last year, Lopez performed “Pho Malpica: The Last White Elephant” in a tiny alleyway between La Tee Da restaurant and the Buckingham apartment building near Allen Street. The piece attracted tons of attention.
The performance took place during the dark hours to allow for the projections on the walls around her. Lopez wore a long white skirt and a white headdress, and the rest of her body was painted white.
“She has some belly dance training, so she used some belly dance isolations to come from the end of the alley almost right to the audience,” says Fineberg. “You couldn’t go near her because there was this wrought-iron fence.”
This year Lopez is performing, potentially with others, in the “grassy yard” next to the studio space at 224 Allen Street.
“It’s all overgrown grass, trees, maybe some flowers somebody planted years ago,” says Fineberg. “It totally looks like a scene out of The Secret Garden.”
Lopez presents her new piece, which is called “Phó Malpica: Shark Finned Coup by Collective Collective,” every night except for opening night, 10-11pm.
“She’s given me some sneak previews,” says Fineberg. “I think it involves a really huge shark costume. I can’t wait.”
Queen City Swing
Another dance troupe coming to perform for the festival is Queen City Swing, which was founded by Rob Leach. The group specializes in authentic vintage jazz dance and the associated styles, like the Lindy hop, Balboa, and Charleston.
“We will be performing an authentic vintage jazz dance from the 1930s called ‘The Big Apple,’ choreographed by the late Frankie Manning,” says Queen City Swing’s Zoe Leach. “The routine is an energetic display of solo jazz steps featured in the 1939 film Keep Punching. Our performance will also include demonstrations of other vintage dances such as Lindy hop and Balboa.”
Queen City Swing performs on Sunday, July 25, 7-8pm, at the Ujima Theatre and Saturday, July 31, 8-9pm at the Wasteland Fur Vault. Both shows welcome all ages.
FuturPointe Dance from Rochester was founded in November 2009 by Heather Roffe, Guy Thorne, and N’Jelle Gage.
“Our company is trying to develop our own style of contemporary dance, which is a fusion of a lot of different genres, with influences such as modern, Cuban, Caribbean, hip-hop, ballet, and more,” says Roffe.
Most of the dancers in the company have worked professionally in other dance companies, such as Garth Fagan Dance or L’Acadco Jamaica, and hail from all over the world—Jamaica, New Orleans, Rochester, Guyana, and the Ukraine.
“We blend our various backgrounds and stylistic/artistic influences in the repertory for the company,” says Roffe. “Currently, Guy Thorne and I create the bulk of the company’s choreography.”
Roffe explains that their piece, called “Sol-Revel,” was designed to be a “sensory experience of revelry.” It will incorporate not only dance, theater, music, and mixed-media elements as well.
FuturPointe hopes, as a company, to make dance more accessible to people.
“Dance should not be something unlike the normal human experience—it should, if anything, be the art form which is most representative of the human experience,” says Roffe. “The human body is our medium and our universal connection to every other person on the earth—if we can listen to what it has to say, we might learn a lot about each other and ourselves.”
FuturPointe performs at the Allendale Theatre on Friday, July 30, 6-7pm. The show is all ages and admission is $15.
Nimbus Dance and Reactionary Ensemble collaborate
Back in May, Nimbus Dance joined with the improvisational Real Dream Cabaret to produce a moving piece of street polemic about BP and its disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which was at the time 45 days old. Video artist Bryan Milbrand created banks of randomly selected images of oil slicks and devastated coastlines, petroleum-covered wildlife and the desperate plans to cap the leaking well, interspersed with abstract and manipulated imagery. In the window well opposite the video installations at Gallery 164 on Allen Street, Beth Elkins of Nimbus Dance choreographed three dancers—herself, Alisa Mittin, and Molly Taylor—who evoked the ecological catastrophe of the spewing oil: Before the performance was over, all were soaked in oil themsleves, and the windows of the gallery were slick with it. Real Dream’s Ron Ehmke, meantime, presided over a mock trial of BP’s CEO, played by Holly Johnson. Along the way, the 12/8 Path Band wandered into the space between the crowd of 50 or so and the storefront gallery, and played a dirge for the Gulf Coast.
It was a tremendously effecting piece that left some audience members in tears. One passerby, a native of Alaska whose hometown was devastated by the Exxon Valdez spill, walked angrily away in the middle the show, as furious at BP as she had been at Exxon Mobil 21 years ago.
That piece, “Gross Negligence,” was the first in a three-part series. The second installment in that series, “radio/ACTIVE,” is rolling out during the Infringement Festival. This time Nimbus collaborates with the Reactionary Ensemble, and the subjects are diverse: a study in dance, music, and video of the steps of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; of the disposition and hazards of nuclear waste, especially in Niagara County; of graph theory; and of, in the true spirit of improvisation, “etc.” Much of the music and video accompaniment will be improvised and interactive, composed on the spot in reaction to the performance and the audience from collected materials. Gallery 164’s three-projector setup allows video artist Milbrand a rare opportunity to create both dissonance and harmony. You don’t want to miss this show—not even a single performance of it. It’s at Gallery 164 (164 Allen Street) and admission is $7. Thursday, July 22, Saturday, July 24, Thursday, July 29, and Friday, July 30. All shows 8-9pm, ages 13 and older welcome.
The Habit Dance Project
Just recently formed, the Habit Dance Project performs for the first time ever as a group at Buffalo’s Infringement Festival.
Four of the company’s dancers—Kara Mann, Elyssa Bourke, Elissa Kammer, and Bonnie Jean Taylor—met each other while dancing for another company. When that venture ended, they realized they still wanted to dance—they could not, as they say, kick the “habit.” Thus the company’s name.
As of now the company comprises 12 dancers and choreographers, and they are always looking for more to join.Their dance is mostly modern and contemporary, although they are not opposed to experimenting with other styles of dance.
“I would say that in modern/contemporary dance especially, movement is used the way a poet uses language: to create a series of specific images that express something that is important to the creator,” says Mann. “Our Buffalo community should be exposed to this sort of work for the same reason they should be exposed to sculptures and violin music and Shakespeare—it’s inspiring and thought-provoking and beautiful.”
As part of their show, Habit Dance will present a piece choreographed by Veronica Irene, who was this year’s Arties winner for choreography. Irene’s piece is about superheroes and will showcase the dancers’ athleticism as they execute big leaps.
The Habit Dance Project performs Friday, July 23, 8:45-9:45pm, at the Ujima Theatre and they will be accepting $5 donations.
Hello, Goodbye: Magic, Movement, Passion, Vegetables (A Variety Show)
Some Infringement Festival acts are labeled “dance” but are enhanced by other types of art as well, such as Sophia Roberts show titled “Hello, Goodbye: Magic, Movement, Passion, Vegetables (A Variety Show).”
“I have a couple combination things this year that are theatre, but they involve, dance,” says Fineberg.
Sophia Roberts and friends are introducing a show inspired by different artistic elements that stem from each presenter’s personal inspirations.
“We are a varied group of artists—a mixture of trained, untrained, and street-trained dancers,” says Roberts. “Basically they are all my friends and acquaintances who I asked to be in a dance of mine, and who are sharing their talents and ideas too.”
Besides Roberts, others involved in the show will be local poet Samuel Floyd, poet and songwriter Amy Upham, rapper Alex Mead of the Blood Thirsty Vegans, evangelist Larenz Pickens (daughter of the late Mother Walton), dancer and contact improvisation artist Nancy Hughes and her daughter Hannah, and Henry the Juggler.
“The ideas I have had for a long time—one for years,” says Roberts. “I am excited to finally get something I have daydreamed about into reality. It’s so cool and it is exactly what I had dreamed about.”
Roberts defines her style as improvisational and community dance. She describes improvisational dance as something you can learn and practice, just like any other genre of dance, while community dance can involve pedestrian gestures paired with other dance movements to tell a story.
“Improvisation as performance is an art,” says Roberts. “I love improvisation and relish the opportunity to practice it, especially with an audience.”
Roberts’ show takes place at the Manny Fried Playhouse on Friday, July 23, 6-7pm and is an all-ages show.
Shea Akers and her band of fire dancers are annual Infringement favorites.
The 28-year-old says she first got into fire dancing after watching fire dancers at a prior Buffalo Infringement festival. She was so interested in their art, she decided to ask the performers about it.
“Those meetings gave birth to my own personal study,” says Akers.
Akers says that she was nervous her first time playing with fire, but a “healthy nervous.”
“It’s like diving from the high board, or singing a solo in front of a crowd,” she says. “It’s a healthy fear that gives adrenaline.”
In the past, while eating fire, which seems to be her specialty, she says she’s endured minor internal burns.
“It felt like I had pneumonia,” she says. “I am very lucky that I did not injure myself severely.”
Akers practices everywhere she can, and because she has a busker’s license she’s allowed to work in public spaces without any hassle.
Akers says she loves to watch children’s faces while she performs.
“My favorite reactions are from children, who openly share their amusement and wonder,” she says. “It’s encouraging. Generally, people ask how I got into fire art and are amazed that I choose to do this. I generally respond that it is as natural as breathing.”
Pyromancy performs in Day’s Park on Tuesday, July 27, Wednesday, July 28, and Sunday, August 1, 9:30-10:30pm.blog comments powered by Disqus
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