Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dance for Life—and Death

Jose Zamora's CholoRock Dance Theatre explores it all in an energetic show in Denton.
by Ellie Leonhardt
published Tuesday, November 2, 2010

photo: Jennifer Fronczeck
La Fiesta Fantasmagorica

In a 60-minute show with energy that isn't bounded by the intimate Green Space Arts Collective studio in Denton, José Zamora’s CholoRock Dance Theatre opened La Fiesta Fantasmagorica 2010 this weekend.

Zamora, a recent dance graduate from Texas Woman's University, explores a sophisticated Mexican-American cultural blend of post-modern, folklórico, social dance, hip-hop, contemporary ballet and jazz. Zamora has created his own recipe of dance folktales and appears to have a hold on a strong, signature blend of dance fusion. La Fiesta Fantasmagorica goes beyond the actions of the dancers or the intricate rhythm of the steps and digs deep into cultural themes such as death, intimacy, sexuality, gender and culture.

It is pleasure to see a choreographer use group forms that support interesting movement vocabulary, made up of twisting, throwing, pulsing, pushing and dense rhythmic structures.

The form of the show is broken into seamless sections in which Zamora allows us to telescope into the solo life of a character, or the relationship of a duet. These vignettes, surrounded by larger ensemble pieces, give the audience a feeling that, by the end of the show, we tangibly know each of the abstract and whimsical characters.

It is through the solos at the beginning of the piece that the audience has a moment to contemplate the life and, with the help of haunting facial makeup, the death of Zamora’s characters.

The most dynamic of these solos is danced by principle dancer Kasi Kirkpatrick, who appears in a yellow girlish dress, at first waving her arms and moving through the space like a bird with an arrhythmic skip. Her solo is made up of quick direction changes and level changes that grow to an eerie climax. The climax comes when a smile emerges on her face and she begins to giggle and then―as if out of nowhere―act as if she is being chocked to death. Zamora is a master at skillful, genuine character development that gives the audience a feeling that we are witnessing the dead vibrantly dancing on their last-lived day.

By the end section of the piece, Zamora has his dancers wearing surgical masks and dancing a traditional couple dance―bodies pressed together. The juxtaposition shows Zamora’s ability to play with irony and intimacy, all in the same breath. The collage of visual and sonic elements and the abstract narrative performed by a physically diverse and unique cast (including a notable performance from co-principle dancer Juan Pablo Montes) allows Zamora’s choreographic intention to be clearly communicated.

Groupings of dancers merge and emerge organically, with a strong sense of character and motivation, as every inch of the small stage is used and devoured by the dancers leaping, rolling, running, spinning and lifting each other. These dynamic movements are made even stronger by the use of interwoven spatial formations, attention to choreographic details and technically efficient dancers.

It's described as a “bizarre and fantastic combination,” and it is. The themes explored—including sexuality, death and life—ultimately blossom into one of humanity.

There is one more performance of La Fiesta Fantasmagorica, and you'll have to witness it for yourself.

Ellie Leonhardt is a Lecturer in Dance at the University of North Texas, and lives in Denton