Tuesday September 1, 2009 - Kokyat and I went to watch John-Mark Owen working in the studio with dancers Ramona Kelley and Adrian Silver in preparation for the upcoming New Choreographers On Point preview evening at the Ailey Citigroup Theater on September 13th. I first saw some of John-Mark's work at the 92nd Street Y last year, and more recently we had the opportunity of watching him perform with Lydia Johnson Dance.
Click on each image for an enhanced view.
In recent weeks, John Mark has been selected to participate in Atlanta's Dance Canvas program highlighting new choreographic works. He has also been named as one of four top emerging choreographers by Gotham Arts.
The music John-Mark is using for his current project is by the French composer Guillame Bouzignac from the 17th century. John-Mark views the duet, entitled Salve, as the first part of a three-movement work which traces the development and eventual ending of a relationship. While the scenario has a romantic quality, the spiritual feeling of the music sets the work on a higher plain.
It is always a choreographer's good fortune to have dancers who are both technically polished and emotionally generous, and John-Mark's dancers Ramona and Adrian made his wonderfully fluid choreography look its finest. The duet is demanding not only in its partnering but also in sustaining the mood.
Salve begins with Ramona dancing calmly alone...
...as Adrian slowly paces the perimeter.
Then the pas de deux commences in which John-Mark uses steps from the classic vocabulary enhanced by touches of contemporary nuance - the angle of the neck, a slightly elongated stretch, a sweeping of the ballerina onto her partner's shoulders. All of this was rendered with smooth clarity by the two dancers.
Moments of tenderness and pauses to reflect give the ballet its romantic subtext but the music creates an atmosphere that is more profound than just the depiction of two people falling in love.
In the climactic moment, Adrian wafts Ramona into a dramatic lift.
After dancing Salve twice, the dancers cooled down while John Mark and I talked about the music and about his outline for the larger ballet he plans to develop from this duet. Kokyat said that the music and the dancing had given him goosebumps: a sincere compliment. I felt the same, and I look forward to seeing Salve again on the 13th and to eventually seeing the larger finished work.
Kokyat will say that I have included too many photos, but I can't resist adding a couple more. John-Mark and Ramona (above)...
...Ramona and Adrian.
Our thanks to John-Mark for inviting us and to the two dancers who allowed us to eavesdrop on their work.
All photos: Kokyat.