Tag Archive: insurgo

Insurgo's promo image for the performance

A dance performance, choreographically centered around chairs, was performed in a small theater in the heart of Las Vegas.

I know what you’re thinking.

Think again.

Jenna Wurtzberger debuted her first full-length modern showcase at Insurgo’s Bastard Theater on Sept. 23. Titled “The Crowded Chair,” the  hour-long show made use of the theater’s sparse interior and local-artsy vibe.

It also proved that, despite having an idea that could turn into a boring, cliched performance, 23-year-olds can do some pretty impressive things.

Wurtzberger is a UNLV graduate who holds a degree each in dance and psychology. Her college connection was evident in her casting choices: dancers Ashley Wilkerson, Katie Duffy, Alex Lum, Cheryl Snow, Sandra Sherer, Kim Weller, Michael Coleman and Zack Davis are  also students at the university.

Despite this influence, Wurtzberger sidestepped some of the most common college dance pot-holes. The show lasted for just under an hour and had no intermission, and, despite the small cast, necessary pauses for costume changes were mercifully brief.

More abstractly, “The Crowded Chair” was serious without being somber and thought-provoking without being overindulgent.

Instead, the show provided a fluid story with enough space for the audience to fill out themselves. The music was also a boon–light piano was underscored by brooding instrumentals and strong percussion added an almost hip-hop feel.

In the spirit of many progressive dance shows, the audience was mystified shortly after entering the house. Every member of the cast was sitting in a randomly-positioned chair onstage, looking bored or stone-faced and moving only occasionally.

The show began with the dancers still onstage. By the end of the piece, each performer had taken the focus briefly, dancing a quick solo before suspending their chair somewhere on the set and exiting. The absolute stillness from the other artists onstage added to the ambiance, and those moments of waiting to see which dancer would move next were some of the best in the show.

The concept of tension was redolent throughout.  This brought to mind the complex interplay  in relationships, either between a couple (as in “Finding the Contrast,” a desperate and pleading number), a  trio (“Keeping the Koy” and “(I)”), between one and many (“Why,” performed in silence) or in the solitude of only one (“Pain of Truth.”)

Unison wasn’t a strong point and (as per Insurgo’s usual), lighting wasn’t spectacular.

However, the choreography was distinctly modern but not contemporary, which seems to be an increasingly endangered characteristic  nowadays. The nuances of each piece varied to fit the dancers, which exemplifed the small cast and fortified the artistic maturity of the choreographer.

Beyond technique, the willingness to take risks shone through the entire show, making it a refreshing alternative to multimillion dollar productions elsewhere. This flying-leap tendency gave “The Crowded Chair” an edginess that made it well-suited to Insurgo and, for that matter, a young and ambitious choreographer.

In another collaborate performance dubbed “1230 Clownshow,” Molodi partnered with a several clowns (not 1,230–sorry), a couple mimes and a guy in a banana suit to put on an impressive and truly funny variety show. View details about the comedy show here, and read a review about one of the performances here.

And, as promised, feast your eyeballs on some exclusive photos. The images are also available as a Flickr set.

Note: the show covered by April Corbin (author of the review above) differed slightly from the one reported here. If we had seen the same one, there would most definitely be pictures of scantily-clad gold dudes stacked on top of each other on this site.

Trust me.

A tap dancer, a hand percussionist and a human beat box walk into a bar. The bar has no stools  and the wall behind it is covered with cryptic graffiti in gratuitously bright colors. Oh, and it’s on a stage. Did I forget to mention that?

Welcome to the Insurgo Bastard Theater and a Molodi show, complete with unpredictability and a nod to the avant garde.

Molodi, a group of performers specializing in extreme body percussion, was started in 2000 by Jason Nious and is a diverse faction to begin with. However, the one-night performance on May 20 showcased more than their classic “Raw Footage” showcase. (Their signature show had been performed early that night.)

Also featured was the group’s experimental dive into the world of collaboration through a show called “Molodi Presents,” showcasing the work of other performers throughout Las Vegas.

Guest artists included Harmony Costa’s group Soul Steppers, specializing in house and featuring members with such credits as “Stomp,” “Stomp Out Loud,” and Cirque du Soleil’s “LOVE.”

Hand percussion, audible (and visual) tap, beatboxing, a vocal performance and a stint of acting games lent the show a vibrant and multi-faceted personality. Themes ranged from the chill grooves of house to the competitive edge between tap and percussion to the simple thrill of listening to a skilled beat-boxer jamming in the dark.

The program for “Molodi Presents” outlined a seemingly sparse three pieces, but the show itself was riddled with Easter eggs of an endearingly miscellaneous nature.

Antwan Davis’ fierce beatboxing segued into “The Footprints,” a piece performed by Chris Rutledge that made use of the mysterious blue tarp and sheets of white paper that had been situated in front of the stage since the top of the show.

Temporarily deepening the mystery, two paper plates were added to the strange set, acting as vessels for paint in Rutledge’s signature color scheme of green and black. Rutledge cleared up the confusion in short order, dipping his taps into the paint intermittently, then finger-painting tap-style on the sheets of paper.

Rutledge’s sharp personality and wicked grin sparkled for the audience seated not ten feet away as he illustrated the pleasant dissonance of sophisticated rhythm paired with a gritty upper body.

Can you do single wings on a square of paper in paint-covered tap shoes, doubled over at the waist with your hands nearly touching the floor? I can’t. Chris Rutledge can though, and he’ll make it look easy.

“Man vs. Machine,” the second piece in the showcase, armed three different instruments with rhythmic weapons and pitted them against one another, acting out the classic struggle between human nature and simulations of the same.

Davis appeared again, illustrating his body percussion chops against Cayce Andrew’s nonchalantly blitzing hand percussion. Rutledge, still in paint-spattered shoes, joined the fun midway through the piece, adding a higher pitch and quirky syncopations.

Contrary to the oppositional title, the number couldn’t help but demonstrate the complexity of rhythms, and performers, working together, and how truly stunning this can be when done well.

The Soul Steppers kicked off the last piece with an unassuming entrance from the back of the house, grooving through the audience and increasing the camaraderie felt between artist and observer.

Distinct house-style music pulsed through a piece of turn-taking, with each performer soul-stepping forward and showing the personalities that mingle in the group.

Members Harmony Costa, Ricky Barraza Jr., Tal Iozef, Louross Edralin, Lamont Thomas and Christine Delota emphasized the versatility of house-style dancing, often melding it with personal strengths like locking, b-boying and hip-hop.

Interspersed throughout “Molodi Presents” were vignettes of acting games, improvised on the spot, always humorous and often bordering on inappropriate.

Take “Stand, Bend and Sit,” for example, in which each of the three actors must be performing one of the movements in the title while improvising a real-life scene. The context for the game? The set of a porn film which, given, is probably a real life scene for somebody. Fair enough.

These are the kids that were staging shows in their backyards and tapping the grade-school cafeteria table in time with the music in their heads. Strangely, the same atmosphere still persists: the performance proves to be not only a collaboration between the artists onstage but a conduit of energy between the performers and the audience as well.

It helps that the first row of seats is about ten feet away from the edge of the stage, close enough to see nuances in a performer (and, unfortunately, to hear the slide and click of the rag-tag lights’ mechanisms, one of the very few flaws of the show.)

A slightly nervous vibe prevailed during some of the acting games as the audience was drawn into the “who will be next?” environment familiar to performers asked to improvise.

Overall, cardinal sins of dance concerts were avoided: “Molodi  Presents” was under an hour and a half and the audience was very much included in the show,  side-stepping the common phenomenon of “fish-tank” performances  (where the audience merely watches.) A sense of candidness and experimentation prevailed, making the experience endearing and delightful.

My advice for any stomp-style show at the Insurgo Theater?

Watch your toes.