Bare Soles: Brings a Unique Arts and Performance Experience to the Heights

Bare Soles, a new monthly showcase highlighting local dancers and artists, presented by The Kennedy Dancers (a non-profit Jersey City based dance company) happened this past Saturday evening on Central Avenue. For Heights residents, Bare Soles brings a unique arts and performance experience close to home. All those performing at the Kennedy Dance center showed passion, talent and professionalism that prove the arts are alive and well in the Heights.

Led by Artistic Director Diane Dragone, this showcase was both cohesive and playful, exposing a variety of movement and dance styles appealing to all ages and perspectives. Though it primarily focused on dance and movement, there was also a local still-life artist showcase during the reception and an organ player/singer.

The audience sits in a medium-size dance studio with a mirror and a large pillar dividing the stage from the audience. I sat stage left in the front next to a videographer who was filming a conversation between Diane Dragone and a dancer/choreographer.

Scheduled to begin at 7, the show opened with video recordings for Dance Vista. (Dance Vista is a cable television series highlighting choreographers and dancers as well as their insights.) While this was not part of the showcase, the three short interviews with choreographers provided insight into the work they would be exhibiting later in the evening, as well as their perspectives and backgrounds.

At 7:15, Bong Dizon enthusiastically and captivatingly connected with the audience to introduce the showcase. He was apologetic about the delay and initiated a feeling of home. His warm and electric energy generated excitement throughout the crowd.

Kayla Radomski and Tina Wang

The show opened with a spoken word/performance art piece in two parts entitled Alice in Love? These pieces shaped the showcase’s theme and overall mood. It was a perfect introduction as performer Laurel Zaleski with poetic simplicity and grace captured the meaning of love in a piece called White Night choreographed by Bong Dizon. Standing a top a piano stool in a white captain’s jacket, she commanded the audience representing this character from the classic children’s tale Alice in Wonderland. The second part of this piece showed off Zaleski’s ballet moves and pointe skills. Alice Alone was choreographed by Diane Dragone and adapted by Dizon and Zaleski. Zaleski owned the stage with these pieces, especially in the second part. She made a quick on stage change into a simple blue dress (representing Alice). The dance demonstrated Alice’s love for the White Knight, as well as confusion and playfulness surrounding love. Alice in Love? established the tone of the show: a meditation on love in its many forms, especially the playful and the personal.

On Support (choreographed in 2013 by Tina Wang in collaboration with Jamal Berkenkotter) was performed by Kayla Radomski and Tina Wang (pictured above). The perky and modern movement of the piece prepared the audience for any possibility between the two characters (who were wearing bathing suit costumes) on the stage. Radomski and Wang each represented a part of a whole in a relationship, but also held onto their own unique emotions in reaction to their physical connection on stage. The hesitancy and weariness from Radomski met the aggressive and mischievous nature of Wang in a way that felt like watching children in a water park. Using a spray bottle filled with water, the dancers built a story that started as a game and concluded as an adventure. The music, Revelations by Nathan Johnson added a darker tone to the piece, but layered with the childlike risk-taking in the dancing the combination created humor and humanity in the piece.

A genre change came in the form of an introduction to Priscilla Crespo. Crespo is a visual artist who primarily creates still-life artwork. The audience would have an opportunity to view the work at the reception proceeding the show.

Gisel Angelica Costa came to the stage next with an organ and amps. Her first piece, Composition, offered a variation to the dance pieces, and Costa’s passion was evident. Her second piece was a vocal rendition of Once Upon a Dream, the classic Cinderella ballad.

Bare Soles

Gisel Angelica Costa

The following performance, Kitchen Floor had strong elements of modern dance and was fueled by raw energy and heat. It represented love rooted in the realities of life yet unapologetic, sexually driven and irresistible. Part of the Michelle DuVall Dance Collective, DuVall choreographed this piece with her company and performed it with Bong Dizon. Dizon plays a well-connected and giving partner as he and DuVall shared a fiery and open dialogue solely through dance. It was beautiful and riveting, the audience was engrossed in their journey. This piece felt like a reflection on love from its foundations to its pitfalls and saving graces. The dancers’ precision and timing was the most moving and integral part of this piece. Speed and slow thoughtful movements jumbled together to create a beautiful love story.

The next piece was a large group piece entitled OMG: Don’t Lecture Me. It was witty, fun and full of developed characters. This piece was about a love of art as dancers represented themselves in a classroom environment moving in and out of sync as a professor’s words play on a voice recording over the music. This modern storytelling dance was choreographed by Gregory Omar Osborne. Osborne also arranged the music including the voice over. Dancers Sara Teresa Burns, Jessica Israel, Rachel Perlman, Joseph Rosario, Tiffeny Wilson and Ashley Wood reminded us about the human desire for love and attention.

Closing the show, Laurel Zaleski returned to stage with Bong Dizon dancing a Diane Dragone choreographed piece to 1950s style ballroom dance music entitled Al Di La. As the lights dimmed, this was a perfectly sweet and simple way to conclude the evening. Overall, Bare Soles was a professional stage environment that was inviting and high quality.

Bare Soles events are held on the last Saturday of each month, but for the month of April, Bare Soles will take a small hiatus as a fundraising event will take its place on April 26. The event, a Pasta Party Fundraiser, will raise money for the Inner City Youth Junior Company and their competition events and performing endeavors. In addition to dinner, the event will also include performances by the Kennedy Dancers Repertory Company and of course, by the Inner City Youth Junior Dance Company.

The next Bare Soles will be held on Saturday, May 31 at 7 pm at The Kennedy Dance Studios, 79 Central Ave. This particular Bare Soles will be dubbed as “Goddess Night,” in which performers and performances will share a theme of the “Goddess,” or empowering women. Admission is $10 in advance ($15 at the door). For more information, visit kennedydancers.org.

Photos by Mickey Mathis

Jessica Clunn

is an early childhood teacher. Her passions are theatre, pour-over coffee, new music and cooking. She has been living in the Jersey City Heights since November 2012, and is thrilled to be part of the ever-growing community.