When the Sky Breaks 3D
nytheatre.com review by Avi Glickstein
August 20, 2011
Decadancetheatre’s When The Sky Breaks 3D embodies everything that the New York International Fringe Festival should be. Celebratory and skilled, it is a complete performance that doesn’t make you feel like it’s auditioning for a longer life elsewhere (although it most certainly should have one). It is perfectly Fringe and it is perfectly wonderful.
When The Sky Breaks is also the first dance piece I’ve attended at a Fringe and makes me wish someone would produce a downtown dance festival with the Fringe’s scope and visibility—or at least that every Fringe show could have the same energy this one did. That energy applies to the audience as well as to the performance. There was an excitement and an anticipation before this performance began, as well as a vocal participation during it, that I rarely experience at any show. It was pretty refreshing.
In the simplest terms, When The Sky Breaks is a long-form, all-female, hip-hop dance piece that—helped along by DJ Boo’s seamless beats—weaves together various styles like breaking, popping-and-locking, lyrical, and even a moment or two of crumping. There’s rarely an obvious narrative at play, but rather a fluid progression of movement. Shifting between solos that allow each individual dancer to show off and duets, quartets, and sextets that fill the room powerfully, director-choreographer Jennifer Weber and the company of Decadancetheatre performer-choreographers give us a complete vision of what hip-hop can be. Whether introspective or presentational (a gentle way of describing that necessary bravado that hip-hop must have), the one constant in their vision is joy. It’s amazing to watch a dancer who knows what she’s doing do what she does and love it. It’s a rarer thing for that love you see to so clearly come from the dancer’s joy at being able to share her skill with you. There’s a strange selflessness about the company’s dancing at times, which I found disarming and utterly charming.
As a group, the dancers are almost like a team of superheroes—each completely unique but cohesive together. While they are all skilled dancers, some stood out as stronger overall performers. Perhaps the best popper and locker in the group, Taeko Koji is tough to take your eyes off of. Watching her, especially during her solos, is like watching someone speaking sign language—there’s an emotion and expressiveness to her face when she’s moving that, if this makes sense, contextualizes her movement. One not only has a sense of what she’s doing but why. Also powerful is Adaku Utah. Her movement is confoundingly fluid and grounded at the same time. Of all the dancers, I wish she had a little more to do. Finally, Lucile “Frak” Graciano can’t help but win you over with her sly smirk, like she knows some amazing secret (but just won’t tell you!). Also, some of her groundwork during a solo to Sinatra’s "That’s Life" is simply astounding. One unexpected and particularly virtuosic move evoked hoots and shouts from one audience member (who will remain nameless).
Despite all this, there was one element that didn’t quite work—the 3D. As designed by Holly Daggers, the shifting digital background is a beautiful complement to the dancing—without the glasses given out upon entering the theater. Some of the effects are nice, but wearing the glasses blurs the performers’ bodies and faces as well as the lights in a way that, while perhaps intended, is too distracting and distancing. With the glasses on, it almost felt like there was a hazy barrier between audience and performers, so after flipping back and forth, I kept them off for most of the time. Unlike film, live dance is already three dimensional, and these women don’t need any extra help to be impressive. They pop all on their own.