Audiences were treated to a diverse, high level of dance artistry at the dance concert: Synthesis Dance & Friends “Mapping the Edge” Aug. 3 – 4, at New York’s Peridance Salvatore Capezio Theater. Speaking with Synthesis Artistic Director Tracie Stanfield, one gets the sense that her own professional journey as an accomplished dance educator and artist has mirrored that of the development of her dance style: inspiring, challenging and wonderfully unique, just like Stanfield.
“I really did not fit into the world of professional ballet” explains Tracie of her early career. “And other than joining a ballet company there were not many company options for a jazz dancer back then. My jazz dance style became more lyrical and “Synthesis Dance Project” (SDP), now in its 12th year, developed as a way to make jazz dance more accessible as a performance medium.” While based on the solid technique of ballet, Stanfield’s contemporary lyrical style requires the dancer achieve a level of self- exploration through a connection with breath as well as emotion resulting in allowing (versus controlling) Stanfield’s bold and intricate style to be achieved.
Beginning her dance training in what she describes as a “revamped disco-tech that still had carpet on the floor” the ‘Jazz baby’ from Gun Barrel City, Texas, has come a long way in her career. After a stint as a jazz and tap dancer in Austin’s Tapestry Dance Company, by her early 20’s, Stanfield decided to pack up and move to New York. “I felt I had to give it (New York) a shot, but I figured I would be back home in 3 months,” she says of her thoughts at that time.
Thankfully two weeks before she was to return, she landed a job assisting Broadway Director/Choreographer Michael Blevins, and has not looked back. While it is a struggle for some dancers to go from being on-stage to behind the scenes, for Stanfield: “Transitioning from performing dance to teaching and creating was a not hard, and for me a better fit.” Initially a substitute instructor for Suzy Taylor at Broadway Dance Center Stanfield’s popularity grew eventually leading to her own roster of classes at the renowned N.Y. dance studio. Now a sought after commissioned international choreographer with her own dance company that performs all over the world, Stanfield has developed a strong following to become one of the top dance teachers in New York.
Similar to the dedication of fellow choreographer Emily Bufferd with her “Young Choreographer’s Festival”, Stanfield also is devoted to nurturing young dance talent. Through her apprentice company “Synthesis Too” young dancers benefit from local performance opportunities, and Stanfield’s annual pre-professional Summer Dance Intensive provides the dance student with an avenue to become a dance artist. “We expect people to be artists immediately” explains Stanfield. “But that is not how it works; you learn and get better by performing, so I want to provide opportunities for that to happen. This show (“Mapping Edge”) is about the experience of performing challenging work within a supportive environment.” The eight day Stanfield Intensive includes classes and rehearsals culminating in the opportunity to perform at the Capezio Theatre along with SDP, Synthesis Too, and other guest professionals.
Saturday’s show opened with the SDP performance of Stansfield’s exquisitely intricate “Broken Light”, which the six member SDP touring company will next perform at the Booking Dance Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. The professional dancers continued to demonstrate their graceful and athletic ability throughout the show, and even got the opportunity to display a bit of flirtatious fun with the final “Muchas Muchachas”.
The concert was a celebration for the student Intensive dancers, as they admirably performed in one of three slightly less intricate, but non-the-less challenging Stanfield pieces to a very appreciative audience of admirers. When an unplanned technical glitch stopped the music during one number, the dancers did not miss a beat and kept right on dancing like seasoned pros.
For Stanfield it is how the dancer handles such challenges which determines who she chooses to work with her: “I need to know how dancers will get along and relate to each other when they are having a bad day, or make things work if I’m having a bad day; things you just won’t get that from an audition when everyone is on their best behavior. I usually pull from class or from a workshop (when hiring) where I have experienced how they have worked through coming back from an injury, learning a tough piece, etc.”
In addition to the Stanfield works, “Mapping Edge” included revealing and honest moments from other N.Y. choreographers: Ryan Daniel Beck’s “I Love L.A.” was a powerful reminder of the recent Boston Marathon tragedy. The intensity and commitment of dancers Megan Jones and Stephanie Lim in “murmer in utterance” by Ginger Cox of LiNK! masterfully conveyed the internal personal struggle of the relationship dynamic. BEings Emily Bufferd’s “A Dedication” nicely combined apprentice dancers along with professionals in a creative contemporary piece and current “Newsies” Assistant Director Richard Hinds all male “Is you is or is you ain’t my baby” was pure entertainment.
“My goal for this concert in addition to providing a venue for the Intensive dancers, was to offer an exploration of a variety of creative and thought provoking moments, “ says Stanfield. “Good dance is just good dance.” Goal achieved.
“MAPPING THE EDGE: exploring creative fringes, revealing honest moments and broadening the definition of concert dance,” Synthesis Dance Project Synthesis Too; with: LiNK! the movement/Ginger Cox , Ryan Daniel Beck, Richard J. Hinds, Emily Bufferd/BEings dance, CLARITY IN MOTION, Treeline Dance Works, SDP Summer Intensive Dancers, Saturday Aug. 3, 8:30 p.m. and Sunday Aug. 4, 4:30pm, Salvatore Capezio Theater, 126 East 13th Street, NYC 10003, $25 general admission, www.SynthesisandFriends.bpt.me