A gathering of the tribe

Island Moving Co.'s Great Friends Festival
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  July 7, 2010

WORKING IT OUT Danielle Genest in rehearsal.

As they've done for the past few years, Island Moving Co. is taking no chances on the weather — they'd previously done summer outdoor performances for almost 20 years. IMC's Great Friends Dance Festival will take place at the Great Friends Meeting House in downtown Newport. The Meeting House is a historic building, built in 1699 by the Quakers (aka Friends), who came together here for their Sunday morning services (aka meetings).

The venue has been used several times by Island Moving Co., but it is particularly appropriate for this year's festival, which features so many of the company's "friends," as dancers and choreographers. California-based Colin Connor, who has worked with IMC many times over the past 12 years, will return to create a new trio for the company and a solo for his wife, Debra Noble. Patrick Notaro, of the Patrick Notaro Dance Project, was based in Rhode Island as a principal dancer with Festival Ballet and as a guest artist with IMC. He will be working with choreographer Kelly Ann Sloan, also from California and the winner of the 2008 choreography competition at IMC. And Scott Putman, who set a piece on the company last year, will return to create a piece for all the dancers and companies in the festival, performed as a finale during the last weekend.

Island Moving Co.'s dancers will perform every night of the festival, with a group of duets and trios that artistic director Miki Ohlsen is restaging, plus her piece titled "Let Me Live In Your Eyes" and Putman's piece, "Walking the Halls of Giants."

Other participants in the Great Friends Dance Festival are the Janusphere Dance Company and the Roxanne Lola Movement Machine, both from New York City, who will perform on the first weekend (July 17-18); Putman's Amaranth Company, from Virginia (July 20-25); the Providence Ballet Theatre (July 21-22, 24-25), headed by Eva Marie Pacheco, who once danced with Notaro and was a principal with IMC; and SASSON (July 21), a new company headed by Saifan Shmerer, who studied dance with Miki Ohlsen her entire childhood.

"Miki is elemental and the root of any artistic expression I have today," Shmerer stressed, in a recent phone conversation from her Brooklyn apartment. "I started creative movement with her when I was four, and then had classes several times a week till I was 18. The Newport Ballet Academy was like a second home, and the further I get from it, the more I realize how much it's done for me being an artist and a dancer."

Shmerer's family still lives in the Newport area; Shmerer has been in New York City the past five years, four of them in college. She's thrilled to have presented her first piece, "Right/Left Behind," in New York this past spring. It was part of a "New Works" program at the Tank, whose dance program produces emerging choreographers and young artists.

The quartet, featuring Shmerer, two female dancers, and a male dancer, was created through an interactive process, and Shmerer's tag line for the dance is: "A recipe for splintered wholeness; an antidote for easy-bake love; and a quick-fix for real-hard hurt."

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