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REVIEW: "Next of Kin" — a Dance Collaborative; The Wayward Artist

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

"Exploring the Meaning of Family through Dance"

In vivid, harmonious collaboration, Director of Dance Natalie Baldwin McAllen, and professional local playwright, Désirée York, is currently combining resources to create a once-in-a-lifetime dance experience at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana. Through the elegance, symmetry and pulchritude of dance and the playwright's voice, "Next of Kin," a Wayward Artist production, probes our understanding of family—its colors, its dimensions, its reality—by storytelling through dance, using a variety of styles and dancers of all ages.

Featuring the dazzling choreography of Ms. McAllen, an artisan in residence at The Wayward Artist, she spearheads a custom blend of rhythm tap, modern, jazz, and contemporary ballet in a synergistic collective and precise fusion of choreographers, dancers, actors and designers, including FUSE Dance Company, Re:borN Dance Interactive, Nouveau Chamber Ballet, Felicia St. Cyr, Ellen Prince, Sarah Boardman, Richard Oaxaca, Nadine Tran, Maddy Beadle, and Liz Cartojano. With so much talent to flourish, the show is truly a splendid exhibition of unique dance artistry. And in that intimate setting at The Wayward Artist – you feel right on top of the dancers, and every footfall can be clearly heard.

“When we tell a story,” says writer Désirée York, “we usually begin at the beginning. The when, why, how and where of the starting point influences the east, west, north and south of our journey. Each step, each stumble and every turn we take can lead us further from or closer to our roots. But no matter the time, distance or how much we might lose or discover ourselves along the way, we all have an origin story.”

In two weightless, wispy, ephemeral acts, totaling fourteen segmented dance interpretations, the first half features “Return” (excerpt from “Amongst the Fragments”), choreographed and danced by Boroka Nagy of Re:borN Dance Interactive, showing stunning fluidity as her rippling body bends to oppositional pulls. Music is by Les Secrets de Morphee. Next is “Family Portrait,” emotively choreographed by Natalie Baldwin, displaying lightning fast blocking in a family of four, and spotlighting Habeel Abdulhusain, Holly Goodchap, Kirra Akers and Alyssa Mastroianni, with music by Antonio Vivaldi.

Following that dance sequence is “Grow Up,” choreographed by Sarah Boardman, with dancers Sophia Lang and Sammi Waugh, and music by Craig Shields. “Unfinished Letter” is up next, written by Désirée York and directed by Craig Tyrl. Featured actors are Justin Crawford and Stephanie T. Keefer. “Till Death Do Us Part” follows, choreographed by Richard Oaxaca, costume designed by Karen Potter and danced by Stormy Gaylord and Edward Salas, set in music by Sarah-Jane Bradley. And finishing up Act One is an amazing “Breaking Through,” also written by Désirée York and choreographed and danced by Maddy Beadle. Stephanie T. Keefer is the actor in the set.

Act Two begins bright and bubbly with “Smile,” choreographed by Lois Ellyn of Nouveau Chamber Ballet, set in music from Charlie Chaplin. The dancers are Lina Adachi, Rhyann Diaz and Camille Williamson. Then, in a strong somber piece depicting clenched, tense, domestic violence, “Seven” is portrayed by dancers Sophia Lang and Santiago Rivera, choreographed by Nadine Tran. Music is by Paul Weston, Rosemary Clooney and Timi Yuro.

“Legacy,” choreographed and danced by Ellen Prince, also features Alyssa Mastroianni. Written and voice-overed by Désirée York, the music by Fleetwood Mac and Debbie Friedman creates a new feel in the theatre. Romero of FUSE Dance Company is up next with “T-Shirts and Tanks.” Choreographed by Joshua D. Estrada, with music by Claude Debussy, this gig alternated dancers throughout the show’s run; on this night, Matthew Kindig and Samuel DeAngelo held the spotlight.

“Alien Birth,” brilliantly written by Désirée York in very comedic fashion and directed by Craig Tyrl, was stage-acted by the gifted Stephanie T. Keefer in an immersive narrative of giving birth to what she initially calls an alien. Ms. Keefer’s versatility is uncanny.

“No Chance,” directed and choreographed by Liz Cartojano, and once again written by playwright Désirée York, is inspired from a story by James Riley Mose. Justin Crawford is the actor in the sequence, with Deondre Lewis the dancer, set in motion by Ryan Leslie’s music.

Next Felicia St. Cyr choreographs and dances to Elton John, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, and other rock groups in the routine, “Amethyst Records, Side A.” And finally, a dance called “Begin Again,” choreographed by Natalie Baldwin and Dancers, performed by Maddy Beadle, Stormy Gaylord, Felicia St. Cyr, Edward Salas, Santiago Rivera and Sophia Lang, with music by Michael Hoppe.

Friday’s opening night was met with exhilarated crowds in a vibrant show, with a receptive gala following the performance. Remaining showtimes for “Next of Kin” are this Thursday, September 26th at 7:30PM with a talkback following the performance; Friday, September 27th and Saturday, September 28th at 7:30PM, with a talkback following that performance as well, and additional Saturday/Sunday matinee performances at 2PM.

The Lighting Designer for "Next of Kin" is Edgar Alamo; Set Designer is Javier Ruiz; Audio Design is by Roberto Hernandez; Costume Designer is Rachael Lorenzetti. The Artistic Director is Craig Tyrl, and Managing Director is Kristin Campbell.

Due to the subject matter dealing with complicated family circumstances, using your own discretion of course, younger children may not be suitable for attendance. For ticket information, please see: This show is a must-see and highly recommended!

Chris Daniels

Arts Reviewer

The Show Report



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