Oblivious to the cold outside, a group of dancers and dance-lovers gathered at the Palace Theater Saturday, October 15 for a night of memorable dance performance. The award-winning dance troupe, the Phoenix Project Dance, was performing in Hamilton and the local theatre was full. Complementing the informal and easygoing atmosphere of the event, the Director of the Palace Theater, Patricia von Mechow, introduced Executive Director Mike Perkins and the ensemble as “Hamilton’s very own backyard international troupe.”
As Perkins led the audience briefly over the company’s performances, the audience cheered, eager for the performances that were coming up. As the lights dimmed, the first performance of the troupe – a rendition of George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm – began. Choreographed by Mike Perkins and featuring most of the dancers, Animal Farm was one of three original dances performed at the event. With a Bulgarian choir and other Eastern European infusion to set the soundtrack, the dance spoke of oppression through different and sometimes erratic movements. Starting out with slow pacing and completing the whole novella in a single short performance, the dancers’ prowess in storytelling left the audience in awe.
The second performance of the night was Behind the Mask, a tribute to actor Jim Carrey’s comical talent and inspiration. With his actual interview of why he turned to comedy as the background music, the performance hailed Carrey’s famous words, “desperation is a necessary ingredient to learning anything, or creating anything. Period,” as its main theme, portraying it with elements of both agility and comedy – the very two qualities Carrey is most widely known for.
After the light-hearted performance, the stage shifted to a more serious tone. Opening up to the beautiful Katie Ann Martinez in a metal frock-shaped cage up to her waist, the slow and symbolic My Body explores a man’s romantic feelings for a woman who is inside the “cage” of her own body. The crowd watched wonderstruck as Martinez, along with principal dancer, Travis St. Denny, moved sensationally, their bodies mingling on the stage. When they were done, the loud cheering subsided into the intermission.
After the intermission, another original dance was performed. Brute Force, with its graceful vignettes, highlights, in the project’s own words, the “essence of Phoenix Project Dance.” As the name suggests, Brute Force resonates the beauty (and strength) of the movements of human beings. Following a similar trajectory was the next dance, The Awakening. Lithe, fluid motions culminated in the graceful dance, performed by Christina Jensen and Blake Zelesnikar. Finally, the event came to a close with the performance of yet another original dance, Liquid Matter. A splash on and around the stage, the vibrant and energetic dance cherished and celebrated water. Using water splashers, buckets and water as props, the dance provided the audience with a mirthful closure to the artistic evening.
The Phoenix Project Dance is a dance troupe founded in 2004 under the artistic direction of Amber Perkins. According to the troupe, the re-invention of one’s self is the driving force behind their artistic vision. Known for its athletic and aesthetic performances, the Phoenix Project has been receiving much acclaim thus far, performing prestigious shows here in New York and even as far as Germany. As their fame rises, the troupe that rehearses here in Hamilton itself, is looking forward to sharing their passion with the community. As Mike Perkins said at the start of the event, “It feels good to perform at home.”
Contact Liza Paudel at