DanceFest brings beauty, grace, and passion to Milford Milford. Choreographer Johanna LjungQvist-Brinson fulfills her vision to engage and educate the community in the physicality, spirituality, and sheer joy of dance.
Chitra Ramaswamy performing “Dance of the Peacock” (Photo by Alan Kaplan)
By Marilyn Rosenthal What better setting was there than the garden of the Hotel Fauchère to be the backdrop for the opening ceremony of DanceFest Milford's second year? The weather was perfect and the wine and appetizers were flowing. Tamara Chant, the Mistress of Ceremonies, welcomed guests. The sounds of Yuri Turchyn’s electric violin wafted across the garden to accompany a pas de deux performed by Sofia Bisci and Jose Miguel Rebolme, dancers in the Hanna Q Dance Company. Johanna LjungQvist-Brinson, the company's founder and director, was beaming. Not only had she choreographed the performance, she choreographed the evening as well. It was all part of her vision to support the art of dance, engage the community, and educate the public about various aspects of her art. Wendy Kaplan was the Mistress of Ceremonies for the marathon weekend of dance. Dancers from Hanna Q and other New York City companies performed on Saturday at St. Patrick’s Hall and Sunday at Jen Murphy’s Fitness studio, two perfect venues for seeing the performances up close. You could also see LjungQvist-Brinson's total connection with them as she watched and felt every step, every movement. It was almost as if a bright laser beam connected the muscle memory of each step in her mind to the bodies of her dancers. Words and movement Many of the performances were about relationships, romantic and platonic. The dancers told stories and expressed emotion through movement, and sometimes pantomime. In several of the performances, the dancers further dramatized the story through speaking. In one performance, Charly Santagado and Emery Campbell echoed, in both word and movement, a story titled “I Had a Dream Last Night.” The synchronization of their movements and words was like a sign language performance of letters they had written to each other. Spoken language again accompanied a piece called “Break Time,” in which dancers Jonathan Matthews and Holly Sass used it to heighten the emotional tension in the story of a couple’s tumultuous relationship. Sunday brought four exciting performances. A solo by Chitra Ramaswamy performing two pieces inspired by nature electrified the audience. The first was a tribute the sun, showing how it makes flowers and sprouts grow. The second was about a peacock, an important figure in Indian mythology. As Ramaswamy danced she “became” a peacock, looking from side to side with intense eye and head movements, and preening and spreading her “feathers.” At the end, she spoke about sharing a feeling of a higher presence, whether from Hindu, Christian, or any other creed. She had a strong presence on stage and a strong spiritual connection with the audience, which gave her a standing ovation. The three days of dance ended on a very high, and hopeful, note.