Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro
Rhode Island College’s Department of Music, Theater and Dance had the honor of hosting Jenny Rocha for a weeklong residency earlier this semester. Rocha is the director of Rocha Dance Theater, where she wears multiple hats as costume designer, choreographer, teacher and dancer. She has worked for many companies and taught at multiple colleges and universities. Her choreography is broad and versatile, stimulating and profound.
Rocha and five members of her company, Alexandra Bittner, Dervla Carey-Jones, Nikki Ervice, Jamie Graham and Nichole Lemelin, performed Rocha’s “Half-Heard,” a theatrical, satirized dance highlighting the struggle of women to be heard in the workplace.
Four dance members were costumed as males, which is an important aspect in the portrayal of the fight for gender equality in the workplace. Though it seems oxymoronic in a sense, the drag cast not only played their role well, but highlighted the aspect that, in the real world, women are everywhere. Having an all-female cast aids in showing the absurdity of gender roles and human behavior.
The piece itself was nothing short of extraordinary. In a male dominated job force, women are overlooked. On stage conflict between two women competing to be recognized by the men reminded the audience that women too will sometimes be in competition with each other, trying to get a leg up on other women just for recognition. Both women failed at gaining recognition. The women even submitted business proposals to the men, both of which were denied. After submitting what remained of the womens’ proposals, the men were praised. No matter how hard they tried, the women could not earn themselves a seat at the table.
Rocha’s vision for this piece certainly became evident. Fluid dance movements allowed for a story that was easy to understand. It highlighted the inequalities that still exist in the professional world in a way that grabs the attention of the audience. Architectural costumes allow for easy character identification.
As part of her residency at RIC, nine of the school’s dance students were taught the choreography to one of Rocha’s earlier pieces, “Ablaze.” RIC students Sara Almedia, Yvonne Bessette, Janelle Charon, Hannah Cote, Madison Hardy, Hannah Ouimette and Eliza Vecchirelli performed this Rocha original.
Showcasing fine synchronized movements and slow, heartfelt composition development of “Ablaze” certainly did set the stage ablaze. Passion was evident as per the expressions on the faces of the dancers. Black and red costumes combined for a campfire flame effect, and the students sautéed and promenaded their way across the stage.
Overall, both pieces were marvelous to watch. The grace, elegance, poise and physical control these dancers exhibited was incredible. RIC has versatile, talented dancers that have left me wanting them to showcase more of their talent.