By Joyce Hyde
Hartford Dance Examiner

Photos courtesy of Jessica Fallon Gordon

On July 16, after performing in his robust, “Pan Handle Funk”, Executive Producer Justin Boccitto welcomed the Buttenweiser Hall audience to the Choreographers’ Canvas, explaining the show’s purpose was to “offer a platform for choreographers of all genres of dance an opportunity to experiment and entertain”. Boccitto’s “Funk”, which combined tap and breakdancing with a rhythm mix of Saxophone, guitar, beatbox and drums resulting in a beautiful mash up of diverse dance and sound, was only the beginning of the evenings successful dance experiments.

Celebrating its ninth season, Group Theatre Too's 2016 ‘Canvas’ comes to a new venue: Harkness Dance Center at the 92nd Street Y. “Megan Doyle and the Y have been very gracious to us”, explains Boccitto “and we are excited about this new partnership.” This year’s performance remained true to its intent, showcasing a variety of dance styles, while continuing to offer something new and entertaining in movement and sound.

Madisyn Maniff’s contemporary/lyrical “Paradis Perdus” provided a unique juxtaposition, powerfully ending her piece in musical silence with just the sound of the dancers breathing. Choreographic newcomer Amy Connerley successfully combined Hip Hop with the burlesque dance style to add a level of texture in her rendition of Chicago’s “Cell Block”. Tap was repeatedly showcased with increased versatility this year: from colorfully classic fun in Germaine Salsberg’s “Mockingbirds”, as a vehicle for romantic storytelling in Shelby Kaufman’s “Show Me Love”, and in the hard hitting tap dance in hoodies finale “Move to the Ocean,” choreographed by Mark Albrecht.

“I like when the dance tells a story,” says Boccitto, and those that did on Saturday night were the evening entertainment stand-outs. Kendra Slack’s “Taxi” beautifully offered a modern dance interpretation of the classic Harry Chapin song, showing the bitter sweetness in the memory of past innocence. An excerpt from Devin Richey’s “Vietnam”, was a chilling contemporary jazz tour de force depicting the complexity of the era and the impact of the experience. Pace University Commercial Dance senior, Jordan Marie Hayes offered a very intriguing creative interpretation through movement of the layered thoughts that run through the mind of a groom in “Alone With His Thoughts” as he walks with the wedding party to take his position to wait for his bride’s entrance.

What’s next for the Canvas? “As it will be our 10th year, I want to do something special, perhaps a ‘Canvas All-Stars’ to showcase the favorite pieces from previous years,” says Boccitto. Additionally, he is currently working with artist Anelena Frollini to create an expanded version of Canvas to Brazil in 2017. Explains Boccitto, “this would extend the Canvas into a week-long experience that would include bringing dance teachers and offering classes.” Exciting stuff!

Group Theatre Too: The Choreographer’s Canvas 2016
Executive Director: Justin Boccitto, Artistic Director: Michael Blevins
In association with the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center
Saturday, July 16, 8 pm. Sunday July 17, 3pm
Buttenweiser Hall, 92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10128

"Thank you for your hard work and expertise in organizing the Choreographer's Canvas. It was a great place for the NYC debut of my company, Bob Boross Freestyle Jazz Dance. You and your staff are doing the NYC dance community a great service with your dedication to producing. I'm looking forward to the more performances with Canvas in the future." - Bob Boross

"A new voice in the New York dance community...a thriving powerful force." - Maurice Hines

"I know from personal experience that Group Theatre Too puts a great deal of care and passion into producing and providing support for new and established artists." - Nicole Fosse


Justin Boccitto, Executive Producer | Michael Blevins, Artistic Director
Mercedes Ellington | Nicole Fosse | Mallory Graham | Maurice Hines | John Kander | Bernard Kaplan
Theodore Mann | Bettye Morrow | David Rimmer | Chita Rivera | Sue Samuels

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