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Fall for Fall’s Saturday show bursts with creative energy

By: Ashley Gibson

Photos: Jada Willis

The cool crisp air of a shady October evening gently rustled the leaves of an elegantly poised tree overhanging the stage. The parking lot of Ormewood Church bustled with socially distanced pods of viewers eager to catch up with friends and come together through art.

The Fall for Fall Dance Festival, headed by Catherine Messina, has continued to make waves one full year since its emergence as Atlanta’s one-of-a-kind outdoor dance festival. Fall for Fall 2021 ran October 9-10 with both a Saturday and Sunday show featuring dozens of Atlanta’s most dazzling choreographers and dance artists.

After the first highly successful Fall for Fall Dance Festival in October 2020, the team brought us Spring for Spring in June 2021. This year’s Fall for Fall was no exception to the astounding work that this festival has gained a reputation for presenting. Students at the Neighborhood Ballet also had the opportunity to share works by two local choreographers, Jessica Bertram and Kristin O’Neal.

Patsy Collins’ work, “blur/red,” featured eight dancers who ebbed and flowed through the unity of clumped formations. A series of contagious ripples spread wildly through the initial clump in a far back corner offstage. One dancer, slinking her way forward from the back of the group, made her way to freedom onstage. A suspenseful and murky solo followed before she gathered the group toward her.

The dancers grasped their mouths, peering upward as they slid their hands into a locked position behind their necks while bending their necks to look down. From a low second position with the feet spread apart, the dancers eerily raised their faces, uncovering their eyes from behind the hidden gaze of their hands. With an animalistic crawl, the dancers rolled up to fully standing, pouncing into even more hard-hitting choreography.

Mathematics in Motion presented preliminary works by two new Kristel Rose Tedesco resident choreographers. The Saturday evening work by Rose Shields was an innovative, minimalistic, visually appealing solo. A sleek, white cube composed of thin PVC pipes with a smaller version folded up neatly in its center sparked instant curiosity.

The smaller cube, manipulated at will by Shields with both her feet and hands, continually morphed and shapeshifted throughout the work. A seemingly endless array of shapes carved through the stage space – a crisp diamond, a tent-like triangular prism, and polyhedrons with many faces. Shields lifted one leg straight overhead into a penché with her foot resting on one edge of the small cube. Carefully and with inhuman control, Shields carried her still airborne leg around to her side and with it the PVC pipes, as they warped into new shapes to conform to the lines of her body.

Shields poised herself in a headstand, maneuvering the pipes out of a rectangular prism shape as her legs pinwheeled from an upright position to the sides and front. The music shifted into the foreground of my focus as it became highly digitalized and drew me into the futuristic, computerized world that Shields was crafting.

Moksha, a local Indian fusion dance troupe, presented two works that creatively intertwined

contemporary, Bollywood, and an array of other genres. The two choreographers/performers, Gauri Nagpal and Proma Ray, graced the stage with an aura of reverence. The choreography laid a great emphasis on the hands and sprinkled beautiful Indian mudras, which are symbolic hand gestures, throughout.

Britanie Leland and Virginia Spinks’ work, “Generally Temporary,” was daring, intrepid, and confrontational. It seemed to comment on the shifting of time and relationships. Viewers watched as Spinks and Leland fell into both warm embraces and forceful attacks. Leland swiped her hand across the top of Spinks’ forehead, tousling Spinks’ hair into disarray, before shoving her down by one shoulder to drop to the floor with a thud. The two seemed to be in a state of perpetual war between forgiveness versus anger.

Jacquelyn Pritz restaged her beautifully lighthearted work from 2019, “Soda Pop Swing: A Fizz-ical Exploration of America’s Favorite Beverage. It was comical and provided a well-rounded look at America’s favorite drink, Coca-Cola. It combined elements of swing dancing with highly physical contemporary movement.

Andie Knudson’s solo work, “Still Unknown,” brought mystery and intrigue to the stage. The choreography dripped with a heavy anxiety. I saw bursts of motivation and determination light up Knudson’s face, only to, moments later, see it wiped away, cloaked in fear and retreat. There was a lot of this back-and-forth mentality, indicative of an internal battle. The work was haunting and refined.

The Neighborhood Ballet, the sponsor of Fall for Fall, graciously supplied the event’s Marley flooring. Yet again, the Fall for Fall team’s resourcefulness sprung into full gear as Messina, Loren McFalls and McFalls’ father built a wooden structure to improve upon the stage’s firmness from the last festival. On top of that, they laid padding from a local organization, Fit to Fight, and all in all, the team built a truly excellent outdoor stage.

The festival was very well organized and had an amazing turnout. In just a short time, Fall for Fall has quickly become a staple in the Atlanta arts community, as a much-needed opportunity for our local pool of highly talented choreographers to grow and experiment. Messina has done an astounding job of listening to the needs and wants of Atlanta’s artist community, even with her recent move out of state.


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