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Review: ’14’ a dazzler

by: Deborah Martin – June 9, 2016
Originally Published by My San Antonio

Photo by Siggi Ragnar

AtticRep closes its current season with “14,” a spiritual cousin to last year’s season finale “From the Mahabharata: The Great Dance-Off.”

Like last year’s work, “14” is an original, dance-based piece. And it’s another dazzler.

Conceived and directed by Roberto Prestigiacomo, “14” follows a child named Maia (the radiant Corie Altaffer) through the first 14 years of her life as she explores the world around her and figures out her place in it. It was inspired by Prestigiacomo’s own experiences as a parent and his realization that the world his daughter is growing up in is a much more unstable place than the one he was raised in. His aim with “14,” he said before Thursday’s opening performance, was to create a safe place through art.

The show is dedicated to his daughter Sofia and other children with ties to the company.

It unfolds in 18 quick segments. The action unfolds in the wake of the 9-11 terror attacks, which are recreated in a child-like piece in which the company uses books to build towers representing the New York City skyline. The towers are then dismantled.

Maia is born in the wake of the attacks. Her introduction to the world is captured in moving dance piece that sets a tone for the rest of the evening.

The segments that follow blend modern dance choreographed by Seme Jatib, aerial choreography by Julia Langenberg and movement-based elements by Mireya Guerra. At the start of the evening, the stage is a blank canvas, with nothing in evidence except a screen and black curtains. There are no physical sets. Instead, there are stunning video projections created by Stefano Di Buduo. They extend beyond the screen, sometimes beaming across the entire performance space, including the performers.

Among the many memorable scenes is an early sequence in which Maia stretches out on the ground, watching as three aerialists perform on silks, climbing, swinging and sometimes plummeting, their movements the very definition of grace. In another, Maia goes to school, and is immediately at sea as she tries to find her place. Her classmates seem to be in sync, but she is consistently facing the wrong way or in the wrong spot. For that scene, equations scroll across the screen and onto the floor, numbers appearing as if written by an invisible hand.

There is a strong sense of play throughout, particularly in the final segment, in which the performers splash around in water, eventually transforming the stage into a giant slip-and-slide.

Altaffer plays Maia with a strong sense of constant discovery and joyfulness. And the rest of the ensemble – Jenny Been Franckowiak, Georgette Lockwood, Mike Maria, Sarah Modisette, Elise Thea Sipos, Maggie Tonra and Gabriel Vazquez – is marvelous, too.

“14” can be seen at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through June 19, Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle. Tickets range from $18 to $28 at the box office, by calling 210-223-8624 or online at tobi.tobincenter.org.

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