Helen Simoneau: among the newly familiar

Choreography and Direction by Helen Simoneau

Off Off Broadway, Dance
Ran through 6.7.14
BAM Fisher, 321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn


by Jane Sato on 6.9.14

Helen SimoneauHelen Simoneau's among the newly familiar. Photo by Jaqi Medlock.


BOTTOM LINE: This meditative and poetic evening of modern dance brings subtlety to new heights.

Quebecois modern dance choreographer Helen Simoneau presents two NY premieres sandwiching her award winning solo the gentleness was in her hands. Her first work Paper Wings was partially created in 2012 at ADF and some of the original cast members join us here for it’s NY Premiere in Brooklyn Academy of Arts’ more intimate space called the Fisher Space. The work involves 10 women gently and flirtatiously swaying their hips not unlike a pendulum of the passing time. The silent rhythm of their movements play out into snaps to which the dancers dance later and with especially scintillating music by Andy Hasenberg, John Wilson,Harry Warren, and Mack Gordon. The women walk towards us with a curious and non confrontational energy and slice through the air with their arms and legs and legs gently trading in feminine passivity for strong statements to individuality.

At one point, the women use an entire ballad to walk without emotion forward and then lie down as if near a loved one. It felt as if you were watching the wake of a ship as they would recede back into the group. Instead of a ship at the front, it was a person. This beautiful use of space and time as the group took up the space as a tide ebbs and flows recalls the feeling of nostalgia. The contradiction of the music punctuated this even more. Another glorious moment was when the women all lifted a leg up and this simple gesture made the audience feel as if they were getting a bird’s eye view from above and you could almost feel the wind moving through the flock of women. The group sometimes breaks apart to find a solo voice, but the sensuality of a women is not diminished by her perspective as often times a male choreographer walks down that path.The piece ends with the women lying on their backs with their legs impossible floating upwards and resembling wings of a bird as they dive into the ocean.

Helen’s rapturous solo, the gentleness was in her hands starts out with a dimly lanterned space with music that transports us through this poetic and meditative journey with her doll like hand movements that are counterpointed with animal like sinuous movements of the arms and head. Her gentle movements caress the space as she walks the perimeter of her circle and her presence pushes past that with a direct and piercing gaze. I saw this solo in a previous show and found it even more breathtaking after seeing it again. 

Her final NY Premiere of the evening, among the newly familiar features an excellent ensemble cast of 6 dancers that genuinely relate to each other and watch each other dance supportively from the wings as each dancer has a solo moment. This piece is about community, but may be truly be a statement that to value each person is to really look,not just stereotype. When you watch the dancers watch each other, you feel that weight and importance. The incredibly generous performance of Ariel Freedman whose luscious and spritely movement feel as fresh as improvisation and the other dancers show that Helen Simoneau’s vision and influence is is as ripe as a summer peach. In a world of flashy, aggressive pop culture, it is the subtle, heartfelt and intellectual work that is poetry to the eyes and the mind. Helen Simoneau’s work is a brainy movement kaleidoscope of the contemporary woman in a group of other women, on her own and with her peers.

(Helen Simoneau's among the newly familiar plays at BAM Fisher Space , 321 Ashland Place, on June 6th and June 7th. Performances are Friday and Saturday at  8PM. Tickets are $20 and are available at or by calling 718.636.4100.)