"...seeing the muted intensity of Bloom and De Jesus as their defenses fade and they yield to their emotions is the theatrical equivalent watching egg shells crack under the gradually increasing weight of simmering passion – simple, quiet, but irreversible and visually indelible."
Ballet Hispánico -The Joyce Theater
Welcome to Barrio Ataxia
"The final entry of the night is called Welcome To Barrio Ataxia. In keeping with Whim W’Him tradition, the strongest number of the evening closed out the show. Welcome To Barrio Ataxia, a creation from Omar Román De Jesús, is a frantic, somber and emotionally evocative deposition of the constant changes and struggles that are hallmarks of mental illness. The piece beautifully transitions from high energy group choreography into chillingly beautiful partner work."
by Chris Heide
"Omar Román De Jesús of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has created Welcome to Barrio Ataxia, a work as full of exuberance as the accompanying Latin music; dancers hit punctuated shapes, turn on a dime, jump and shimmy in the air. Layered in with the fun are quick moments of incongruity—a blank stare or violent gesture that belie a darkness below the surface."
City Arts Magazine
"In the piece’s dreamy second half, set to Lonesome Summer’s “Slow Meadow”, six dancers become an elastic net supporting a limp and rubber-limbed female soloist. There are vestiges of salsa steps in what they do – but they seem to unfold in a slow-motion dream world."
"Finally, the third piece, "Welcome to Barrio Ataxia," focused on the difference between mania and depression. As stated in the Q & A, the inspiration for the piece was a friend of de Jesús’ with bipolar disorder, and the sharp differences between the up-tempo and sedate portions of the song echoed the disorder’s mood swings. During a faster song, dancers, limbs shaking, moved around the space, punctuating the uplifting music with sharp pops of the head and body. Twice, they formed a circle surrounding a girl in grey, and pushed her head down while lip-syncing, creating the sense that something was not quite right—someone was being held against their will, just like the disorder holds people in its grip. As the music changed to a slower, sadder song, the girl was helped by a friend, and the two danced together. Exhausted, the girl placed her head on his shoulder, and, as he supported her in her time of need, they experienced a moment of connection. The piece delved into the notion of how hard it is to be a caretaker—a vital, painful task. Caretaking can be exhausting at times, but it is necessary."
by Teen Editorial Staff
"Omar Roman De Jesus's "Welcome to Barrio Ataxia" was the subject of a piece by critic Michael Upchurch in Crosscut, and I was more prepared for the subject, but that didn't lessen the surprise of the way the transition between the two parts was tempered despite the contrast. While I wouldn't call the contrast subtle, it was more nuanced than a description would imply, with an invisible thread between the two parts. Music was by Lucho Bermudez and Slow Meadow. As Olivier Wevers described in his intro, the program does end with a sigh."
"For me, though, Cameron Birts’ final solo is this work’s indelible moment. I wish I had a photograph to show you, but that wouldn't capture the magic of the live performance.
Birts is short, with disproportionately long arms for his torso. He’s able to isolate his limbs, imbuing them with independent motion. Have you ever seen those plastic human or animal figures, each limb connected to the other by elastic filaments, the whole figure mounted on a small pedestal? The ones where you press the pedestal and the figure sort of collapses, limbs jangling? Well, Birts can make his human body do something like this, long arms flapping independent of tilting shoulders and undulating lower back.
Meanwhile, he’s transferring his weight slowly from leg to leg. All of this takes place under a ghostly white, diffuse spot light, while Birts’ fellow dancers slowly move upstage into the shadows. As I said, indelible."
And Another Thing
"Company member, Omar Román De Jesús choreographed the second world premiere, “Daniel,” to a multiple-sourced score. He took his eight dancers through a dramatic visit to those on the autism behavior spectrum, finding beauty, sadness and even some humor. The emphasis was definitely on the darker elements with angular knee and elbow jutting movements repeated over and over again. Unlike his mentor, David Parsons, De Jesús dared to end his work with two sections that each used two dancers. The next to the last scene featured a seated, cross-legged young man down front and a figure way upstage in near darkness standing alone. The seated man twisted his body and pumped his arms in anguish while the standing man began to stamp his feet slowly, a step which morphed into an eerie tap dance. The stark difference between the two men was heartbreaking. The final scene was a duet for two men who led each other around, constantly supporting each other. Were these two friends? Lovers? Strangers who just met? The choreographer wisely left this up to the audience members’ imagination. That De Jesús dared to end “Daniel” with the breathless duet and not the full cast was a brilliant choice, one that was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time."
by Joel Benjamin
"A world premiere, lends a more sensitive, introspective voice. Daniel was inspired by an interaction De Jesus had while participating in Parsons’ educational initiative for dancers on the Autism spectrum. Gendered ambiguously in neutral costumes, the dancers employ tender moments that contrast with the entirety of the program. In one, a man sits cross-legged in the spotlight, performing gestures that mimic every-day actions: eating with utensils, counting something on his fingers. As though frustrated by his inability to perform basic operations, his motions become increasingly frantic. In another, a gentle duet between two males, one holds a deep second-position plié, the other sits comfortably, almost childlike, on his thigh. The final image — two men running in unison around the stage — represents the endearing nature of companionship."
The Dance Enthusiast
by Theo Boguszewski
"Sign language in the form of finger spelling was a featured element and Autistic-type movement was modeled by two of the dancers, Omar Roman De Jesus (partnered with Ian Spring to conclude the piece) and Eoghan Dillon. The choreography lends a poignancy to the performance and celebrates the different social interaction and movement patterns within the Autistic population. The lighting by Christopher S. Chambers is distinctive and focused the audience’s attention on the action, at times obscuring parts of the stage so that the dancers who weren’t moving were invisible. The costumes, designed by Mark Gieringer are contemporary and figure flattering: flesh colored tops and fitted black pants. The modern score with a variety of music styles encompasses a wide range of musical expression. This piece is recommended viewing for everyone because it increases our awareness of our own humanity."
by Bethany Hopta
The final piece of the festival, choreographed by Omar Roman De Jesus, also walked the fine line between gorgeous and repulsive, and did it beautifully. Saakasu (excerpts) opened on a single dancer, almost naked, with a painted white face and clown’s neck ruff. He moves fluidly and effortlessly, while laughing and screaming maniacally, before being joined by a cast of similarly clad, white-faced dancers. The dancers’ pale, expressionless faces and vaudeville-inspired choreography are punctuated with moments of delicate wonder, especially in a touching and intimate duet between the opening clown and a dancer we can only assume to be the ballerina on the tightrope. De Jesus truly evokes the essence of the ‘circus’ that Saakasu translates to be. He was also the recipient of The Commission for the Steps Repertory Ensemble Award, presented on the evening of Nov. 8 and sponsored by Steps on Broadway."
"I wasn't familiar with Omar Roman de Jesus's choreographic background, but with "Saakasu" he's really onto something: vivid in its theatricality and demanding of the dancers in terms of both technique and expression, it's a piece to be seen again. The audience reacted with shouts of enthusiasm."
by Philip Gardner
"Omar Roman de Jesus closed the evening with Saakasu. The same piece performed at the REVERBdance festival a few weeks ago, set on fewer dancers, de Jesus’s work still shines. The lighting design contributed immensely to this performance of Saakasu, bathing all the dancers alternately in eerie, late-night horror story lighting and white, almost fluorescent top lights, and elevating the piece from mere pseudo-comedy into the outright grotesque circus de Jesus meant it to be.In a section not performed at REVERBdance, Mr. de Jesus set the denouement of the piece to Fleur de Lis. Setting a piece on Fleur de Lis is a very conscious choice—one that is too often made with a cliched intention in the dance world. However, de Jesus’s choice was the right one in this case. Rather than rely on the romanticism of Fleur de Listo drive the piece, the piece drove Fleur de Lis, by way of the same dim lighting and vaudeville-meets-underworld choreography, into exactly what de Jesus intended for a ghostly fade-out."
The theme of Mr. Román’s Saakasu was not so much of performing animals, as one sees in a circus, but rather of some sort of creatures struggling to develop into something else, perhaps human, perhaps not. The movement was grounded in a way that is no longer current in modern dance, but that one does see in Butoh. In their grounding, the creatures writhed and wriggled to the rhythms of salsa that they beat out on the ground as they progressed or circled or retreated. Perhaps that magical rhythm might carry them beyond themselves, a beyond suggested by the visual reference to the Degas sculpture of a young ballerina, or to the Debussy music and the Nijinsky choreography ofAprès-midi d’un faun, another creature searching to go beyond. The dancers, seen as almost naked in Mr. Román’s costumes and in the half-light designed by Christopher Chambers, also called to mind the semi-humans of Bosch. References apart, the choreography was complex and original enough to keep one’s interest as to where it might go next."
by R. Pikser
"Cupido by Omar Román De Jesus was a spectacular trio featuring the three dancers I had come to identify as the classical, contemporary trained dancers. A remarkable little dance ditty that was short and sweet, Cupido portrayed Jill Wilson as a leather winged Cupid with Lorrin Brubaker and Emma Rosensweig-Bock as the neutral clad lovers. Using a variety of Latin and Latin inspired pieces of music, De Jesus created a new world of movement for these dancers to inhabit. The vocabulary was quirky, fun, elegant and groovy. Its rebounding rhythm and groovy vocabulary made it a refreshing change of pace for the program. The dancers executed the contemporary work beautifully, in a performance that was indicative of the current contemporary trends, but which were also nicely blended with a sabórthat was uniquely De Jesus."
LA Dance Review
"Cupido," choreographed by Omar Roman De Jesus, was a delightful tribute to the feelings of love, some not able to be expressed verbally, but magnified by inner feelings expressed through the body. Set mostly to flute, oboe and strings, sections were choreographed to the different languages the melodies were sung in. With amazing control and litheness, the dancers cleanly worked off of each other, beautifully expressing the melody and lyrics, again, a lot of angular lines, strong poses and unique steps and lifts.
"Wilson, donning a winged black and tan leotard, transforms into the mythic sprite of human infatuation in Omar Román de Jesús’ “Cupido,” a fluid and cheeky jaunt through love’s charms and travails that Wilson, Lorrin Brubaker and Rosenzweig-Bock execute gamely."
Los Angeles Times
"Then came a spirited work by Omar Román De Jesús former ballet and contemporary dancer now known for his aesthetic choreographic themes of universal love and beauty. In his well-constructed piece Cupido he used the apt technique and emotionality of his subjects Brubaker, Rosenzweig-Bock and Wilson."
LA Dance Chronicle
These wonderful artists have demonstrated exceptional talent, and we're so pleased they will have an opportunity to work with the members of our Studio Company and Academy trainees to create original material," said Wheater. "As in past years, the process is invaluable-from promoting rising choreographers to giving our young dancers a professional experience unlike anything else.""We take a holistic approach to the education and training of our Studio Company and Academy members," said Rodriguez. "Part of that approach is introducing them to new people with new ideas. Winning Works is wonderful because it encourages the type of thoughtful, diverse thinking that young people need as they pursue their professional careers."
Broadway World Chicago
by BWW News Desk
"Finally, created by Puerto Rican dance designer Omar Roman de Jesus, BOA was a kinetic meditation on self-love, performed to an eclectic to tropical to primitive musical backdrop by Pedro Bromfman, Rodrigo Amarante, Tzusing, Antonymes, Alonso Y Bernardo and Lambert. In a jolting series of well-contrasted movements, it opposed the isolation of ambling pedestrians with the complex contortions of apparent twins, symbolizing a soul in constant conflict.The very visible payoff was to see solo dancers, originally hemmed in by pools of light, achieve enough confidence to move from self-love to pure love. Finding the right escape velocity is every dancer’s greatest challenge: It was revelation itself to see it happen to twelve of them at the same time."
Stage and Cinema
by Lawrence Bommer
"Omar Roman De Jesus’ “BoA” thrived on the active stage that had many different dances occurring at the same time. The latter had more of a dark theme with strong Latin elements, but it showed off wonderful equality in the wardrobe department. I love women and men’s wardrobe to mirroring each other rather than one wearing much less than the other."
"Lastly, “Boa,” by Puerto Rican choreographer Omar Roman de Jesus, enlists a playlist of lyrical music and Latin beats to create an abstract story about self-love. Each of the 12 dancers wears khaki-hued leotard tops and high-waisted, wide-hipped trousers (by costumer Mark Gieringer), liberating the dancers from stereotypical gender roles which, consequently, makes for a really satisfying duet for the piece’s two men: Jonathan Dole and Rees Launer. The tall and gangly blonds twist themselves into pretzels and unwind, then do it again, and the whole piece expands and recoils in a really gratifying way that reminded me of Gustavo Ramirez Sansano’s early dances for the now-defunct Luna Negra Dance Theater. How fitting; de Jesus just recently joined up with Ballet Hispanico, led by Luna Negra’s founder Eduardo Villaro."
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