Jonathan's choreographic practice is centered around an exploration of personal idiosyncrasy taken to physical extremes, combined with a passion for physical humor. Rather than working to develop one unified movement aesthetic, he create dances in which each performer embodies a single, hyper-specific character trait and generates an individual movement vocabulary from this embodiment. The results range from the extremely tragic to the hilariously absurd. Underlying my practice is a fascination with the ways in which personality resonates in physicality.
"Creatures of Habit" features seven male dancers, each dancer will be taking on a single trait à la the “Seven Dwarves” : happy, sleepy, dopey, grumpy as well as adding some new temperaments: envy, ambition, apathy. From the one-dimensionality and extreme specificity of these single traits, generating a three-dimensional on-stage universe by exploring how these traits move and interact with one another.
This universe is inspired in part by the play “No Exit” by Jean-Paul Sartre, The 1944 existentialist French play that suggests that “hell is other people”. The seven temperaments are paraded into the enclosed space and be forced to navigate each other's one dimensional personality, body and desires.
In a combination of the Price is right and Hunger Games, there are periodic eliminations when each character reaches their potential, stasis or change.
"Dixon Place has been a creative haven for the downtown arts scene for nearly 30 years. Bold in its approach to supporting the creative process, Dixon Place did not disappoint in its choice of commissioned work this October - Creatures of Habit, choreographed by Jonathan Royse Windham, a highly entertaining piece.
The evening opened with two pieces that featured all-male casts as a part of Dixon Place's More Moving Men series. Ephrat Asherie's Everybody's Gotta Be a Drummer creatively fused elements of breaking and contemporary in this high-energy duet while LAVA's Feminist ManDate brought unexpected dancers to the spotlight in this simple yet thought-provoking piece. They were great starts to the evening, setting the tone for what was to come.
Creatures of Habit began with the introduction of seven highly dynamic, polarizing characters, which choreographer Jonathan Royse Windham modeled after the Seven Dwarfs, mixing these lovable characters with the Seven Deadly Sins. This fascinating combination along with a deep exploration of movement and functionality within these paradigms transformed these seven moving men into likeable and often hysterical caricatures. Paired together with 1960s TV game show music, lighting design by Ashley Vellano, pedestrian costuming, and a set resembling a homey insane-asylum, Creatures of Habit was like tuning into an episode of your favorite dysfunctional reality television show where strangers are left to live and interact with each other, except unlike most of these shows, this cast was spectacular.
The absurdity of the characters and sure believability in the surreal was thanks to the unyielding commitment of the dancers. They completely embodied and embraced their chosen characters from beginning to end, from their feet to their face. Their idiosyncrasies were signature, easily recognizable throughout the piece, and helped establish these characters into the audience's membranes. These characters were faced with interacting with each other in ensemble pieces, where they chased after lights off into the abyss, or in rousing duets that marked off their place in the house (like some other reality television shows). Their interactions seem unrehearsed, and their meetings fresh, as if they were truly gathered together for the first time. But sprinkles of choreographed segments, which showcased more their dance technique in addition to their acting ability, proved that these were dedicated dancers, not drunkards, boy-band clones, scaredy cats, copycats, the Hulk (less green), neurotic people pleasers, and dopey little ones.
Overall, the takeaway may have been that Jonathan Royse Windham and Dixon Place have begun opening doors and windows, letting fresh air into the closed four walls of dance and allowing opportunities for male dancers to showcase their versatility in dramatic stylized works, not just as athletic wonders of a rare species but as truly well-rounded and talented artists."
read the story at the link below:
New York Times review:
"The title of Jonathan Royse Windham’s “Creatures of Habit” pretty much describes the cast. Each of the seven dancers is willfully idiosyncratic, defined by an obsessive tick. There’s Adam (Niall Lessard), who is daydreamy and disoriented. There’s Louis (Elliott Reiland), who has an anger problem, and the sweet Steven (Reed Tankersley), who can’t stop smiling. Carl (Eric Berey) is afraid of everything, and Edwin (Christopher Ralph) has a severe hangover or some other crippling condition. Matthew Marc-Louis Frances Scott IV (Joshua Stansbury) is eager to please, compulsively nodding, while a nameless character (Clinton Edward) tries to mimic his every move.
This all emerges within the first five minutes of the show, which had its premiere over the weekend at Dixon Place as part of Moving Men, a series spotlighting male dancers. (The work followed two shorter works in progress by Kora Radella and Danté Brown.) Mr. Windham’s cartoonish creatures are skilled physical comedians, daring in their slapstick shenanigans; Saturday’s audience laughed a lot. But he gives them no room to grow. Locked into unchanging traits, they know too well who they are, and so do we.
The scene is insane-asylum white, from the floor and backdrop to the items of furniture (sofa, chair, tables, lamp), some of which will end up overturned. The childlike Mr. Lessard appears first, sliding out from backstage on his belly and inspecting his own hand, which seems to have a life of its own. The rest trail close behind, arriving one by one to form a scuffling, skittish clan apparently stunned by the presence of an audience. Their collective wardrobe includes jackets, ties and checkered pants of a piece with the chipper game-show music.
Introductions complete, they start to fight for our attention and spar with one another. Mr. Reiland throws several growling, gargantuan tantrums, terrorizing the much smaller Mr. Berey and, later, the woozy Mr. Ralph. The most interesting sequence is a deftly blundering pas de deux for the cheerful Mr. Tankersley, a would-be prima ballerina (with lovely lines, by the way), and Mr. Ralph, who, in his inebriated state, isn’t much of a partner. Here the limitations of habit — one dancer’s eagerness and the other’s ineptitude — yield choreographic invention, two dispositions producing a third.
But most things in “Creatures of Habit” are stubbornly one-dimensional. Mr. Windham, an accomplished dancer himself, is relatively new to choreographing."
By SIOBHAN BURKE - New York Times