Monthly Archives: April 2019

City News Reviews Aria

““Aria” opened on Sunday to a nearly full audience. This year’s iteration of what’s come to be an annual collaboration between BIODANCE choreographer Missy Pfohl Smith and digital media artist W. Michelle Harris, every bit of the performance was an absolute masterpiece. This year the collaborators were joined by soprano Kearstin Piper Brown and chamber ensemble fivebyfive, as well as several guest dancers. 

As in previous Fringe performances, a subtle prelude was performed while the audience settled in, featuring dancers moving almost trance-like about the space. This time, one white-clad performer perched in each of the tall stained glass windows, while all along the front pews BIODANCE members in rosy crimson satin and linen shifted slowly between holding graceful poses. 

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The first piece, “Constant,” combined gentle music with almost martial arts-like movements where limbs became arrows, with shimmeringly vibrant projections and shadow play from the dancers falling against the stage’s gorgeous back wall.

The co-conceivers of this performance brilliantly puzzled together some seemingly disparate elements: Traditional opera, freeform interpretive dance, and Harris’s appropriately gentle-yet-turbulent digital media projections (that, by the way, never failed in making impressively clever use of the space’s unique quirks like the columns that frame the stage’s back wall). And each of the several times that Brown released the siren from her depths I forgot that I haven’t really cared about opera and just sat there, jaw dropped, entirely enthralled. 

My face started leaking during my favorite piece of the evening, “Parlour Games” — I have been waiting and waiting for something to crack me open during a particularly numb low I’ve been stuck in, and this did the trick. An absorbing red light fell on the dancers as they moved fluidly in time with urgent, flowing music. Their bodies became flames licking at the air, at once chaotic and restrained. All elegance, the work also seemed to convey a feeling of frustration in limitation, as though all of the wondrous world were set out for consuming, but just out of reach. As the music slowed and became both more deliberate and hesitant, each cautious piano note haltingly pounding and peeling out into the cavernous space, the dancers sped past one another in rapidly pivoting stops and starts. And then in resonant silence, they each made slow, sweeping, wonder-filled gestures skyward. 

In “Phantom Waltz,” Rose Paquarello Beauchamp and Nanako Horikawa Mandrino navigated the small stage and one other, while connected by a long red train that was tied around each of their waists. By turns, the draping fabric billowed and was tugged, formed shelter and swaddling. 

I sincerely hope there’s an opportunity for “Aria” to be presented in the coming year after Fringe closes…”

Aria, the encore, 5/16-17/2019

Critical Acclaim:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                   

March. 5, 2019                                                                        

Media Contact: Missy Pfohl Smith

Email:[email protected]


BIODANCE encores the acclaimed Aria at Lyric Theatre May 16-17

BIODANCE/Missy Pfohl Smith teams with media artist W. Michelle Harris, soprano Kearstin Piper Brown and chamber ensemble fivebyfive to reprise 

“…an absolute masterpiece.” (Rochester City News)

Rochester, NY – Lush contemporary dance, opera, and media projection and live music create a new way of seeing the majestic Lyric Theater. This 2018 panoply directed by Missy Pfohl Smith (Artistic Director, BIODANCE and Director, Institute for the Performing and Arts and the Program of Dance and Movement, University of Rochester),surprises audiences with eye-popping visuals that shed new light on opera, dance and performance. From the co-creators of the sold-out shows Anomaly and Labyrinth at the Strasenburgh Planetarium, Ariawill be reprised by BIODANCE and media projection artist W. Michelle Harris (Associate Professor, RIT), with one of Rochester’s favorite chamber ensemble fivebyfive, and the magnificent soprano Kearstin Piper Brown. 

“This artistic team is stellar, with W. Michelle Harris projecting unbelievable color and design on top of and behind the dancers of BIODANCE, with Kearstin Piper Brown’s magnificent voice helping us all climb into the depths of our souls, and with the sublime musicians of fivebyfive playing in a gorgeous space, the Lyric Theatre, one of Rochester’s architectural gems,” says Missy Pfohl Smith, project director and choreographer. 
Aria premiered in the Keybank Rochester Fringe Festival this past September to popular and critical acclaim. Said City Newspaper, “Aria opened on Sunday to a nearly full audience. This year’s iteration of what’s come to be an annual collaboration between BIODANCE choreographer Missy Pfohl Smith and digital media artist W. Michelle Harris, every bit of the performance was an absolute masterpiece.”BIODANCE has delighted audiences and sold out Fringe shows at the Strasenburgh Planetarium and Geva Theatre Center’s Fielding Stage, and even performed for an estimated 13,000 audience members as part of Friday on the Fringe on top of the 177 foot “Tribute to Man” sculpture at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. BIODANCE is thrilled to be able to offer the encore of this special collaborative venture one more time in Rochester.
BIODANCE is committed to providing access to its work to a broad audience and will be offering a limited number of free tickets to the senior center at Community Place of Greater Rochester and to the Joseph Avenue Arts and Cultural Alliance. This event is supported by a decentralization grant, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, with support from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, administered by the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts and Livingston Arts, a member-supported organization.


Only two shows! 

Thursday, May 16 and Friday, May 17 at 8pm

Lyric Theater, 440 East Ave. Rochester, NY 14607

Tickets can be purchased online, at Wegmans, or at the door:
Premium Seating $22, General Seating $15

Phone: (585)-201-1002

BIODANCE Social Media: and Twitter: @BIODANCE1

Parking: Parking lot across Prince St. or street parking 

NOTE TO MEDIA: Interviews and photos are available upon request.

BIODANCE Dancers: Alex Alletto, Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp, Zachary Frazee, Sarah Johnson, Nanako Horikawa Mandrino, Missy Pfohl Smith

fivebyfive: Laura Lentz (flute), Marcy Bacon (clarinet), Sungmin Shin (electric guitar), Eric J. Polenik (bass), Haeyeun Jeun (piano)


Choreographer, performer and collaborative artist, Missy Pfohl Smithdirects the Institute for the Performing Arts and the Program of Dance and Movement at University of Rochester and is artistic director for the contemporary repertory company, BIODANCE, based in Rochester, NY. Her work has continually sold out shows at Rochester Fringe, having been called “Gorgeous…astonishing…exceptional” and “a brilliantly crafted world of beauty, melody and calmness” by Rochester City News. She enjoys creating site specific work and recently created her second evening length show crafted for a 4 story planetarium in collaboration with a media artist, dancers, musicians and a visual artist. Missy’s viola and dance work with Bridget Kinneary is expanding to include new contemporary compositions by internationally known composers. Her choreography, performance and teaching has spanned across the US and internationally, most recently in Greece, Finland and Scotland. She is certified in Bill Evans Laban/Bartenieff-based pedagogy and also teaches choreography, dance on camera and contemporary dance and social justice. Before returning to Rochester in 2004, Smith was based in NYC for 12 years and performed and taught internationally with Randy James Dance Works and Paul Mosley, as well as apprenticing for the Erick Hawkins Dance Company.

BIODANCEis a non-profit contemporary dance company founded in 2002 that collaborates with multi-disciplinary artists and is the only true repertory company in Rochester, performing work by a roster of recognized choreographers including Missy Pfohl Smith, Bill Evans, Randy James, Ivy Baldwin, Jeanne Schickler Compisi, D. Chase Angier, Laura Regna and Courtney World. BIODANCE explores social, political and environmental issues through its works always through dance, sometimes with text, film, music, and ice cream. BIODANCE interacts with and outreaches to its community members and across the country in a variety of ways through performances, workshops, benefit concerts, interactive lecture-demonstrations and classes at venues such as Geva’s Nextstage, Hochstein Concert Hall, the Strasenburgh Planetarium, MUCCC and more. Over the past eight years, BIODANCE has been providing free dance and movement workshops to the Senior Center at Community Place of Greater Rochester. Recent collaborators have included the musical artists of Sound ExChange, digital media artist W. Michelle Harris, visual artist Allen C. Topolski, and the leading choral/orchestral ensemble Rochester Oratorio Society. BIODANCE has received Community Arts Organization Grants from Decentralization/New York State Council on the Arts  and the NYS Legislature, administered by Livingston Arts and the Arts and Cultural Council of Greater Rochester, from the Rochester Area Community Foundation, The Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, among other grants to create new work, to interact with its community and to produce various annual home performance seasons. City News chose BIODANCE two years in a row for a Best of Fringe Award in the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. 

W. Michelle Harrisis a media artist and a New Media professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. She is also a member of Rochester’s WOC Art Collaborative. Her video installation work (solo and collaborative) has been shown at such diverse venues as the ACM SIGGRAPH, World Maker Faire, and INST-INT, as well as regional venues such as Gallery 74, the Baobab Cultural Center, Community Folk Art Center, Schwienfurth Memorial, and Squeaky Wheel. She has done live-mixed visuals for performances in collaboration with Juanita Suarez, fivebyfive, Dave Rivello, Reenah Golden, Sound ExChange orchestra, and most prolifically, BIODANCE. Michelle has been an ongoing collaborator with Missy Pfohl Smith and BIODANCE since 2013. She received her BS from Carnegie Mellon University, and a MPS from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (where she had the honor of interning with Troika Ranch). Harris is an associate professor teaching New Media Interactive Development at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Kearstin Piper Brown is a soprano who recently made her San Francisco Opera debut covering the role of Dame Shirley in the world premiere of John Adams’s Girls of the Golden West. Recently, Ms. Brown performed with Rochester Oratorio Society in the Vaughan-Williams Dona Nobis Pacem and Emancipation Oratorio. She also toured Israel as Bess in Gershwin’s masterpiece, Porgy and Bess. This season Ms. Brown will return as a guest artist with the Chaliapin Festival at the Kazan Opera Theater in Russia and in the spring, she will also begin work singing the lead role in the new opera, Promised Land: An Adirondack Folk Opera. Next season brings Ms. Brown back to the West Coast for Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and a return to San Francisco Opera to sing the Clara in Jake Heggie’s, It’s a Wonderful Life.Ms. Brown also made her debut with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under conductor Robert Spano in the role of the High Priestess in Aïda, and was also invited to sing concerts under the auspices of the Lebanon Symphony and Chorus, Cincinnati Opera and the Finger Lakes Opera Company. In previous seasons she was heard as Violetta with Utah Lyric Opera, Musetta with Dayton Opera, Micaëla with Arbor Opera Theater, and Clara in Porgy and Bess at the Teatro di San Carlo. She performed Euridice in Gluck’s Orpheus with Opera Memphis, and she portrayed the role of Mrs. McDowell in the world premiere of Rise for Freedom: The John P. Parker Story by composer Adolphus Hailstork with Cincinnati Opera. She also sang with the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York as Epiphany Proudfoot in the world premiere of Mark Scearse’s Falling Angel. Ms. Brown also made her successful return to Utah Festival Opera as Bess in Porgy and Bess and Sarah in Ragtime. Ms. Brown has performed the role of Bess worldwide with Opera Kazan, Skylight Music Theatre, Dayton Opera, Virginia Opera, Utah Festival Opera and the Belarusian State Philharmonic Orchestra, Minsk. Ms. Brown starred in a gala concert Our Songs – The Music of African American Composers at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center with Opera Ebony, and the year before she was heard at Jazz at Lincoln Centerunder the auspices of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation. The versatile soprano has also sung with the American Spiritual Ensemble, toured with the 3 Mo’ Divas (sister group of the 3 Mo’ Tenors), and scored an early success as Sarah in the Light Opera Works Chicago regional premiere of Ragtime, earning her a “Best Actress in a Musical” nomination from the Black Theater Alliance in Chicago. She recently made her triumphant returned to the role in with the Utah Festival Opera. Highlights of Ms. Brown’s performances as a concert soloist include an appearance at the Palais Augarten in Vienna, a gala of American music with the Moscow City Symphony Orchestra, Handel’s Messiah with the Lebanon Symphony, a concert with the Rochester Early Music Festival, the Festival Classique’s Opera Under the Stars concert with the Residentie Orkest in The Hague and the Edison Awards Gala 2010 with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, both of which were televised LIVE in the Netherlands, as well as concerts with the Pasadena Symphony and Pops, the Cedar Rapids Chorale and Symphony, and the Hines-Lee Opera Ensemble at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Ms. Brown is a graduate of both Spelman College and Northwestern University. 

fivebyfiveis a quintet based in Rochester NY, formed in 2015 with a mission to engage audiences in the collaborative spirit and creativity of modern chamber music by commissioning, arranging and performing a wide range of works for its instrumentation. The group performs works of today’s leading composers, supports emerging composers from around the world, and collaborates with artists across the disciplines. Through its workshops and educational concerts fivebyfive aims to spark young people’s unlimited creative potential. The winner of the 2018 Eastman/ArtistShare New Artist Program for its commissioning project for new works inspired by the stained-glass artist Judith Schaechter, fivebyfive also has received funding from New Music USA, the Decentralization Grant of New York State and the Farash Foundation. fivebyfive is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. The quintet has received funding from New Music USAThe Farash Foundation and the Decentralization Grant of New York State for its programs, and actively collaborates with artists across a variety of disciplines, including poets, dancers, visual artists and musicians across the genres.


“Out Beyond Ideas…” 4/6/19 Nazareth College

BIODANCE performed “0ut beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” (Rumi) on April 6, 2019 at Nazareth College as part of the Vision of Sound Festival.

Choreography by Missy Pfohl Smith and BIODANCE, with contributions by Shahin Monshipour. Performed by Alex Alletto, Zachary Frazee, Sarah Johnson, Natalia Lisina, Nanako Horikawa Mandrino. Music composed by Carrie Magin.

Vision of Sound Syracuse – 3/29/19

BIODANCE premiered “0ut beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” (Rumi) on March 31, 2019.

Choreography by Missy Pfohl Smith and BIODANCE, with contributions by Shahin Monshipour. Performed by Alex Alletto, Jeanne Schickler Compisi, Sarah Johnson, Natalia Lisina, Nanako Horikawa Mandrino. Music composed by Carrie Magin.

Video Recorded at Vision of Sound, Carrier Theater, Syracuse, NY. View video here:

BIODANCE performing for Scent of Spring, a Nowruz Celebration of the Persian New Year in the Feldman Ballroom, University of Rochester
March 20, 2019, 4-6pm

This work, Saughi, was choreographed by Missy Pfohl Smith and the dancers of BIODANCE with choreographic contributions by Shahin Monshipour, the director of ICAN (International Culture and Arts Network. Performed on March 20 by Alex Alletto, Jeanne Schickler Compisi, Zachary Frazee, Sarah Johnson, Nanako Horikawa Mandrino.