Examiner Review

MorDance at Sheen Center

MorDance at Sheen Center June 4th to 6th | Examiner.com 10/26/15, 10:18 PM

Layla Macoran

NY Culture Examiner


MorDance presented their third season of works at the Sheen Center June 4-6. The young dance company, founded by Morgan McEwen, focuses on modern ballet. The McEwen- choreographed work - "Concordant", "Eight Pebbles", and "Romp"- stayed true to classical roots while smoothly blending contemporary form.

The dancers are diverse in shape and size, a contrast to the rigorous structure of traditional ballet companies. Each gave the work subtle character and realistic perspective. What aided the most in this perspective was the performance space- the Black Box. There is something unique about ballet being in a black box space, so close to the audience that the notion of the dancers being mythical creatures floating in the atmosphere is eliminated. A large theater creates an immediate divide, which at times is necessary for the story of the dance to unfold in grand scale. However, in a black box, there are no secrets. There is no real distance between the audience and the stage. The benefit for the audience is to understand that the dancers are human, and working.

Instead of being separated from the activity, we, the audience, get to see the pure beauty of a needed deep breath after completing a brisk combination. We understand the need; we're in this space together. We feel the energy release immediately and appreciated it.

MorDance succeeded in engaging the audience in the work and the little moments when the dancers were fully with us in spirit.

Of course, no company is formed with the intention of remaining anonymous. As Ms. McEwen's MorDance grows and increases the audience and expands into larger space, one hopes that the intimacy she created in these early days will not be lost in the process. 


Press Release for MorDance Season III


Ensemble of six takes the stage at downtown’s Sheen Center

New York, May 5, 2015- Mordance, in its mission to create modern, relevant movement that maintains the integrity of classical ballet, embarks on its third season with three world premieres by Artistic Director Morgan McEwen. The first ballet company to perform at The Sheen Center for its opening in 2014, MorDance: Season Three moves back into the black box theater for three shows only this spring, June 4-6 at 7:30 p.m.

With their ensemble of six dancers, the evening seeks to re-visit ballet in its purest form. The works exploration of the athleticism that exists in classical ballet compliments McEwen’s employment of agility, witty musicality and a speed that blurs the lines that divide classicism and contemporary movement of the 21st century.

“In using a diverse collection of artists from different schools and backgrounds, MorDance and this seasons repertory is a hopeful vehicle to cross generational gaps and social divides,” remarks McEwen. “With the structure of classical ballet spoken in a contemporary dialect, this season rings true to the mission to invite younger audiences into the ballet community through the use of innovative ideas, music and line.”

A full-bodied evening length program, Concordant, an earthy and extensive pas de duex, void of partnering, will open the show. Set to selections by Balmorhea, the focus on the relationship between the dancers through time and space is highlighted with very full and breathy movement quality for McEwen and her partner.


To contrast, Eight Pebbles, is a new work of four dancers in 8 movements. With the beginning of its composition in the fall of 2014 at the Silo, this quartet reveals McEwen’s signature speedy footwork set to music composed by Marc Mellitis and played by Real Quiet. With elements of classical and neo-classical line, gestural port de bras seal this work with a lightness fitting for an opening selection.

Finally, Romp, a full company work will round out the program. Utilizing a musical arrangement that encompasses various current artists, this ballet will make use of the Sheen’s black box stage in unconventional ways. With the removal of the wings during this finale, dancers are invited to utilize the space with increased opportunity to expand in depth and breath of movement. This set-up will also allow audiences to peer into the more technical aspects of a theater and how it may shape a works final presentation.

Tickets to MorDance: Season Three are $30 in advance and can be purchased at


Tickets can be purchased at the door for $35. The Sheen Center is located at 18 Bleecker Street in Manhattan and is accessible by the N or R Train to Prince Street, B, D, F, and M to Broadway-Lafayette or the 6 to Bleeker Street.


Thursday, June 4 at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 5 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6 at 7:30 p.m.




Morgan McEwen, ballerina turned artistic director, launched MorDance in January of 2013. This young company, with dancers from some of the world’s most prestigious companies, has playfully leapt to the edge of the classical ballet world. MorDance explores the use of athleticism in its aim to modernize and innovate while honoring the grace and beauty of classical ballet. MorDance premiered at Manhattan Movement and Arts center on May 3rd, 2013. Ms. McEwen was also selected to choreograph on MorDance at Dance at Socrates in 2013 at Socrates Sculptural

Park. That same year, Morgan was asked to create a new work for the Counterpointe Project, celebrating female choreographers making work on pointe. In 2014 MorDance helped the Sheen Center open their doors by being the first company to perform in their brand new black box theater. This season MorDance has been granted two space residencies at the Silo and Mana Contemporary and will be presenting three world premieres at the Sheen Center in June. 

New York Times Review



A Troupe and Its Leader, Bodies Willing, Try to Gain a Foothold
MorDance in a Triple Bill at the Sheen Center

From the outside, the Sheen Center, a new arts complex in the West Village, looks inviting, its sleek gold awning standing out along a quiet, leafy block of Bleecker Street. Step inside, though, and the antiseptic interior makes you wonder if you’ve walked into a hospital. Descend the stairwell, and it deposits you in the gloomy black-box theater, where MorDance, a fledgling contemporary ballet company directed by Morgan McEwen, presented a triple bill on Saturday.

It was not an ideal space for the company’s second season, with the setup — there were essentially no wings — necessitating clumsy, distracting entrances and exits. (The theater should also revise its equally distracting late-seating policy.) But the troupe gamely worked within these limitations and, logistical snags aside, offered a pleasant, solidly danced program. If Ms. McEwen, a former dancer with BalletMet Columbus, doesn’t yet have a distinctive voice, she seems on her way to developing one, equipped with essential tools: an eye for shaping the arc of a dance as carefully as the transitions and details within it.

“Ingress,” a premiere for three women and three men to Ludovico Einaudi’s melancholic music, introduced a few of her proclivities: for chiseled, mechanistic arms; for quick, close-to-the-floor footwork; and for partnering that, most of the time, is refreshingly angst free. Her dances appear to be more about their own architecture — both reflecting and pushing back against the architecture of the music — than about any preconceived drama.

Ms. McEwen herself danced in “Static Space,” a duet with Jace Coronado. The

most arresting moment was the least complicated: a snappy pirouette for her, unobtrusively assisted by him, that slowly decelerated to the sound of a sparse rattling in Max Richter’s score.

For “Jeu De Temps,” Ms. McEwen assembled an eclectic percussive soundtrack (including Steve Reich and mbira drums), rhythmic fodder for playful motifs like tossed shoulders and rippling torsos. Experiments with long white skirts — which the women pulled over their faces, exposing only their dancing legs — were cute at best. Here and in “Ingress,” the compact, bright-eyed Amy Ruggiero seemed the most connected, to both the movement and the audience.

Leadership positions in ballet tend to be dominated by men; it’s heartening to

see Ms. McEwen building her own enterprise as both a choreographer and artistic

director. Her work so far is clean, crisp, contained: completely inoffensive. She

might consider, as she moves forward, the possibilities that lie beyond looking


A version of this review appears in print on May 20, 2014, on page C5 of the New York edition with the headline: A Troupe and Its Leader, Bodies Willing, Try to Gain a Foothold.

© 2015 The New York Times Company

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/20/arts/dance/mordance-in-a-triple-bill-at-the-sheen-center.html?_r=0 Page 2 of 2 

Review by Karen Shapiro



MorDance’s Second Season at Sheen Center


Our Second Season
May 17, 2014
The Sheen Center
All photos by Kelsey H Campbell .

MorDance is a young company of accomplished ballet dancers in the process of developing their unique voice. Their contemporary dances stay close to classical ballet roots. At Sheen Center, they presented their second season with a program of three pieces, each choreographed by Artistic Director Morgan C. McEwen.

In the opening moments of Ingress, three women press their outstretched hands against their partners’ chests as they enter the stage. Traces of that forceful image and the angles it creates are echoed throughout the dance, reaching a lovely resolution when the men fall back against the same outstretched hands, only this time, it’s as if for support. The dance is abstract without much communication between partners — they rarely meet each other’s gaze, at times moving as one larger entity rather than a set of partners. Motifs appear that remind me of floor combinations from the classical ballet class, before they veer off into compelling phrases of original movement. The women move in releve on straight legs, their focus on their feet, their straight arms circling in an exaggerated fashion as if keeping their balance, and it seems to echo the tentative steps that a young ballet student might take in her first pointe classes. At times the dancers are rooted to the floor in first position, their upper bodies briefly bobbing left and right, almost like a doll’s. In another phrase, the woman stand still while presenting classical port des bras, or a series of jetes from a petite allegro. Each phrase contains its own unique contemporary twist. At times, the dance looked a little crowded, which had more to do with the size of the stage of the Sheen Center than the choreography itself. I’d love to see these dances open up on a larger stage.

Static Space is an athletic duet danced by Ms. McEwen and Jace Coronado. Both dancers are compelling — Coronado for his earthiness and McEwen for the apparent ease with which she combines robust power with ballerina grace and unpredictable patterns.

For me, Jeu de Temps was the highlight of the evening. As the title suggests, McEwen plays with rhythmic phrases throughout. Shifts in weight and unexpected footwork patterns create hip accents of movement against the percussive accompaniment. The women dance


in floor length skirts, and in one passage the dance takes on a MOMIX kind of turn as the skirts are lifted high over the women’s heads, allowing us to see them move only from the waist down as the skirt billows above, almost like the petals of a flower. I really enjoyed the way that Ms. McEwen showcased the individuality of each dancer. Their personalities emerge through the movement and this made the dance so engaging. We could feel a palpable reaction in the audience. Also especially lovely were the women’s sections, during which they moved together at close quarters in a sisterly fashion.