Seattle Gay News / Men in Dance Festival 2018 (review)
‘only he might know?’ [choreography] by Joseph ‘Jo’ Blake. The third solo of the evening was a very personal, very moving commentary on the dilemma of men who are trapped in the macho universe of physical performance. Sean O’Bryan danced Blake’s passionate movements in what appeared to be a gym from which he could not escape. In my notes I wrote ‘the torment of sports’ – because the culture of masculine performance – not only in the gym but on the playing fields of the world – is so pervasive that it’s easy to forget the price men have to pay for it. This dance was difficult to watch because it was so personal, and so painful.
A Tonal Caress raised a question for me: what defines emotion through physical form? Additionally, in examining movement and the body as forms of communication, what makes one movement emotive but another less so? Kadiki’s relationship to the dancers pointed to this question: he stayed on a platform for the entire show, only occasionally rising to stand and never taking a step down onto the floor, yet Kadiki’s was still the story being told.
Jo Blake, Liz Ivkovich, and Sydney Petitt were all powerhouse performers, and danced for close to the entirety of the near hour-long production. All three shared unique relationships with Kadiki while also with each other. Through their constant reflection of, reference to, and direct eye contact with Kadiki, they existed as thematic and physical extensions of the poetry.
Blake’s relationship to Kadiki was best defined through his intense eye contact. He began the show with a water-like solo. Throughout the evening, he also became a partner and a leader of the “Installation of Men.” He provided a challenging gaze to the audience, but also to Kadiki. Every moment, every fluid, tossed spiral, was deliberate and subtly communicative. As I pondered what created emotion and meaning in movement, Blake created it through a physical manifestation of confidence that left no room to doubt his intentions.
“Joseph Blake in Trisha Brown’s 1971 solo Accumulation was a study in layers: calm ease over strong muscular control, gestural phrasework that expanded each time a new body part became involved (the titular “accumulation”), the visual contrast of Blake’s shadow cast upon the theater walls. Accumulation mesmerized through gently hypnotic and repetitive loop after loop, with the starting gesture (almost a hitchhiking thumb) always signaling a satisfying return to the beginning as the phrase grew in length. Blake’s skill made the difficult task of repeating each motion exactly as before—at the same level in space, with the same energy—look effortless. Brown’s seemingly endless series of movements finished strongly, with a final finger gesture pointing into the opposite palm: done only once, a moment elevated by its relative ephemeralness”- seattledances.com/ Seattle/ Oct 2016
“Co-founder of the dance company Shirley Ririe says Blake is “absolutely one of the best dancers we have ever had. He has a wonderful sense of humor in his dancing, a trait that is rare these days and one I value highly.”
“Woodbury adds: “He is a truly beautiful human being, inside and out. Each year I have seen him grow and change and become someone and something more in his human capacities and his capacities as a dancer. His body fluidly extracts from a gesture just the exact amount of energy, tonality and phrasing that is inherently needed to bring the poetry to the fore. He makes the movement sing.”
“… his classes are described as “both witty and poetic and a safe place for students to investigate their own movement potential authentically and with great fun.”
“The person who has worked with Blake most intensively for the past ten years is, of course, Boye-Christensen, who says that one rarely comes “across the depth of expression, the fearless physicality, the inquisitive mind and the unique sense of humor that jo has…(jo) just keeps getting better, more interesting, more conscious of how to use his exceptional facilities in ways that serve both the work and himself as a dancer.”
Other quotes from dance reviews/critics:
“Blake had a solo that served as a needed exhale to the mounting tension of the ritual. He danced with abandon and the moments of calculated, uneven timing made familiar movement motifs seem new again.” – loveDANCEmore/ SLC/ Winter 2013
“Dancer jo Blake is retiring after 10 years with the company. Blake’s contribution to RW is incalculable…” – Kathy Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune/ SLC/ April 2013
“jo Blake, RW’s longest-employed dancer, approaches movement with attentiveness, and then slaps or elongates that movement with all his might (in Brook Notary’s solo for “Grid”).” – loveDANCEmore/ SLC/ Spring 2012
“Jo Blake moves with a clear coolness I’ve never seen him employ. He’s isolating different body parts. But not with the fake, blank sense of “neutrality” some of us might associate with (a parody of ) postmodern dance. Instead there’s a true sense of play, like he’s trying all the ways he knows to move each piece, as if for the first time.” – loveDANCEmore: a performance journal/ Salt Lake City/ Fall 2012
“Arguably the most tangible, striking moments of this piece (Boye-Christensen’s “Touching Fire”) occur in two sections: one a duet between jo Blake and Barbi Powers… The duet between Powers and Blake is framed by a pathway of light, etched with detailed patterning that serves to create exquisite images that will not be soon forgotten. This duet is emotionally charged in the subtlest ways possible.” – loveDANCEmore/ SLC/ Spring 2011
“jo Blake’s piece (“dark places amongst us” – 2011) provided a breath-taking view at the beginning of the run. While the film was distracting at times, the movement choices were visceral and impactful. The dancers wove between pedestrian and dance movement smoothly and authentically.” – loveDANCEmore/ SLC/ Fall 2011
“… and the tabletop solo (Susan Marshall “Cloudless”) by jo Blake, who drew me in with his commanding self-possession and striking form.” – loveDANCEmore/ SLC/ Fall 2010
“One of Bill T. Jones’ classic works, “Duet,” was admirable tackled by dancers jo Blake and Tara McArthur. The piece is defined by simple precision, underscored by deeply specific minimalist body patterning.” – loveDANCEmore/ SLC/ Fall 2010
“Blake was the rogue performer of the night in Varone’s piece and in both of Charlotte Boye-Christensen’s dances. Breaking ranks, he made eye contact with dancers and his audience. His solo in “Tomorrow” (Varone) was quirky and interesting as Blake gave voice to an emotional vocabulary of joy, sorrow and silliness. The context of Boye-Christensen’s Salt Lake City premiere, “Walls,” was societal barriers that prevent connection. Blake glared and grinned at dancers thwarting or assisting his progress, actually making the connection the dance is supposed to be about.” – Kathy Adams, SL Tribune/ SLC/ April 2007
“jo has grown so substantially it’s insane,” Boye-Christensen says. “Where he’s always been a gifted dancer, he’s really become an artist. As a choreographer, you look for dancers who inhabit your material, who find their own voice inside of it, who bring an additional dimension to the work, who enrich the work, and he is capable of that.” – Kelly Ashkettle, City Weekly/ SLC/ Dec 2008