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Posted April 14, 2008 on SanDiego.com

On the first Saturday of each month, the many art galleries and studios that comprise the first block of Ray Street in North Park open their doors to display the work of local visual artists. Small stages feature all types of musical accompaniment, jewelry makers display their wares at booths, and there’s a limited offering of food and drink as well.

It’s a fun, relaxing evening where a small corner of San Diego all of a sudden feels a little bit more like New York; residents who wouldn’t find their way to art showings on any other night are drawn by the mingling crowds and a sense of community which are all there, regardless of what one thinks of the work itself.

For the most part, however, “Ray at Night” (as the evening is called) has rarely ventured into the world of dance, except a few showings here and there. But this month,despite the fact that the performance didn’t actually take place on Ray Street, Colette Harding presented a short evening of dance to compliment the happenings a few blocks away.

The “Creative Myth Project II” took place at the Stage 7 Studios, not the most ideal place to present a dance performance. The lighting remained white and bright and the marley underfoot contributed to a sound score of its own, squeaking with each step the dancers took. But enough about production value. Harding book-ended the evening with two duets she created for the well-matched Barbara Velasco and David Wornovitzky who played a game of pushing and pulling close, that timeless struggle that all relationships go through (at least those portrayed on stage). But rather than present an entire evening of her own work, Harding welcomed guest choreographers to the roster.

Deven P. Brawley presented “The Ties That Bind,” a study in three parts of the devastation of AIDS. First “Life” then “Love” then “Loss” followed four men (Brawley, Justin Viernes, Jacinto Delgado, and Kristopher D. Ross) as they navigated the world of attractions and lust before stumbling into the confusing and often painful realm of emotion and betrayal and ultimately emerging in the reality of suffering and mourning, struggling to find comfort and hope in the process. Breaking the work into three parts that were shown throughout the evening created a longevity that allowed the audience to feel as if we were taking a journey with these men, revisiting them at various points in their life, staying updated on their progress, invested in their outcome and their futures.

In between the sections of Brawley’s work came a tribute to Aretha Franklin where choreographer Sadie Weinberg and dancer Veronica Martin-Lamm moved with molasses-like ease through the sultry songs of heartache and a different kind of loss. Harding inserted another of her works, a contemplative work with Christina Kelley and Shannon Jackson, and Erica Buechner brought “Then and Now,” that began with a lonely solo for the striking Katie Griffin that blossomed into companionship with a willing Delgado.

Though slightly off the radar for most of the “Ray at Night” crowd, this street-front studio attracted a fair share of passers-by who paused to observe the performance inside. And that’s what the concept is about – finding a new audience. They may not make the effort to seek out an art gallery or a show, but they’re curious enough to join the crowd and take a look at what artists are up to. And if the success of Ray at Night is any indication, they will come back for more.