3/13/19 O&A NYC DANCE: Marcel Wilson- Ailey II

Marcel Wilson, Jr. is living his dream. A member of Ailey II, the Bronx native will perform March 13 though 17 at NYU Skirball, 566 LaGuardia Place. Continue reading

3/10/19 O&A NYC WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK: March 10- March 16, 2019

New York, New York a helluva town! This week we have theatre in Brooklyn, on Broadway and “Da Bronx”. Chi-town is dancing in our town; and art from Fifth Avenue to Flatbush Avenue. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps, guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading

3/6/19 O&A NYC DANCE: MOMIX reMIX in Crete- Sputnik (Fellow Traveler)

MOMIX reMIX Sputnik (Fellow Traveler) performed by Nicole Loizides, Steven Marshall, Heather Magee, Rebecca Rasmussen, Paula Rivera, Brian Simerson and Jared Wootan. Choreography by Moses Pendleton and Cynthia Quinn. Continue reading

3/4/19 O&A NYC WHATS HAPPENING THIS WEEK: March 4- March 10, 2019

Well March has come in like a lion. Snow and frigid temperatures are in the immediate forecast, but that has never stopped New Yorkers from having a great time. This week we are dancing north, south, east and Westside. Art from Museum Mile to Flatbush Avenue; and cutting edge theatre in Broadway to the Bronx. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps, guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading

3/3/19 O&A NYC DANCE/REVIEW: Why Talley Beatty’s Stack Up Still Stacks Up

By Walter Rutledge

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s revival of Talley Beatty’s Stack Up became the undisputed hit of the 2018 New York City season. This posed the question, “What makes a dance a masterwork?” In other words, why does Stack Up still stack up?

Part of the answer is the most unforgiving four-letter word in the English vocabulary TIME. Today in our fast-paced world with its changing social attitudes, need for immediate gratification and public acceptance, has virtually eliminated the critical maturation period. This is the time it takes the public (and critics) to develop the aesthetic acumen to understand and acknowledge that they are in the midst of something new, different and profoundly groundbreaking.

Created for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1983 Stack Up become an immediate hit. Jennifer Dunning reviewed Stack Up during the 1983 Ailey 25 season, “Mr. Beatty’s tale of lost innocence is as fresh as if it were being told for the first time.” Now 36 years later Dunning’s comments still ring true; Stack Up had retained a freshness and renewed relevance.

Another element of the ballets’ sustained appeal is Beatty’s innate skill as a movement architect and storyteller. A master craftsmen, Stack Up is visually stunning from every seat in the New York City Center’s proscenium house. Even in the fourth tier the patterns move with the precision of a swiss watch.

The textured construction of the choreography included multiple layered movement sequences happening simultaneously. This created primary action, and both secondary and background movement similar to the configurations used in story ballet classics. Despite Beatty’s repute the success of Stack Up sparked an unexpected comeback.

At age 64 Beatty had achieved choreographic acclaim over two decades earlier with his masterwork The Road Of The Phoebe Snow (1959). Despite his 1977 Tony nomination for Arms Too Short To Box With God, and several ballets in the Ailey repertoire, by the early 80’s Beatty had become a dance dinosaur. Artists such as Elisa Monte (Treading 1981, Pigs and Fishes 1982), Bill T. Jones (Fever Swamp 1983) and Ulysses Dove (Night Shade 1982) had captured the public’s curiosity, forging new ground; while relegating Beatty to the past. The success of  Stack Up revived Beatty’s career with a Frank Lloyd Wright vengeance.

Beatty returned to the loss of innocence theme that propelled The Road Of The Phoebe Snow. Set with a soulful Westside Story flavor “Phoebe” centered around a young men and women who encounter gang violence. In Stack Up the male and female leads are confronted by a drug dealer while navigating the New York City underground club scene. Beatty did not relive his “Phoebe” glory, to the contrary, he did his research to create a new work for a new generation and a new audience.

Better Days, a predominantly Black and Latino gay night spot, renowned for great music, dancing, drinking and plenty of shade. It’s tucked away on 49th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue, an area notorious for strip clubs, prostitution and rat-infested tenements. The diminutive, but fearless sexagenarian (Beatty) became a fixture/voyeur at the club.

Beatty soaked up the music, dancing and atmosphere of the club and neighborhood. Social dances such as the Hustle and emerging hip-hop styles were deconstructed and eventually incorporated into his choreography. In retrospect this was the beginning of the end of an era. The club scene with its rampant drugs use, transient sex and outlandish behavior would eventually be eclipsed by the crack cocaine explosion and the AIDS pandemic.

As the curtain rose on the current production, the Romare Bearden backdrop based on his watercolor Under The Bridge brought us into Beatty’s gritty urban environment. The Bearden backdrop (part a series featured in the 1980 John Cassavetes film Gloria) seemed a little faded and in need of sprucing up. Fortunately, this was the only element of this production in need of a facelift.

From the moment the curtain rises we are immediately pulled into the hustle and flow of the vibrant NYC night culture. Dancers spilled onto the stage introducing themselves; and immediately establishing their characters through both movement and attitude. All with the kind of aplomb best described as “urban cool”.

Yannick Labrun and Constance Stamatiou, the young couple emerged from the chaotic, but deliberate movement mayhem. Originally performed by a hunky Keith McDaniel the tall, lean Labrun made the role his own. With a “wide-eyed” sense of innocence and exuberance abounding, this danseur noble took us on a journey (no… his journey) of seduction and betrayal.

Stamatiou’s impassioned interpretation is much less an ingenue, and more protector and futile voice of reason. Michael Jackson Jr. brought a special energy to the role of the drug dealer. His energetic, yet multi-faceted portrayal revived images of the role’s originator Gary DeLoatch. Ranging from an almost manic “life of the party” ringmaster to an alone and poignant addict, Jackson Jr.’s antagonist evoked both disdain and pathos.

The second section opened with Rockin It, old school hip-hop from the Fearless Four. The dancer’s heads popped through the black backdrop playfully bopped side to side. Just one of the many ingenious theatrical devices that kept the audience “on their toes”.

With an amalgam of movement styles including; Dunham, Graham, Ballet, Jazz and current street/vernacular dances, the Louisiana native created an exciting dance “Gumbo”. The abstract narrative ebbed and flowed like a theatrical rollercoaster of falling and rise action. This was balanced by Beatty’s strong dance theatre prowess; which helped him develop complete and believable characters, and clear and concise scenarios. Standout Jermaine Terry’s subtle and focused portrayal of a little too high street character was spot on! His endearing sense of humor complimented without upstaging.

The final scene takes us to the club complete with a disco mainstay mirror ball. Beatty masterfully builds the work to a frenzied crescendo, ending with an arresting final tableau- blackout! Encompassing the four elements of good storytelling; intrigue, seduction, betrayal and mysticism, Stack Up remains a powerful social commentary, made more prevalent due to the present Opioid crisis.

2/24/19 O&A NYC WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK: February 25 – March 3, 2019

February is almost over!!! That means spring is less than four weeks away but, New York City isn’t waiting for springtime to create fun time. This week we have dance from Lincoln Center to DUMBO. Art from Museum Mile to the East Village; and cutting edge theatre in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps, guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading

2/19/19 O&A NYC WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK: Art, Dance, Film, Music, Theatre… And More

It’s school winter break and the kids are home! Don’t worry! There are things for everyone. We have dance from Lincoln Center to Chinatown. Art on Museum Mile; and music from Harlem to Brooklyn. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps, guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading

12/18/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Linda Celeste Sims- Pure Light( originally posted 12/3/15)

By Walter Rutledge

Ailey_Headshots_LCSims

Outstanding performers have always been the hallmark of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Dancers that consistently test the technical and artistic boundaries of modern dance remain a fundamental part of founder Alvin Ailey’s continuing legacy. Artists Carmen DeLavalallade, Dudley Williams, Judith Jamison, Miguel Godreau, Linda Kent, Sara Yarborough, Sarita Allen, Gary deLoatch, Desmond Richardson, and Renee Robinson all possessed an innate ability beyond technique, a God given gift that unfortunately cannot be taught. When the stage lights hit these special individuals it is refracted into dazing, flawless, pure light that pulls you in… moth to flame. Celeste Linda Sims is pure light. Continue reading

12/12/18 O&A NYC REVIEW: Lazarus- Ailey American Dance Theater

By Walter Rutledge

Rennie Harris has achieved two “firsts” during the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 60th anniversary season. Harris has become the first year-long Ailey Artist-in-Residence and his ballet Lazarus is the first two act ballet commissioned by the company. The hour-long work shows significant artistic growth and is less hip-hop and more Harris. Continue reading

11/30/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Harkness Promise Award- Recognizes The Future

By Walter Rutledge

The 61st annual Dance Magazine Awards will take place on Monday December 3, 2018, 7:30pm. at The Ailey Citigroup Theater. Since 1954 the award has recognized accomplished individuals who have made an impact in dance over the course of their career. This year the awards honors choreographers Ronald K. Brown and Crystal Pite and dancers Lourdes Lopez and Michael Trusnovec. For the first time emerging artists will also be recognized through The Harkness Promise Award, designed to spotlight and assist two young artists for the potential of their artistic work while investing in the next generation of dance makers. Continue reading