4/10/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Abdiel Jacobsen- Reaching Towards The Gods

By Walter Rutledge

Abdiel Jacobsen rise in the Martha Graham Dance Company is best described as meteoric. In true Graham drama, apprentice Jacobsen made his New York City company debut in 2012 performing Graham’s masterwork Errand In The Maze. Performing opposite internationally acclaimed Russian ballerina Diana Vishneva, his impressive debut endeared himself to both audiences and critics. Now a principal dancer with the Graham Company Jacobsen is looking forward to the New York City season April 11 through 14 at New York City Center. Continue reading

2/17/17 SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: A Conversation With Abdiel Jacobsen


Abdiel Jacobsen made his debut with the Martha Graham Dance Company as an apprentice dancing in Errand Into The Maze with world-renowned Russian ballerina Diana Vishneva. Continue reading

7/5/16 O&A NYC DANCE: A Conversation With Abdiel Jacobsen- A Walk In Our Heels

By Walter Rutledge

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A Walk In Our Heels began as a dare by one of Abdiel Jacobsen’s private ballroom students. Jacobsen acquired a pair of high heels took up the challenge starting a blog called A Walk In My Heels (awalkinmyheels.com). The blog documented his travels throughout New York City as a man wearing high heels for over a year. This experiment became the catalyst of his choreography A Walk In Our Heels, one of the works performed during the 40th anniversary of the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center on June 22, 2016. Continue reading

6/22/16 O&A NYC REVIEW DANCE: Thelma Hill 40th Anniversary Season Continues

By Walter Rutledge

IMG_0050The Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center’s 40th Anniversary season at the Actor Fund Center, 160 Schermerhorn Street, is in high gear. The third evening presented new, emerging and mid-level choreographers with works ranging from ballet to hip-hop. The performance expressed the founding credo of the organization by presenting the diverse and innovative choreography of artists of color.

The evening opened with a series of solo works. Francesca Harper’s Deconstructing Flack consisted of two solo works echoing the theme of love and loss. Both works, set to the music of Roberta Flack, took the audience from prologue to epilogue.

Erika Lisaku danced the opening solo with a poignant despair. Harper captured the haunting quality of Flack’s First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. In the second solo dancer Amanda Sachs conveyed the acceptance of her situation. More reflective and introspective Ballad of the Sad Young Men had a feeling of resolve.

Toro (pool in a river) by Takeshi Ohashi moved with an elegant quiet control. Danced by Ohashi, with live trumpet accompaniment by Justin Osouna Chance, the impressive movement quality combined tight, isolated movement with sweeping floor work. The works fluidity and grounded quality evoked both the purposeful nature Tai Chi and the explosive excitement of break dance.

The last solo, William Isaac’s charming No Banana Skirt, offered an upbeat and fun variation. Amanda Smith danced the lively and energetic pointe piece with technical proficiency and an effervescent deportment. Both the performance and choreography encapsulated the fun spirit of the Josephine Baker’s rendition of Bye Bye Blackbird.

Purelements: An Evolution in Dance closed the first act with The Call by Men Ca. Danced by the junior company the work effectively blended West African and modern dance. The level of professionalism and commitment endeared this group of young performers to the audience, and became one of the most satisfying aspects of the performance.

The Hip-Hop dance crew Special Ops five-man dance crew consisting of Ptah, Floats, Twist, Press, Rachett and Ej wowed the audience. The crew exemplified the evolution of the urban art form synonymous with 80’s street culture to 21st century inner city storytelling through a codified movement style. Using Flexing (isolated movement and contortions, Gliding (floating across the floor) and Shotta Dance (derived from Reggae dancehall) Special Ops shared a gritty reality ripped from today’s headlines.

Nijawwon Matthew’s XY Dance Project transported us from rap to Bach with his ensemble dance Work Forty. The work blended modern, ballet, gymnastics and “Matthews” to create a visual and kinesthetic excitement. Costumed in white bras, and briefs the dancers donned olive-green ski mask type headgear by Project Runaway’s Mondo Guerra, which
 reminiscence Robert Rauschenberg work in Paul Taylor’s Three Epitaphs. Matthew continues to find his own voice, and we commend and encourage him to keep exploring.

Earl Mosley’s Diversity of Dance closed with Wild and Free! (Draft 5). The jazz infused modern dance ensemble work featured a cast of 23 dancers, and quickly evolved into a witty high-energy pure dance crescendo. Mosley’s ability to bring out the best in every member of the ensemble has become one of his true strengths.

Alexander Diaz distinguished himself with abandoned risk taking and a focused attack, which made it hard not to watch him. The duet between Christine Caimares and Riccardo Bataglia had a strong yet sensual combativeness attack that (thankfully) avoided violence.

The 40th Anniversary Season continues tonight with a new line up diverse choreographers. The roster includes Jamal Story, Jean Emile, HSA Dance Ensemble, Charles Moore Dance Theater, Ronald K. Alexander, Abdiel Jacobsen and Bones The Machine. The evening will open with a special tribute to Loretta Abbott presented by Tony and Emmy Award winner George Faison.

For more information and tickets visit www.thelmahill.com tickets can also be purchased at the box office 30 minutes prior to the performance.

6/10/16 O&A NYC DANCE: Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center Announce 2016 Artist Roster

Shall We Dance

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The Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center (THPAC) announced the roster of artists they will present for their 40th Anniversary season June 19 through 22 and June 28 at the Actors Fund Center, 160 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn. The Brooklyn based THPAC has presented companies and choreographers of color for 40 consecutive years making it the oldest continuous presenting organization in the country. The list of artists reaches back to the past with established artists while remaining true to its credo offering performance opportunity to the new and emerging.

“When you put it in prospective back in 1976 there were very few presenters programming artists of color,” states THPAC Executive Chairman Alex Smith Jr. “Dance Theatre of Harlem had made their premiere only five years earlier in 1971, The Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (Ailey II) was two years old, and the George Faison Universal Dance Experience was one of the hottest emerging companies in town. We presented the controversial Eleo Pomare and female powerhouse Dianne McIntyre when mainstream presenters were looking elsewhere. We have planned an exciting season for 2016, look for some surprise appearances from our dance family.”

Over the last forty years THPAC has made it a mission to seek out the new and cutting edge. The organization has helped introduce many of today dance notables including Complexions, Ronald K. Brown Evidence, Kyle Abraham, Camille A. Brown and Sidra Bell. This year promises to be more than a retrospective; it remains a referendum on dance programming for artists of color.

 The 2016 40th Anniversary Season:

Sunday June 19
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Darrel Grand Moultrie                                                                                                                                                                               George Faison
Germaul Barnes
Gierre Godley
Johnnie Mercer
Philadanco
Rodger C. Jeffery
Tiffany Rea-Fisher

Monday June 20
Alpha Omega
Andre’ Zachery
Bloodline Dance Theater
Creative Outlet
DaVon Doane
Harambee
Judah International Dance Theatre
Patricia Carby
Rod Rodgers Dance Company
Sidra Bell

Tuesday June 21
AREA
Charles Moore Dance Theater
Earl Mosley
Francesca Harper
Nehemiah Spencer
Nijawwon Matthews
Special Ops
Takeshi Ohashi
William Isaac

Wednesday June 22
Abdiel Jacobsen
Bones The Machine
HSA Dance Ensemble
Jamal Story
Jean Emile
Orlando Hunter
Ronald K. Alexander
Walter Rutledge

Tuesday June 28
Marshall Swiney with Beauty For Ashes Contemporary School of Dance

Tickets are on sale for the 2016 Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center 40th Anniversary season. The tickets are $20/$15 (students and seniors) due to the exciting roster and limited seating advanced ticket sales is advised. Tickets can be purchased on-line at www.thelmahill.com. or in the lobby 30 minutes prior to the performance.

 

2/13/15 O&A Shall We Dance: Lloyd Knight – A Dancer’s World

Shall We Dance

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One of Martha Graham’s most memorable quotes, “It takes ten years, usually, to make a dancer. It takes ten years of handling the instrument, handling the material with which you are dealing, for you to know it completely.” This year marks Lloyd Knight’s tenth year with the Martha Graham Dance Company. His ascent through the ranks of the company culminated with Knight becoming a principal dancer prior to the 2015 New York City season. Continue reading

Summerstage Harlem Dance Caravan: Erasing The Boundaries

By Walter Rutledge

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Harlem Dance Caravan: Erasing The Boundaries performances were held on August 15th and 16th at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park. This is the second year SummerStage and the Faison Firehouse has collaborated on the outdoor, free to the public performing arts presentation; and it has already become one the most anticipated and well attended events offered in the summer series. This year the eclectic roster of performers included Baoku & The Image Afro-Beat Band, Cecilia Marta Dance Company, George Faison Universal Dance Experience, Jamel Gaines’ Creative Outlet, and Lotus Music & Dance Multicultural Artists. The well curated production lived up to its title offering a diverse and well-paced program with an international flavor. Continue reading

Martha Graham Dance Company Opening Night – New York Season

by Walter Rutledge

Graham 2014

The Martha Graham Dance Company opening night gala performance need only be described with one word…ART. The company began their four-performance season at New York City Center, Wednesday, March 19 with an abbreviated program that left the audience hungry for more. Continue reading