6/15/18 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY:  Philadanco Performs Christopher Huggins’ Latched at TEDxPenn

Philadanco performs Latched (2014) by resident choreographer Christopher Huggins at TEDxPenn. Continue reading

6/10/18 O&A NYC WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK: JUNE 10- 17, 2018

New York City in late spring, and the city is in full bloom. We have art blossoming in Uptown and Midtown, dance swirls around Lincoln Center and Chelsea, female jewels thieves stealing the movie box office and Denzel on Broadway. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading

6/7/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Philadanco Returns to the Joyce

Philadanco returns to New York City for seven performances, June 12 through 17 at the Joyce Theater. The company will present four works by choreographers of color, including three New York premieres. This concert series marks the company’s first solo presentation at the Joyce Theater since 2012.  Continue reading

12/5/17 O&A NYC DANCE: A Conversation With Michael Jackson Jr.

By Walter Rutledge

Michael Jackson, Jr. has spent his career working in the Black dance genre. The gifted dancer, choreographer, teacher, and this season’s Ailey “poster God” began his dance training at age 14 at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. under the direction of Charles Augins. His irrepressible curiosity, athletic physique and pliant musculature help Jackson Jr. quickly excel. Continue reading

6/27/16 O&A NYC DANCE: Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center’s Final Performance Tuesday June 28

By Walter Rutledge

"Bewildered", Adryan Moorefield, Courtney Robinson, Janine Beckles, PHILADANCO, Rosita Adamo, Tommie-Waheed Evans, Victor Lewis Jr.

The 40th Anniversary season of the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center will conclude on Tuesday June 28 with a special by Philadanco and Marshall Swiney. Continue reading

5/2/16 O&A NYC REVIEW DANCE: Dallas Black Dance Theatre

By Walter Rutledge

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The Dallas Black Dance Theatre presented their annual New York City season entitled Masterworks Redefined on April 22 and 23, 2016 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. The extremely audience friendly concert offered five works by five dance makers. The works, which included two world premieres, one company premiere and two revivals, showcased the talents of emerging African- American choreographers and early works by more established artists of color.

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Every dancer dreams of flying and in the company premiere of Jamal Story’s duet What to Say? Notes on Echo and Narcissus (2015) the dancers got to defy gravity. The work served as a visually satisfying opener with dancer Claude Alexander lll suspended centerstage in a cocoon of white fabric over the plaint Alyssa Harrington. As the ballet developed the dancers utilized the natural momentum of the hanging fabric to produce a pleasant, yet sensual feeling of motion and weightlessness.

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Alexander’s partnering remained self-assured while suspended and a’ terre providing a good balance to Harrington’s abandon. The novel concept (novel for concert dance) is derived from the choreographer’s extensive aerial work with such pop music legends as Cher and Madonna. Although impressive the aerial choreography alone could not sustain the integrity of the work. In fact the work faired far better airborne than earthbound, but this can be resolve with more development on the already existing movement theme.

DBDT_Unearthed

Unearthed (World Premiere 2016), an ensemble work by Bridget L. Moore used a collage of music featuring various renditions of the iconic protest song Strange Fruit. A true abstract narrative, the work challenged the performers to convey more than steps. Moore created strong visual imagery coupled with good choreographic form.

Hana Delong as the grief-stricken mourner, who collapses downstage set the tone for the focused images that would follow. The upstage diagonal crossing into the darkness completed the feeling of sorrow and powerlessness. The imagery continued in a series of linear movement passages that included a militarized marching pattern set upstage and a defiant mid-stage line that went from a raised fist to pointing skyward to the martyred body.

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The second world premiere, Furtherance (2016) by Kirven Douthit- Boyd, took us from sorrow to celebration. The pastel colored costumes of tunics and shorts by Beth Thomason added a youthful light feeling to the ensemble work. Often athletic and high-energy, the ballet had ritual overtones, which assisted in conveying the transformation.

The second half of the performance presented two early works by Francesca Harper and Christopher Huggins. Instinct 11.1 is an abstract ensemble work by Harper opened Act II. The 2010 ballet was dedicated to her mother Denise Jefferson who lost battle with cancer that same year. The sextet (for four men Claude Alexander lll, Keon K. Nickie, Sean Smith, De’Anthony Vaughan and two woman Michelle Hebert and Kimara Wood) opened in silence, presenting snippets of movement that retreated back to darkness.

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The “teasers” eventually incorporated verbal sounds produced by the dancers, before the percussive score by Les Tambours du Bronx and the main body of the work began. Rhythmic and earthy the dancers exuded a hyper-masculine persona, poising with wide second position stances with clinched fists and working in visceral unison through circular patterns. The work returned to the opening theme ending in silence again accompanied vocally by the performers.

The program closed with Night Run by Christopher L. Huggins. Set in three movements the uptempo group work for the entire company had a Latin flavor inspired by Rene’ Aubry’s score. The 2003 work revealed elements of Huggins’ then emerging choreographic signature.

With a strong sense of design, good use of dynamics and theatrical undertones Huggins moved the ensemble with an ease and proficiency. Exploding movement and steadfast partnering buoyed the work making it a good program closer. Unfortunately the predictable use of ballet steps including pas de couru, pas de chat, and Brisé detracted from the overall strength of the work by breaking the stylistic continuity. Despite this inconsistency Huggins’ then budding talent was still apparent.

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The Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s Masterworks Redefined performance series turned out to be an artistic leap forward for the company. This well curated program provided the company with a fresh, clear direction/message. We surmise the artistic cohesiveness has a lot to do with the return of Founder and former Artistic Director Ann M. Williams as Artistic Advisor. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4/15/15 O&A REVIEW: Dance Theatre Of Harlem

By Walter Rutledge

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The Dance Theatre Of Harlem presented their New York City season April 8 through 11 at New York City Center. This is the third season since the much heralded return of the company in 2012, and for the 2015 season Artistic Director Virginia Johnson curated two programs, a total of seven works, presented over four performances. Aside from the two neoclassical Balanchine works the repertoire reflected a new direction for the company.

Many have anticipated the return of the barrier breaking dance institution that literally evolved, under the direction of founder Arthur Mitchell, from Afros to ballet buns. The 2015 New York City season introduced a svelte company of eighteen young dancers that has evolved into a formidable contemporary ballet company. Johnson tapped an eclectic array of choreographers to challenge the dancers showcasing the strengths of each young artist.

The three highlights of the season were Nacho Duato’s Coming Together, Ulysses Dove’s On The Front Porch Of Heaven and The Mirror In Her Mind by Christopher Huggins. These works provided the dancers the opportunity to transcend the physical limitation of the stage. The dancers reached beyond the footlights to touch the audience.

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Nacho Duato’s Coming Together kept us on a suspense filled movement roller coaster from beginning to end. This master craftsman skillfully heightened the work’s intensity through strong choreographic structure. His reliance on design produced a kinesthetically stimulating ensemble dance.

Virtuoso dancing performed at a breakneck pace enhanced the choreographic design and brought the company’s technical prowess to the forefront. Here the company was at its best! They performed with verve, vigor, and a strong assured attack- “balls forward”. They were not just dancing; instead the company was in the moment- living through the movement.

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Da’Von Doane’s solo courageously “throw caution to the wind”. His risk taking paid off, at one point creating a catalyst effect that seemed to draw the dancers back to the stage. Dylan Santos also distinguished himself with clean execution; his firecracker attack revealed an exciting inner fire.

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Christopher Huggins’ The Mirror In Her Mind was a visually satisfying quartet also danced with great aplomb by Ashley Murphy, Da’Von Doane, Anthony Savoy and Samuel Wilson. The dance was filled with sumptuous partnering executed with daring and precision. Leaping, turning and yearning with great abandon, Murphy’s male trio moved her effortlessly around the stage. Her compelling interpretation combined the right amount of strength and vulnerability.

If Huggins had designed a pure movement/abstract work the quartet would have been truly dazzling. As a narrative it lacked the needed character development to create a complete scenario. This dance felt like an excerpt, possibly the middle section from a larger work.

We never knew who the three men really were and what led Murphy on her path. To equate it in more visceral terms it was like sex without foreplay or afterglow- definitely satisfying just not totally fulfilling. A work with this much potential deserves a beginning section to establish the relationships and an ending section for a real resolution.

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Ulysses Dove’s haunting allergy Dancing On The Front Porch Of Heaven made its Dance Theatre of Harlem premiered in 2014. The acquisition of this work helped set the tone for the company’s present and welcomed aestheticism. The work set to Arvo Part (Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten) featured dancers in white unitards designed by Jorge Gallardo.

DANCESTL, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Anthony Savoy and Fredrick Davis, Photo by Sharen Bradford

The centerpiece of the work is a male duet performed by Anthony Savoy and Frederick Davis. The ethereal nature of the duet created a noble sojourn. Davis’ stoicism balanced Savoy’s brave journey into the unknown. The ensuing performance became a profound conversation between brethren. The final upstage ascent into the darkness was not an ending, but a peaceful walk into “the next”.

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Throughout the season there were additional performers and performances that should be mentioned. In the opening section of Robert Garland’s Return, and the pas de quartre in Duato’s Coming Together Jenelle Figgins danced with the appropriate command and temperament. Chryrstyn Fentroy was a beacon of hope in Agon. Her performance in the second pas de trios section displayed technical proficiency, and a sense of confidence and élan. And Keenan English’s clean line and inmate style allowed him to standout in the corps. English has that God-given quality that makes you want to look at him.

As Dance Theatre of Harlem moves forward they will have to decide whether to recreate the Company of old or to move into a new future. Presently it seems they are trying to do both with a modicum of success. It would be a brave and bold move to honor the Company’s 45 year legacy by pursuing a direction more in tune with the present.

This new company could have a bright future if it redefines as oppose to confine itself to a past image and standards. The great response from the large and enthusiastic audience at New York City Center shows the public supports the new direction and has embraced this Dance Theatre Of Harlem. Hopefully they will get the proverbial “800 pound Neo-classic Gorilla” out of the room.

Dallas Black Dance Theatre at the Ailey Citigroup Theater

By Walter Rutledge

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The Dallas Black Dance Theatre returned to New York for a three-day four-performance season at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. This is the third consecutive year that the company has performed in New York and the eleven-member ensemble, under the direction of founder and artistic director Ann M. Williams, presented six works by new and emerging choreographers. Continue reading