5/3/19 O&A NYC WHATS HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND: Friday May 3 Through Monday May 6

The weekend is finally here and New York is gearing up rain or shine. We have music and fashion in Harlem, dance from Lincoln Center to Williamsburg; while the Avengers take it to the limit one more time. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps, guaranteed to keep you Out and About.

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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

1/31/17 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: Dallas Black Dance Theatre

By Walter Rutledge

Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT) returned to New York City on January 5th and 6th as part of the Joyce Theater’s American Dance Platform. The series (curated by Alicia Adams and dedicated to the memory of former Harkness Foundation for Dance executive director Theodore Bartwink) offered a diverse group of eight dance companies including the new, emerging and established. Each company appeared twice on a double-billed program. Dallas Black Dance Theatre closed the five-day/six performance dance-fest on a high note. 

Founder and Artistic Advisor Ann Williams has cultivated the company into the quintessential dance theatre ensemble. The style is an extension of the African-American storytelling tradition expressed through movement, and has become the cornerstone of the black dance experience. DBDT continues this legacy by preserving black dance classics, while introducing new and emerging choreographers working in the tradition. The program offered two works in the dance theatre genre Furtherance by Kirven Douthit-Boyd and Matthew Rushing’s Tribute.

The dance theatre tradition extends beyond modern dance steps; it embodies the total theatrical dance experience. Katherine Dunham helped propel the genre to international recognition through her company’s work in motion pictures during the late 1930’s and 1940’s; but Alvin Ailey is undoubtedly the most recognized dance theatre choreographer. Most people associate Ailey with dance theatre classics Revelations and Blues Suite, but it was Broadway that lured him and his friend Carmen De Lavallade to New York.   

After appearing in the Hollywood production of Carmen Jones (1954) Ailey moved east performing on Broadway in House of Flowers (1954) (by Truman Capote and starring Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll), Sing, Man, Sing (1956) (starring Harry Belafonte) and Jamaica (1957) (with Lena Horne and Ricardo Montalban). These experiences helped shape the Horton-based dancer and choreographer into a song and dance man. Ailey incorporated theatrical elements (including lighting, costumes and acting) into his work creating story based dance narratives. Although Ailey died in 1989 his choreographic genius has continued to influence generations of dance makers.

Kirven Douthit-Boyd’s work, Furtherance, depicts overcoming personal struggle and ends with a celebration of triumph. His use of abstract narrative imagery triumphantly takes us on an uplifting dance odyssey. Furtherance opened with dancer De’Anthony Vaughan sequestered behind a wall of bodies that was aggressively moving upstage. Vaughan quickly eludes the advancing impediment with a series of second position extensions, before continuing on his journey.

Douthit-Boyd worked through a contemporary dance vocabulary that reminisced signature movement from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Well placed second position extensions, arabesque and attitude turns en dehor peppered the work with ample modern/ballet aplomb. Designed as a series of vignettes the centerpiece of the work was a duet featuring Claude Alexander III and Alyssa Harrington.

Alexander III and Harrington have grown into the roles since DBDT debuted Furtherance in the 2016 Spring Season. This allowed the audience to look beyond the steps and experience the artistry. The seamless lifts and ardent partnering had maturated into effective abstract narrative storytelling. Here Douthit-Boyd successfully trusted the movement to reveal the story, while subtle and nuanced gestures enhanced the section without becoming saccharine.

Keon K. Nickie’s short but energetic solo acted as the catalyst, drawing the dancers into his vortex. In this section Douthit-Boyd artfully created the required rising action to transition into the finale. Harrington returns alone culminating the work dancing in a protective circular cocoon of amber down light.

Matthew Rushing appropriately named his new ensemble work Tribute. The work is a black dance history lesson told through multiple mediums including movement, spoken word, lighting and scenic design.  Rushing added a new word to the dance lexicon- Dancestors; which also encapsulates the ballet’s objective.

Throughout the work the names and quotes of iconic figures in dance including 20th century legends Alvin Ailey, Talley Beatty, Janet Collins, Katherine Dunham, Martha Graham, Sammy Davis Jr. and Carmen de Lavallade were interspersed. While dancer, actress and choreographer Hope Clark and Rushing created a voiceover track with quotes from Judith Jamison, Donald McKayle, Dr. Pearl Primus and DBDT dancers. The collective effect helped to create an ancestral family tree of dance artists, with an emphasis on African- American performers.    

As in Furtherance the most impressive section was a duet. Male performers Claude Alexander III and Sean J. Smith combined their talents as singer and tap dancer respectively, transforming the Joyce stage into an intimate Uptown cabaret. Rushing provided these two talented performers an avenue to extend their range, and both young artists rose to the occasion.

In the ensuing ensemble sections Rushing continued to reference 20th century dance. Most notably a rendition of Wade In The Water was mixed into the score. Rushing had performed this section of Revelations while a member of the Ailey Company; and the imagery produced seemed less personal/autobiographic and more personable/first person.

For years the art of storytelling through dance has been marginalized in favor of plotless exercises in “pure” movement. Many dance performances seem to mimic nouvelle cuisine; it is interesting to look at, even satisfying to the palette, but not always fulfilling. The Dallas Black Dance Theatre honors the black dance tradition and the dance theatre genre, while helping to move the art form into the 21st century.

 

 

11/4/16 O&A NYC DANCE: Alex Smith Jr. Honored At Bessies

By Walter Rutledge

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In life there are no detours, it is always the course appointed. Despite all of our plans and dreams we can count on the universe to add some unexpected twists and turns. Thelma Hill Preforming Arts Center’s Executive Chairman Alex Smith Jr. knows this all to well. In 1995 Smith become the guiding force of the organization by proxy, now twenty-one years later he was honored with a Service to the Field Award at the 29th New York Dance and Performance Awards- The Bessies. 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.

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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center: Dancing The Single Life (part 1)

By Walter Rutledge

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The Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center opened their three-day New York season at the Actor’s Fund Arts Center, 160 Schermerhorn Street, with the first installment of Dancing The Single Life. The concert features five solo works by five choreographers Germaul Barnes, Gierre Godley, Amy Grant Hall, Jason Herbert and Christopher Rudd. It was an evocative evening of dance works by cutting edge dancer makers. Continue reading

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