5/2/17 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) presented their annual New York City season April 19, 20 and 21 at New York City Center. The performances marked the sixth season since the company’s much anticipated return after a seven-year hiatus. This new re-configured DTH, under the artistic direction of former company principal dancer Virginia Johnson, continues to mature into a new and important dance voice, while staying true to its founding principles. Continue reading

4/20/17 O&A NYC DANCE: A Conversation With Francesca Harper

By Walter Rutledge

Choreographer Francesca Harper discusses her new ballet System prior to the New York premiere by Dance Theatre of Harlem on Friday, April 20th at New York City Center.
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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.

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6/22/15 O&A Picks Of The Week June 21- June 27: Art, Dance, Film, Music, and Theatre

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Summer is finally here! And it has ushered in a whirlwind of arts events. We have fine art, dance, film, music and theatre; something for everyone. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading