4/26/18 O&A NYC DANCE: The Dance Of the Village Elders Celebrates Dudley Williams

The Dance Of the Village Elders will present Only In The Darkness Can You See The Stars the spring performance/fundraiser on Saturday, April 28, 3pm at St. Philip’s Church 204 west 134thStreet. The performance will celebrate Village Elders friend and supporter Ailey icon Dudley Williams, who danced the role of the elder minister at the works premiere April 30th, 2015, sadly this was Williams’ last performance. Joining the celebration are Harlem arts organizations Harlem School of the Arts dance division (under the direction of Aubrey Lynch), Uptown Dance Academy (Robin Williams Executive Director) pianist Charles Lovell (St. Philip’s Church) singing phenom LaFredrick Coaxner (Abyssinian Baptist Church) and Reverend Tykym Stallings (Lighthouse Ministries Inc., Harlem N.Y.). Continue reading

1/26/18 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: An Afternoon With Arthur Mitchell

By Walter Rutledge


I believe that children are our future;
Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
Give them a sense of pride,
To make it easier;
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be. George Benson- The Greatest  
                                                                                                                                    

This is the opening stanza for George Benson’s The Greatest written for the 1977 biopic of the same title about Muhammad Ali. It is also the music and title of a duet choreographed by Arthur Mitchell for Dance Theatre Of Harlem, and in many ways it remains Mitchell’s credo. An Afternoon with Arthur Mitchell presented at the Lenfest Center for the Arts, Columbia University on Saturday, January 20, 2018 was an opportunity to see a master teacher, director, educator and showman in action.

 After a short introduction Mitchell and percussionist Baba Don Eaton Lenfest Center for the Arts, Columbia University proceeded to teach the audience a series of polyrhythmic music passages. The highlight was a rare screening of the dance documentary (1973), featuring Mitchell’s ballet Rhythmetron, and a fledgling Dance Theatre of Harlem. Most of the film took place in the basement of the Church of the Master, the home of his first school at 81 Morningside Avenue.

Throughout the film Mitchell shares his gift of dance with the charm, confidence and authority that has become his trademark. He masterfully used popular social dances as a bridge to ballet. Mitchell made classic ballet less foreign and more accessible to the young audience from the Harlem community. It was wonderful seeing a performance by the original cast of Rhythmetron; which featured Lydia Abarca, Yvonne Hall, Virginia Johnson, Ronald Perry and Walter Raines.

Following the film Mitchell took questions from the audience, which included balletomanes, dance history enthusiasts and young dancers from Harlem School Of The Arts and Dance Theatre Of Harlem. At 83 years old Mitchell displayed the same vigor, charisma and irrepressible wit we had seen earlier in the film. Always “Mr. Mitchell”, he shared anecdotes, offered advice, and even corrected deportment with an uncompromising paternal demeanor.

An Afternoon With Arthur Mitchell

In her book Page by Page author Ruth Page has a chapter entitled Father Mitchell 1972. Page writes: “Arthur Mitchell is a person with no vices. He doesn’t smoke or drink, and eats a lot of ice cream. He works very hard and is truly a splendid example for young dancers. He is really a sort of Sir Galahad.”

For more information about the Wallach Art Gallery and the Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer exhibition and related events visit wallach.columbia.edu. 

Upcoming events include:

Wallach Gallery Talks
Saturday January 27, 2018 1:00 – 1:30PM
Learn more about key works in the Arthur Mitchell archive from different perspectives. All talks begin at 1 pm and meet in the Wallach Art Gallery lobby on the 6th floor. Lynn Garafola, exhibition curator and Professor Emerita of Dance, Barnard College, Columbia University.

Wallach Family Afternoon
Saturday February 10, 2018 1:00 – 3:00PM
An afternoon of storytelling, art-making and movement for families to enjoy together.

Discussion with former dancers from the Dance Theatre of Harlem
Saturday  February 24, 2018, 1pm

For more information about the Wallach Art Gallery and the Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer exhibition and related events visit wallach.columbia.edu. 

 

 

 

 

 

12/28/17 O&A NYC DANCE/HEALTH AND WELLNESS: The Village Elders Celebrate First Year In New Home

By Walter Rutledge

The Dance Of The Village Elders ended their first fall session at St. Philip’s Church with a performance and a party. The dance and fitness program, which began in 2010, was forced to disband in 2015. In February 2017 the program reorganized as a “Fitness Cooperative”, and relocated to St. Philip’s Church, 204 West 134th Street.

We didn’t have any funds, but we had the will to stay together; so money became the least important reason not to work together. St. Philip’s Church came to the rescue offering us space in the Harlem community, which kept to program accessible to many of our participants. On Thursday December 14 the “Ladies” presented a holiday celebration demonstration/performance to a standing room only crowd of family and friends. The 60 minute presentation, which included a warm up with audience participation, and performances by the Ladies and Three Jazz Kings (Andrew Damakakos, Bless Goode and Judah Marable) courtesy of the Dance Program at Harlem School of the Arts.

Dance Of The Village Elders- Santa Baby excerpt

The celebration continued the following Thursday, December 21, during our last class  Everyone brought a dish, and I shifted responsibilities from instructor to disc- jockey. This is always one of my favorite sessions it gives us an opportunity to fellowship. Everyone is relaxed and even more jovial than usual,  still reveling in the success of our performance a week earlier. 

We will resume classes on Thursday January 4, 2018 2- 3:30pm. The classes are free to the public and all are welcome. Have a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year! We hope to see you in January.