11/30/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Harkness Promise Award- Recognizes The Future

By Walter Rutledge

The 61st annual Dance Magazine Awards will take place on Monday December 3, 2018, 7:30pm. at The Ailey Citigroup Theater. Since 1954 the award has recognized accomplished individuals who have made an impact in dance over the course of their career. This year the awards honors choreographers Ronald K. Brown and Crystal Pite and dancers Lourdes Lopez and Michael Trusnovec. For the first time emerging artists will also be recognized through The Harkness Promise Award, designed to spotlight and assist two young artists for the potential of their artistic work while investing in the next generation of dance makers. Continue reading

11/22/18 O&A NYC WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK: November 22 through December 1, 2018 (Including Thanksgiving Weekend Guide)- Art, Dance, Film, Music, Theatre and More


Thanksgiving signals the official start of the holiday season. It is also the beginning of the holiday arts season and this week the excitement is palpable. Theatre aboard from City College to Hell’s Kitchen, music brings back the 60’s on the Upper Westside, with protest art in Chelsea; and while the Ailey company celebrates turning 60 in midtown, we have a group of over 60 “Sugar Babies” dancing in  Harlem. 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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9/19/17 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: The Fire Island Dance Festival 2017

By Walter Rutledge

Bobby Vinton’s end of summer ode Sealed With A Kiss begins with the line “So we have to say goodbye to the summer”; but we would be remiss to leave the season without acknowledging the Fire Island Dance Festival. The Dancers Responding To AIDS annual fundraiser is one Fire Island’s most anticipated dance events. This year did not disappoint, the event showcased 10 stellar emerging, established and renowned choreographers and a gaggle of outstanding performers. This 10-course dance buffet, hosted by Tony Award winning actress Cady Huffman, offered a diverse menu with something for every dance palette ranging from neo-classical ballet to West African inspired dance.

Peridance Contemporary Dance Company opened the performance with Dia-Mono-Logues choreographed by company artistic director Igal Perry. The work’s prevalent theme was inspired by Perry’s own experiences as a 1970’s Israeli immigrant. The ensemble work for eight dancers captured Perry’s sojourn from community to separation to rediscovery in this well crafted abstract narrative.

Wisely using a restricted movement vocabulary Perry was able to construct multiple conversations performed simultaneously by three groups of dancers. This provided a strong dancing counterpoint that slipped into focused and well-directed canons; culminating in spirited unison. The work ended with a crescendo of music and movement climaxing with the dancers lying spent on the stage; one solo performer moved slowly exiting stage left.

Miami City Ballet presented two programs Justin Peck’s Chutes and Ladders (performed by Jeanette Delegado and Kleber Rebello) for the two Saturday July 15 performances, and My One Any Only variation from George Balanchine’s Who Cares (Delegado) on Sunday, July 16. Choreographed in 1970 Who Cares is one of Balanchine’s “Americana” ballets; which joins Stars and Stripes and Western Symphony as a salute to his adopted homeland. Delegado danced with the appropriate amount of verve; displaying effortless technique and an unencumbered port de bra (signature Balanchine). The perky, and upbeat work remains a visual delight.

Pontus Lidberg Dance presented A Different Passion performed by Barton Cowperthwaite and the choreographer. Lidberg’s use of weight and momentum in the partnering and effortless floor work established an aura of honesty and emotional completeness between the dancers. To his credit this love letter cleverly introduced strong sculptural imagery without slipping into predictable posse’.

Keon Thoulouis performed New Conversations: Oshosi Is Here with reserved nobility, embodying choreographer Ronald K. Brown’s mix of explosive power and assured coolness. An excerpt from Brown and Evidence: A Dance Company’s latest work, the solo showcased Brown’s trademark seamless melding West African and Eurocentric contemporary dance styles and choreographic cannons. The Auturo O’Farrill Afro-Cubian score, featuring West African drum laced jazz, complemented Brown’s movement and choreographic intent.

Clad in red and blue sleeveless coveralls choreographers and performers Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener’s Desire Liar opened with Mitchell initiating sporadic upper body movement juxeposed by Riener’s stillness. The ensuing tete-a-tete quickly established a dialog the dancers easily communicated beyond the footlights. The work evolved into a courting ritual with primal undertones. Mitchell and Silas did not mimic or borrow from any one ethnicity; instead the duo defined their own indigeneity. By combining strong sculptural elements, grounded rhythmic contemporary inspired movement, and the simple and subtle balance of symmetric and asymmetrical imagery Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener’s created a work with a visually pleasing Calder-que lightness.

How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore choreographed by Al Blackstone with Billy Griffin and featuring James Whiteside combined two favorite themes sex and murder. This fun fantasy (a cross between Looking for Mr. Goodbar and American Pyscho) was actual a duet with an ensemble of five male dancers, in this case suitors.

Throughout the work James Whiteside encountered his hunky object of desire in what is best described as a mix of ambivalence and lust. Between encounters Whiteside systematic and violently incapacitates the ensemble with black widow veracity. The dance gave a new meaning to Prince’s falsetto manifesto. 

Acosta Danza presented Nosotros; an impassioned duet choreographed by Beatriz Garcia and Raul Reinoso. Clad in provocative beige lace jumper and suspendered shorts respectively dancers Mario Sergio and Reinoso explored emotions of love and loss. The most overtly erotic work on the program combined a pleasing blend of strength and fragility cleverly avoided predictable clichés creating a sense of anticipation.

Dancer Michael Blake opened Lorin Latarro’s For Those Before with an expansive and welcoming arms open greeting, setting the tone for this inviting and holistic work. Dancers of varied ethnicities, body types, disciplines and ages co-existed onstage making a subtle yet thunderously profound statement. Latarro’s strong use of imagery cleverly explored taboo relationships with pathos, grace and good choreographic form.

Caleb Teicher & Company combined swing and jazz dance, partnering and a welcomed dash of 30’s/40’s movie musical razzle-dazzle to create a delightful homage to jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald. With Fred and Ginger high-energy precision, and clean crisp partnering Names playfully disarmed the audience. The shared lead/follow responsibilities avoided roleplaying; and coincidently this was the only duet that ended with the couple still together. Who knew the two nerds from the Big Bang Theory had the right relationship formula.

Tatakai by choreographer Manuel Vignoulle for Makers Dance Company closed the program with a testosterone charged ensemble work for seven men. This dance narrative inspired by the Samurai battle of Sekigahara transported us to Japan’s tumultuous Sengoku era (1467- 1603). Vignoulle’s decision to create a “storytelling ballet” set very high artistic goals.

Ballet staples peppered the work. A la seconde turns pulling into multiple pirouettes en dehors, flurries of pristine batterie, and lots of boundless jetes exploding in mid air extracted well deserve applause. Unfortunately these elements also undercut Vignoulle’s choreographic intent.

His strong architectural design and imagery, Eric Winterling’s striking costumes, and an incredible cast (courtesy American Ballet Theatre) could not compensate for the under explored character develop. In excerpts and smaller works characters having to be quickly established then slowly revealed. This essential component allows the dance narrative to build empathy, camaraderie, and even distain for the characters; thus bonding performer and spectator. Fortunately developing this element is well within the scope of this talented emerging choreographer.

The present political rhetoric’s foul stench has not cast a cloud over basic human decency. This is an attempt by small minds (and small hands) to erase the hard fought gains toward a more inclusive and tolerant global society. Artists must continue to use their craft as a weapon to combat injustice. We must remain a voice for the silent, vulnerable and underserved.

For 23 years the Fire Island Dance Festival has championed inclusiveness, and healing through the arts. The Fire Island Dance Festival provides assistance with great artistry, compassion, and the occasional pirouette. Your support for Dancers Responding To AIDS is welcome year round. If you would like to make a donation and find out more about the services offered visit dradance.org.

Photos By: 1. Yuris Norido  2, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12. Daniel Roberts 3, 4, 6, 7, 8. Whitney Browne

 

(REPOST) 6/23/17 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: Ronald K. Brown and Evidence, A Dance Company- 30 Years In The Making (Part One)

By Walter Rutledge

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Ronald K. Brown and Evidence, A Dance Company will celebrate the 30 anniversary of the company February 24 through March 1, 2015 at the Joyce Theater. Brown realized his gift as a choreographer and his desire to express him by making dances at the  beginning of his dance career. At age 19, when most dance artists are concentrating on performing, Brown formed Evidence. Continue reading

(REPOST) 12/19/16 O&A NYC DANCE: Jeroboam Bozeman Dance Warrior

By Walter Rutledge

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President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort”. Jeroboam Bozeman is living Roosevelt’s observation. At first glance Jeroboam is a quiet, reserved young man with a warm and genuine smile; on stage Bozeman is a dance warrior. This talented 23 years old performer will make his debut with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater during the New York City Center season, which begins on Wednesday, December 4.

Jeroboam Bozeman part one

A native of Brooklyn, New York Jeroboam was one of those fortunate individuals who discovered his “joy of achievement” early in life. He began studying dance at the Ronald Edmonds Learning Center (Junior High School 113) in Brooklyn with Ruth Sistaire. It was Sistaire who soon introduced Jeroboam to Creative Outlet Dance Theater of Brooklyn, a community based dance school and company.

Jeroboam Bozeman part two

Under Artistic Director Jamel Gaines’ guidance Jeroboam got his first real taste of the New York City dance scene. He trained in a nurturing family-like environment with working professionals including former Ailey dancers Shirley Black Brown and Raquelle Chavis. At age 16 he was asked to perform with the company and toured London, England. These experiences with Creative Outlet gave this young artist a chance to see the world, earn income and most importantly build a professional ethos.

Bozeman’s talents were rewarded with full scholarships to attend two of New York City’s most prestigious dance schools, the Joffrey Ballet School and Dance Theatre of Harlem. By age 19 his commitment and hard work paid off once again when he was chosen by choreographer Sarita Allen to performing in the Far East touring company of Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical Aida. These experiences helped shape the aspiring artist, but his career defining moment can when Jeroboam joined Philadanco.

Jeroboam Bozeman part three

The venerable Philadelphia Dance Company known to the general public, as Philadanco was the environment that propelled Bozeman from neophyte to professional. He credits the no nonsense approach of Artistic Director/Founder Joan Myers Brown for his artistic growth. For over 40 years Brown’s strong repertory company has featured choreography by such dance luminaries as Talley Beatty, George Faison, Rennie Harris and Ronald K. Brown; during his three-year association with the company Jeroboam learned to dance beyond the footlights.

A turning point for Bozeman came during the rehearsals of the solo from Faison’s Suite Otis. Former Ailey dancer and current Philadanco Rehearsal Director/coach Debora Chase-Hicks pushed him to find that inner dance warrior. The sessions were a watershed moment for Jeroboam, helping him move his artistry to the next level.

Jeroboam Bozeman part four

Returning to New York in 2012 Bozeman danced with Ailey II under the direction of then newly appointed Artistic Director Troy Powell. Less than a year later he was invited to join the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. As Bozeman makes this next career move he retains a humble teachable spirit, unpretentious demeanor and that exuberate smile. We wish this rising dance warrior much continued success.

Originally posted 12/2/13 for Harlem World Magazine

12/10/15 O&A NYC REVIEW: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater- Rennie Harris Exodus

By Walter Rutledge

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The real significance of Rennie Harris’ body of work has been his ability to transform hip-hop, a vernacular dance style created during the height of inner city urban blight of the 80’s, into the foundation for his abstract narrative art form. In early works such as Rome and Jewels (2000) Harris transforms the visceral hip-hop esthetic into 21st classicism. His latest work for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Exodus infuses the hip-hop genre and modern dance with theatrical elements and strong choreographic structure. Continue reading

3/7/15 O&A REVIEW: Ronald K Brown and Evidence, A Dance Company 2015 New York City Season

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Ronald K Brown and Evidence, A Dance Company presented their 2015 New York City season February 24 through March 1 at the Joyce Theater. To celebrate the 30th anniversary the company offered two programs, a total of seven works. The season was a joyous retrospective of Brown’s artistry.

Brown’s signature choreographic style is a combination of West African, urban vernacular, and contemporary modern dance. The one thing that became quickly apparent is Brown’s finite movement vocabulary. Almost every work featured stag jumps en tourant, passé in parallel, turned out or ouvert, petite allegro that consolidated all the styles, walking that varied from pedestrian crossings to spirited struts and open West African inspired port de bras.

The collection of dances reminded me of a Jackson Pollack exhibition. At first glance the similarities outweighed the differences, but the longer you experienced the work the more the textural nuances began to emerge. The vocabulary allowed Brown to communicate to the audience through his own dance language, but more important the movement became secondary to his choreographic structure.

The works presented ranged from 1995 when his style became salient to 2014. Instead of producing a new work(s) Brown wisely chose to concentrate on material that had been properly developed. This provided the audience with a clean and concise overview of the evolution of both Brown and the company.

The season opened with The Subtle One (2014) featuring live accompaniment by composer Jason Moran and the Bandwagon. The works amalgam of styles captured the feeling of Moran’s jazz composition. Brown created a visual rendering of the music, which also was a western art form with African roots.

Excerpts from Lessons: Exotica & March (1995) were two excerpts- a duet and ensemble section. The first movement was set to a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. and performed by Annique Roberts and Coral Dolphin. The duet was the most theatrical of all the works presented during the season. Roberts circled a more stationary and centered Dolphin in a protective orbit. The partnering developed into supportive solidarity, and empowerment.

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Dolphin has a quality that transcends technique. Her presence and attack was a combination of amazon power and female fatale attraction. Throughout the entire evening she was able to make you look at her.

The transition from the inviting abstract narrative first section to the pure movement second excerpt was a little jarring. The second section was an early rendering of Brown’s pairing of house infused music with movement. It is amazing how well his vocabulary works at 130 plus beat per minute. The ensemble section contained small groups moving simultaneously and overlapping. This allowed Brown to create a rich tapestry with a focused multiplicity of rhythms.

Grace and Gateway were both choreographed in 1999 for other companies. Gateway choreographed for Philadanco, took the audience on an impassioned excursion. Set on the road to heaven; if this is any indication of what to expect from eternality don’t worry about hot sauce, the “here after” will be a very soulful place.

Grace, designed for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, also has an ethereal feeling. The reconstruction of this work was not as successful as Gateway and was probably the weakest link of all the works presented. Clarice Young carried the lead well, this role has become synonymous with two dance Goddesses Renee Robinson (Hera) and Linda Celeste Sims (Aphrodite). The individual performances were all good and the female ensemble delivered an impressive interpretation. The male ensemble, however, lacked the verve and unison required to do this work justice.

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The two solos presented Through Time and Culture (2014) and One Shot (2007, excerpt from Bellows) were both engaging works with different prospective. In Through Time and Culture Brown danced with a ceremonial spirit, as if he was giving thanks. With arms reaching upward and tight yet light footwork we followed Brown until he disappeared into the wings.

Shayla Caldwell entered the space walking backwards around the parameter of the space. First from stage left to right, then from upstage to downstage, she turns and continues stage right to left. When she walked upstage her body and face were finally revealed. Her movement was introverted and contained. Eventually she moves to  center stage; and throughout the solo Caldwell remained regal but vulnerable. Drawing the audience to her until she is finally covered in darkness.

Why You Follow/Por Que Signes, created in 2014 for MalPaso Dance Company, is a testament to Brown’s choreographic and structural prowess. The work is imagery and texturally rich. The subtle transitions, group development, and musicality created true visual excitement. The most commendable quality was the ease Brown was able to build the work into a movement crescendo through the choreographic structure instead of relying on the performer’s bravura.

The Ronald K. Brown and Evidence, A Dance Company 2015 New York City season was a fitting celebration. The company continues to do what it has done for 30 years, to share the gift of dance. This milestone is just one more in a long line of accomplishments; and one thing we do know that the future holds for Brown and the Company is that they will keep making dances.

2/22/15 O&A Ronald K. Brown and Evidence, A Dance Company Begin New York City Season at the Joyce

Upside Down Basil Childers-2

Ronald K. Brown and Evidence, A Dance Company begin a one week New York City season Tuesday, February 24 through Sunday, March 1 at the Joyce Theater. The season will mark the 30th anniversary of the company. To commemorate this milestone the company will present two programs of Brown’s signature work.  Continue reading

2/19/15 O&A Ronald K. Brown and Evidence, A Dance Company- 30 Years In The Making (Part One)

By Walter Rutledge

Ronald-K-1.-Brown-in-2-e1424285871568

Ronald K. Brown and Evidence, A Dance Company will celebrate the 30 anniversary of the company February 24 through March 1 at the Joyce Theater. Brown realized his gift as a choreographer and his desire to express him by making dances at the  beginning of his dance career. At age 19, when most dance artists are concentrating on performing, Brown formed Evidence Continue reading

Linda Celeste Sims: Pure Light

By Walter Rutledge

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Outstanding performers have always been the hallmark of The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Dancers that consistently test the technical and artistic boundaries of modern dance remain a fundamental part of founder Alvin Ailey’s continuing legacy. Artists Carmen DeLavalallade, Dudley Williams, Judith Jamison, Miguel Godreau, Linda Kent, Sara Yarborough, Sarita Allen, Gary deLoatch, Desmond Richardson, and Renee Robinson all possessed an innate ability beyond technique, a God given gift that unfortunately cannot be taught. When the stage lights hit these special individuals it is refracted into dazing, flawless, pure light that pulls you in… moth to flame. Celeste Linda Sims is pure light. Continue reading