(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

10/3/16 O&A NYC DANCE: Getting To The Heart of Hearts Of Men

By Walter Rutledge

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Hearts Of Men, the multi-generational dance workshop, held their summer intensive August 29th through September 11th, 2016 on the campus of Montclair State University. The two-week workshop provides dance classes, and performance opportunities to male dancers ages 14 and older. This session 12 choreographers set works on over seventy-five dancers of varied technical levels. The choreographers included Germaul Barnes, Julian Barnett, Brian Harian Brooks, Clifton Brown, Christian von Howard, Nathaniel Hunt, Roderick Jackson, Amy Jordan, Edwin Rodriguez, Artie Smith, Hearts Of Men founder Earl Mosley, and yours truly Walter Rutledge.

Although the workshop culminates with a choreographic showcase it is not about the dance makers. The performance is another learning tool designed to allow the dancers (neophyte to professional) to test and/or hone their craft. Ten young men ranging in age from 15 to 23 were assigned to work on my choreography.

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This was my third time working with Hearts Of Men. Loretta Abbott and I performed a comedic duet entitled Sentimental Reasons in the 2015 summer session; and reprised the work for the January session (Shirley Black Brown graciously stepped in when Loretta was taken ill). But the 2016 summer season is the first time I worked directly with the dancers in the program.

Early in my choreographic career Bessie Schonberg advised me, “Don’t give them what you want. Give them what they need.” With that always in mind creating a dance theatre work- a dance narrative became our task for this session.

In recent years the dance narrative genre has fallen out of fashion for many reasons. Story ballets are expensive to mount requiring elaborate sets, ornate costumes, and a large corps de ballet. These dances require the choreographer be both dance maker and director, proficient in creating thematic material and character development. In addition performers must understand the power of nuance and acquire a discerning eye for detail that reaches beyond an extension or technical feat.

Many mature performers and balletomanes often remark about the technical virtuosity and impressive physicality of today’s performers. Unfortunately the kinesthetic onslaught often leaves these audience members exhausted for the performers. More awed by the near aerobic pace they often remarking, “How do they remember all those steps.” Before joyously reminiscing about Jose Limon curling three fingers and personally touching them as they sat in the back of the fourth balcony.

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Motherless Child tells the story of young enslaved men who long for the love and affection taken from them. A realization quickly set in that the enslaved Africans were the same age as my cast of young dancers. Looking into their faces (each filled with a lifetime of possibilities) I saw our ancestors whose possibilities had been stolen.

Channeling one of my mentors Nikita Talin (who would often quoted Nijinsky, “Act first, then dance”) our task was two-fold to convey sadness and loss and to extract that same emotion from the audience. Moving people to tears requires the use of universal themes and visual images given to the audience in stages, thereby lulling them into an emotional release. When executed successfully the visceral yet humanistic nature of the images and the scenario transcend language and culture.

Since the work was going to be performed bare-chested we worked without shirts from the first rehearsal. This made them cognizant of the plastique (sculptural elements) of the movement from the beginning. We set the work in Horton Technique, but also emphasized the importance of stillness and the power of just walking in character. “Your back talks”, was a common reminder as the dancers perfected movement executed facing upstage.

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To reinforce the individual and personal nature of character development images from Renaissance art were introduced. For the group dynamic Raphael’s School Of Athens demonstrated the concept of individuality contributing to the total compositional structure, while Michelangelo’s Pieta helped create the fragile imagery in the death scene. The art also allowed us to discuss the visual focal point and how the choreographer directs the audience to follow the action.

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The most important word became intent- simply why. Why are you moving? Why are you reacting? By defining the intent we produced Euclidean economy and focus, streamlining both movement and message.

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By our last rehearsal it was time to let the choreography go. In other words the work no longer artistically belong to me exclusively. Through their diligence and hard work the dancers had earned artistic ownership, and I had to step back and trust them.

The performances took place on September 10th and 11th in Montclair State University’s Memorial Auditorium. Fourteen short predominately ensemble works ranging from upbeat pure movement works to abstract narrative to dance theatre were presented to an enthusiastic audience of family and friends. I usually don’t sit in the audience when my work is performed, but this time I needed to feel the energy.

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The music started in the darkness, slowly light began to illuminate the dancers. From the first steps to the final fade to black the dancers moved with intent and commitment, touching the audience and accomplishing their task. Finally during the informal part of the bow you could see and feel their joy- it was both gratifying and humbling.

If the classroom is where you develop your craft, then the stage is where you perfect it. Hearts Of Men continues the time-honored tradition of training, performing and mentorship. To learn more about Hearts Of Men and the other year round programs and services offered by the Earl Mosley Institute For The Arts visit emiadance.org.

 In Photo: 1) cast 2) Loretta Abbott and Walter Rutledge 3) cast 4)  School Of Athens 5) Pieta 6) cast 

Photographs by: 1,3,6 Miskos Production-  Milan Misko videographer 2) Howard Hemp 4) Raphael 5) Michelangelo

Video by: Miskos Production- Milan Misko videographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

6/8/16 O&A NYC DANCE: Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center Dedicates 40th Anniversary Season To Loretta Abbott

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The Thelma Hill Performing Art Center (THPAC) will dedicate their 40th Anniversary season to dancer icon and longtime THPAC supporter Loretta Abbott. The 4 day season, which runs from June 19 through June 22 at the Actor Fund Center 160 Schermerhorn Strret in downtown Brooklyn, will showcase 40 choreographers, and dance companies during the milestone 40th season. The artists presented range from early THPAC contributors including such dance luminaries as Emmy and Tony Award winner George Faison, Philadanco, Charles Moore Dance Theatre, and Rod Rodgers Dance Company. Mid-career choreographers Marshall Swiney, Ronald K Alexander, Germaul Barnes and Rodger C. Jeffery; and emerging artists Nijawwon Matthews, DaVon Doane, and Sidra Bell. Continue reading

5/5/15 O&A Dance: Jamel Gaines’ Creative Outlet Dance Theatre of Brooklyn Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Retrospective and World Premiere

By Walter Rutledge

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Jamel Gaines’ Creative Outlet will celebrate 20 years of artistic excellence in a retrospective of the Company’s most acclaimed work on Friday, May 15, 7:30pm, Saturday, May 16, 7:30pm, and Sunday, May 17, 3pm at Kumble Theater at LIU Brooklyn, One University Plaza, Brooklyn. Continue reading

Summerstage Harlem Dance Caravan: Erasing The Boundaries

By Walter Rutledge

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Harlem Dance Caravan: Erasing The Boundaries performances were held on August 15th and 16th at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park. This is the second year SummerStage and the Faison Firehouse has collaborated on the outdoor, free to the public performing arts presentation; and it has already become one the most anticipated and well attended events offered in the summer series. This year the eclectic roster of performers included Baoku & The Image Afro-Beat Band, Cecilia Marta Dance Company, George Faison Universal Dance Experience, Jamel Gaines’ Creative Outlet, and Lotus Music & Dance Multicultural Artists. The well curated production lived up to its title offering a diverse and well-paced program with an international flavor. Continue reading