8/15/19 O&A NYC DANCE: The Bessies Honor Dance Pioneer Joan Myers Brown

By Walter Rutledge

The New York Dance and Performance Awards also known as The Bessies will honor Philadelphia dance matriarch Joan Myers Brown with the 2019 Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance. “[Brown’s] work has inspired dancers and educated audiences in ways that have enriched and strengthened dance in our country and we look forward to celebrating [her] accomplishments,” said Lucy Sexton, executive director of the New York Dance and Performance Awards. The award will be presented at the 35th annual Bessie Awards ceremony on Monday, October 14, at 7:30pm, at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place, New York. Continue reading

8/14/19 O&A NYC WHATS HAPPENING THIS WEEK: August 13 through August 20, 2019

August is here. In New York that means lazy afternoon and warm humid nights- the perfect NYC formula for a good time.  We have great events indoors and out and many are free!  Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps, guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading

8/12/19 O&A NYC REVIEW: Maze At The Shed

By Walter Rutledge and Adewale Adekanbi Jr.

Maze made its world premiere at The Shed’s Griffin Theater, 545 West 30th Street on July 24.  The production explores “the puzzles and poetry of human existence” taking on issues including the school to prison pipeline and systemic racism in the justice system. This new street dance presentation, commissioned by The Shed for its inaugural season, features sixteen dancers from The D.R.E.A.M. Ring and two performers from The Shed’s FlexNYC program. Continue reading

7/24/19 O&A NYC DANCE: Dance Of The Village Elders At R.A.I.N. Nereid Senior Center

By Adewale Adekanbi

The Dance Of The Village Elders, a dance and fitness project for seniors, concluded a five-month residency with a finale performance on Thursday June 27, 2019. The project, part of the SuCasa arts for seniors program, sponsored by the Bronx Council On The Arts in conjunction with the NYC Cultural Affairs and  the NYC Department of the Aging. Choreographer/teacher Walter Rutledge conducted the project, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at the R.A.I.N. Nereid Senior Center, 720 Nereid Avenue in the Northeast Bronx.

This was the second consecutive SuCasa residency for Rutledge at the Nereid Avenue center. “I really was elated to be working with at the Nereid Senior Center again. I had built a rapport with the seniors and they had become part of my extended dance family. So, I was overjoyed to return to Nereid”, explained Rutledge.

Each 60- minute session included an opening stretch, warm up, movement/dance and warm down. The 10 minutes stretch combined relaxing simple movements to stretch to spine, neck, shoulders and upper torso. The warm-up contained exercises designed to prepare the body for movement, and to address additional physical concerns of the seniors. This section was very flexible, and exercises were added and deleted based on the weather/season and personal issues of the participants. An emphasis was placed on hands/fingers, rotator cuff, abdominals and obliques, hip flexors, and ankles.

Movement/choreography was interspersed throughout the warm-up to give the seniors rest breaks between dances. In addition to the benefits of movement for increasing muscle density and providing joint friendly cardio, fun remained paramount throughout the entire session. The movement component introduced movement that ranged from two-step, modified salsa and merengue, Caribbean and West African inspired movement, and social dances including the twist, cool jerk, and the Electric Slide.

Dance Of The Village Elders at R.A.I.N. Nereid Senior Center- Photo Essay

The sessions culminated with a brief warm- down. Soon pre and post “fellowship” time (about 10 minutes each)  became part of a continuing evaluation process. This gave us more opportunity to access what worked for the seniors and what needed to change.

Due to the diverse ethnic make-up of the participates the biggest unifying factor became the music. The Northeast Bronx is a combination of old neighborhoods with great ethnic diversity. The center included Latin, Afro- Caribbean, West African, East Indian, African- American, Italian, Asian- American and Jews of Eastern European decent. And through the music we were able to create a “cultural gumbo”.

The “audio” ranged from fifties Do-Wop, 60’s Rock and Roll, 70’s and 80’s R&B; with artists including Pavarotti, Celia Cruz, Bob Marley, Kirk Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Dion and The Belmonts and Feli Kuti. The participants in many instances knew the words to the songs and were encouraged to sing along.

Dance Of The Village Elders At R.A.I.N. Nereid Senior Center (Video)

The final event/public program entitled The Many Flavors Of Dance took place on Thursday, June 27, at 11am. The room was completely transformed by the staff into a festive “confectionary” representing The Many Flavors of Dance; the name was a metaphor honoring the center’s diversity. Over fifty seniors participated in the one-hour presentation; which included group participation from invited guests. The post-fellowship included lunch open to the seniors and their guests.

Usually the final performance is bittersweet, because it signals the end of the project. Fortunately, the Nereid Senior Center has decided to continue the classes as part of their in-house arts programming. “I was delighted when the classes were offered, this place has become very special to me. And I really didn’t want it to end”, said Rutledge. Rutledge will teach two weekly classes on Tuesday and Thursday from 11am to 12noon. For more information about Rutledge’s dance/fitness class and all of the activities offered at R.A.I.N. Nereid Senior Center call (718) 994-0132.

Photographs and video by Adewale Adekanbi Jr. 

4/7/19 O&A NYC DANCE/REVIEW: Venezuela- Batsheva Dance Company

By Walter Rutledge

The Batsheva Dance Company presented the New York premiere of Venezuela by house choreographer Ohad Naharin on March 27 through March 30 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Howard Gillman Opera House. The program notes described the work as, “exploring the dialogue and conflict between movement and the content it represents”. As the work began the most compelling observation became that Venezuela is an experiment in perception.

The curtain rose without the usual dramatic fanfare of dimming the lights to darkness. This action caught the audience off guard silencing them with a heightened sense of curiosity. Eight dancers were standing downstage center and began a slow migration to center stage as the house lights slowly dimmed. The soft and soothing music for the entire first act of Maxim Waratt soundtrack consisted of a series Gregorian chants; and the combination of music and the upstage movement progression created an aura of mystery.

Naharin immediately establishes the work’s most notable elements; that of slow, sustained and repetitive movement phrases. Employing these choreographic devises allows the audience to absorb the movement and intent, and to remember and eventually recall the stunning visual imagery. A factor that will become important for interpreting the second act of Venezuela.

The upstage progression is interrupted by a solo female dancer extending an arm. The gesture,  with an upwardly extended arm, flexed wrist and stylized fingers, conjured Latin social dancing. A male dance extends his arm in a lower second position as if in response to the initial gesture. Soon all the dancers are engaged in a Naharin style Latin ballroom dance. The choreography seemed to work in an odd sort of tandem with the music, but it clearly established a dynamic counterpoint.

Good choreography goes beyond the steps and music, it establishes its own timing to create a visual music. Throughout the first act Naharin capitalized on this fact delivering cohesive sections of both visual and audio contrast. This was most evident in the section where the dancers rapped the lyrics from Dead Wrong, a rap song by Biggie Smalls aka the Notorious B.I.G. featuring additional rap lyrics from Eminem. Set against the Gregorian chant the effect was almost as shocking as finding a lifted toilet bowl seat in a nunnery.

As the lights rose again on the second act the dancers again moved to center stage restarting the work from the beginning.  The chant had been replaced by an eclectic score that kept the “Latin section” exciting- just more traditional. The same happened with the Biggie Small section with the rap set back to the original Al Green baseline sample; just as edgy but more contextually conventional.

Naharin masterfully variated and developed themes with nuanced discipline; which allowed changes in the environment (music, lighting, props and cast) to alter the visual perception of the choreography. In one such moment the dancers entered with rectangular shaped fabric. In the first section oatmeal colored rectangles slapped the floor as a solo dancer, crawled prostrate on the floor, seemingly tried to avoid the blows. The imagery creating a sense of penance. In the second rendition the rectangles were painted to represent national flags including the Palestinian, Brazilian and the Black Power (USA) flag. This time the “fabric flogging” took on social and politic overtones.

In another section five men walked on all fours with a woman straddling their backs. The long-sustained section created a mood of female dominance. In contrast, the imagery in the second act rendering set to Middle eastern inspired music transformed the section into a caravan.

The use of repetitive and sustained movement allowed the audience to retain the shapes and phrases. This made the second rendition an experiment in visual perception, instead of just a movement addendum. The strong musicality, which was so independent and prominent in the first act, was perfectly married to the music the proceeding act; leading us to surmise that Naharin probably choreographed the second rendering first.   

A yell from company member  Bobby Jene Smith signals the end of both acts. Maybe it was a metaphor, not signaling the end but announcing a new beginning. Ohad Naharin’s Venezuela makes a powerful artistic statement allowing us to see his world from two points of view. Both valid and both compelling.

4/1/19 O&A NYC DANCE: A Converstion with Lloyd Knight

By Walter Rutledge

The Martha Graham Dance Company will begin their New York City season April 2 through April 14 at the Joyce Theater. Continue reading

12/16/18 O&A NYC DANCE/FITNESS AND WELLNESS: Dance Of The Village Elders- Thank you!

The Dance Of The Village Elders presented Santa’s Babies on Saturday December 1, at St. Philip’s Church 204 West 134th Street in the village of Harlem. The performance marked our second holiday performance/fundraiser at St. Philip’s Church since regrouping as a “Dance/Fitness Cooperative” in the fall of 2016. The Village Elders are a group of mature adults who understand the needs for fitness and wellness as we age. When a grant that supported the project ended in 2015 instead of disbanding the Elders decided to run the program themselves with the assistance of instructor Walter Rutledge. Continue reading

6/24/18 O&A NYC WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK JUNE 24 THRU JULY: Art, Dance, Film, Music, Theatre and More

Summer has finally arrived and New York City and the arts are heating up. Inspiring visual art is drawing them in from Harlem to the Bowery. Dance swirls around Brooklyn, Lincoln Center, Chelsea and Lower Manhattan. While a famous DJ spins music  in Crown Heights and jazz get’s down in Midtown. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading

4/21/18 O&A NYC DANCE/REVIEW: newsteps- a choreographer’s series

By Walter Rutledge

The Chen Dance Center began the 34th consecutive newsteps; the semi-annual emerging choreographers’ series, Thursday, April 19 at the Chen Dance Center, 70 Mulberry Street in New York’s Chinatown. This season the three-performance spring showcase, which runs through Saturday, April 21, selected works from “non- dancers”. Professional artists, actors, musicians, singers, photographers, who applied their expertise of their respective art forms to the choreographic process. The five choreographers selected through an open audition for the April concerts are Kate Douglas, Bryndon Cook, Lauren Oliver, Alec Funiciello, and Sophia Zukoski. Each choreographer is given rehearsal space, an honorarium, mentoring from a member of the selection panel, and multiple (three) performances to give the works time to “find its own voice”. Continue reading

4/10/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Abdiel Jacobsen- Reaching Towards The Gods

By Walter Rutledge

Abdiel Jacobsen rise in the Martha Graham Dance Company is best described as meteoric. In true Graham drama, apprentice Jacobsen made his New York City company debut in 2012 performing Graham’s masterwork Errand In The Maze. Performing opposite internationally acclaimed Russian ballerina Diana Vishneva, his impressive debut endeared himself to both audiences and critics. Now a principal dancer with the Graham Company Jacobsen is looking forward to the New York City season April 11 through 14 at New York City Center. Continue reading