Husband and wife Glenn Allen Sims and Linda Celeste Sims have danced with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for more than 20 years. Continue reading
By Walter Rutledge
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
Misty Copeland, Robert Fairchild and members of the Ailey Company performed in honor of Carmen de Lavallade during the Kennedy Center Honors. Continue reading
By Walter Rutledge
The Fire Island Dance Festival held their 22nd annual fundraiser July 15 through 17, 2016. The three-day four-performance festival presented emerging and established choreographers and companies in a stunning outdoor setting framed by the Great South Bay. In the last few of years the festival has felt more like a traditional summer outdoor choreographers showcase. This year the well-curated and focused concert series returned to its roots offering 8 provocative, sensitive and thought-provoking works.
Many of the works revolved around the theme of love and relationship. Glenn Sims and Linda Celeste Sims opened the program with MATCH- The First Installment by Abdul Latif. The set, which resembled of an oversized two-tiered revolving “Lazy Susan”, provided a panoramic perspective of the top-tier duet. It also highlighted the artistic intensity of the two Ailey veterans and real life husband and wife. During the three sections the dance evolved from seated floor work to energetic, but cool jazz that framed the set. Dancers Eury German, Nik Owens, Jillian Roberts and Valentina Strokopytova assisted the couple on stage.
Lasting Embrace choreographed by Ballet Contemporaneo De Camaguey’s Associate Artistic Director Pedro Ruiz had a profound affect on the audience. The adagio demonstrated a good use of theme and development that created a movement based love letter. Armando Gomez Brydson and Jesus Arias Pagues danced the thoughtful and well-crafted duet with strong emotional and technical prowess. Masculine, yet tender the supported partnering switched between the two dancers establishing a feeling of equality and camaraderie.
Wendy Whelan performed the third duet First Fall with choreographer Brian Brooks. The work used momentum and shared body weight to develop a conversation with a distinct voice. Brooks’ designed a sophisticated work with visual innuendoes that clearly expressed his intent through subtlety and repetition than overt movement passages
Larry Keigwin’s fun romp Episodes was set to a lively version of Leonard Bernstein’s On The Town. Members of Keigwin + Company performed the sextet with a good sense of athleticism and solid theatricality. Dancers Kacie Boblitt, Brandon Cournay, Benjamin Freedman, Kile Hotchkiss, Emily Schoen and Jaclyn Walsh danced the upbeat work with the proper amount of verve and playfulness.
For Us by Madboots Dance, choreographed and performed by Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz became an immediate audience favorite. Choreographed in response to the Orlando Tragedy the work began with an eerily rendition of Judy Garland’s Somewhere Over The Rainbow and segued into a dialogue on love. Here the choreographer’s intent was so clear that the overall composition became more important than any isolated movement passages. The message of love and acceptance culminated with a protracted lip lock, titillating the audience and creating a theatrical crescendo.
Choreographer Andrea Miller, in collaboration with Gallim Dance, presented a personal elegy entitled Mike and Harvey. A loving tribute to Miller’s close friends and long time Fire Island residents Harvey Alter and Mike Young. Set to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings the trio reflected loss and separation. Shroud in a black cloche Gwyn Mackenzie seemed to mourn and reminisce Austin Tyson and Paul Vickers, who moved with a special tenderness. At the end the men simply sat on the upstage edge of the stage, legs dandling over, and looking out on the bay as if at home enjoying the sunset.
Dance Theatre of Harlem
Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Equillibrium (BROTHERHOOD) setto a contemporary jazz score by Kenji Bunch displayed a good use of counterpoint. The choreographer’s musicality could be seen through his use of cannon, and sculptural geometric and asymmetric groupings. Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Dylan Santos, Anthony Javier Savoy and Jorge Andres Villarini danced with a technical ease, effortlessly jumping, turning and kicking throughout the abstract work.
Gay Paree (inspired by Freddie Falls in Love) ended the evening with an uproarious vacation for two male travelers to Paris. Choreographed by Al Blackstone with Billy Griffin the ensemble dance narrative moved with the fast paced unexpectedness of a vacation gone awry. This jazzy theatrical excursion into movement mischief added a different take on Americans in Paris.
The Fire Island Dance Festival is the most prestigious cultural and charitable event on the Fire Island Pines. For the last six consecutive years the festival has surpassed the previous year’s fundraising efforts; this year the festival raised a record-breaking $560,133. The funds assist the efforts of Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA), a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. As a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, DRA supports more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states as well as the essential programs of The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative and The Dancers’ Resource.
Fire Island Dance Festival 2016 Highlights
Over its 22 year history the Fire Island Dance Festival has raised more than 4.8 million dollars to help those in need living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, individuals with other debilitating illnesses in New York and across the country have access to lifesaving medications, counseling, healthy meals and emergency financial assistance. For more information, or to make a donation please visit Dancers Responding to AIDS at dradance.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/DRAdance, on Twitter at twitter.com/DRAdance, on YouTube at youtube.com/DRAdance and on Instagram at instagram.com/DRAdance.
By Walter Rutledge
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater gave a cautious debut performance of Paul Taylor’s tango infused Piazzolla Caldera, but now the Company has thrown caution to the wind. Set in a milonga (tango dance hall) this rich dance theatre work allowed the Ailey Company to really flex their dramatic muscle. Piazzolla Caldera has become the highlight of the 2015 New York City Center season showcasing the Ailey Company at their sultry best. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
By Walter Rutledge
The Bessies- the New York Dance and Performance Award is the Oscars for dance. Named in honor of pioneer dance educator and choreographic mentor Bessie Schonberg, the Bessies has become one of the most prestigious awards one can receive in the world of dance. On Monday October 20, 7:30pm the Bessies will be held at the Apollo Theater, 325 West 125th Street. Continue reading