11/6/21 O&A NYC AFTER THE CONVERSATION: Elisa Monte, Sarita Allen, Lloyd Knight, Marzia Memoli

The Martha Graham Dance Company concluded its New York fall performances at the Joyce Theater. O&A NYC Editor-in-Chief Walter Rutledge sat down with Treading choreographer Elisa Monte, Graham dancers Lloyd Knight and Marzia Memoli, and “dance Icon” former Ailey principal Sarita Allen for a spirited conversation about Monte’s signature work. After the interview ended the the conversation continued.   Continue reading

12/15/19 O&A NYC REVIEW- DANCE: Greenwood By Donald Byrd- The Majesty and Power in Truth

By Walter Rutledge

When incidents of oppression are remembered through the eyes of the oppressor and their descendants the atrocities usual receive a historic “whitewashing”; or become uncomfortable footnotes in whispered history. There is a majesty and power in truth. Greenwood by choreographer Donald Byrd retells the Oklahoma massacre dubbed the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot; a sinister event of racism that has been swept under the Jim Crow rug of American history.

The difference between an established dance maker and an artist is not just prowess, but their need to take risks. Byrd, an accomplished storyteller, introduces us to the ethereal Jacqueline Green, who functions as an omniscient and omnipresent Griot. Entering upstage center through a floor to ceiling monolith that opens into a black box, Green with an Amazonian presence transports us into the segregated Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

A blond and bouffant Danica Paulos stands center stage framed in a rectangular box of light we hear the approaching footsteps of Chalvar Monterio; who joins her in the light. As she brings her arms together the eerie sound of metal elevator gates closing cuts through the silence. This first innocent encounter probably reflects what really happened; a black man entered an elevator and stepped on the foot of a white teenage girl- the tragedy begins.

Through the course of the work this elevator scenario is repeated three times. Each time the encounter becomes intentionally less innocent, and Monterio’s portrayal becomes more “savage” and physically aggressive. This theatrical device helped symbolize how the incident became more sensationalize by the bigoted Tulsa community to insight the carnage. In each subsequent renditions the walking sound was augmented with the sound of more running as if fleeing an angry lynch mob.

Clifton Brown, Ghrai DeVore-Stokes, Solomon Dumas and Jacquelin Harris portrayed the “colored” citizens of Greenwood. Byrd interspersed moments of stylized posed stillness. These tableaus recall the sepia colored family portraits photographs of the proud Greenwood citizenry. This effectively created a subtle and nuanced pathos for these soon to be victims of mob violence.

To Byrd’s credit he did not create a literal Klu Klux Klan militia; instead the oppressor are silver automatons- faceless, mindless, devoid of a heart or soul. Even the movement vocabulary Bryd assigned to this ensemble of seven dancers had a robotic non-human quality.

The Tulsa African- American community was a living example of W.E.B. Dubois’ doctrine of self- determination. Since the Caucasian population demanded social and economic delineations and extreme apartheid- like separation by race; this left Tulsa’s African- American population to develop their own reality. The people’s ability to adapt, to adjust, survive and flourish; and the concept of Greenwood, a thriving self-sufficient “Colored” community, only created envy, scorn and resentment. The White community only needed a social issue scandal to justify displacing and erasing Greenwood; and destroy the community’s growing and solidified political and civic base.

In a striking moment Green sits downstage legs crossed arms relaxed at her side with her back to the audience; a passive, almost otherworldly, observer of the butchery. Green eventually rises, walks upstage to aid the fallen motionless citizens strewn about the stage floor. She drags Harris from the group and then lifts her onto her shoulder and carries her limp and broken body through the monolithic doorway and out of view.

The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot is one of the many little-known tragedies that illustrates the struggle for racial equality and the oppressive Jim Crow era. Byrd’s ability to translate history into a powerful abstract narrative is another example of how a seasoned choreographer/storyteller brings new life to a forgotten American abomination. Less than two years later the 1923 Rosewood Massacre decimated another thriving African- American community in Florida. These atrocities are absent from most classroom history books, so it is up to brave artists like Byrd to remind us of the majesty and power in truth- less we forget.

Greenwood by Donald Byrd  

Solomon Dumas, Akua Noni Parker and Jacqueline Green 2) Danica Paulos and Chalvar Monteiro 3) Clifton Brown, Ghrai DeVore-Stokes, Solomon Dumas and Jacquelin Harris and Jacqueline Green 

Photography by: 1&3) Paul-Kolnik 2) Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

12/8/19 O&A NYC DANCE: A Conversation With Yannick LeBrun- Ailey’s Danseur Noble

By Walter Rutledge 

A danseur noble is a male dancer who projects great nobility of character. A dancer who performs at the highest theatrical level combining exceptional grace, technique and strength. In a prior review I referred to Ailey principal dancer Yannick LeBrun as a danseur noble. It was not one performance or one season that brought me to that conclusion, but a career collective. Continue reading

12/4/19 O&A NYC DANCE: Meet Catherine Eng- newsteps a choreographers showcase

The fall 2019 newsteps: a choreographers series presented by the Chen Dance Center, 70 Mulberry Street 2nd floor in historic Chinatown, will take place December 5 through December 7; 7:30pm. The series will showcase the works of six emerging choreographers Jessica Alexander & Madison Doyle, Caitlin Javech, Amanda Spilinga, Alice Halter, Catherine Eng and Susanne McHugh. These artists were selected by a panel of established dance makers and provided rehearsal space, mentoring and performance opportunities. The newsteps series offers three performances for an intimate audience of approximately 100 people. Let’s meet dance maker Catherine Eng.

Meet Catherine Eng an interdisciplinary dance artist with a movement background in Horton, contemporary, and physical theater interested in making work regarding social thought. She’s shown work at Triskelion Art’s, Movement Research, and The Works. Since graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, she’s been working with Sara Rudner and Rourou Ye as well as dancing and choreographing with ZCO Dance Project.

Meet Catherine Eng- newsteps a choreographers showcase

11/28/19 O&A NYC DANCE: A Conversation With Khalia Campbell- Her Journey Continues

By Walter Rutledge 

In the early 2000’s the Uptown Dance Academy was located in the large loft space above a discount department store in East Harlem. After climbing the steep double flight of stairs, I met a  group of young dancers warming up in a small subdivided studio. Director Robin Williams introduced me to the cherubic faced girls and boys; whose youthful exuberance and joy of endless possibilities filled the room. Williams and I had a brief conversation, which ended in a private joke. In the corner a girl stretching on the floor responded to my comment with a hearty “ole soul” laugh; that doe-eyed precocious eleven-year old was Khalia Campbell. Continue reading

12/23/19 O&A NYC DANCE: A Conversation With Masazumi Chaya- The Golden Age Of Ailey

By Walter Rutledge

Masazumi Chaya, affectionately called Chaya, has been a part of Ailey organization for almost half a century. Chaya joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1972 during an era we refer to as the Golden Age of Ailey. During Chaya’s fifteen years as an Ailey dancer he distinguished himself as an intense performer; who excited audience with an almost effervescent abandon. Continue reading

11/8/19 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: Ballet Eloelle- Teaching Diversity With Laughter

By Walter Rutledge

The Leslie-Lohman Museum For Gay and Lesbian Art Gala took place on October 22 at one of the first venues for modern dance the Judson Theater. The celebration/ raised funds and awareness to the many projects and exhibitions directly effecting the LGTBQ community. One of the true highlights of this festival fundraising evening was the internationally acclaimed dance company Ballet Eloelle.

A five-member ensemble from the all- male comedy ballet company entertained and enlightened the audience; sharing the message of diversity and tolerance through humor. The company is one of only a handful of professional “gender bending” dance companies in the world (Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo being the most recognizable). Founded and directed by Victor Trevino the New York City based Ballet Eloelle has an extensive internationally touring portfolio, delighting audiences and receiving rave reviews throughout Europe, Asia, South America, the Caribbean and the United States. 

The dancers are a collective of veteran comic male ballerinas and new faces from around the globe; a hallmark of this very special band of globetrotting troubadours. The Dying Swan performed by Nina Minimaximova (aka Trevino) with brilliant self- effacing comedic timing that brought the house down!  

Ballet Eloelle- Harliquenade Pas de Deux

Another standout was principal dancer Marianel Moarorles (aka Walter Battistini). The diminutive powerhouse performed Harliquinade Pas de deux with male lead Tetsushi Segawa. Battisini’s strong fleet-footed allegro perfectly balanced his comedic and oft-times coquettish partnering style; making the duet and variations one of the evening’s high points.

 
Ballet Eloelle- Pas de Quatre

Battisini was also featured in Pas de Quatre, a spoof on the renowned divertissement choreographed by Jules Perrot in 1845. Dancing as famed nineteen century ballerina Franni Cerrito, he was joined onstage with three other divas: Tamara Verde (Roberto Forleo) as Marie Taglioni, Palomina Carrera (Jonathan Mendez) as Carlotta Grisi, and Teresa Carino (Estefano Gil) as Lucille Grahn. Together this fearsome foursome was electric as they parodied this Romantic ballet classic.  

Ballet Eloelle brought the right amount of humor, satire and solid dance technique to the Leslie-Lohman Museum Gala. The troupe definitely are dancing ambassadors helping all of us leap in to a more tolerate and inclusive world. And they are doing it with laughter- one bourree at a time.   

9/22/19 O&A NYC DANCE- REVIEW: Legacy- Creative Outlet and Deeply Rooted at BAM Fisher

By Walter Rutledge

Legacy, a shared concert between Brooklyn based Jamel Gaine’s Creative Outlet and Chicago’s Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, presented a well curated evening of dance theatre works at BAM Fisher on Friday and Saturday September 13 and 14, 2019. Founding directors Jamel Gaines and Deeply Rooted’s Kevin Jeff (both Queens natives and Bernice Johnson Dance School alums) presented a concert of shared dance philosophies. The evening had a kindred aesthetic; presenting seven works spanning thirty-five years. Continue reading

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