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Dancer With An Attitude

Ronald K. Brown at the Rialto.

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Ronald K. Brown has been in the dance making biz since the age of 19,years later he is still at it.  He founded his company, EVIDENCE, in 1985 .In my life, as a young sponge of a dancer, I’ve had the pleasure of crossing his path at workshops and summer intensives such as the American Dance Festival (ADF) in Raleigh, NC.  His challenging class and warm nurturing personality has dancers from all over the world waiting in line to study with him.  It’s an experience that changes a dancer and contributes to the maturity of one’s technique.

 

Brown’s work incorporates a lexicon of traditional dances from all over the world.  His work borrows from, West Africa and the Caribbean and mixes it with contemporary urban movement.  He choreographs numerous works for EVIDENCE, but is also commissioned for other companies such as Alvin Ailey, Philadanco, ADF and the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.  Brown has received many awards for his work, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Bessie, a Black Theater Alliance Award, and an Audelco Award.

 

November 19th I headed down to Georgia State University’s Rialto Theater, for a much-anticipated performance.  An enjoyable pre-show by Atlanta’s Drew Charter School started at 7 pm.  Students from 4th to 8th grade, under the direction of Tamara Harris, gave us delicious little tastes of dance from traditional African choreography with live drumming to more modern work inspired by the music of Stevie Wonder.  This was a nice appetizer to what was to come.

 

The main attraction was exactly as described.  The first piece, Ife/ My Heart (2005), gave a sense of community.  The dancers were decked in white but the costumes were different suggesting that they represented various ages, experiences and cultures. Brown, who joins his company on stage, seemed to be portraying an elder in a West African village.  The movement goes from a traditional arabesque to a full body scoop and drop – the dancers reach and turn their knees in on a ratchet sound.

 

The highlight of the night was the first part of the second dance, Incidents (1998).  This piece, an excerpt from a full length work, was by far the finest storytelling of the evening.  Four women occupy the space, three in tableaux while the fourth danced an emotional solo about the elements that have formed the character of African women today.  The picture of the trio moved very slowly, almost Butoh-esque, depicting the nurturing act of bathing a child.  The soloist dances as a satellite around the image moving in and out of a tortured shaking finger to confidently sitting sassily in her hip.

 

The newest piece of the evening, On Earth Together (2011), again was about community, but had an almost club feel to it.  The first part is long cannon introducing each dancer one by one, until all eight are present and accounted for.  Through the poignant lyrics of Stevie Wonder the piece conveys the feeling of wanting to make the world a better place, with lots of unity, dancing together and simple phrase manipulation.

 

Brown has an unusual musicality and works with complicated rhythms as in African tradition but it all seems to just flow like water.  He uses a lot of unison – groups of people doing the same choreography at the same time.  This can be a powerful tool when used sparingly but Brown is a little heavy-handed.  The most striking moments in the show were when soloists took the stage.   Throughout the evening there were lots of good ideas, messages and some excellent dancing but the dynamics just weren’t there.  There weren’t enough highs and lows to keep me at the edge of my seat.  The overall tone of the performance was extraordinarily mellow.

 

 

Dancer With An Attitude

The Movement In Stillness – “First Breath” by Travis Magee

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“First Breath”, a new exhibition of photography by Travis Magee

The Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Beginning 1.31.15

There are these moments among skilled choreography and seasoned performances where you lose yourself. If you happen to be experiencing this, you will most probably hear a gasp or a groan. There is no language adequate to tell the tale later because they affect you in a primal, visceral way. These moments transcend language and are too intimate to describe. To those of you who don’t frequent the many exquisite dance events happening around the world today… this is the reason to see dance live! The bitter sweet dichotomy can perpetuate a frustration, that the experiences can’t REALLY be translated to anyone who wasn’t at the dance performances, sharing the adventure. These feelings lead to the question, “How do we bottle this?”

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Dancer With An Attitude

Dearly Departures: “A Long Way… A Longer Distance Call”

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photo : Chris Carder
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The Lucky Penny has become a cornerstone of Atlanta’s cutting edge dance and technology. Dearly Departures: A new dance by Blake Beckham and her impeccable motley crew of technicians and performers, at Georgia Tech’s DramaTech Theater, have created yet another night of artistic excellence

The little black box theatre, more of a trapezoidal space is reminiscent of the old train stations lined with a long illuminated bench Stage Left, an “Old Skool” telephone booth Stage Right and a Split Flap display board hanging above. The experience begins with a Rolodex scrolling sound as the Split Flap illustrates very slow, movie style, credits. This sets a mellow tone, allowing the audience to hunker down in our seats and get comfortable. The lights dim then flicker off, in a “cool” and unusual manner, foreshadowing the unexpected and poetic experience to come.

The clickety clack of the display is overtaken by ambient music and lights go up on dancer Alisa Mitten. She smoothly makes her way around with long relaxed movements, allowing her fingertips to initiate her locomotion. As we watch, the Split Flap is feeding us contemplative ideas to ponder as the action unfolds.

“Away… Way back… Go… Go… Go back.” And a repeated mantra of “Begin again” & “Begin & End.”

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T. Lang: A Woman Searching

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The raw space at the Goat Farm is set up with four see through scrims hanging from the ceiling, situated in a square, to separate the performers from the audience.  Seats are arranged in the round, meaning all the way “a round” where the action was about to take place.  The first question of the evening is to figure out which side of the room we want to experience this evening from.  Obviously, there is no right or wrong… just questions.

On June 7th, I found myself asking a lot of questions at the World premiere of T. Lang Dance Company’s  performance of Post Up.  The cast of nine extraordinary women were uniformly exposed in white bras and cherry red leggings.   The uniformity brought to mind a complex woman or many women in a similar situation, perhaps battered or in a prison.  An inquiry later enhanced by zig-zagged projections on the fabric we were looking through.  The tastefully sparse costumes highlighted the performers’ beauty and I was reminded of how majestic women are, in all iterations, with different curves, hair lengths, textures and hues of skin.

The tone in this screened in cage was desperate, sad and played with themes of struggle and vulnerability but through it all a feminine strength became apparent.  Not only through the athleticism of these prodigious artistic athletes but in an instinctual comradery that naturally exists between woman, especially at times of crisis.

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