Gaga over L-E-V

A REVIEW

 

By SUSAN BROILI

 

Israel’s L-E-V made its American Dance Festival debut on Tuesday, July 3 with the new work “OCD Love,” created by co-artistic directors Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar and performed by Gon Biran, Mariko Kakizaki, Keren Lurie Pardes, Darren Devaney and Daniel-Norgen-Jensen.

The performance began with the sound of a ticking clock in a dark Durham Performing Arts Center theater.

What ensued, to loud, ominous-sounding music, suggested a world inhabited by those who were obsessed with their sexual cravings. (In obsessive-compulsive disorder, people are driven by different fixations including sexual thoughts.)

This work proved startling due to dancers’ extreme range of motion and unusual ways in which their bodies communicated turmoil.

I will never forget the image of all five dancers’ muscular pulsing that simultaneously occurred all over their bodies. Think explosive pops as opposed to trembling.

The opening images created by a female dancer will also be etched in my memory. On a very murky stage, this soloist seemed to defy gravity and suspend herself in space as though supported by wires. Her arms looked exceptionally long and undulated like the invertebrate arms of an octopus.

This same dancer also displayed extreme, gravity-defying backward leaning of her body as did some other performers in this work.

No doubt, Gaga had something to do with these manifestations.

Israel’s Ohad Nahrin, long associated with the Tel-Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company – he steps down as artistic director in September 2018 but will continue to hold the position of house choreographer – had created Gaga, a movement language – some say, a philosophy – in response to a serious back injury that had required surgery. As he recovered, he had been forced, by daily pain, to figure out how to move more efficiently by using different muscles.

L-E-V’s Sharon Eyal had exposure to Gaga as a dancer with the Batsheva company from 1990-2008, She also served as the company’s associate artistic director from 2003-2004 and house choreographer from 2005-2012.

When Eyal and Gai Behar, partners in life as well as art, formed L-E-V in 2013, Eyal left Batsheva Dance Company, but the couple has continued to use Gaga as a warm-up for their dancers.

Generally, the instructor who leads dancers in such warm-ups, gives them prompts such as: “Become a string of spaghetti in a pot of boiling water.”

The “hot” atmosphere of “OCD Love” appeared to come more from thoughts of sex manifested in suggestive gestures such as a man’s rubbing of his crotch and the way dancers hovered close to each other without contact.

Near the end, however, dancers’ movements spoke more of their support of each other. As the music changed from an end-of-the-world-quality to a melody that sounded like a prayer, dancers stood still and played one hand over their hearts. (The word “lev” in Hebrew, means “heart.”)

Dancers lifted a woman, her legs spread wide, as slowly, they moved from side-to side. This work ended as light illuminated the tight group of dancers.

 

Powerful Solo

A REVIEW

 

By SUSAN BROILI

 

In her solo, “The Same Eyes As Yours,” Anne Plamondon delivered a powerful performance that was both personal and universal when she made her American Dance Festival debut on Saturday, June 30, at Duke University’s Rubenstein Arts Center.

A rapt audience appeared to immediately fall under the spell of her solo and remained attentive throughout the 50-minute performance that started at 7 p.m.

In this work, Plamondon used live spoken word, music and video recorded words and images as well as movement.

Plamondon spoke of the father “lost” to her as a child due to his mental illness. She also embodied him as a way of understanding him – the proverbial walk a mile in someone else’s shoes in order to see things from another person’s point-of-view. This also enabled her to use spoken word to describe what might have been going on in her father’s mind. She also voiced her own thoughts and feelings. And, in her solo, she moved in an awkward, twisted, off-kilter way that required great strength and extreme flexibility.

“I never knew my father when he was well or normal,” she said.

She recounted how, on a snowy day in Montreal, Canada, where she grew up, her father, a taxi driver, had been waiting in a line of taxis for customers when something within him snapped.

“I often imagined what was in his mind that day,” Plamondon added.

And, that imagining prompted her to voice what he could have been thinking that day:

“It’s snowing a lot, I’m in a taxi, in the middle of the line. There’s some kind of fight. I see someone looking at me and shouting. But I don’t hear anything.”

Her father had emerged from the taxi but then got back in. “I don’t know what’s going on. It feels like the whole, outside world is suspended in my head,” Plamondon imagined him thinking.

He would go on to commit himself and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Plamondon’s movements spoke volumes. Imagining what her father experienced, she looked restless, her mouth open like she was talking to herself.  She crouched in a spotlight. She twisted her feet at awkward angles so that they hardly resembled feet at all. In moves that required  strength and great flexibility,  she assumed distorted poses as she stretched her body into odd shapes and angles.

She spoke about how she had felt scared when, as a child, she had gone to visit her father in the medical facility. And, that she didn’t see him much after that. Then, as an adult, she saw her father for what would be the last time; he died about a year later.

On a large backdrop, the audience saw clips from the video Plamondon had made that day when she had a life-changing experience.

“ … He was waiting for me when I arrived. He was happy to see me but he didn’t know who I was (or so she thought).”

She recorded images of him singing and talking, which he had not done when, as a child, she had visited him. She thought the change had something to do with his memory loss that had developed over the years since she had last seen him.

“He had a picture of me [as a teen-ager] in ‘Swan Lake’ and knew it was me,” she said. Still, her father had struggled to recognize her as his adult daughter.

Then, he looked into her eyes and said: “’You have the same eyes as me.’ And, finally, she knew that he knew exactly who she was.

This gift of a moment explains Plamondon’s title choice for her solo and also why, during that solo, close-up video images of her eyes had been projected on the backdrop. And, in those eyes, tears glistened.

 

 

“Brown” Compelling

A REVIEW

 

BY SUSAN BROILI

Murielle Elizeon made her American Dance Festival debut in a riveting performance of her solo “Brown” at 2 p.m. Sunday (July 8, 2018) at The Fruit in downtown Durham, NC

In this physically and mentally demanding evening-length work, her body became an instrument of grief, of loss, of endurance and resilience.

And, she had a mere four hours to recover for the 7 p.m. performance that same day. The run of “Brown” continued at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. performances on July 9.

For her solo, Elizeon had drawn on her identity as a “brown French woman” and presumably through that identity, her empathy for female victims of violence and for those who are discriminated against based on racial stereotyping.

Wearing sunglasses and a chic outfit designed by Paris-born Sarah Marguier: shiny, skin-tight black tights, short, sparkly, black cropped top, white blouse and red knit, strapless halter top and stiletto heels, Elizeon stood in a spotlight and began her solo by speaking of how six years ago, her father had died.

She had been living in Germany when she received the news that her father was seriously ill in a French hospital.
“I did not grow up with him,” she said. Still, she had taken a boat to France and went to his hospital room where she found him in bed, eyes closed. After he died, she and her siblings went to see him but they could not take comfort in their common memories with him because they had none, she said.

“We just dance,” Elizeon said, swiveling her pelvis as she danced to James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a brand New Bag.”

She took her jacket off, then the white shirt and finally the strapless top she hurled in the direction of the audience.

In silence, she approached the back wall and began repeatedly hitting it with her body until, with a loud expiration of breath, she collapsed on the floor. When she did begin to move, on her stomach, she scrunched across the floor. Then upright, still wearing stiletto heels, she ran in place, arms bent, fists churning. When she stopped, she squatted, her breathing hard, as we heard strains of “Nature Boy” sung by Nat King Cole. Under her breath, Elizeon, repeated part of a line from the song: “There was a boy…”

On her knees, as though trying to shake off bad memories, she violently shook and continued to shake as she stood before falling on her face.

In her solo, Elizeon did have some assistance. Maya Noonan, 9, daughter of Elizeon and her partner in life and art Tommy Noonan, also a dancer/choreographer, made a guest appearance as a prop assistant. (And, Tommy Noonan was also credited in the program for the his “production magic” for “Brown.”

In the ritual in which Elizeon spread sand onstage to mark the perimeter of a large circle, then assumed a face-down position in the center, Maya tossed sand on Elizeon’s back and long, black hair.

Before the finale, Maya brought Elizeon a tie for her hair, a long-sleeve, white shirt and a music player that she set close to the audience. Then, Elizeon danced in motes of light as, with a diabolical gleam in her eyes, she made fake happy faces and bared her teeth.

Then, the mood changed drastically, as we heard more of the lyrics of “Nature Boy.”

“There was a boy, a very strange and gentle boy, enchanted boy/They said he wandered very far, /Very far over land and sea?…/And, then one day/One magic day he passed my way/… This he said to me:/ The great thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Then, Elizeon shared the spotlight with her daughter as they held hands and took well-deserved bows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abraham Moves

A REVIEW

 

BY SUSAN BROILI

 

An American Dance Festival audience had a decision to make before the 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, (2018) performance of “Dearest Home” by Kyle Abraham’s Abraham.In.Motion (A.I.M.).

Seated in the Rubenstein Arts Center’s intimate theater, we had two choices: to watch and listen to music delivered through a head set or watch in silence. ADF director Jodee Nimerichter cautioned those who opted for the music to make sure no sounds leaked out. That’s because dancers had learned Abraham’s 2017 60-minute work in silence and have continued to perform it that way.

I chose silence because of the new experience it offered and also because I felt stressed due to having to hunt for a parking place and then scrambling to get to the performance in time.

Turns out that the silence helped me feel calmer and, at the same time, my senses were heightened. In that state, the rhythms of dancers’ movements created a music all their own as they expressed love, loss and longing – themes Kyle Abraham said, in a program note, that he had chosen for “Dearest Home” because “these themes have the capacity to heal and bring people together.”

Abraham added, in his program note, that he had not known that, after announcing the world premier date of “Dearest Home,” that during the ensuing year , …“ I would lose my mother … or end a relationship with the man I thought I would marry.”

Having arrived to this performance in the nick of time, I had no time to read that program note then. I did, after seeing the performance, start to think of what the title “Dearest Home” evoked for me – that in a loving relationship, there’s a feeling of being in a safe harbor, of being home.

The cast that included Raleigh native Kayla Farrish as well as Tamisha Guy, Catherine Ellis Kirk, Marcella Lewis, Matthew Baker and Jeremy “Jae” Neal, communicated their roles not only with movement but also through facial expressions and gestures.

Those roles revolved around looking for love whether it be between two men, two women and a woman and a man. Interactions were sometimes playful or intense or erotic.

At one point, as the two men vied for one of the women, all three became tangled in a knot of struggle that resulted in Neal’s character winning while Baker’s character, alone, danced out his frustration.

When Baker’s character reappeared near the end of “Dearest Home,” it was clear that he still felt heart-broken as, overcome by sobs, he doubled over. We could still hear his crying after he had left the performance area.

This work ended as Neal, now alone, moved into a very dim spotlight on a dark stage. There, most of his brief movements were obscured by the absence of enough illumination but I did see him get down on one knee and make his exit.

 

Museum Dance

A REVIEW

 

BY SUSAN BROILI

 

RALEIGH – On Monday, July 16, 2018, the NC Museum of Art was closed to regular visitors but not to people who purchased tickets to see the American Dance Festival debut of Israel’s Dana Ruttenberg Dance Group performing “Naba 2.0” in the museum’s West Building.

The troupe, based in Tel Aviv, gave a total of eight performances from Saturday, July 14, through Tuesday, July 17.

The 2 p.m. Tuesday performance offered an experience that was interactive, innovative and immensely funny with some impressive dancing by Tal Adler Arieli, Carmel Ben-Asher, Gilad Jerusalmy and Noa Shiloh in the roles of museum guides.

The interactive factor turned out to be pre-programed audio guides (like those actually used by museums). Dance attendees were instructed how to first choose between hearing music or narration then punch the corresponding number, then the green button – and, voila! – we had our soundtrack for individual sections. The choice options were identified on large, white signs dancers held up.

For instance, when I chose “Carmel”, I heard what sounded like biographical information about one of the dancers: Carmel Ben-Asher, born in 1994. She had had problems with her left leg but still joined the Israeli swimming team and then took up horse-back riding until she fell off a horse, according to the narrator. “Her last resort was dance,” he added.

When he said the part about her fall from a horse, all four dancers fell on their butts. Yes, there was plenty of dancing to see as we listened to the soundtracks.

As I listened to “Peru’s” romantic guitar music and woman’s singing in Spanish, I saw a male tour guide scoot under the “bridge” made by a female tour guide’s bowed back supported by her arms and legs. When she faced him, she put one foot on his chest and left to dance happily by herself albeit in a somewhat flirty way.

Sometimes the dancing suggested a landscape, a tableau or the sheer energy that radiated from some of the art work. Dancing also took on a sculptural look most evident when the two male dancers Tal Adler Arieli and Gilad Jerusalmy performed in an outside courtyard where a number of black, metal sculptures stood.

Since the women in the audience were instructed to choose one listening option, I was treated to the theme from the film “2001 A Space Odyssey,” as outside in sweltering heat, dancers performed a series of shifting, weigh-bearing maneuvers as they lifted, held each other upside down and even in airplane position (horizontal and to the side of the supporting partner). Separately, they soared like rocket ships.

When these dancers finished and re-entered the museum, they were breathing heavily and drenched with sweat. Good thing the program did not call for anymore dancing. Instead, both the Israeli performers and audience were instructed to relax on their backs and listen to a female artist talk about her all-white painting, “The White Lie.” She said, among other things, “In this work, I was in alignment with God” and “The motto that led me was less is more.”

She also noted that her painting evoked more than just the color white such as “milk without a glass” and “an Eskimo landscape.”

The audio recording ended as the narrator said that listeners should also consider “the work you yourself have created in your minds during the past eight minutes.”

I know I’ll never look at a white painting as just a color again.

Rosie Returns

 

 

A REVIEW

 

By SUSAN BROILI

 

The Miami-based Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre has delighted American Dance Festival audiences in four previous ADF performances here that were informed by Rosie Herrera’s keen sense of humor, vivid imagination, eclectic music and inclusive cast. And, performances this summer of 2018 proved to be no exception.

Who else would have thought of using slices of what resembled processed luncheon meat as both prop and food in “Carne Viva,” the first number in the program on Friday, July 6 at Duke University’s Reynolds Industries Theater. And, then there was the world premiere of “Make Believe” in which a jumbo, inflated castle-shaped structure took on human qualities.

Also, this company embodies a Latin American vibe: current company members hail from Cuba while artistic director Herrera is Cuban-American. Her company has always welcomed diversity and performances often have a show-style flair.

The program opened with “Carne Viva” (literal translation: “long live meat” although there may be a colloquial meaning associated with “carne”, a Spanish feminine noun).

It opened with the tall, muscular Simon Thomas-Train taking on an endurance challenge as he repeatedly hoisted a female dancer above his head and held her there, his hands under her arm pits, until his body started to shake from the effort. Then, he lowered her and repeated this process longer than seemed humanly possible.

Enter three female performers who placed meat on his thighs as he sat cross-legged, perhaps to re-energize him after his heroic efforts. But he didn’t eat the meat. Instead, the women ravenously consumed the protein. And, at least one of them needed it as she inserted her head in his arm pit as he was prone (face down), his body in a “star” position, arms and legs spread wide, and pushed him around on the floor.

And, two of the women needed the meat for the fight between them. And, I mean a hard-scrabble, strange form of wrestling that was over-the-top. They crawled over each other. One rolled the other like a log into her lap. They scrambled and scraped, separated and went at it over and over until all they could do was hold onto each other, their breathing labored.

The world premiere of the American Dance Festival co-commissioned “Make Believe” provided a number of imaginative experiences.

It began with the full cast: Ivonne Batanero, Abel Berenguer, Loren Davidson, Rayne J. Raney, Katie Stirman, Simon Thomas-Train and Elaine Wright, dressed in sparkly red and white costumes. They clasped hands and shimmied as though to say “It’s show time.” To club music, five dancers slapped their bodies, clapped their hands, punched fists into the air and jumped, arms thrown up.

When music stopped suddenly, the scene shifted to some women cast members using healing touch on a woman, who appeared to be older than cast members. When they left her alone, she stood still, reached out with her hands, her mouth open in a silent scream. She covered her mouth and made an eerie sound.

To Astrud Gilberto’s bossa nova hit “The Look of Love,” cast members joined her and danced while she stood still.

To say there was a lot more going on in “Make Believe” would be an understatement and there’s no way to recount it all here so I’m fast-forwarding to the mega imaginative last section that began as a performer struggled to pull an elephantine object upstage and there it “slept”  until finally “it” began to “grow” almost crushing a male dancer who had collapsed on this form. Soon, it mushroomed, thanks to air that “magically” filled it. And, what to my eyes should appear but a ginormous, four-turreted castle with an area in the center for bounding. None of the cast bounced there. But the man who had the close call and the female dancer he met on the castle’s front step, proceeded to explore underneath the object. First, he held up a corner of the castle and she ventured under it and performed a head roll. Still underneath, the couple, on their backs, supported their end of the castle by bracing their feet on the bottom. Then, they stood and he supported that corner until, in a split second, he grabbed her and together they shot out from under the castle just in time before it lumbered down.

The last image proved a delightful surprise as all humans gone, the four turrets, two on each side, suddenly started moving their “heads” and bodies as though, as though – they were dancing.

 

Gaga about L-E-V

A REVIEW

 

By SUSAN BROILI

 

Israel’s L-E-V made its American Dance Festival debut on Tuesday, July 3 with the new work “OCD Love,” created by co-artistic directors Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar and performed by Gon Biran, Mariko Kakizaki, Keren Lurie Pardes, Darren Devaney and Daniel-Norgen-Jensen.

The performance began with the sound of a ticking clock in a dark Durham Performing Arts Center theater.

What ensued, to loud, ominous-sounding music, suggested a world inhabited by those who were obsessed with their sexual cravings. (In obsessive-compulsive disorder, people are driven by different fixations including sexual thoughts.)

This work proved startling due to dancers’ extreme range of motion and unusual ways in which their bodies communicated turmoil.

I will never forget the image of all five dancers’ muscular pulsing that simultaneously occurred all over their bodies. Think explosive pops as opposed to trembling.

The opening images created by a female dancer will also be etched in my memory. On a very murky stage, this soloist seemed to defy gravity and suspend herself in space as though supported by wires. Her arms looked exceptionally long and undulated like the invertebrate arms of an octopus.

This same dancer also displayed extreme, gravity-defying backward leaning of her body as did some other performers in this work.

No doubt, Gaga had something to do with these manifestations.

Israel’s Ohad Nahrin, long associated with the Tel-Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company – he steps down as artistic director in September 2018 but will continue to hold the position of house choreographer – had created Gaga, a movement language – some say, a philosophy – in response to a serious back injury that had required surgery. As he recovered, he had been forced, by daily pain, to figure out how to move more efficiently by using different muscles.

L-E-V’s Sharon Eyal had exposure to Gaga as a dancer with the Batsheva company from 1990-2008, She also served as the company’s associate artistic director from 2003-2004 and house choreographer from 2005-2012.

When Eyal and Gai Behar, partners in life as well as art, formed L-E-V in 2013, Eyal left Batsheva Dance Company, but the couple has continued to use Gaga as a warm-up for their dancers.

Generally, the instructor who leads dancers in such warm-ups, gives them prompts such as: “Become a string of spaghetti in a pot of boiling water.”

The “hot” atmosphere of “OCD Love” appeared to come more from thoughts of sex manifested in suggestive gestures such as a man’s rubbing of his crotch and the way dancers hovered close to each other without contact.

Near the end, however, dancers’ movements spoke more of their support of each other. As the music changed from an end-of-the-world-quality to a melody that sounded like a prayer, dancers stood still and played one hand over their hearts. (The word “lev” in Hebrew, means “heart.”)

Dancers lifted a woman, her legs spread wide, as slowly, they moved from side-to side. This work ended as light illuminated the tight group of dancers.

 

Powerful Solo

A REVIEW

 

By SUSAN BROILI

 

In her solo, “The Same Eyes As Yours,” Anne Plamondon delivered a powerful performance that was both personal and universal when she made her American Dance Festival debut on Saturday, June 30, at Duke University’s Rubenstein Arts Center.

A rapt audience appeared to immediately fall under the spell of her solo and remained attentive throughout the 50-minute performance that started at 7 p.m.

In this work, Plamondon used live spoken word, music and video recorded words and images as well as movement.

Plamondon spoke of the father “lost” to her as a child due to his mental illness. She also embodied him as a way of understanding him – the proverbial walk a mile in someone else’s shoes in order to see things from another person’s point-of-view. This also enabled her to use spoken word to describe what might have been going on in her father’s mind. She also voiced her own thoughts and feelings. And, in her solo, she moved in an awkward, twisted, off-kilter way that required great strength and extreme flexibility.

“I never knew my father when he was well or normal,” she said.

She recounted how, on a snowy day in Montreal, Canada, where she grew up, her father, a taxi driver, had been waiting in a line of taxis for customers when something within him snapped.

“I often imagined what was in his mind that day,” Plamondon added.

And, that imagining prompted her to voice what he could have been thinking that day:

“It’s snowing a lot, I’m in a taxi, in the middle of the line. There’s some kind of fight. I see someone looking at me and shouting. But I don’t hear anything.”

Her father had emerged from the taxi but then got back in. “I don’t know what’s going on. It feels like the whole, outside world is suspended in my head,” Plamondon imagined him thinking.

He would go on to commit himself and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Plamondon’s movements spoke volumes. Imagining what her father experienced, she looked restless, her mouth open like she was talking to herself.  She crouched in a spotlight. She twisted her feet at awkward angles so that they hardly resembled feet at all. In moves that required  strength and great flexibility,  she assumed distorted poses as she stretched her body into odd shapes and angles.

She spoke about how she had felt scared when, as a child, she had gone to visit her father in the medical facility. And, that she didn’t see him much after that. Then, as an adult, she saw her father for what would be the last time; he died about a year later.

On a large backdrop, the audience saw clips from the video Plamondon had made that day when she had a life-changing experience.

“ … He was waiting for me when I arrived. He was happy to see me but he didn’t know who I was (or so she thought).”

She recorded images of him singing and talking, which he had not done when, as a child, she had visited him. She thought the change had something to do with his memory loss that had developed over the years since she had last seen him.

“He had a picture of me [as a teen-ager] in ‘Swan Lake’ and knew it was me,” she said. Still, her father had struggled to recognize her as his adult daughter.

Then, he looked into her eyes and said: “’You have the same eyes as me.’ And, finally, she knew that he knew exactly who she was.

This gift of a moment explains Plamondon’s title choice for her solo and also why, during that solo, close-up video images of her eyes had been projected on the backdrop. And, in those eyes, tears glistened.

 

 

Night to Remember

By SUSAN BROILI

 

It was a night to remember – and, then some.

Choreographer Ronald K. Brown receive the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement on Thursday, June 28, 2018 at Duke University’s Reynolds Industries Theater. Then, Brown and his company Evidence also delivered a dynamic, heart-felt program greeted by an especially enthusiastic audience packed with ADF staff and students, community members and even Brown’s uncle and his uncle’s family – the same uncle who, Brown had said in opening remarks, “gave me all my first jobs.”

 

 

THE AWARD

 

American Dance Festival director Jodee Nimerichter opened the Scripps/ADF Award ceremony as she spoke of Brown’s “Incredible commitment and gift for bringing dance to everyone.” Nimerichter also noted that in 1985, when Brown had founded his company Evidence, “he was sure to take us on a spiritual journey.” Brown had made his first ADF appearance in 1991 in the Young Choreographers & Composers’ program, the director added.

The Scripps/ADF Award honor comes with a $50,000 check and a “Sammy” statue.

As the main presenter, dancer/choreographer Dianne McIntyre said that the Scripps/ADF Award is “reserved for the most renown innovators in our field. He [Ronald K. Brown] has shifted our perception of what dance can be. His style is very distinctive and his influence is everywhere. He deserves the highest acclaim for past achievements and for what’s to come.”

In his comments, Ronald K. Brown noted that he and Dianne McIntyre shared the same birthday: July 18. (Brown was born in 1966.) “She is one of my heroes.” Brown also acknowledged the support of former ADF co-directors Charles and Stephanie Rinehart as well as current director Nimerichter’s backing. Nimerichter had come to New York to ostensibly speak with him about his ADF program this summer. But when she got there, she told him that he would also be receiving the Scripps/ADF Award.

“I was speechless and kind of blown away,” Brown recalled.

Brown talked about his early interest in dance when he was growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods of Brooklyn, N.Y. “I was dancing around the house. My mother said:’ If you break something, you’re going to have to pay for it.’” And, yet, as child, he had been afraid to take dance classes, he said. At age 12, however, when he had been about to audition at Dance Theater of Harlem, “My mother started going into labor so I said [to myself] that’s it.” So, he turned from dance to writing. At age 16, when he danced during the summer, however, he finally knew that he had to pursue dance as a career.

Brown also gave the audience a heads-up on the program they were about to see.

“Torch” (a new work) is dedicated to Baba Chuck [Davis],” Brown said.

Davis, founder and director of the Durham-based African American Dance Ensemble, died at age 80 on May 15, 2017.

While two male dancers had originally performed in the 1985 “Lessons: March,” this time two women perform those roles in the current ADF program, Brown said. “The two women are going to kick it,” the choreographer added.

In the 1995 “Lessons: March” excerpt, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s recorded words provide the “score.”

“’Walking Out the Dark’ started out as poetry but I figured out it was a dance,” Brown said.

As for the finale: excerpts from the 2001 “On Earth Together,” Brown pointed out that the cast included 28 members of the Durham community, ages 8 to 70-plus.

 

THE REVIEW

 

The Ronald K. Brown Evidence program uplifted with a sense of community and inclusiveness.

The new dance “Torch,” dedicated to Baba Chuck Davis, kicked off the program in which there was a sense of mission to ensure that Davis’ fostering of “Peace. Love. Respect – for Everybody,” embodied in the dancing of his company, the African American Dance Ensemble, is not forgotten. It will continue to grow strong for Brown shares the same goals of community building. Both Davis and Brown were influenced by authentic African dance that they had witnessed firsthand.

“Torch” began with dancers forming a tight circle that a female dancer entered where she was lifted up on a platform formed by the dancers’ hands so she could emerge as a torch figure.

Then, there were a number of times in which dancers lifted each other.

A sense of loss was also part of this work for loss is central to the idea of carrying a torch. In his arms, a male dancer carried a limp female dancer, her arm dangling lifeless. A man and woman danced together. When she existed, he expressed loss as, to heart-beat drums, he spread his arms wide and slowly danced in a circle.

Near the end, Ronald K. Brown entered and danced across the stage to join the other dancers and they all proceeded to dance as one in an African groove as audience members’ shrill yips cheered them on.

In the excerpt from Brown’s 1995 “Lessons:March,” the recorded inspirational words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and music by Bobby McFerrin provided the sound score for a duet performed by Annique Roberts and Courtney Paige Ross.

To King’s words that some believe that “The Negro is not culturally ready for integration,” a female dancer, dejected, head bent, arms by her sides, walked slowly into the wings.

King also quoted from John Donne’s “No Man Is an Island”: “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

And, one of the women comforted the other one by gathering her up in a hug as an a cappella women’s chorus sang a beautiful version of “Psalm 23,” in which they substituted “she” for “he” in such lines as “She makes me lie down in green pastures. She restores my soul … and fills my heart with song.”

The excerpt from the 2001 “Walking Out the Dark” offered a compelling, transformative experience hinted at by the poem that was included in the program and presumably written by Ronald K. Brown: “meet me in the temple/seeking/healing/thank you/celebration/faith/life.”

Performed by the quartet: Arcell Cabuag, Shayla Caldwell, Annique Roberts and Keon Thoulouis, this work began with the two women center stage to a recording of Sweet Honey and the Rock’s a cappella “You left me standing … And, as the two women were face down in the spotlight, we heard the group sing “Oh, death, where is thy sting.” To recorded African drumming and cow bell, one of the women jumped high, knees bent.

At the end, there was no music just the sound of dancers’ breathing and footfalls. This work ended with a spiritual cleansing as all four dancers fell flat on their backs, arms and legs spread wide as they were drenched by a deluge of water that thundered down on them.

Ronald K. Brown joined his 10-member company in excerpts from the 2011 “On Earth Together” to mostly upbeat, recorded music by Stevie Wonder. It began with the company’s five men and five women dancing to Wonder’s “Living for the City” about life for a black family in Mississippi during the Civil Rights era when the father and mother works for little pay and their son can’t find a job “Because where he lives they don’t use colored people.”

As sirens blare in Wonder’s song, the cast appeared to duck for cover by getting down on the floor. But, they couldn’t be kept down long. They rose to dance together in a big circle.

Near the end of “On Earth Together,” Brown came out and danced then moved backwards into the wings.

As Wonder crooned “Don’t You worry ‘bout a thing,” some of the Durham community members came onstage soon joined by the rest of the group. Then, the community group and Brown’s company danced together to Stevie Wonder’s “Here We Are on Earth Together.” And, even the smallest children knew ALL the moves.

And, one of those children was seen dancing after the performance as a young boy and his dad headed for the the door to go to the parking deck. The boy’s energy seemed to have no bounds as he tumbled and danced his way beside his dad to that door. His dance move happened to be a Cabriole, a ballet jump he repeated a number of times. In it, one leg leads and the other leg beats against the first one. That little boy did not miss a single beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed Offerings

A REVIEW

 

By SUSAN BROILI

 

The Paul Taylor Dance Company embodied strength, endurance, artistry and versatility as they performed something old and something new at the American Dance Festival Tuesday, June 26, at Durham Performing Arts Center.

This company was also comprised of the largest number of tall dancers I have ever seen in a Taylor company. This meant that their height and long limbs amplified their expressiveness of Taylor’s choreography.

It was good to see Taylor’s vintage works: the 1985 “Roses” and the 1982 “Mercuric Tidings” that came first and last in the program with “Half Life,” a new work by Doug Varone, in the middle.

In “Roses,” to Richard Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” and Heinrich Baermann’s “Adagio for Clarinet and Strings”, the 12 dancers interacted in tender, caring ways. Both the title and the music also signaled romance.

This work opened with a female dancer, wearing a long, black gown, seated and holding the hand of her standing male partner. A male dancer gently patted, one hand at a time, down his partner’s torso.

And, seemingly simple scenarios also signaled a harmony between partners such as when a number of couples sat onstage and the women leaned, in a relaxed way, against their partners’ chests, as though they had found a safe harbor.

But the tone was not completely romantic due to Taylor’s mischievous, quirky side, which, in “Roses,” manifested itself in the couple, who performed head rolls over each other. Then, there was the female partner, who extended one leg horizontal to the floor, and her male partner performed cartwheels over her leg.

In Taylor’s “Mercuric Tidings,” to excerpts from Franz Schubert’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2, the pace picked up considerably, as could be expected in this work, the title presumably referring to the Roman god Mercury’s role as fleet-footed messenger for all the other gods. He even wore winged sandals.

In this work, the 13 dancers, who wore shockingly hot pink leggings, moved as though they wore some of those sandals for they were fleet-footed indeed. Dancers took big, fast leaps and launched themselves soaring into the wings. At times, dancers’ quick jumps and lightning fast footwork almost made this viewer feel dizzy.

A few times, the music had a slower pace as when two men effortlessly lifted and turned their partners, who looked as though they were floating in the air.

The dance ended with dancers clustered in a triangular shape as the female dancer at the apex, raised her arms above her as though she were preparing to launch herself like a rocket.

These two vintage Taylor works – their beauty and civility – provided a much-needed respite from the current state of things in this country.

But Doug Varone’s “Half Life,” made me feel like I was right back into a chaotic place of turmoil where people treat each other roughly. Even the lightning – florescent tubes that glowed yellow – positioned closer than usual above the stage – added to the ominous, unsettling quality of this work.

Instead of helping a woman up from the floor, a man grabbed her hand and jerked her up. Another time, a man grabbed a woman and pulled her down on top of him. A man pushed another guy, who fell face-down on the floor.

When Julia Wolf’s music took on a frantic pace – at one point, it sounded like a swarm of angry bees –  dancers responded accordingly with breakneck speed and a keen sense of urgency. A woman raced around a group of people on the floor. And, when those people stood in a tight group, they made panicky moves and then ran fast, even when they turned and moved backwards.