By Walter Rutledge
One Sunday June 19th the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center opened a five-day dance series entitled Thirty5-In-5 at the Kumble Theater at located on the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University.
The series is a celebration of the thirty-five years of consecutive arts presenting, and will offer thirty-five works by new, emerging and established choreographers and companies. If the opening night is any indication of the diverse and vast array of dance style to be presented I would urge you to get your tickets now!
Camille Brown opened the evening with The Evolution Of A Secured Feminine (2007). The solo work, which was originally choreographed by Brown on herself, is also in the repertoire of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I had seen the work for the first time in the 2010 Ailey season and was impressed with Brown unabashed playfulness and strong storytelling prowess.
On Sunday Brown danced the work with an impeccable sense of time and musical phasing. This is the upside of seeing choreographers perform their own work well. Jazz great Ella Fitzgerald and song stylist Nancy Wilson performed the music; and Brown embodied the vocals transforming into a moving linguist, her body spoke to us in fluent Fitzgerald and Wilson.
Sidra Bell took us on a theatrical journey into the land of Sidra Bell with extracts of REVUE and POOL. Bell is clearly an artist on this new generation of modern dance movers who combined arresting movement with dramatic presentation. The Revue had a ring master quality that pulled the audience into her monochromatic world. Pool was a supported adagio performed by Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz; despite all of the intimacy the duet possessed a quality of isolation and austerity.
Marshall Swiney presented a dance theatre work entitled 3 a.m. Collard Greens Sandwich For Miz Daisy. The work featured a music collage, which included Corcoran Holt, Carolina, Chocolate Drops, Millicent Brown, Ayanna Witter-Johnson and Nina Simone; with text by Hattie Gossett, and a background of projected film images. Special guest artist Vinie Burrows was seated center stage and the centerpiece in this story of family, and home as told by an elderly matriarch. The narrative also added an element choreodrama, which worked to Swiney’s advantage due to protracted length of the work.
Gossett was both very entertaining and engaging work as she told of raising her grandchildren after the death of her daughter. Dancer Cherri Nelle Thompson performance as her deceased daughter had the proper amount of abandon and restraint. This was Swiney’s return to choreography- welcome back Marshall.
Urban Bush Women Artistic director Jawole Willa Jo Zollar presented Give Your Hands to Struggle an excerpt from Hands Singing Song (1998). The solo was danced by Samantha Speis with an easy and grace that appropriately mirrored the choreography and the music. The concise work provided the audience with a beautiful lyric moment, reminiscent of having a sorbet between courses at a feast to refresh your palette.
The Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble performed Peter Pucci’s Episodes. Dancers Lourdes Rodriguez and Fredrick Davis portrayed a couple involved in an emotionally demanding and oft times tumultuous relationship. Set to the music of Nana Simopoulos, the story was primarily told through the movement, which featured sustained lifts, and grand plies en Pointe.
This kind of work requires a great deal of introspection, which in turn creates a very strong choreographic voice. The dancers performed with great inner conviction and their efforts were acknowledge by the audience. The caliber of the performance makes the anticipated return of the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2012 all the more exciting.
Nathan Trice/ Rituals closed the program with Strange Love, a group work featuring four male dancers, four female vocalists (who literally were the horn section for the band) and a three-piece musical ensemble. Choreographed to a live rendition of John Coltrane Quartet’s Chim Chim Cheree the work contained a good balance of movement and an unpretentious yet solid choreographic structure.
The work was an excerpt of a work in progress, which will become an evening length production. In it’s present form Trice has created a versatile work that has the exuberance to open a program and the strength to also be a closing work. This was an excerpt of a work in progress, which will become an evening length production. We look forward to see the evolution of Strange Love.
The celebration continues tonight with seven works by: Forces of Nature, Paz Tanjuaqio, Edisa Weeks, Nicholas Leichter, Germaul Barnes, Marlies Yearby and Alfred Gallman. To see the full roster of performers and to purchase tickets visit www.kumbletheater.org.
Tickets are $15/$12 (students and seniors) and may also be purchased at the Kumble Theater box office, or by calling 718-488-1624.
In Photo 1) Lourdes Rodriguez and Fredrick Davis 2) Camille Brown 3) Cherri Nelle Thompson and Vinie Burrows 4) Samantha Speis 5) nathantrice/rituals company
All Photographs by Cosmos Jack