By Walter Rutledge
The November 4th and 5th concert of Purelements: An Evolution in Dance lived up to the company moniker. The choreography and the company are an ever-evolving experience in concert dance and dance theatre.
The performances were held at the Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts located on the downtown campus of Long Island University; the three hundred plus seat state of the art theater provided an intimate setting for what turned out to be an enjoyable evening of modern dance.
The sixteen-member company presented nine works; including two company premieres and three works in progress by the co-artistic/executive directors Kevin Joseph and Lakai Worrell, and company member Eddie Stockton. Although this fifth anniversary concert showcased works from the repertoire, the evening was more about the future than the past. Unfortunately for me this was the weekend the MTA took the work rapid out of transit. After a series of maze-like detours and train changes the usually short trip to Brooklyn turn into a full-fledged trek. I arrive just prior to Stockton’s work.
Can You Dance to My Beat was a well-crafted large ensemble modern jazz work. The choreographic structure showcased Stockton’s ability as a dance maker/craftsman. The music by Bodango was a house music mix. What distinguished the work from run of the mill jazz dance was the spoken text of social empowerment and the political subversion. Stockton’s outcome was an impressive statement that once again displayed the power of the arts to convey controversial ideas.
Co- Artistic Director Lakai Worrell presented four works in the second act, three were world premieres/works in progress. The works exemplified the company credo of deliberately presenting choreography that is in the process stage. This ability to share the creative process with the audience and receive discernible feedback has proven successful for the company.
Each work had the choreographic merits and design elements to eventually become complete ballets. In this gestation phase the works functioned as a preview, similar to a movie trailer; peeking the audiences interest without giving away too much. Particularly striking was Forever One.
Of the works in progress Worrel presented in Act Two Forever One already had the ability to draw the audience into the scene with ease and disarming grace. Poet Erwin Thomas moved throughout the dance with an intentional obliviousness that created the illusion that the dancers were part of his imagination. Worrell was able to design a delicate balance of movement and theatre that was totally engrossing.
Praizin! is a rousing statement on the black church. Set to the music of Prince and the Revolution this full company work was more of a Gloria in Excelsis Deo than the actual sermon, which leaves much more room for development and exploration. We can’t wait to experience the entire “dancing service”.
Pride and Joy was a poignant tone poem in movement. It will be interesting to see how Worrell develops this very theatrical and time appropriate work into a complete ballet. No Space or Time, a solo improvisation was performed by Worrell displayed the company’s eclectic and varied style. It was performed with a focused freshness that offered a new interpretation of this Donny Hathaway classic.
Nina The Prodigy- A Tribute to Nina Simone choreographed by co-artistic/executive director Kevin A. Joseph was the most complete work on the program. Having benefited from being in the repertoire since 2003/2004 the work has had the time to develop and mature. The work consisted of three solos, performed by Courtney Sauls, Lauren De Veaux, and Dina Wright Joseph, which culminate in a group movement for the three women. In the final movement Joseph was able to successfully turn the trio into a dancing triumvirate a single expression of a multi-faceted Nina Simone .
Humanity: An Ancestral Odyssey was a sci-fi themed dance work dedicated to writer Octavia E. Butler. In true Purelement style this work has “evolved” over the course of two other performances. The visual elements, especially the contrasting use of level, and dramatic prologue enhanced the power of this dance narrative.
Congratulations to Purelements: An Evolution in Dance for five years of dance making and artistic growth. One of the most evident components in their process is a well-rehearsed company and the material that was cleanly staged. Having had the privilege to observe a number of rehearsals the level of commitment Joseph and Worrell have in developing their artistry and impacting the community at large is evident. Much continued success to Purelements: An Evolution in Dance.
In Photos: 1) Humanity:An Ancestral Odyssey- cast 2) Can You Dance to My Beat- cast 3) Pride and Joy Carlyle Worrell and Nicole von Arx 4) Prazin!- Cast 5) No Space or Time- Lakai Worrell 6) Nina The Prodigy- Courtney Sauls, Lauren De Veaux, Dina Wright Joseph 7) Humanity – Shani Worrell and Cast
Rachel Neville photographer