By Walter Rutledge
The second performance of the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center’s Souls of Our Feet: People of Color Dance Festival took place on Tuesday June 19 at the Kumble Theater located on the downtown campus of Long Island University. The evening featured works by three male choreographers, Germaul Barnes, Jamal Jackson and Malcolm Low, who have ties to the Brooklyn community. These three emerging and innovative artists presented works that ranged from dance theatre to abstract narrative to pure dance.
The evening opened with the theatrical and visually sumptuous solo Half full/Manifest Destiny by Germaul Barnes artistic director of Germaul Barnes/Viewsic Expressions Dance. After an overture of music presented in the dark the lights revealed a tent like object resting on white fabric. Slowly a dancers head appeared from inside the tent visually creating a cocoon like effect. Dancer Aaron R. White began to rise, the tent-like structure was actually a large circular skirt.
The section set to Abbey Lincoln’s vocal rendition of Nature Boy moved slowly from the right upstage to center stage. The imagery of the movement had a quality that suggested birth. White literally unfolded, stretching his arms and torso as if he was “arriving” among us. Eventually he attached the skirt to a harness and it was lifted off his body and was suspended over the stage. The white fabric wrapped around White’s waist was now a white wall of material coming from the top of the upstage right wing to just past center stage.
The second movement was introspective. Set to Abel Meeropol’s renowned protest poem and song Strange Fruit (performed by Nina Simone) the work echoed the lyrics, which detail a lynching. White remained tethered to the fabric throughout the section, which seemed to centralized the movement in the middle of the stage.
In the last section White freed himself from the fabric and began to move with an expressive freedom. The sound track had African overtones, and coupled with the movement appeared to conjure the ancestors. By the end of the dance White had achieved an inner peace.
Malcolm Low’s untitled duet started in silence and subdued light. The work was punctuated with explosive lines, stag leaps with the gesture leg in arabesque, and lifts that worked organically through the dancer’s bodies. Low also used fall and suspension in the partnering, this allowed the dancers to capitalize on momentum and weight.
Dancers Gierre Godley and Elizabeth Washington performed with a great sense of sensitivity and understanding. Choreographer Low wisely created a finite movement vocabulary. He accomplished this without becoming redundant or predictable.
Instead, he was able to formulate a clear choreographic voice. Movements that reoccurred did not appear repetitive; these steps were interpreted as signature passages. One such passage was a turn that started in second position and slowly spiraled to fourth in front with a flexed foot.
Even with the bursts of energy the work essentially remained an adagio. Godley’s solo briefly broke the slow sustained mode without deviated from the established vocabulary. The work ended with both dancers downstage gently touching each other.
The Jamal Jackson Dance Company presented the final work of the evening. Jackson presented two sections; Space Coding, an ensemble work for five dancers, and a female trio, Mile 21. Both offerings fused West African dance with contemporary dance styles and patterns.
Spacing Coding relied on a score of vocal sounds created by choreographer Jackson. The movement responded well to the rhythmic score. Dancers DeAngelo Blanchard, Jamal Jackson, Asha Rhodes, Sean Thomas and Gabrielle Wilson danced as a strong unit, with much of the movement in unison. Although unison was predominate the choreographic patterns and placement of the performer were exciting and original.
Mile 21 was an ideal closing section. The work has good kinesthetic and choreographic structure, building to an exciting climax. The female trio, Tiffani Harris, Dana Thomas and Gabrielle Wilson carried the work with aplomb and assuredness. Thomas was a pint size powerhouse! Her dancing in this section was a study in the cohesive blend of opposites; she was athletic yet feminine, physical but sensual.
The festival concludes with tonights (Wednesday June 20 at 7:30pm) performance. The program will include works by DANCE IQUAIL, Francesca Harper Project and a reprise of George Faison’s Tilt. Tickets are $15 and $12 for students and seniors, and may be purchased at the Kumble Theater box office, 718-488-1624, and online at www.kumbletheater.org.
Harlem World Radio Interview with Iquail Shaheed http://www.blogtalkradio.com/harlemworld/2012/06/18/hw-radio-pod-show-with-walters-world-on-live-day-2-1#.T9tVrR-8qp0.email
In Photo: 1- 4) Aaron R. White 5&6) Gierre Godley and Elizabeth Washington 7) DeAngelo Blanchard, Jamal Jackson, Asha Rhodes, Sean Thomas and Gabrielle Wilson 8) Tiffani Harris, Dana Thomas and Gabrielle Wilson
Photo Credit: 1,3,4,5,6,8) Rodney Hurley, 2&7) Agnes E. Green