Monday, February 28, 2011

Black Choreographers Here and Now Week 3, Closing Night

All I can say is, if you weren't there, you really missed a stellar performance. I'd been in the house the evening before and when I walked in, late but not as late as the night before--yes, I got a seat (smile), choreographer Sheena Johnson and composer Chris Evans were performing Freedom Study 1. There is something nice about seeing a work multiple times, especially work one enjoys if doesn't quite understand, which was the case with Freedom Study, which I was told was really a study--Chris and Sheena interviewed people for the work. I had a great conversation with Chris, the composer, filmmaker and dancer--who is working as a researcher at Mills College, about the piece. She said she and her husband, Ernest Jolly, were resident artists at The Luggage Gallery Gallery Annex located in the Tenderloin National Forest called "Community Property:Transbarrow Gardens," last November. The artists put out a call to dancers and other artists and voila, there was Sheena.

Some of my favorite artists were a part of the event: Byb Bibene, David Boyce (on saxophone), Marshall Trammel (on drums), Eboni Hawkins and Sheena Johnson, a new favorite artist (smile).

The piece looked at how geography is informed by the people who live there and vice versa. Chris described at intermission Sunday, how she went out with her tape recorder or camera harvesting sounds. It sounded really cool, but then everything they do at The Luggage Store Gallery is cool. Ernest made large scale items as a part of the exhibition, the a portable wheelbarrow garden is now a part of the permanent collection. Visit A new exhibit, "Bullet Train" opens March 12, 2011. Two artists collide, one from LA, the other from San Francisco.

I enjoyed watching the dancers again, especially now that I knew what to expect. I savored favorite parts and saw aspects of the work anew.

A Quiet Uprising followed, Jasmine Donaldson's premiere which explored, the choreographer said, "the diversity of women in America and the obstacles they incur to move forward." Distinctive about this piece besides seeing Sheena Johnson as part of the cast--I was like, wow, what a quick change! was the live accompaniment and the original music and costume design. I loved the simplicity--Sheena's character opens at a hearth, stirring a meal in a pot and even when she is pulled away, her serenity--combined with patience, the patience one feels earned with being around long enough to not let certain situations worry one. She says to a young woman - "hush" the way one soothes a child.

Forgive and Let Go, with choreographer Eurydice Ross and dancer Zari Le'on paid homage to Mama Africa--in tutu-like garments what showed off the dancers' athleticism and grace--sassiness and soul as they strutted their stuff to Miriam Makeba's "Amampondo."

Remember I mentioned how fun it was to see a work again? Well Forgive and Let Go was followed by Michael Velez's untitled solo work, danced by Erik Lee to "Lucifer" by Jay-Z. Sometimes the straight and narrow tight rope without a net beneath is a bit much for the mightiest warrior, who despite his best intentions stumbles and falls before he takes up the challenge.

How am I going to do change without making a fool out of myself, is perhaps the question the protagonist agonizes over? Michael Velez's character interpreted by Lee disappears into the darkness before we see what happens. Perhaps there is a Part II?

The work was just as lovely the second time as it was when I first saw it the evening before. Then there was an intermission where I got to meet Chris and other mentors and artists like Raissa and Jetta, whose work choreographer Micheal Velez danced in last year.

Jetta's Emergence (2005) was stunning. Have I used this word too much? I am misplacing my adjectives--sometimes only images suffice and luckily I have a few (smile). The music "Perfection" by Clint Mansell and "Castles Made of Sands," by Jimi Hendrix, with costume design and construction by Catherine Macklim, were stunning as well (darn, there is that word again).

Were there feathers or just billowing strips of fabric so colorful as to conjure birds of paradise and peacocks? In a tutu--lots of classical ballerina stuff happening closing night--Jetta's figure told the story of what it feels like to be free--to let loose to come out of one's shell cocoon shelter cage. She didn't burst out, rather the emergence was subtle and gradual--over time.

Nanette Ada (premiere), choreographed by Jamie Ray Wright, a Black Choreographers Festival veteran. I think he goes back to the first one, was a departure for him--as least from what I've seen in the past. Usually his work is very Euro-centric whereas this piece, performed to Youssou N'Dour's work, conjured memories of Senegal and West Africa as the piece combined African sensibility as only a choreographer like Wright whose palette is both folkloric and modern --as in jazz and modern dance, could imagine. It was a fiery, energetic and lovely-with outstanding solo and ensemble interludes with his company.

It was certainly one of my favorites. If I'd known the program notes lacked details I would have asked him a few questions--next time (smile).

The closing two works were ones I'd seen the evening before and I was closer this time and enjoyed the work, both Movendo con Capoeira (work in progress) choreographed by Tania Santiago and Homage (bridging the gap) (work in progress) choreographed by Jamar Welch and Kory Watkins, just as much. In Sunday's performance, the dancer who did a complete body flip, did not hit the floor--a dramatic feat one has to see at least once in her lifetime, so I am glad I caught it the night before (smile).

Tania Santiago's piece will be a part of Cuba Caribe this year, also at Dance Mission. It is certainly worth seeing again and again. To stay abreast of BCFH&N visit their website. The showcase collaborates throughout the year with other presenting organizations such as CounterPulse, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Dance Mission, ODC Theatre, Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, Dimensions Dance Theatre, and many others as co-hosts of artist symposiums and master classes with visiting choreographers. Visit


Post a Comment

<< Home