Friday, August 03, 2012

Berkeley/Oakland AileyCamp's Infinite Possiblities

Tonight, Thursday, August 2, 2012, AileyCamp at Cal Performances, University of California, Berkeley held its closing concert to a full audience consisting mostly of parents, friends, and loved ones. The six weeks seemed to come to an end quickly, yet in the six week free program youngsters learned a lot more than how to dance, as each day they learned how art is integral to life, like one's heart and soul--there is no separation.

So as youth learned analytical skills so they could tell propaganda from truth, they also fine tuned their writing skills with the same passion they handled navigating a boat or figuring out a rhythm over lunch.

The evening featured pieces choreographed by both the professional teachers and the youth, a first camp director, David McCauley stated tonight.

The more poignant center piece, Tribute (ballet), choreography, Priyah Shah; music: Mad World, Tears for Fears, Gary Jules version with recorded interview, and 911 phone call; videographer, Shawn Nealy, performers: Praise Us, had to be the work which looked at the recent killing of Trayvon Martin, President Barack Obama's voice speaking about growing up with a single mother, regrets over rash decisions he made, and the importance of education to change one's life. . . . The tapestry then shifts to the president's remarks about Trayvon: He could have been my son."

As the words are said, the soloist, who had pulled his hood over his head, dances -- then fades into darkness.

This piece folds into Four Women, Nina Simone, and then Lift Me Up (Personal Development & Creative Communications)

Martin King's words appear on a screen along with those of other peacemakers, as Eulogy for Martyred Children is recited. To illustrate the problem of gun violence, images of young people are projected with their ages. All have been killed, the youngest an infant. (I wonder what the NRA would say to this. Other spoken words are from Tupac Shakur's poem, God. Music is: Hold One, Sounds of Blackness, Spirits Up Above, Jose James, Stomp, Kirk Franklin, Nu Nation.

One could call this the "healing suite." There is a moment of silence after the screen goes blank and the lights come up.

AileyCampers photos then appear on the screen--many as infants or younger versions of themselves. Family members shout out their names as people clap and get up when Stomp is played. Ailey camper Anna Konstantopoulos sings as one dancer seems unable to go on. Overcome by grief she is held up by the company until she can rise and stand alone.

Afro Blue (Jazz) was lovely, but I liked Mwangaza: Illumination (African) for its juxtaposition of child soldiers abroad with children at home in urban warfare. We have child soldiers in America too.

Then there was the title piece, Infinite Possibilities--all the children seated on stage with David McCauley watch a film which captures some of the many wonderful moments they shared with each other. I remember this cinematic moment from other years--what a lovely keep sake for each camper. The director said nationally the theme was "colors," but at the Berkeley/Oakland site, they added the theme Infinite Possibilities, which seemed a lot more substantive than "colors." The work, Colors of Success which takes its title from the theme, proceeds Tribute.

The last piece is from Ailey repertoire, this one choreographed by Judith Jamison and Robert Battle: Love Stories (excerpt). The program had opened with Night Creature (excerpt) an Ailey inspired work and a great rendition of I Wanna Be Ready (from Revelations), choreographed by Alvin Ailey. This performance was with the men of Berkeley/Oakland AileyCamp.

Night Creatures was all girls and as the waters parted one saw the boys who moved to the front for their piece--it was just one example of Derrick Minter's great staging.

When the evening was over, it wasn't over--after the introductions of faculty and volunteers, the camp director, honored Mrs. Naomi Diouf, who has been with the camp ten years. After presenting the plaque, the director, who'd changed into a ceremonial bubu and pants, danced for us.

After the film screening, the kids walked carefully off the stage to the back for their finale which featured two Stevie Wonder look alikes (smile). All the groups: Classy Collective Colors, Ailey's Angels, Most Valuable Dancers, and Praise Us, had their moment to shine as they soloed.

I walked out into a full hall and lobby.

Ronni Favors, Associate National AileyCamp Director, gave introductory remarks along with Matias Tanopolsku, Director, Cal Performances. A free program, David McCauley said that $20 would support 3 students. I don't know how $20 could support feeding a camper two meals, buying costumes, paying for transportation and other supplies and trips for three children, but he would know. I'd like to see how AileyCamp administrators stretch a penny (smile). On the donation envelop it states, "$100 provides an AileyCamp uniform for one camper, $500 provides ballet shoes for 30 campers, $5,000 provides a full-tuition scholarship for one camper."

Maybe I heard him wrong (smile). I do remember him and Mr. Favors stating that no amount was too small. Visit


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