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Philadanco Returns to New York with Program Dense with Powerful Messages

by Bonnie Rosenstock
June 20, 2018
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
The Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco) returned to the Joyce Theater (June 12-17) for its first full performance season here since 2012, delivering four powerful works that addressed many of the issues impacting people of color.

The poetic “Folded Prism” by Vietnamese choreographer Thang Dao, with score by John Levis, begins with various duets of conflict conveyed through movement, facial expressions, lifts, leg over lowered body, head punches. There is an outstanding slow duet with two great dancers whose names I don’t know. She is light as a feather to lift, carry and turn. He is a great partner but also a great dancer. He gently carries her back to the group.

The heart-wrenching “New Fruit” (New York Premiere) by resident choreographer Christopher Huggins reaches into the depths of the unchanged social landscape and its effects on people of color; it “physicalizes what is the bitter harvest that America continues to reap,” the program notes state. It is divided into four sections. The first, “Strange Fruit” is accompanied by Nina Simone’s moving 1954 rendition of the song made famous by Billie Holiday in 1939, which protested racism and lynching. There’s a rope hanging down from the rafters on the left side of the stage. Alone on the stage, the extraordinary William E. Burden, bare-chested, writhes and emotes with profound feeling. At the end, he holds onto the end of the rope, which falls down. The last horrific visual, which made an impact on the audience, was a silhouette of two hanging men.

The section “Looking for Something,” features Victor Lewis and Jameel Malik Hendricks as a strong, no nonsense hip-hop duet. “Gunshot” is fast and furious, duets, trios, group patterning, full company, running on and off stage, fighting, rolling, “so whatcha gonna do?” the song refrain.

“A Movement for Five” (New York Premiere) by Philadanco alumna Dawn Marie Bazemore, is inspired by events surrounding New York City’s 1989 “Central Park Five” in which four black youth and one of Hispanic descent were coerced into confessing to savagely gang raping a white woman (and later found guilty) and spent between 6 and 13 years in prison. In 2002, a serial rapist already in jail, confessed, supported by DNA evidence, and their sentences were overturned. The powerful three-part work begins with the five leaning on each other for support. They fall to the ground, their hands behind their backs as if handcuffed. There is suffering, agony, confusion. They dance in duets. Their arms round in front of them as if looking through a window, maybe a prison. Falls and recovery, sliding motions. At the finale three slowly go off stage, accompanied by a company member or two. Lastly, one of the five helps support the one that can’t make it off stage by himself. Kharey Wise, one of the falsely convicted, is quoted in the program notes, taken from Ken Burns’ 2012 award-winning documentary on the case, “You can forgive, but you won’t forget…No money can ever bring that time back.”

The program ends with Philadanco alumnus and artist in residence Tommie-Waheed Evans’ “With(in) Verse” (New York Premiere), which weaves spirituality and sorrow into a fabric of deliverance. The music is by Signal and Loscil, but it is Pastor T.L. Barrett’s song “Father Stretch My Hands” that embodies the spirit of deliverance. Seven on the left and one female soloist on the right: one at a time, they move forward toward center. They hold poses, they move as one. They spread out across the stage. They perform little feet movements. Sometimes the movements are floppy, sometimes sharp as a machine, sometimes round and smooth or bouncy. Some walk slowly, some dance fast. The fast triumphs and all is right with the world.
Philadanco in Dawn Marie Bazemore's 'A Movement for Five'.

Philadanco in Dawn Marie Bazemore's "A Movement for Five".

Photo © & courtesy of Julieanne Harris


Philadanco in Tommie-Waheed Evans’'With(In) Verse'.

Philadanco in Tommie-Waheed Evans’"With(In) Verse".

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown


Philadanco in Tommie-Waheed Evans’'With(In) Verse'.

Philadanco in Tommie-Waheed Evans’"With(In) Verse".

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown


Philadanco in Thang Dao's “Folded Prism”.

Philadanco in Thang Dao's “Folded Prism”.

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown


Philadanco's Victor Lewis Jr. and Rosita Adamo in Thang Dao's “Folded Prism”.

Philadanco's Victor Lewis Jr. and Rosita Adamo in Thang Dao's “Folded Prism”.

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown

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