“Cold Case" - A Kennedy Center 2006 Commission
Millennium Stage
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC, USA
September 21, 2006

by George Jackson
copyright ©2006
by George Jackson

No question about the urgency impelling Helanius J. Wilkins and the other dancers who put across his "Cold Case". All on stage were males — 8 men and 3 boys — a rare sight in dance. All counted themselves as black. Each individual seemed committed in his own way to the vision of the world that Wilkins delivered to us in 9 sermons.

Wilkins has become skilled in constructing dances to convey his vision. There's a team spirit in group pieces such as "Black = Danger" (part 1), "The Work" (part 3) and "The Hunt" (part 7). In a flash, though, the focus can zoom in on an individual, or on a few, without the audience loosing its place in the overall pattern. Movement contrast and counterpoint are deployed with confidence and clarity. Simpler motion is rich and resonant, as in the gospel solo Wilkins dances against a screen near the conclusion of “Cold Case”.

Despite the choreography’s admirable dynamic structuring, I often suffered from overload. Race, generation, religion and AIDS form the complex that is Wilkins’s world. These issues confronted us visually in the dancers’ bodies, in Michelle Rudolph’s red costuming, Joyce Ellen Weinstein and Tony Kochis’ propaganda-art set, and Cheles Rhynes and Wilkins’s lighting. They sounded in our ears as Sven Abow music, John Murillo and Wilkins texts and in contributions by quite a few others — additional music, costumes, voices. Too many ingredients and cooks, or do I need to grow extra sense organs and neuron synthesizers to appreciate “Cold Case” more fully?

On Wilkins’s men’s team were Tym Byerz, Hunter Carter, Reginald Cole, Tony Elder, Torens L. Johnson, Anthony Rollins-Mullens and Vincent Thomas. The kids were Desmond Howard, Brian Rucker and Duane Smith of Dance Place Steppers.

Photo by Astrid Reicken.

Volume 4, No. 34
September 25, 2006

copyright ©2006 George Jackson



©2006 DanceView