DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition
Contemporary Dance Theatre
Contemporary Dance Theatre
Memorial Day weekend is not the best of times for a company to fill seats in a theater. With a program that would benefit from being cut shorter, Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theatre began with an appropriate opening dance Between Two (choreographed by Young Park) which, despite its name, was danced by an ensemble of five (Natasha L. Colon, Desmond L. Davis, Rachel Holden, Jason R. Joyner and Michael Medcalf). Medcalf, (the artistic director of CCDT and a dancer whose CV is heavy with experience with the top modern dance companies in the U.S.) is so smooth and outstanding a dancer to give equal attention to the others in a group piece when he is on stage is rather hard on the audience. However, with its humor and comic attitudes of misunderstood lifts and missed ones, Between Two is fun. If the action in this dance is made tighter, done at a faster pace so that we are not able to see the preparation for each jump and thereby able to anticipate it before its time, the laughs will ring louder.
Invisible Gates, choreographed by Germaul Yusef Barnes, had a lot of movements that were echoed in Medcalf’s By The River later in the evening. Opening back and shoulder movements done in a bent over position by Colon, a strong dancer, were delicate and drew one into the dance, giving rise to expectations of the rest of the dance that were not fulfilled. The work, set to an “Africanized version of sacred music by Bach” was meant to “transform the dancer into an exotic bird performing sensuous movements”. No bird is so earth bound or so heavy in its movements. The costume too, seemed to have more to do with cloaks and vestiges of the church than a bird or sacredness in any other form.
Having read the blurb for Urban Love Song in the printed program I was preparing myself for a dance that would fall flat on its face filling its obligations to some funding agency’s community agenda, trying to be too literal; bad story telling with steps thrown in. The dance is said to be about African American men who are able to be bi-sexual without having their masculinity questioned; examining “the growing menace of HIV/AIDS amidst these contemporary relationships”.
If one saw the dance without having any forewarning about its intent, the story would be quite clear without losing anything of its art. The interplay between the male-male couple (Medcalf and JJoyner) and the male-female couple (Medcalf and Colon) is different and yet athletic in the extreme on both sides. It is evocative yet not explicit; poetic and not crude. Joyner needs to delve into his soul and pull out more emotional display to match his physical prowess and reach the heights he could in his dancing. The reference to AIDS was delicately done, with a thin scarf in red pulled out and gently wafted across the body of the lover at the end of each duet. Brief and well timed, this allowed the dance to stay a dance and not become an advertising campaign.
The first section of In The Spirit, choreographed by Krislyn World, held my attention with its mix of modern and African dance movements, with little sections thrown in where the dancers were given some freedom of movement. They seemed to enjoy the dancing themselves and seemed more balanced as a group in this. The next two sections of this piece did not seem significant in any sense.
Eilene, a dance about a college professor who develops Alzheimer’s never quite got there! The care giver is not much of a care giver when he does not hug or touch to share in the sorrow of one who is aware of her losing her power of articulation, then walks away leaving the principal person, who is not able to dance, to their grief and the audience to our annoyance.
After the second intermission, Love Suite, Love, set to the music of Marvin Gaye, did not leave much of an impression except to confirm that one is mesmerized with the fluidity of Medcalf’s movements and the way that he can give you so much feeling through every movement. The dance would have made an even stronger impression had it not been put into an already packed program with items in a similar mood. The women at least were released here enough to allow themselves to really get into the “swing” of the dance.
However, Masala was a good note to end on. An upbeat, fast paced dance choreographed by Medcalf fully utilized the under-represented ensemble of five. They all danced full out and with joie d’vivre. Set to music by Dhol Foundation (a folk Bhangra drum group from Britain) the dance incorporates an untrained vision of Indian classical and folk dance with pop culture and modern dance. In itself, it succeeds with its high-energy voltage and colorful appropriate costumes.
One intermission less, two dances shorter, and more projection of other able dancers of the company through the programme would make this otherwise worthy evening of dance into an outstanding one.
©2004 by by DanceView