Review: Dance as Social Commentary at the Joyce
By Bethany Hopta, Contributing Writer, January 9, 2017
When is dance more than dancing? Performances that lead to contemplation in addition to entertainment are crucial to the art of dance. Friday night’s performances at the Joyce Theater underscored the power of dance as social commentary.
Lucky Plush Productions from Chicago opened the evening with their piece, Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of Superstrip. Lucky Plush integrates acting, modern dance, improvisation, and graphic design to execute a performance of a collective of super heroes with questionable super powers. Attempting to make the world a better place, each member of the cast introduces his or her alter ego and pitches a particular social issue. These issues include immigration, the environment, preservation of beauty, and privilege. Predictable power struggles ensue as the group loses focus on its ultimate goal. The piece pokes fun at the idea of meetings, washed up superheroes, and the collective spirit. The dance elements flow throughout the piece, moving the participants, underscoring the super powers, and celebrating dance as a method of communication and change. This piece was thought-provoking and fun to watch; it was enhanced by video projections, designed by Liviu Pasare, which provided a unique visual element and also humorously summarized each session. Costumes (designed by Jeff Hancock) were playful and bright, and the accessories added to each superhero’s personae.
Dallas Black Dance Theatre began the second half of the evening with Furtherance, a powerful piece featuring nine dancers. Clad in long-sleeved tunics with shorts and flowy skirts, in colors of blue, white, pink, and purple, the dancers embodied strength and precision. Designed by Beth Thomason of Designes Unique, the costumes accentuated the grace and lines of the dancers. The choreography, by Kirven Douthit-Boyd was matched with a score of drums, gongs, and bells, and the overall effect was cohesive and explosive.
Tribute, the company’s celebration of African American modern dance, combined spoken word, song, and dance to create a celebratory piece that honors the past and offers hope for the future. Quotations by Dr. Pearl Primus, Donald McKayle, Judith Jamison, and Dance Artists of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, punctuated the piece, and original music composed by Ted Rosenthal and Alex Paton, provided a melodious backdrop of song. Movingly, the dancers held hands and sang during one part of the piece. In dresses and pant and shirt combinations (designed by Beth Thomason), the dancers appeared timeless and relatable. Lighting design (Andrew Vasquez) enhanced the group work and provided isolated pools of light to capture solo and duet work.
My spirit was certainly lifted during their performance; I recommend making plans to see this company on any return visits.
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American Dance Platform at the Joyce Theater featuring Lucky Plush Productions and Dallas Black Dance Theatre at the Joyce Theater on January 6, 2017.
Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of Superstrip, created, directed and choreographed by Julia Rhoades; devised in collaboration with the ensemble: Michael Rodriguez Cintra, Jeff Ewing, Daniel Gibson, Elizabeth Luse, Benjamin Wardell, Melinda Jean Myers, Meghann Wilkinson, Sonjourner Zenobia.
Furtherance, choreography by Kriven Douthit-Boyd; music by Taiko Daiko, Tibet Meditation Bowl Rubbed/Build, Banjara; composers: Taiko Drums Music of Japan; dancers: Calude Alexander III, Hana Delong, Kayah Franklin, Alyssa Harrington, Michelle Hebert, Keon K. Nickie, Sean J .Smith, De’Anthony Vaughan, Kimara Wood.
Tribute, choreography by Matthew Rushing, music composed by Ted Rosenthal and Alex Paton; voiceovers by Hope Clarke and Matthew Rushing; dancers: Claude Alexander III, Hana Delong, Kayah Franklin, Alyssa Harrington, Michelle Hebert, Keon K. Nickie, Zion Pradier, Sean J. Smith, De’Anthony Vaughan, Jasmine White-Killins, McKinley Willis, Kimara Wood.
Cover: Dallas Black Dance Theater in’Furtherance;’ photo: Sharen Bradford.