Tag Archives: Dance Mission

Black Choreographers Festival: Here and Now, February 19

26 Feb

One is hard  put to laud this Festival, now in its eighth year, without mentioning its organizers in the same breath: Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra  Kimborough  Barnes  of K Star Productions. Those two dynamos have guided this annual event from strength to strength.

My colleagues raved about the first weekend at Oakland’s Laney College; I managed a Sunday evening at San Francisco’s Dance Mission. The dances were different, but the energy and belief was out there shining.  Three numbers stood out as examples of the expressive range African-American dancers utilize outside of classical ballet. The range is both handsome and impressive.

For starters there was Dormisha Bumbry-Edwards flashing her taps on a narrow strip of platform installed for her magician’s mastery of the  form.  I’ve seen her three times before, once in the feisty  Chitresh Das-Jason Samuels Smith collaboration, twice in the annual August Bay Area Rhythm Exchange, sponsored by Stepology, and now in this year’s festival where the spectators were practically on top of her.

Dormisha made excellent use of the closeness, requiring the audience to stamp some of her less complicated rhythms after her. The response was eager and whole-hearted, a great way to commence an evening. She galvanizes my attention every time.

In “Evolution of a Secured Feminine” Camille A. Brown relied on the voices and lyrics sung by Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter and Nancy Wilson, a solo which enjoyed a company premiere at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, December 2010.  Apart from the program notes describing Brown’s very energetic dancing, the final contribution to beautifully enunciated song gave the portrait of a woman confronted with a husband in love with another woman a very wry, sophisticated ambiance.

Naomi Diouf completed the evening with Mah Way, an excerpt from a larger work, displaying hints of the multi-cultural influences active in West Africa. Danced to the overwhelming drumming of Dr. Kakarya Diouf, Madiou Diouf, Mohammad Kouyate, Nimely Napia, Mory Fofana and George Ayikpa, the dancers’ rhythmic support was thrilling as it gets.  The eleven dancers’ initial appearance showed them with veils, reflecting the Muslim influence in Africa.
Soon discarded, covered heads remained with short, colorful skirts allowing the women a full range of movement for jumps and turns in the unrelenting pace.

Again, without the steady support and organization skills of Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra Kimborough Barnes, we would not have a venue to see the evolution of African-American choreography in such concentrated fashion.  Good show, the two of you!


Wright Project and LabayenDance/SF at Dance Mission

11 Aug

At one of the Mission District’s busiest corners, Dance Mission is run by the intrepid Krissy Kiefer, and hosts a wide variety of dance events, including some special ones coming to San Francisco during the S.F. International Dance Festival.

Reflecting the economy Jaime Lee Wright and Enrico Labayen shared a program presented August 5-7, three parts of which were premieres. I saw the offerings August 6, and came away impressed by the earnestness of the dancers, if not exactly enchanted or believing in what I witnessed.

A successful businessman with definite academic credentials, Wright experienced an epiphany after twenty years in business. He has since staked out his activity at the San Francisco Dance Center on Seventh near Market and explored every dance form he can fit into his schedule.

His choreography demonstrates his shopping mall inclusiveness with clear touches of classical ballet training in his dancers. I am not familiar with his musical sources, but felt its surge over-powering to his four dancers. No translation provided for what seemed like Afro-Brazilian based lyrics by Yousou N’Dour utilized for Nanette Ada.  The coherence suffered because it seemed virtually impossible to edit; the initial impressions remained strong, and short.

Tangerine Dream provided the musical setting for Divine Journey, “A Ballet in Six Movements Following the Journey of an Archangel-in-Training.” A tallish blonde in white, Linnea Snyderman, arrived to be divested of her white feathers by four dancers, who then startled her with Urban Life before she witnessed A Woman’s Gift with Alyson Abriel Salomon, i.e. mimed motherhood. Temptation found Snyderman squared off against Leda Pennell, swooning and nearly capitulating to erotic movements until she began to reject the advances. The Rat Maze, section five, followed before the denouement in section six, Ascension; here Snyderman reconnected with her wings, perhaps realizing an Archangel cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Wright’s premise was a noble one, again to a lengthy score defying editing. Except for the Temptation section, the emotions and personal connections seemed generalized and lacking in focus.

Following intermission, Danzon by Victor Talledos to the music of Arturo Marquez featured four dancers with Diana Mateo, a tall and regal woman, as the central figure. In full diaphanous white skirts to a symphonic treatment of Latin music the quartet circled, whirled, inflected their torsos to the sounds, holding and manipulating their skirts with skill and charm.

Labayen selected parts of music by Ramallah Underground, Aleksandra Vrebalov and Alemu Aga for what he titled Flood Plain Series #3-6., with evocative lighting by Jose Maria Francos, effectively suggesting the twilight zone of low-lying terrain easily inundated by periodic deluges.

Using Diana Mateo as alternately a goddess and mother figure ranged against Victor Talledos, a struggle between the maternal and incipient patriarchy seemed to play itself out in the involved contact between these two principals, suggesting, veering towards sexual contact but never quite consummating the attraction. The two were ably seconded by Leda Pennell and three other dancers, Karen Meyers, Caitlin Max Perna and Alyson Abriel Salomon