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Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company: Bittersweet, Tormenta, Tabernacle and Las Desenarmoradas

A troupe that has presented the works of choreographers of color for almost fifty years.

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Sarita Apel and Ari Mayzick in a scene from Enrique Cruz DeJesus’ “Bittersweet” (Courtesy of Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

The Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company has been commissioning and presenting the works of choreographers of color for almost fifty years showcasing to the world the genius of many brilliant artists.

Artistic director Enrique Cruz DeJesus presented a performance of Alpha Omega in preparation for the troupe’s fiftieth anniversary season next year.  This concert featured two works by the brilliant modern dance choreography Eleo Pomare whose works have, for some reason, been neglected for years.  Mr. Cruz DeJesus also presented two of his works, “Bittersweet” and “Tormenta.”

The former was a well danced duet for Sarita Apel and Ari Mayzick to music by Oleta Adams.  The two first appeared to be romantically attached, although Ms. Apel kept slipping away.  They sometimes dance separately, but reunited for lovely lifts and intertwinings.  Finally, and sadly, she simply walked away leaving him bewildered.

“Tormenta” tried for a ritualistic feel.  Two tall masked figures in long black robes appeared to frighten two women in gray dresses.  To a musical collage by Brooks Williams the two in black stalked the others, standing behind them as they cowered touching their faces with raised hands.  By the end the women in grey found the inner strength to conquer their fears.

Pomare’s “Tabernacle” (l989) opened the program.  Inspired by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, “Tabernacle” was a passionate abstract of a church service complete with charismatic leader (Octave Parfait).  The six-member cast wore dark street clothes (as adapted by Mr. Cruz DeJesus).  To a Steve Reich score of electronically manipulated screaming voices, they swayed, lunged and fell to the floor in supplicating positions and made constantly changing patterns on the stage acting as a congregation led by the leader figure.  They danced well.

Pomare’s “Las Desenarmoradas” (1967), an early work, ended the program.  “Las Desenarmoradas” zeroed in on the sensual core of Federico Garcia Lorca’s play House of Bernarda Alba which delved into the sexual repression of a Spanish family of women under the sway of a brutal mother, here played by Leann Gioia.

Tyler Clark, Ari Mayzick and Leann Gioia in a scene from Eleo Pomare’s “Las Desenarmoradas” (Courtesy of Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company)

Pomare designed Spanish inspired costumes:  Long black dresses for the women including a mantilla veil for the mother and tight grey outfits complete with hats for the men.  He used the driving music of John Coltrane as his score.

The anguished women of the Alba family sat on black boxes writhing in frustration, particularly The Hunchback danced by Adelita Hinojosa-Martin.  The Mother lorded over the women with an iron hand, stomping about, raising her fists and physically disconnecting the Suitor (Ari Mayzick) from his beloved, The Loved (Tyler Clark).

Three men called The Imagines (Parfait, Caleb Patterson and Nathaniel Jervis-White, a mismatched trio) sashayed across the stage punctuating the storm of frustrated id happening behind them.

The rest of the cast was Donna Clark as To Be Married, Alice Wu as The Defiant and Ms. Apel as The Watchful who sat and simmered.

Although it was great to see this Pomare masterpiece again, it needed more passion.  This work should be almost difficult to watch as the women tear their insides out.  This performance only approximated that level of obsessive fury.

Alpha Omega and its director deserve accolades for presenting a neglected repertory and for bringing new works to the public.  The dancing was strong if not always idiomatic.  Nevertheless, this is a company that stands for something.

Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company (November 17, 2019)

Salvatore Capezio Theater at Peridance, 126 East 13th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 800-838-3006 or visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com

Running time:  90 minutes including one intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (366 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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