The theme running through the four works presented, three of them New York premieres, was of sadness and anger. Even “Folded Prism” by Thang Dao, an abstract dance work, had an unsettled ambiance. The cast of nine, dressed in Natasha Guruleva’s pale, form-fitting costumes, were initially found in a tight group, occasionally breaking up into quick solos and duets, but always returning to the cluster of performers. The work ended when one recalcitrant young lady is carried back into the fold. The ever-changing, but quiet score of John Levis and the somber lighting of Nick Kolin helped sustain the mood.
“New Fruit,” a multi-sectioned work by Christopher L. Huggins, dealt with some painful aspects of Black life in America, beginning with a section accompanied by the song “Strange Fruit,” about the tragic lynchings that plagued the South. Joe Gonzalez, dressed in a raggedy shirt and pair of pants (costumes by Guruleva) is first seen in silhouette (lighting by Clifton Taylor) personified the suffering of all the victims with his vivid, twisty movements. The second part, “Looking for Something,” featured Victor Lewis Jr. and Jameel Malik in colorful street clothes performing hip-hop style movements amongst the other company members.
“New Fruit” grew darker through its remaining sections dealing with darker and darker material, including violence.
“A Movement for Five” by Dawn Marie Bazemore, choreographed to a compilation of various vocal artists dealt quite literally with the arrest and subsequent exoneration of the Central Park Five. It included the image of five men lying on the floor, their hands held as if handcuffed behind their back. It was unsubtle—including a shout out from Martin Luther King Jr.—but passionately danced. Again the lighting and costumes of Mr. Kolin and Ms. Guruleva helped bring the passions of this work into stark relief.
The final work was “With(in)Verse” by Tommie-Waheed Evans. The choreographer, in his notes, claims that the gospel-tinged score is not gospel as evangelism but “gospel as desperation.” Indeed, this agitated work, using music by Signal, Loscil and T.L. Barrett, was little more than an extended expression of convulsive sadness, full of sudden light shifts, thanks to Clifton Taylor. The movement palette combined lots of ballet with pulsating contractions, stomping and lots of contrasting of tight movements opening expansively making for waves of
steps across the stage. In one section the dancers wandered about as if lost only to find comfort with each other. Throughout the faces of the dancers were basically expressionless. The overall impression of “With(in)Verse” was sustained bleakness with no obvious cause.
Despite the darkness of the program, the dancers acquitted themselves well. It’s a very individual kind of troupe, each dancer a complete individual both physically and emotionally, somehow made into a vibrant unit by Joan Myers Brown.
Philadanco! (The Philadelphia Dance Company)(June 12-17, 2018)
Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-242-0800 or visit http://www.Joyce.org
Running time: two hours including one intermission