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BWW Review: Celebrating American Dance with the AMERICAN DANCE PLATFORM

As part of its' second annual American Dance Platform, The Joyce Theater has been showcasing eight of America's most captivating dance companies over the past week. This year's platform was curated by Alicia B. Adams, VP of International Programming and Dance at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. I again had the opportunity to attend another performance on Friday, January 6, 2017. The evening featured a double bill with dances by Lucky Plush Productions and the Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

The show opened with a fun and witty dance-theater/graphic novel piece, Trip The Light Fantastic: The Making of Superstrip by Julia Rhodes. It is the story of a group of washed up superheroes who are looking to reinvent themselves in a nonprofit think tank for "do-gooders". In their attempt to tackle real-world problems, they find it is a bit more complex than they thought. I liked it. The dancers are very talented and move well together. The animation has a Marvel comic book feel which I very much appreciated. The dance brought to the forefront different perspectives when it comes to power and privilege. And for those who work in the nonprofit sector/have ever been in a think tank, would appreciate the humor brought on from the script. Overall, I enjoyed the piece and the audience did too as you could hear the laughter throughout the theater.

The evening continued with two pieces performed by the Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT), which celebrates its 40th anniversary as the oldest, continuously operating professional Dance Company in Dallas. The company prides itself on creating and producing contemporary modern dance at its highest level of artistic excellence. The first number was entitled Furtherance by Kirven Douthit-Boyd. Set to the music of a Japanese taiko drum score, this dance is about overcoming a personal struggle ending with a celebration of triumph. It was amazing! Nothing like I have ever seen! These dancers are just flawless, beautiful, and stunning to watch.

The next and final piece of the program by DBDT was Tribute, by former dancer and current Rehearsal Director Matthew Rushing of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It is a tribute to the "dancestors" that came before us and whose work still influences us today. Some of the names that were shared include Dr. Pearl Primus, Katherine Dunham, Martha Graham, and Sammy Davis Jr. to name a few. I was personally very moved by this dance. It talked about how we are all a branch on the "dance tree" continuing the legacies, traditions, and heritages of our "dancestors" and it is our responsibility today to keep their dreams alive. It is a lovely way to say thank you and maintain a sense of purpose of how and why we do what we do.

I believe the goal of this platform is to highlight the diversity of "American" dance. Our nation, being the melting pot that it is makes it unique in that all our voices, our experiences, and stories help make the U.S. what we have come to know and love. We all come from different places, have different backgrounds, but all should be celebrated. However, I was quite disappointed at the reactions of the audience members. Many did not appreciate the messages and statements that were performed on the stage. I'm not sure what they were looking for, but what was performed is the reality of our country. Issues in terms of race, gender, class, immigration, health care, the environment are very real and we as artists would not be doing our job if we ignored these realities. They may make us feel uncomfortable, but this is the world we live in.

With that being said, I would like to congratulate the choreographers for their boldness, and digging in deep within to challenge the world's issues. I applaud the dancers for performing and showcasing the visions of the choreographers. I thank The Joyce Theater for providing a space for dance and the many voices that make up our country. And finally, I thank Ms. Adams for gathering a roster of dance companies that does celebrate and reflect the breadth and diversity of dance.

Photo Credit: Members of Lucky Plush performing "Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip." Photo by William Frederking

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