BWW REVIEW: BAM FISHER PRESENTS LEGACY WITH TWO DANCE COMPANIES at BAM Fisher

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On September 13th and 14th Deeply Rooted Dance Theater (DRDT) of Chicago joined Jamel Gaines Creative Outlet of Brooklyn, NY, performing at BAM Fisher. The two companies differ in approach to theater but coordinated in bringing the African American experience to the stage.

Creative Outlet opened the program with When you've Been Blessed (1994), a tribute to the fortune that art, culture, and spirituality are part of our lives; choreography by Jamel Gaines to music of Patti LaBelle, performed by Creative Outlet C.A.P. students. A solo, Hanging Tree, choreographed by Gaines to music of Elijah Blake, followed. James Banks Davis' performance was powerful, dancing before a backdrop of a great tree followed by the projection of powerful words including "Go back to where you came from; gender inequality; wage gap; body shaming". Their company members closed the program with Tribal Truth, also choreographed by Gaines to music of Fela Kuti, with striking, colorful costumes by Hopie Lynn Burrows. Creative Outlet brings African Dance to the stage with animated joy.

DRDT, an extraordinary contemporary dance company, Nicole Clarke-Springer, new Artistic Director, founded by Artistic Director, Kevin Iega Jeff and Associate Artistic Director, Gary Abbott, contributed four works sandwiched between the first and last pieces of Creative Outlet. This company has depth and passion. Each of their dancers has personality which contribute to each of the choreographies. I chose to attend t he performance on 9/14, particularly interested to see Paige Fraser's solo with DRDT's Flack, as I had interviewed her for BWW in January 2018, when she was dancing with Visceral Dance Chicago. I was greatly impressed with the growth of this dancer in a year and a half, so much so as to merit my following her. Her performance of Sister Soul-Jah (purple dress) was on a par with the best of the Alvin Ailey Company. Her intensity was palpable, fully committed to the role, demonstrating a great sense of drama. Fraser is lithe and fluid, exhibiting control without losing the thread of the story. There were three men and three women in Flack 1984, choreographed by Jeff to music of Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, and Quincy Jones, costumes by Carolyn Meckha Cherry. Each of the dancers had a unique personality and maximum focus. Notable too was the section with the three men: Joshua L. Ishmon, William Roberson, and Pierre Clarke. Their musicality and storytelling kept me riveted. The dancer in the yellow dress, Briana Arthur, displayed enormous facility.

Parallel Lives, 2018, performed by six women of DRDT, also brought six real people to life. Choreography by Gary Abbott to original music composed by Evangelos Spanos, based on La Folia, produced never a dull moment. Cherry again dressed the individual characters in dresses that moved with the dancers. Each of the dancers performed solos: Marlayna Locklear, Arthur, Rebekah Kuczma, Dominique Atwood, Fraser, and Nyemah Stuart, bringing their characters to life. Cristo Redentor 2014, choreographed by Men Ca to music of Donald Byrd was performed with passion by William Roberson. Wild is the Wind 2013 Intimate Reflections, choreography by Kevin Iega Jeff to music of Nina Simone is a pas de deux performed by Jennifer Florentino and Nehemiah Spencer.

DRDT is an impressive contemporary company. If you have an opportunity to see them, I highly recommend doing so.

Photo credit: Michelle Reid



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