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BWW Reviews: EVIDENCE Triumphs at The Secret Theater

Juan Michael Porter II introduced Evidence: the baldwin suite with a truly majestic eloquence, his face radiant with pride as he intoned the name James Baldwin.

Baldwin carried the weight of the people's voice with an ease only known to extraordinary genius. Indeed, the literature of Baldwin was espoused with all due respect, and admiration, at The Secret Theater, a special off-the-beaten-track venue in Queens.

To open, composer and drummer William Hooker rocked the stage with mighty and entranced rhythms on his drum set. From a family of preachers, and knowing full well of Baldwin as a preacher, Hooker took to the drums as a way to transcend the bounds of the church, and to penetrate more deeply into the heart of an egalitarian society.

Choreographer Juan Michael Porter II danced alongside the stunning Jinah Parker, moving through inner conflicts that swelled and released at the energetic duality of their pairing.

Musicians Matt Lavelle, Tor Snyder, and Jesse Henry held down smooth, pulsing textures to the gargantuan sound of Hooker. His solos resounded to the steps of Porter, all the more dramatic as the floorboards shook to the beat.

The pure percussive energies invoked an African-American spirit, a call to the harmonization of the body through a sound, a movement, and finally a story.

Ar'B.R.A.F exchanged stylish and heartfelt raps to passages from Baldwin stories read by Hooker, also a poet in his own right. The entire show, while still "in-progress" according to Porter, explored an impressive diversity of artistic dedications to Baldwin.

At the end of the performance, the musicians and dancers sat down for an intimate discussion with the audience, who were surprisingly spare in number.

From the March on Washington to Occupy Wall Street, from Black Lives Matter to Evidence: the baldwin suite, the dance of history continues to reveal a character common to all humanity, yet concealed behind the veils of race and class, now as dramatic and demanding as ever.

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From This Author Matt Hanson