Dimensions Dance Theater Celebrates 45th Anniversary This April

Dimensions Dance Theater Celebrates 45th Anniversary This AprilIn honor of its 45th anniversary, Dimensions Dance Theater is pleased to announce a celebratory program to take place at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts Friday and Saturday, April 13 - 14, at 8 p.m. Highlights include two world premieres: a dance a dance representing voices of the homeless, choreographed by company member Latanya d. Tigner, and a dance inspired by the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman, choreographed by former company member Andrea Vonny Lee. The evening will conclude with a remount of Tigner's acclaimed second line dance parade, St. Ann and N. Rampart. Tickets for the event range from $20 to $45 and may be purchased online at Eventbrite.com.

As the oldest continuously operating African American dance company on the West Coast, Dimensions Dance Theater has been a leader in the movement to introduce African and African-derived dances in the United States, reconnecting generations of Americans with the cultural arts of its ancestors, while paying no heed to the old-fashioned orthodoxy that once kept instruction in classical ballet and modern dance separate from jazz, Haitian and other styles.

Dimensions Co-Founder and Artistic Director Deborah Vaughan commissioned Tigner to create a substantial new work to mark the company's anniversary. Tigner, who has danced with the company since 1986, and who currently leads Dimensions Extensions, a pre-professional youth ensemble, is developing a 25-minute work about homelessness.

"What started out as a venture to explore and expand rhythmic possibilities in dance, bringing to the fore African American dance traditions that often go unrecognized outside their immediate communities, has taken on some of the social urgency of our time," said Tigner.

The work created for seven dancers is organized around five distinct stories. In one that she tells, company member Micaiah Bell was riding the bus when a homeless man sat down beside her, only to reveal, quite as a surprise, that he was her very own Uncle James whom she hadn't seen in years.

The second new work on the program belongs to Lee, who danced with Dimensions from 1994 to 2009, and who in the years since has traveled numerous times to West Africa and Cuba working to bridge the African diaspora. This is Lee's first commission for Dimensions Dance Theater.

Ain't No Turning Back is a work paying homage to the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman, the 19th-century abolitionist, women's suffragist and a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, which Lee calls "the first organized freedom movement in America."

"At a time when the country is debating her image on the $20 bill," continued Lee, "we need to remember what Tubman accomplished and what she sacrificed. The struggle for freedom and full equality in this country - for women, immigrants, workers and people of color - is not over." Ain't No Turning Back will feature eight dancers and live percussion by Benjamin Ofori.

In the evening's finale, Dimensions will reprise Tigner's rousing St. Ann and N. Rampart which premiered in 2013. The full company will take the stage with live musical accompaniment from two groups: Twilight under the direction of bandleader Harold Wilson aka "Homeboy" and a West African dundunba battery under the direction of Alseny Soumah. The drummers include Mohamed Kouyate, James Rudisill, John Curtis Stovall and Richmond Wiggins.

Two post-performance events are scheduled this season. Following the performance on Friday, April 13, there will be a short talkback with the artists. Then on Saturday, April 14, the public is invited to gather with the company for champagne and sweet treats. For more information visit dimensionsdance.org.

Kick High, Turn Fast: Celebrating 45 Years of Dance is made possible through the generous support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the City of Oakland's Cultural Arts Department, the Zellerbach Family Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation and the Fleishhacker Foundation.

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