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Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.

Byham Theatre Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania March 8, 2003

Ohio's oldest modern dance ensemble has moved forward since founder Jeraldyne Blunden's death three years ago--Artistic Director Kevin Ward has shifted the repertoire away from the classic African American works that built DCDC's reputation. It offered (at the request of its presenter, the Pittsburgh Dance Council) the Donald McKayle-Ronald K. Brown collaboration Children of the Passage (1999) and Debbie Blunden-Diggs's gospel-driven In My Father's House (1997), both with spiritual overtones.

The former depicted an elevenmember ensemble of "lost souls" on the road to redemption--a long, overly populated, densely choreographed, repetitious road. Here, energy dug downward. Even the women's repeated leaps carried a sense of weight, as their soaring athleticism was obscured by wide-legged pants. The "Indulgent Spirit" section fared best with its saucy hip undulations for the women and careening attitude turns for the male lead.

In My Father's House, which echoes Alvin Ailey's Revelations, was woven around a charismatic church service led by a magnetic clergyman. Group dances were marked by graceful, sweeping, unison choreography, as the twelve faithful gave praise and received the spirit. The power of the contemporary gospel score carried and surpassed the quality of the choreography.

Shonna Hickman-Matlock's Unresolved (2002) exemplifies the relationship-on-the-brink genre. Monnette Bariel and Julius Brewster Jr. danced individually and together, with little partnering. None of the imagery was striking, insightful, or memorable until the final moment, which posed the dancers apart, in the ultimate gesture of emotional uncertainty.

Most accessible was Warren Spears's black (1989), a prom-night mating ritual set to pop songs by Elvis and The Supremes. Caught amid the raging hormones of young adulthood and the race riots of 1968, six teenagers wearing semiformal attire responded to both, through dances ranging from humorously gawky to boldly come-hither to shockingly aggressive. In an anti-climactic moment, the music stopped, the house lights rose, and action froze. A girl, assaulted by the three boys, stood transfixed. Then the party resumed, until the girl jarringly upended the punch table.
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Author:Dacko, Karen
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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