PASSING THE FLAME.
Jeraldyne Blunden, founder of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, has been dead for a little over a year--too soon to take full measure of the company without her sure hand at the helm.
DCDC is now directed by Kevin Ward, who worked at Blunden's side for twenty years, and by Debbie Blunden-Diggs, her daughter. The programs comprising this New York appearance featured two works by Ward, two by Dwight Rhoden and a collaboration by Donald McKayle and Ronald K. Brown.
McKayle is a story spinner in the tradition of early American modern dance. Brown's choreography is strongly physical, often ritualistic. In combination, they did not really enhance each other. Instead, they blurred each other's intent. But additional performing may place the accents in the right places. Called Children of the Passage, their procession of cultural forces was spiritedly accompanied by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The dancers hurled themselves through a voodoo ceremony, a funeral, a ragtag tango and what appeared to be a Christian rite. In its theatricalized embracing of aspects of black culture, it recalled Alvin Ailey's Revelations, but the choreographers did not seem as close to their material as Ailey was to his.
As composer as well as choreographer, Kevin Ward is by nature a classicist. He is most at home in the realm of formal discipline. His excerpt ("Can Cry If Where Would I") from Job's Kitchen made telling use of two of the company's finest dancers, DeShona Pepper and G.D. Harris. It was based on the tragedy of Medgar Evers, a black civil rights leader murdered in 1963, and used, in both score and choreography, the penetrating language of understatement.
The jazz lingo that Ward selected for his couples in Sets and Chasers stressed casualness at the expense of interest. The dance did not really add a dimension to its Duke Ellington accompaniment.
Dwight Rhoden, a currently much-sought-after young choreographer, grew up in the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, but it's hard to tell just what his choreographic influences were. He currently seems to have a penchant for musical theater. He created the solo Growth for Sheri "Sparkle" Williams, the company's principal virtuoso. While Williams made her way brilliantly through its forest of steps, the dance was more demanding than affecting.
Rhoden's poetically titled Sky Garden was a tribute to Jeraldyne Blunden. It was typical of the excess that he seems to prefer--glittery costumes by Miho Morinoue; oblique lighting by Michael Korsch; complicated partnering for the dancers; and a score by Antonio Carlos Scott whose agitation of the piano strings recalled early John Cage.
There was nobility of intent in Warren Spear's black. Although somewhat repetitious in its early moments, the dance achieved great poignancy as it depicted the infatuation of two young strangers at a dance--and the girl's death from a stray bullet. Sheri Williams and David Reuille performed it with emotional directness. But then emotional directness has always been a strong trait of DCDC. I'm glad to see it still securely in place.
For more on DCDC, see "True to the Founder's Vision," Dance Magazine, January 2001.
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|Article Type:||Dance Review|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2001|
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