Walter’s World: Souls of Our Feet: People of Color Dance Festival

June 8, 2012

By Walter Rutledge

The Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center began their 36 annual choreographic showcase on Sunday June 17. The three-day dance series, Souls of Our Feet: People of Color Dance Festival is being held at the Kumble Theater on the downtown Brooklyn campus of Long Island University. The series will present eight choreographers and dance companies spotlighting three works each night.

The opening night was a celebration of both the past and the future, offering works by emerging and established choreographers. Sidra Bell Dance New York presented an excerpt from Nudity entitled sink slowly, sink deep. Jonathan Campbell performed the extended solo with control and presence.

The simple costume of black short tights, a dark leotard and black socks combined with the colorless clear lights gave the work a stark, stripped down look. There was a surreal, almost monochromatic look and feel about the work that created an inner tension in Campbell. The floor mounted white lights placed in front of the stage intensified the imagery by producing a shadow of the dancer on the colorless backdrop.

The movement shifted between expansive jumps, extensions and battlements, to center generated upper body isolations. Arm and hand gestures, and exaggerated facial expressions completed the eerie feeling. These were repeated and varied throughout the work creating a gestural language with the audience.

The Philadelphia based modern dance company Danse4Nia presented an excerpt from Hollie E. Wrights’ Standing In My Skin. The female trio consisting of began the dance dressed in beige belted trench coats. As the dance developed the belt was removed, then one sleeve. The partially removed trench coat at one point moved around the performers like a cape.

The work revealed different levels of trust and solidarity between the performers. The dancers would break unison passages with one dancer usually forming the apex of a triangle as if she was telling her story. There were supported movements in which the dancers shared and shifted each others weight. These supportive moments were not quite lifts, but gave the appearance of bonding and a collective and shared angst.

In the final section choreographer Wright was able to create a peaceful and pleasant resolution. The movement and presentation had an affirming quality, and there was a clear sisterhood. The work ended with the dancers throwing the trench coats downstage in an overt act of defiance.

The evening closed with a new incarnation of Tilt by Tony and Emmy Award winning choreographer George Faison. This new rendition on Faison’s 1973 classic dance theatre work featured new costumes, projections and an expanded cast. What is most gratifying is that the thirty-nine year old ballet has retained a freshness and vibrancy that has kept it current.

Faison has amalgamated ballet, modern, jazz and popular dance and set it to a great music score of songs by the Jackson 5, Labelle and Ashford and Simpson. The result is a fast paced, high energy, and visually stimulating work. The colorful and futuristic video projections of a pinball machine integrated into the story perfectly, and complement the neon wigs and florescent colored costumes on the women.

Tilt’s outer premise is a pinball game featuring three women performed by Chloe’ O. Davis, Paunika Jones and Hollie E. Wright. The underlining story is about love, heartbreak, inner strength, and unity. This was accomplished through a series of female solos and group dances.

Three male dancers Justin S.M. Bryant, Nijawwon Matthews, and Devin L. Roberts have replaced the set, which consisted of three pinball bumpers. This addition extended the male dance roles, which originally was confined to a few brief non-dance passages in the opening and closing sections.

In many respects Tilt was the most youthful work on the program. This is due in part to the playful and unpretenous nature of the work, coupled with strong choreography and compositional structure. Tilt will be performed again on the closing day of the festival on Wednesday June 20.

The Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center’s Souls of Our Feet: People of Color Dance Festival continues on Tuesday June 19. Dance Sons of Brooklyn will present works by three emerging male Brooklyn based choreographers Germaul Barnes, Jamal Jackson and Malcolm Low. The Wednesday June 20 performance will feature DANCE IQUAL, Francesca Harper Project, and a reprise of George Faison’s Tilt, both performance are at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15 and $12 for students and seniors, and may be purchased at the Kumble Theater box office, 718-488-1624, and online at

Harlem World Radio Interview with Sidra Bell and Alex Smith Jr.

In Photo: 1) Devin L. Roberts, Justin S.M. Bryant, Nijawwon Matthews, Paunika Jones and Hollie E. Wright 2) Jonathan Campbell 3) Cindy Logan, Jamey L. Rislin, and Blythe Smith 4) George Faison and Tilt cast 5) Devin L. Paunika Jones, Roberts, Justin S.M. Bryant, and Nijawwon Matthews,

Photo Credit: 1- 4) Agnes E. Green 5) Rodney Hurley

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