[Blackstudies-l] Dance Caribbean Collective’s Third Year

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Sat Jul 29 09:54:27 EDT 2017


lisaparavisini posted: " A review by Susanna Sloat for the Brooklyn Rail.
OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT: NEW TRADITIONS FESTIVAL 2017 MARK MORRIS DANCE CENTER
| JUNE 16 - 18, 2017 There are cultural niches waiting to be filled, some
particular to Brooklyn, where the islands of the Carib"
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<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> Dance Caribbean
Collective’s Third Year
<http://repeatingislands.com/2017/07/29/dance-caribbean-collectives-third-year/>
by
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 12.45.32 AM.png]

A review by Susanna Sloat for the *Brooklyn Rail*.
<http://brooklynrail.org/2017/07/dance/Dance-Caribbean-Collectives-Third-Year>

OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT: NEW TRADITIONS FESTIVAL 2017
MARK MORRIS DANCE CENTER | JUNE 16 - 18, 2017

There are cultural niches waiting to be filled, some particular to
Brooklyn, where the islands of the Caribbean come together. Candace
Thompson realized this as an emerging choreographer who wondered how she
could get her work more widely seen, and more specifically, how work like
hers, imbued with both her formal training in modern dance and other dance
idioms, and her Trinidadian heritage, could reach a Caribbean American
audience in New York. Joining with others in the same situation, she
founded Dance Caribbean Collective (DCC) to present their first program in
June 2015.

In the short time since, DCC has grown exponentially. The collective not
only offered a performance festival in 2016 and three days of
Caribbean-inflected contemporary dance at the Mark Morris Dance Center this
June, but also now encompasses dance classes, town hall meetings, a youth
dance program, and a network of choreographers and mentors who can offer
each other mutual support. And, of course, a website1: one that connects
multiple programs, interests, participants, research, videos, and a
calendar of dance classes and events, all coming together into a dense and
expanding web of people and organizations interested in Caribbean dance and
culture.

“Why don’t more people know about us?” is the question Thompson and her
incipient collective asked. Everything DCC does is designed to expand the
audience for Caribbean dance and culture and the connections between them.
>From Pearl Primus (from Trinidad) to Garth Fagan (from Jamaica), important
choreographers have connected Caribbean origins and African antecedents
with American modern dance. So the mix of Caribbean and modern into
something new and contemporary is not new at all, either in the U.S. or
back home on the islands. Still, it can be hard for choreographers to be
seen, not only by audiences in general, but also by the members of the huge
Caribbean community in New York City.

The idea, Thompson said in a personal interview, is to create a central hub
for information about Caribbean dance and performance, to tell the
Caribbean story in a way that Caribbean artists have control over. Keeping
control over Caribbean content when Caribbean culture moves into the
mainstream was one of the topics of DCC’s Town Hall meeting at Brooklyn
College in May, part of its 2017 CUNYDance Initiative residency at the
college.

[image: Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 12.49.10 AM.png]
Danza Organica in Melaza choreographed by Marsha Parrilla. dancers Marsha
Parrilla, Victoria Sagardía, Earnest Gildon, Etienne Hernandez, Dey
Hernandez, Ella Wechsler-Matthaei, Fran de Paula. Credit: Shane Drummond

The audience wrote responses to questions about appropriation,
appreciation, and mastery that were posted on large sheets of paper. The
panelists; Thompson; Valerie Mcleod-Katz, Director of Fine and Performing
Arts at Medgar Evers Preparatory School and Production Manager of the West
Indian Labor Day Parade; Jessica Phoenix, an African American choreographer
who works with dancehall; and Michael Manswell, Artistic Director of the
New York Trinidadian folkloric company Something Positive, discussed such
issues within the context of their own professional journeys. The
discussion, moderated by Sita Frederick, was intense, both among panelists
and audience. But everyone had fun first: BlackGold’s Korie “Genius” and
Kendall “History” Hinds led us in a class of dancehall moves.

***

At Brooklyn Studios for Dance in Clinton Hill this spring, DCC had a series
of distinctive dance classes, some on types of Caribbean dance not normally
taught and virtually unknown to the wider world. I attended the first
three: Michael Manswell on Trinidad stick fighting dance, Ilana “Illy”
Warner on St. Kitts masquerade, and Rosalind October-Edun on Guyana
masquerade. Both of these old masquerade traditions use fife and drum music
and have elaborate, colorful, but different costumes whose aesthetics
descend from West Africa, as do some of the steps and much of the movement
style. But each has a different combination of moves, deriving from a
particular cultural mix, which our teachers broke down and reassembled,
providing much enjoyment and a fascinating contrast in the way dance
cultures with similar ingredients diverge.

Candace Thompson trained from early childhood in Trinidad with Heather
Henderson-Gordon, a Juilliard graduate whose school, La Danse Caraibe,
instructs in many genres. In June, Henderson-Gordon came to the Our
Caribbean Spirit New Traditions Festival 2017 to see what one of her star
pupils is doing now. Twelve years ago, Thompson also journeyed north to get
a BFA in dance from Adelphi University. She has danced with Crystal Brown
and Sydnie L. Mosley among others, and continues to work with André
Zachery’s Renegade, while creating her own choreography as ContempoCaribe.
She did a Draft Work at Danspace Project this past spring, has a residence
at Dixon Place in the fall, and will return to Danspace with Renegade.

DCC has a dozen DCC Lead Artists: dancers, choreographers, and teachers who
coordinate programs and sometimes perform their work at the yearly
festival. Another group of six, the DCC Powerhouse, works on marketing,
publicity, and tech. And, of course, the annual dance festival requires a
production team. This year Sydnie Mosley was the Production Manager; André
Zachery the Technical Director and Stage Manager. DCC’s programs run from
January to June, culminating in the performance festival.

***

Audiences kept growing at the Mark Morris Dance Center this June, until, on
the final Sunday, they overflowed, and late-comers had to sit on the floor.
The atmosphere was festive and communal and the dance works were rich in
mixtures of Caribbean moves and modern dance. Such mixtures might be
layered or become fused into an innovative individual contemporary dance
style. Many pieces were packed with meaning—personal and cultural—often
pointed though occasionally diffuse. There was excitement, but in general
the tenor was more thoughtful than showy, even when soca was the principle
dance vehicle.

*Our Caribbean Spirit*, the dance choreographed collaboratively by Thompson
and the seven performers who had auditioned to be part of it, concluded the
performances all three nights. Central to this project were videos of
interviews and glimpses of dance—part of DCC’s research into traditions and
legacy, from the Guyana Cultural Association, the St. Lucia Folklore
Association (both in New York), and JayaDevi Arts, an Indo-Trinidadian
group now in Florida.

The dancers come together and disperse to short bits of Caribbean music and
their own declarations: “Only my body can tell you what’s inside. This is
my story”; “My Caribbean spirit makes me dance, wraps me up. Brings me
joy.” Dancers salute places such as Haiti or St. Kitts. They flow and
shift, jump and revolve hips in moves that have a folkloric basis in the
Caribbean or Africa, but become new combinations. Moving variously, they
give a sense of their individual bodily voices. The eight other dances were
given twice each, so that the three evenings had a different array of
performances.

Maxine Montilus led off the dancing on Friday with *What Can’t Be Denied*,
a reflection on the mix of Vodou and Christianity that pervades Haitian
culture, even though some, like her parents, prefer to ignore Vodou. The
spinal curves of Yanvalou, the dance of the loa Damballah, pervade this
lovely, gentle piece, even as we hear a voiceover of parts of the Lord’s
Prayer and Hail Mary. A vevé-like pattern of a heart with a crown, split by
a cross is projected. There are shifts into modern dance moves, and returns
to Vodou, more undulations and jumps, curving arms and shifting zepaule
shoulders, a kind of *Vodou cassé *with turns and lashings—the gentle
quality is interrupted by occasional explosions, but returns with a final
libation of the four corners of the space.

Marsha Parrilla/Danza Orgánica’s *Melaza* is a complex piece that deals
with what it means to be a diasporic Puerto Rican from a colonized island.
Six women and two men from this Boston-based contemporary dance theater
company mix various modes and various moods, from a desperate scream and
hysterical moves, to ironic tropes about the “land of the free” that move
from bravado to wrenching sadness. There are cries of “Puerto Rico” and
“Estados Unidos,” speech in English and Spanish, a few Afro-Cuban moves
among more that reflect contemporary dance or a modern-Caribbean mixture.
Group work devolves into solo moments, including a particularly anguished,
forceful solo by one of the men. The sound of the coqui, the Puerto Rican
tree frog that is an island symbol, is much heard, and danced to, in ways
that differ but include frog-like crouches and jumps. The second night all
this complication flowed more expressively.
<http://brooklynrail.org/article_image/image/18945/sloat_web_3.jpg>Dancer/Choreographer,
Alicia Dellimore in her piece *Untold Narrative. *Credit: Shane Drummond

*Untold Narrative* begins with a tortured solo on the floor to live djembe
drumming, as a voice laments “losing a child” or declares “she put on a
mask.” Alicia Dellimore returns in a white gown with a removable overskirt
and a droopy white hat that usually hides her face, so that when we see it,
the effect is intense. She is a very striking performer with her own unique
combination of Afro-Caribbean and modern movements, with subtle isolations
of hip or shoulders, shivers of leg or full body shudders. She is exploring
the character of La Diablesse, the she-devil of the French-influenced
southern Caribbean, with tales that differ from island to island—her
background island is St. Vincent—but Dellimore mixes in real feeling, real
problems with the mythical. There are some false endings that cloud a
compelling arc; she dances a recovery, but reverts to sorrow with small
shudders of pain.

***

The DCW Youth Performing Arts Company was founded in January, under the
aegis of DCC and WIADCA (which puts on the Labor Day parade). Shola K.
Roberts directs the group and choreographed—with input from Thompson and
Valerie Mcleod-Katz—the lively piece we saw for eleven girls and one boy in
red, black, and gold. Roberts is a dance education teacher at the School of
Integrated Learning, a Brooklyn middle school, one of three schools from
which the dancers came. In addition to her full-time job and her duties as
a Lincoln Center Scholar finishing a master’s degree in arts education at
Hunter College, Roberts, a Grenadan American, taught the DCW students not
only dance, but about the history and culture of the Caribbean. Those who
remained most dedicated performed a complex mix of African diaspora and
Caribbean moves, a West African section, and contemporary soca, with lots
of wining, arms and other body parts pumping out, and shouted words like
“persistence,” “strength,” and “inspiration.” The group may participate in
a celebration for this September’s fiftieth anniversary of the parade.

At first there’s a narrator speaking an essay on spirits and identity
(“Spirits like this place”) behind Safi Harriott, who begins a subtle
ritual dance, *Sorry, Uncle Johnny*. The music, from the Tamborine Army’s
action in Kingston, Jamaica, is percussive; Harriott’s moves are quiet.
She’s in white, with white braided into her hair and a basket of white
flowers, moving in silence, then to Harry Belafonte singing a mento song,
or a bell rhythm, or more silence, as she raises her eyes in a salute to
spirits, and further honors them with pieces of bread, a circle of stones,
and a flower garland she places on her brow. Her Jamaican body rocks and
undulates. As the piece evolves, packed with possible meanings, it turns
into a Caribbean ablution.

A solo-dancing child is part of Shermica Farquhar/Soka Tribe’s *Tale of the
Tribe*. The Tribe, about a dozen strong, wear black tops and tights with
red and purple loops and fringes over them. They dance briefly to a
drummer, but mostly to recorded soca of the harder-edged contemporary sort,
making complicated patterns interspersed with lots of wining. There is an
African interlude, but it is the high-energy soca—with pivots, all kinds of
isolations, and those wining hips—that produces the Tribe’s carnival vibe,
leading off the Saturday performances.

Candace Thompson followed with *kah-so dan-say* to French Antillean zouk
music. In silvery shirt and golden briefs, long-limbed Thompson dances with
an expansive, powerful modern dance body, integrating Caribbean isolations,
contractions, thrusting and arrowing arms, and slow and quick shifts of
body into an idiom all her own. She’s a rich mover, sometimes evolving into
unique movements, as she dances a Caribbean modern solo tour de force.

“She’s got my moves,” said a woman of Rosamond S. King dancing *Tiney Winey*.
While King’s complex curves of torso and hip, her subtle, sometimes tiny
winds, may be familiar, her presentation is marvelously distinctive.
Totally sheathed in shiny gray blue, including her face, with a golden
crest on her head and golden braids flying out, she dances in a circle of
light to infectious soca by Byron Lee and The Dragonaires. She varies her
wining smoothness with rocking jerks back and forth to the rhythm.
Presenting a stick, she is a debonair and audacious masked figure,
identified as a blue devil, a traditional Trinidadian carnival character,
by Henderson-Gordon in the Q&A, to King’s assent.

Friday and Saturday’s performances ended with panels of the choreographers
describing their work or interacting with the audience, but Sunday’s ended
with a party. There was food on all nights, but more variety of delicious
things like shrimp and codfish balls on Sunday. The terrace was crowded
with talkers. A DJ played soca and people danced, led by Thompson. It was,
as DCC members had hoped, a mixed, but strongly Caribbean audience.
Festival attendees enjoyed the dance pieces, which likely reminded them of
home and introduced new ways of moving and suggestive ideas. There was a
wonderful warmth and feeling of unity and community to these three concerts.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
July 29, 2017 at 12:50 am | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-wsf

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