Black Bouquet

African American choreography blooms in city parks and theaters

Call them the fourth generation. Some of their inspiring elders—Alvin Ailey, Ulysses Dove—are dead. Others, like Donald McKayle and Joan Myers Brown—teachers as well as choreographers— beckon them in rewarding directions. Their art, a fusion of modern, ballet, jazz, and hip-hop, is appearing all over town, beginning Wednesday night at Central Park SummerStage.

Thursday's free Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors performances, at 6 and 8 p.m., feature dances by seven of these young artists. Says producer Jenneth Webster, "LCOOD has always had a dedication to African American choreographers and the musicians who play for them. This program is very soulful; it speaks to the issues of a younger generation of African Americans, to what they're seeking. They share a distinct mission of movement and subject."

Why are they all male? Roger Jeffrey, artistic director of the "Subtle Changes" show, observes, "We need to bond, get together and do something as men, make a clear statement about how men can work together."

Making "subtle changes."
Making "subtle changes."

Rennie Harris, 35 Trained: in social situations, watching Soul Train, "hanging out with my friends" at Philly's Roman Catholic High School, on the streets, and in clubs. Choreographs for: his own groups—Rennie Harris Puremovement, the Stepmasters (beginning when he was 14), the Scanner Boys, Magnificent Force. Now preparing Rome & Jewels, the Shakespeare–West Side Story plot restyled in hip-hop vocabulary, for a June 2000 premiere. Has worked with Run-DMC, Harry Belafonte, and other commercial ventures. Upcoming commissions: Memphis Ballet and Dance Alloy. Performed with: Philly choreographers Roko Kawai and Manfred Fischback, musicians Lenny Seidman and Zakeir Hussain, Leja (now known as Eleone), Children of Shango. Artistic strength: fierce and dramatic stage presence. Takes the virtuosity of hip-hop and forges it into powerful ensemble movement. Appearing next: in P-Funk, Endangered Species, and Students of the Asphalt Jungle at Central Park SummerStage, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

Brian Brooks, 26 Trained: at Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey American Dance Center; joined Philadanco at 18, dances with Earl Mosley's Diversity of Dance. Choreographs for: a children's company in New Paltz; at colleges under the auspices of Donald Byrd and Philadanco. Performs with: Donald Byrd/The Group, where he's rehearsal director. Artistic strength: his musicality. Appearing next: His female trio, Diamond in the Ruff, will be performed Thursday at 6 p.m. at Josie Robertson Plaza, Lincoln Center.

Roger C. Jeffrey, 24 Trained: at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center in Jamaica, Queens (with Kevin Iega Jeff); La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts; at the Juilliard School (B.F.A., 1996) with Benjamin Harkarvy. Choreographs for: Subtle Changes, an artists' collective founded in 1997 to produce dance, drama, and poetry readings; teaches at La Guardia; is associate artistic director of the Edge School of the Arts and its children's ensemble, in Laurelton, Queens. Will choreograph for ABT's community outreach program at Frederick Douglass High School in Harlem, and for Henson Productions's Bear and the Big Blue House this winter. Performed with: Tharp!, guests with Kevin Jeff's Deeply Rooted Productions. Artistic strength: "I try to incorporate subtlety into my choreography. It's not all 'Turn! Kick! Jump! Split.' I left Tharp! so I could do more community-based work." Appearing next: Producing "Subtle Changes," Thursday at 6 p.m. at Josie Robertson Plaza, where he'll show Mid-Nite Tears for seven dancers.

Earl Mosley, 34 Trained: at North Carolina School of the Arts and the Martha Graham School. Choreographs for: the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dallas Black Dance Theater, and other ensembles, including his own Diversity of Dance. Performs with: Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence. Artistic strength: his original vocabulary evokes meaning from movement. Appearing next: shows an excerpt from his Pass It On, for 10 dancers, to music by Bobby McFerrin and others, Thursday at 6 p.m. at Josie Robertson Plaza.

Darrell Moultrie, 21 Trained: at Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts and La Guardia High School; currently attends the Juilliard School. Choreographs for: Gestures Dance Ensemble at Harbor, for Juilliard dancers. Performs with: Juilliard Dance Ensemble. Artistic strength: Powerful, fast, always looks like he's enjoying himself. Appearing next: showing Sporadic-ism Thursday at 6 p.m. at Josie Robertson Plaza, choreographing for Juilliard's spring 2000 production.

Matthew Rushing, 26 Trained: at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. Choreographs for: 'Danco II, students at AAADC, regional troupes in Chicago and Atlanta. Performs with: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Complexions, Kevin Wynn Dance Collection. Artistic strength: an exquisite dancer, he uses choreography to express the unexpected. Appearing next: His Very Dionne, choreographed with Hope Boykin for a company of 12, is part of "Subtle Changes," Thursday at 6 p.m. at Josie Robertson Plaza.

Nathan Trice, 34 Trained: with Aluni Chunn in San Diego while in the U.S. Navy; at Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. Choreographs for: his own Rituals Company and other venues across the country. Teaches at AileyCamp and in French Guyana. Performs with: Momix, Complexions, Donald Byrd/The Group, Kevin Jeff. Artistic strength: His work evokes ritual and the human experience. "I want to make dances your grandmother gets." Appearing next: His Their Speech Is Silver, Their Silence Is Gold plays Thursday at 6 p.m. at Josie Robertson Plaza; his own troupe performs that and other work at Angel Orensanz Theater, September 1 through 3.

Next Page »