Summer Scrapbook

In a Season of Festivals, All the World's Onstage

"We'll dance even if we have to wear sneakers instead of toe shoes," Daniel Scott of MorganScott Ballet said cheerfully as we talked by phone. True to Scott's word, the company performed its Bryant Park gig under torrential rain, in toe shoes, before a very small, wet, appreciative audience. Since they'd started at least half an hour early, trying to beat the rain, I caught only the end of Edward Morgan's Nocturneand a hastily but bravely offered snippet from his Love, Karen and the 1970's. It would be unfair to review MorganScott under these circumstances, but I can tell you that both pieces were performed with incredible poise and enough splashing for an Esther Williams retrospective.

"Lincoln Center Out of Doors" paired two community-based youth groups—La Santa Luz Dance Company (supported by the South Bronx Police Athletic League) and Gestures Dance Ensemble (students from East Harlem's Boys Harbor Conservatory). The pre-professional Gestures needs a choreographic shake-up. Of the five pieces shown, only Nina Klyvert-Lawson's Rounds (as in boxing rounds) cohered and avoided cliché. But even with the pumping club music, Rounds seemed enervated—all preparation and threat and no follow-through. In Wakina Humphrey's One Against Many, the dancers channeled the lilt and suppleness of Zap Mama's melismatic singing, but this piece too could have used a shot of dynamism. By contrast, La Santa Luz ("holy light") swept across the stage with a sense of freedom and command. I liked Anthony Rodriguez's Hyper Ballet: the futuristic look of its ensemble, the clean, sculpted lines and unusual isolations, and big-hearted Rodriguez, a kind of male Latino Sara Rudner, dancing solos featuring American Sign Language. He was so compelling and clear that it hardly mattered that I couldn't grok the Björk song. The salsa dancing in Rodriguez's Nuestra Cosa is terrific fun. Look for La Santa Luz at Joyce Soho in September.

Appropriately, my summer roundup ended with a lesson in the necessity of preserving and sharing stories. "Lean in and listen," said actress Abena Appiah Kubi Koomson. "A story may save your life." A U.S. native born of Ghanaian immigrants, Koomson offered Cozi Sa Wala: Magic Words at Rod Rodgers Studio as part of "FringeNYC." Cozi Sa Wala blended storytelling with percussion by Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng. Ample-bodied, charming Koomson draped herself in lengths of fabric as she portrayed characters from Fanti tales and her own family's experiences, slipping into various voices, body languages, and attitudes. Although the piece contained a smattering of pure dance, it was infused with physical movement performed with great confidence and inseparable from the intent of her words. Two scenarios—one about a drunk driver and his mourners, the other a fable involving a competition for wealth and a princess's hand in marriage—intersected in a final critique of women's silence, a call for women to step forward, ask questions, take action. A bit short for Koomson's philosophical conclusions to be properly presented and digested, the 45-minute show nevertheless introduced us to a gifted, winning performer and the healing wisdom of her people.

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