Six emerging artists featured in “Speaking in Truth: Female Choreographers” (Riverside Church) embraced a wide range of black culture. Tapping African roots, Alexandria Bangoura marshaled an army of fantastic if strangely expressionless women dancers I’d want on my side in any throwdown. Laila Sales’s CP Time = Faith, with its surreal, sample-rich soundtrack by Melvin Bolden and Eric Bannister and its four weird, time-warped sisters, was the evening’s brightest sonic, visual, and thematic innovation. Jamie Philbert, Hope Boykin, and Kerri Edge—the last on the cutting edge of hip-hop—showed exciting, accomplished works and bear watching. Kudos are also due Ayodele Casel, in whose imaginative tap I hear, as Gil Scott-Heron once sang, “all of the places we’ve been.”
This year’s Second Avenue Dance Company, NYU’s bridge into professional dance, looks mighty good. The students cover territories as disparate as Martha Graham’s antifascist Steps in the Street (1936) and heady, sexy new works by Kevin Wynn, Doug Elkins, and Diane Coburn Brüning. Among them are promising dancemakers, including Karen L. Love, whose quintet Grace moves like a fierce, rapid unfolding of gold-lit flowers, haunted by African dance.
Maia Claire Garrison/M’Zawa Danz’s multisectioned work, The Panther Peace (Playhouse 91), doesn’t hold together—needs egg or mashed banana, perhaps—but its ingredients are fantastic. Topping the list are Garrison’s beautiful dancers, of impressive physical command, who collaborate in the driven, eye-popping, neo-African choreography. The work communicates random but vivid thoughts on serenity, panic, rage, and manhood (danced by women) with virtuosic drumming by Rayza Rayz and tapping by Ayodele Casel.
In Janis Brenner’s The “L” Word (Playhouse 91), L stands for love and lyrical. I also recommend P for playful, H for humane, and A for affecting. Her heartSTRINGS is a tide of vitality and good feeling. For oh-so-cool New Yorkers, sentimentality may be an altered state, if not a guilty pleasure. Brenner risks it in The Memory of All That. We may be what we eat, but we are definitely what we remember. We savor her performers’ memories. They savor ours, too (printed neatly on white cards), dancing as they are read—serendipitous poetry. I won’t soon forget exquisite Kun-Yang Lin giggling as he mispronounced Moby Dick!
Critics often compare Nancy Zendora’s dances (Danspace St. Mark’s) to haiku, but haiku are both spare in imagery and concise. By contrast, Zendora takes the winding road through a world of visual mystery with ancient echoes. Solve the mystery, or just sit back and savor the eye candy, like those crazy pyramidal lamps the tie-dyed ladies carry as they creep through The Geology of Time. Intense, focused dancers such as Marija Krtolica—stretching like taffy in Geology—make either choice enjoyable. —Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Bruce Fleming, a U.S. Naval Academy English professor, writes Sex, Art, and Audience (Peter Lang, $29.95) from a layman’s viewpoint, drawing unexpected connections between Keats and Paul Taylor, his students and today’s dancers. Of Taylor’s Arden Court, he notes: “Stripped to the waist, half a dozen muscular young men flung themselves repeatedly into the air, did things that obviously required brute strength. . . . The midshipmen came out at intermission talking excitedly: this was great, was this modern dance?” Fleming excels as reporter, observer, and soothsayer. He describes Eliot Feld as an artist who “created something that, although quivering with the breath of the human, is itself not completely human.” Check out Feld’s new nodrog doggo at the Joyce to see how prophetic this is.—Kate Mattingly