The Kevin Wynn Collection’s latest bravura performance (Cunningham Studio, February) expressed the fiery ecstasy of dance. Requirements: quick wit, stamina, willingness to work your butt off. Wynn’s The Reflecting Skin, with vocal pyrotechnics by Philip Hamilton, offered duets and clusters of dancers pacing in close proximity. One could barely tell which body part belonged to which body. There was no stopping the great gobs of movement coming from a clever, playful imagination at fever pitch. (Why not turn her arm into a metronome, just for the hell of it?) When the crescendo of voice and action culminated in one man huffing, puffing, and swooning, I was ready to do the same.
How we missed the ailing Katherine Dunham at “Free to Dance: African Americans in Dance”! Even in her absence, she presided over this New School event. Filmmaker Davis Lacy fed us tantalizing clips from his documentary on blacks in dance, airing in June on PBS—glimpses of the vital, spiritual culture Dunham explored in Haiti and Martinique, how she translated it for the concert stage, and how generations of teachers transmit her magnificent technique to today’s youngsters. Ninety minutes could never do justice to the issues proffered by historian Julia Folkes, critic Zita Allen, and choreographer Ronald K. Brown—concerns about racial discrimination, the role of dancers in political struggle, and the often treacherous divide between white critics and the people of color they critique. While merely skimming these crucial issues, the seminar was a lively gathering of the Dunham faithful, who in the spirit of the Sankofa bird looked back in time to move forward with strength.