Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham’s The Horse’s Mouth is a traveling, mutating show in which veteran dancers relate personal anecdotes with a message and do some moving as well. “Reel to Real” is the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s family-matinee series. The two projects merged for a show (Walter Reade, March 22) offering the reminiscences and the dance fragments, augmented by film clips ranging from Bojangles’s incomparable lesson in staircase navigation to Billy Elliot. Despite a framing interactive element for the youngsters, this was not an ideal show for kids. The talking went way over the heads of the under-10’s, and the dancing was too slight to be vivid without the augmentation older viewers could provide from their memories. One moment, though, disarmed this middle-aged reporter: Harold “Stumpy” Cromer vividly recalling hoofing in the Depression while Gemze de Lappe and Gus Solomons jr improvised a duet full of wit, love, and the wisdom of long experience. —Tobi Tobias
Brown Butterfly, premiered in late March at Aaron Davis Hall, is the undisputed champ! Craig Harris (music), Marlies Yearby (direction, choreography), Jonas Goldstein (video), dancers, and a live jazz band delivered a knockout punch in this multimedia celebration of the fighting spirit of Muhammad Ali. To open, a photo of the young fighter’s cheek and eye filled each of three screens. Music roiled like a powerful mind and will at work, scheming, quietly preparing in darkness. Finally, the screen burst with hallucinatory images from Ali’s physical and verbal bouts, nightmare fragments of Jim Crow America, popular uprisings against racism and war, and hot icons like James Brown and Tina Turner. Yearby’s dancers exulted in Harris’s exciting suite. Watching their springy, crazy-legged propulsion recalled the thrill of seeing Twyla Tharp’s troupe in her heyday—and then some. When not throwing jabs and uppercuts, the dancers opened their chests wide, reflecting Ali’s sense of rightful place and meaning in a volatile world. —Eva Yaa Asantewaa
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