Black Choreographers Festival
Laney College, Oakland
March 3, 2018
“Here and Now”
Kendra Baarnes and Laura E. Ellis, directors of the program, welcomed us to the 14th Annual season of the BCF “Here and Now.” Besides the three weekend performances, two in San Francisco and one in Oakland, the Festival is presenting Panel Discussions and Master Classes. It is particularly relevant in these times of “artistic visibility and activism through arts and culture.” The March 3 program certainly demonstrated commitment to current events.
There were nine works on the program. Some were devoted to today’s commitments to the women’s movement, the homelessness problem, dependency issues and always, the human condition. In all the dances, there was real artistry, exuberant dancing, fine fluid technique and excellent group interaction. Enthusiasm was visible; some went on too long.
“District 6: 3692 Diamond Ave” (2017), choreographed by Ashley Gayle and Noah James was outstanding. A study of homelessness, the piece was dedicated to all “mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunties, cousins and daughters who forget to take deep breaths.” The eight performers portrayed various persons who, often in despair, find and leave each other in the cold of their condition. They were all very effective.
Another gripping work was Natalya Shoaf’s premiere of “Complicated.” Five performers worked effectively with one another to give us a presentation of brutality to women. Without actually coming to blows in any way, they were able to demonstrate the cruelty inflicted and the emotional consequences of such situations. Brava to all!
Another such work was “experts from existence” (a work in progress) by Dazaun Soleyn. We are told that “existence is a visceral exploration of the dancers, artist, experience with code switching.” Three dancers made this a viable number.
There were pleasant, joyful hip-hop numbers to cool the tensions. “Skywod” was one (choreographed by Phylicia Stroud and Tzylon Sims) and Frankie Lee Peterson III gave us a solo finale that was wild and lively.
Congratulations to all the choreographers, dancers, designers and leaders who make the Black Choreographers Festival such a success. We are always moved and delighted by their efforts.
Joanna G. Harris