Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center
May 2, 2015
While Baltimore and its black female Mayor cope with riots, young black choreographers, one being Da’Von Doane trained in Salisbury, Maryland, are being nurtured by New York City’s 36 year old Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center (THPAC) with a performance at The Actors Fund Arts Center. THPAC mission is to “offer performance opportunities to artists of color so they can share their work with diverse communities, provide administrative and technical support to choreographers, furnish rehearsal and “incubation” space and serve as a bridge between artists and the community.” That last goal of the mission…”serve as a bridge between artists and the community” is the tricky part.
The three choreographers on view in this program: Sidra Bell, Da’Von Doane, and Lloyd Knight are growing, but to what audience are they appealing? Bell said in the “talkback” that she does a lot of somatic research with her dancers and doesn’t like to think too much about you - pointing at us - the audience. She categorized herself more as a director, than a choreographer. Ultimately, she may stumble on something that could speak to a community fraught with problems. The two male choreographers Da’Von Doane and Lloyd Knight have sailed far away from the inner city, on the course of the exquisitely trained dancer and dance companies, Dance Theatre of Harlem (Doane - currently a member) and Martha Graham Dance Company (Knight - currently a member) that fill large theatres with audiences who crave the sight of finely tuned bodies, sophisticated aesthetics, architectural use of space, clarity of lines (or curves), and ideas, though fuzzy still for Doane and Knight.
Perhaps the artistic ambitions of Bell, Doane, and Knight and the administrative goals of THPAC will cross-pollinate. Are they watching each other work and wondering what aspect they can steal? After all, Martha Graham said that every artist steals. Knight, appeared bare chested with pants/skirt designed by Karen Young, could have been improvising backstage on a Graham performance; he admits to just beginning his choreographic journey. Doane, a marvelous dancer with choreographic potential, created a clean quartet “Interconnected, Interdependent” with two taut ballerinas, Ashley Murphy and Jenelle Figgins, himself and Jorge Villarini. The score for Bell’s “Rendering” grated ones’ nerves, as did much of her work-in-progress; though, a male duet with its pulling and suspensions was interesting.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers