Performing Arts: Dance
March 28, 2016
Many peple never forget their first encounter with Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder choreographed by Donald McKayle in 1959. Using traditional music from John and Allen Lomax’s archive (early collectors of under-recorded root music), McKayle speaks about the black male chain gangs that proliferated in the south during the days of Jim Crow.

Paul Taylor invited the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (once an all black modern dance company founded by Jeraldyne Blunden who was invested in Black Dance heritage) to perform the almost all male piece. Physically demanding, the driving rhythms conjure the relentless hours of work breaking rocks under a brutal sun. With legs spread wide, heads drop as pounding feet shout the numbing mental and physical confines of life on a chain gang. Only when the sole woman, Alexis Britford emerges like a dream and shifts between lover, wife and mother can the men dream of an alternate existence. The hard working, bare-chested men included Devin Baker, Michael Green, Joshua L. Ishmon, Robert Pulido, Alvin Rangel, Quentin Apollo Vauhan Sledge and Demetrius Tabron. Uplifted by the voices of Destan Owens with Michael McElroy and the Broadway Inpsirational Voices plus Gary Seiger on guitar, in the future, it would be wonderful to see the brawny Taylor men tackle this dance classic.

Committed to creating two new works per year, Paul Taylor’s musically upbeat Dilly Dillysends dancers hopping, skipping and do si doing around the burly voiced, Burl Ives soundtrack. Dressed in Santo Loquasto designed cowboy attire—men in jeans, and cowboy hats; women in midriff - baring tied shirts and short shorts – the cast cavorts to an English folk song “Lavender Blue,” only to regroup into duets and trios. Despite Ives’ comforting voice, Dilly Dilly underscores the darker crevices of the folk song genre. Under sunny lights designed by James Ingalls, swooning lovers transform into predatory biters, murderers and all-around questionable characters.

The evening ends on Taylor’s festively sardonic “Offenback Overtures” pluckily conducted by Donald York.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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