Black Choreographers Festival
Dimensions Dance Theater, Project Panther. Photo: Ed MIller

Black Choreographers Festival

Works by Marc Bamuthi Joseph,
Ibrahima Diouf, Phylicia Stroud and Deborah Vaughan

Malonga Casquelourd CFTA 1428 Alice Street Oakland
February 11,12, 2017
festival website

The Black Choreographers Festival celebrated its 13th year by returning to the Malonga Casquelourd Center where it was performed in 2005. As Kendra Barnes, BCF co-producer suggests, ‘”it is like returning home.”
The unique program featured the special talents of Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Ibrahima Diouf, Phylicia Stroud and Deborah Vaughan of Dimensions Dance Theater. Joseph dominated the evening with three ‘talking/dancing’
segments.

Joseph, who has received many awards and commissions, started the show with “peh-LO-tah,” an excerpt of a work for the Kennedy Center. As he tells us of his experiences, punctuated with pauses for “Game Time,”
he moves through and around the stage sometimes fingering a soccer ball. Alas, the microphones did not clearly pick up his voice, but it was clear where the values were…his ability as a sports person. He continued his patter/rap talk in “100 Days Drumpf (premiere) with another vitriolic spoken text, and later offered a third piece, “Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos” (2005). He evoked audience participation in the “Joy.” Joseph moves with effective charm, but clearly is most at home with his texts.

The major dance item of the evening was Deborah Vaughan’s acknowledgement of the 50th Anniversary of the Black Panther Party. Using nine dancers with music by “Last Poets,” “Black Violin,” and Kendrick Lamar, the group was activated by marching formations and military drills as they lifted their fists, shouting, “Power to the People.” The spoken texts were by Ulyesses Copper Wood and Troy Cobb.
Vaughan has evoked the past to the meaningful present.

“La Nouvelle culture’ (The New Culture) was a clever juxtaposition of
African-American dance rhythms, played by drummers Madiou Darian and Muhammad, featuring shaking, jumping, bounce steps and flinging arms. In contrast, men and women in gorgeous ‘fashionisty’ costumes crossed the stage with flamboyant walks and that runway gaze. The work is credited to “Rebels of the Soil RTW.”

The program also included a charming work “Divas’ (2016) for a bevy of women, little, young and older to a medley of pop music, choreographed by Phylicia Stroud, William a Hester and Vanessa MaGautha. Delightful!

The program began with a trio called “ Earth Dance Media,” choreographed by Alexander Zander Brown. It was a good start.

The Festival will continue in San Francisco on February 18 and 19 at Dance Mission and well as February 25 and 26 with a Choreographers Showcase.
On February 25 there will be a showing of “Herencia de un Pueblo” (Inheriting a Legacy), a documentary film by Carmen Roman.

As Laura E. Ellis notes on the program, the Festival is “keeping the vision forward”…now more than ever enlisting many voices and many dimension.

Joanna G. Harris

San Francisco,
Joanna Gewertz Harris, Ph.D, is a dance teacher, historian, reviewer, and lecturer. She taught dance and theater at UCB, UCSC, Cal State Hayward and Sonoma, and is a frequent contributor to scholarly journals and books, most recently to H'Doubler, and Legacy in Dance Education, both from Cambria Press. Beyond Isadora, Bay Area Dancing 1915-1965 , her book documenting Bay Area history (Price $40. + 2.00 shipping) is available from her web site beyondsadora.com and her e mail, joannagharris@comcast.net.