Waheed Works, Philadelphia

Written by:
Lewis Whittington
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Waheed Works

Choreography by Tommie-Waheed Evans
Waheed Works dance project
Plays and Players Theater, Philadelphia
Sept. 25, 2011

Tommie-Waheed Evans has been on dual tracks as a dancer with Philadanco and Complexions and as an emerging choreographer, creating work since 2004 for Eleone Dance in Philadelphia. Last year Evans was commissioned New Stages in New York to create an hour-long work, “/Crossroads/,” that he presented at Plays and Players in Philadelphia with his newly formed company, Waheed Works. The group is made up of Philadanco members, Teneise Mitchell Ellis, a former ’Danco dancer, and Kirven J. Boyd, currently with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, all lending their talents and time gratis because of their belief in Evans’ work.

“/Crossroads/” was in motion as we entered the side aisles of the deco-era P&P Theater, Lamar Baylor and Boyd in a duet in front of the stage and the rest of the dancers onstage in a dramatic, cryptic slow-motion scenario, with the dancers dressed in floor-length purple skirts. This prologue has an ethereal feel, but shifts into more narrative when Ellis, Alicia Lundgren, and Lindsey Holmes then essay a thrilling trio expressing familial turmoil. The suggestion of death or passage is signaled by white peplum tunics on the men and women and the second part of “/Crossroads/” digs fully into metaphysical themes.

In Part Two, the heaviness becomes subtext, cued by an electrifying music (original score by Greg Smith) and solos by Boyd, then Jeroboam Bozeman, with the dancers joining them (dressed in black sheer unitards), This piece just opens up into more non-weighted movement, showing great athleticism (some flashy pirouette sequences and forceful layout variations), which keeps building.

The back half featured a central trio with Chloé O. Davis, Bozeman, and Boyd and a sensual duet by Roxanne Lyst and Bozeman with flowy lift patterns. The P&P stage may have been a little boxy for some of the ensemble patterning, jumps and unison work. But Evans’ infusion of African classicism, Vogue-y struts, and hip-hop brio kept upping the velocity.

In moments, Evans’ style can remind you of other work, and this can distract. Mostly, he transfers on his dancers the qualities he displays—explosive stage presence and a penchant for full-throttle performance, which he admirably contrasts in this work with dramatic stage composition and adagio work that shows the fullness of his choreographic ideas. And great exit phrases; release moves that are ironic, witty and turning into signatures known as Tommie-isms.

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