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Alpha Omega’s Theatrical Dance Company’s 40th Anniversary….

December 7, 2012
Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Photo by Quincy Scott.

Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Photo by Quincy Scott.

I never leave a dance performance early…I think it’s just rude. But, I’m still dealing with the consequences by Hurricane Sandy, and for me it’s just a minor inconvenience compared to some that are in this area. I live in New Jersey, right outside New York City and must take the Path Train back and forth to NYC and for the unforeseeable future the last train leaves the station at 10:01…So I was forced to cut out early and I can tell you I was never so glad to have an excuse to leave early in my life…

I was very excited to see the Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, I had seen their You-Tube Promo video and that’s awesome. But what I witnessed Sunday Night was far from awesome…

The first work seen was Artistic Director Enrique Cruz DeJesus’s Crossroads to Hathaway,created in 2010 and set to the great songs of Donny Hataway which were performed live by Ty Stephens and SoulJaazz. Mr. Stephens walks to the front of the stage carrying a suitcase, he stops and looks out into the audience, we the hear the voice of Donnie Hathaway greeting the crowds, Mr. Stephens, picks up his suitcase and walks over to the band on the right of the stage, he starts singing Flying Easy. Mr. Stephens and SoulJaazz were WONDERFUL! Mr. Stephens has a voice that is effortlessly sensual, a rich blanket of melody that coats and soothes the soul.

But here is where it got confusing. When the dancers began to dance the stage was encompassed in dark red light, it was hard to distinguish features or faces, but the band and Mr. Stephens were brightly lit, so I was unsure where I was supposed to be focusing. This continued through much of the duration of the piece. I wanted to focus on the dancers but I kept coming back to Mr. Stephens and the band. I felt I was at a performance for Ty Stephens and SoulJaazz and Alpha-Omega had been hired as back-up dancers.

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Mr. DeJesus’s choreography consist of lots of arm movements, reaching in to the air, swinging the arms in arc within the melody of the music and the legs seem just as involved with majestic développés and tilted torso that would swing into the next move. He Ain’t Heavy was a section for four women, Donna Clark, Elise King, Brandi Stewart ad Ashley Clark, all dressed in somber black dresses. Honestly this was hard to watch…throughout the dance someone was either ahead of the beat or behind the beat, never in sync as a group…it was as if there were four soloists dancing at the same time. With a group piece with so many arms swinging and legs lifting you expect uniformity, a matching blend of four dancers doing the same movements at the same time. It was so distracting you lost the beauty of one of Mr. Hathaway’s greatest songs.

One of the reasons I was so excited to see the company was for the opportunity to see the work of Eleo Pomare. Mr. Pomare has rich dance history; his choreography is known for its sociopolitical commentary of the Black experience. He is a graduate of New York’s famed High School for the Performing Arts where he was exposed to both Uta Hagen and Martha Graham. In the early 60’s he went to Europe to study with Germany Expressionist Kurt Joss before returning to the States to start his own company.

It is very difficult to witness a dance piece of that deals with the Black Church experience without comparing or at least, calling to mind Alvin Ailey’s masterpiece Revelations. But Tabernacle, created by Mr. Pomare in 1989 to a score (…I am hesitant to call it music…) by Steve Reich, is a work exploring the Black Church experience. But, it was just a jumbled mess…

The score was the MOST irritating I have yet to encounter (…and I thought Mina Yoo’s Boulevard had taken that prize). I wanted ear plugs badly and the woman a seat down from me actually had her fingers in her ears during the whole performance.

Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Photo by Quincy Scott.

Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Photo by Quincy Scott.

The score was repeated sections of a religious sermon with the preacher in the throes of religious fervor. Heard repeatedly was snippets of the sermon, “hallelujah”, “open the door” “God, God, God” and I think it was “the eyeball sees”. The choreography was running front and back then jumping, stopping suddenly as if in prayer then running again. The work was 10 minutes long and that was 9 minutes too long.

Now, ICU was another story. The work is a tribute to Alpha-Omega Theatrical Dance’s founder Ron Pratt who died in 1987. Choreographed by Mr. DeJesus, this work had all the meaning, the emotional depth and clarity of vision that was lacking in the other works. With Music by Clint Mansell and spoken poetry that was written and performed by Monte Choctaw, it was danced by Jude Evans Perry and Roberto Villanueva.

Mr. Perry and Mr. Villanueva were two aspects of pain felt from the loss of someone close to the heart. Mr. Perry was the external pain, the evident pain that one can see etched in the face and witnessed by the weighty burden of a heavy heart, evident in every step, every gesture. Mr. Perry danced with his heart on display, each movement pulled forth from a place deep within him.

Mr. Villanueva was internal pain, the pain and loss that is still there when everyone else has gone home. He expressed the hole left in one’s existence by the absence and the reality of fact of someone’s passing. His dancing was a spiritual journey of transcendence from the physical to the spiritual.

To both dancers and all involved with the creation of this work I say bravo. Rarely and only with great courage is such raw emotion expressed publicly. It is obvious that Mr. Pratt is greatly missed…

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