Philadanco II and Pennsylvania Ballet II – 2 gether we Dance

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Photos by Alexander Iziliaev

by Gregory King for The Dance Journal

A year ago, the second companies of Philadanco (D/2) and Pennsylvania Ballet (PB2) came together for a celebratory night of dancing in “2 gether we Dance.”  My disappointment  with last year’s show had very little to do with the dancing, but more to do with the fact that I felt the performance didn’t fully deliver the togetherness the title suggested. This was exacerbated by the joint answer “baby steps,” given by directors Donald T. Lunsford II (D/2) and Francis Veyette (PB2), to a question asked by an audience member as to whether or not consideration was given to having the dancers perform in a piece together.

On  Wednesday, June 15th 2016, the lobby of the Painted Bride buzzed with excitement  in anticipation of the second annual performance of  “2 gether we Dance.” Perusing the single sheet program, I noticed this year’s format was different than last year’s—the pieces alternated on the program, breaking up the monotony of each company’s aesthetic.

I eagerly awaited the product of their “baby steps,” imagining the ways this collaboration could positively contribute to the fire-hot conversation of race, diversity, and inclusion in dance.

Victor Lewis’ Flowing Bodies had a quiet tone that quickly percolated into jaunty revelry. Dressed in black, the dancers of D/2 moved in and out of dance genres, showcasing their aptitudes in ballet, modern, and various forms from the African diaspora. From the dizzying speed at which the dancers darted though the space to the slow and exaggerated hip sways, Flowing Bodies delivered technique and athleticism with a drizzle of sass.

Where D/2 dancers showed the range of their training with their bodies speaking the many languages of Graham and Horton—clearly influenced by their time at the ballet barre, the dancers of PBII served up clean, structured classical ballet.

Durante Verzola’s Terpsichorus Maneuvers was flooded with fancy footwork, reminding me of every tricky petite allegro I was too slow to master in ballet classes.

An octet with smooth flowing exits and entrances, Maneuvers was a canvas on which the young dancers of PB2 flaunted their technical proficiency. In a duet with Verzola, dancer Jacqueline Callahan displayed pristine lines as the two danced between the valleys of every musical peak.

The entire program showed these young artists tightening, varnishing, and delivering each piece of choreography, proving they are not only arts ambassadors, but also the future of dance.

The show ended on a high note with How Close is Together?

Boasting a cast of dancers from both companies, choreographer Wendell Gray II created a piece that represented the true spirit of the show. Hailing from the University of the Arts, Gray used a dancer from each company in a short duet, framing them in temporary burst of light. As each light cue faded, a new vignette appeared and new dancers were seen reacting to the pulse of the music. From floor work and fan kicks, to pirouettes and port de bras, Gray’s choreographic voice delicately balanced the diverse physical and technical abilities of his cast.

Dancers Callahan, Dana Nichols, Clarricia Golden, Mikaela Fenton, Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan, O’Shae Sibley, Randolph Fernandez, and DeVaughn McGann, delivered each choreographed step with drive and well-timed exactness.

With the melding of both companies performing various dance genres with mixed casts, the second annual “2 gether we Dance,” was a leap towards commonality and the embracing of difference. This monumental stride exceeded my expectation in every way possible, leaving me believing there is no longer a need for baby steps… as long as they keep dancing 2 gether!

*Also on the program was Francisco Gella’s Convergence and Veyette’s For Six.

About Gregory King

Gregory King received his MFA in Choreographic Practice and Theory from Southern Methodist University. In addition, he is certified in Elementary Labanotation. His dance training began in Washington DC at the Washington Ballet and later at American University. He went on to participate in the Horton Project in conjunction with the Library of Congress. His training continued at the prestigious institutions such as The Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Alvin Ailey School. Gregory has performed with The Washington Ballet, Rebecca Kelly Ballet, Erick Hawkins Dance Company, New York Theatre Ballet, Donald Byrd /The Group, The Metropolitan Opera Ballet, New York City Opera, and Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway.

His desire to integrate social activism into his choreography began with his graduate thesis, where he used the platform to push the conversation about homophobia and heterosexism. He is a lover of movement exploration and describes his aesthetic as a classical base with a theatrical flair.

He has taught at Boston Ballet, Boston Conservatory, Boston University, Bowdoin College, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Texas Ballet Theatre. Additionally, he has served as a teaching artist in public schools in and around Dallas, as Resident Guest artist at Temple University and Assistant Professor of Dance at Dean College. Recently, Gregory received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success. He is currently a Visiting Professor of Dance and Consortium on Faculty Diversity Fellow at Swarthmore College where he teaches Modern and continues to use his choreography as a means for social change.

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