Review: Feet of Faith Dance Company

by Ashabi Rich for The Dance Journal

Artistic Director and Chief Choreographer: Debra Saeeda Mosley-McCray
Co-director and Choreographer: Kenya Saeeda Woodson
The Performance Garage Theater, August 5, 2017

By the time she was 7 years old, Debra Saeeda Mosley-McCray knew she was born to create and perform dance. Lacking the financial wherewithal for lessons, Mosley-McCray got second-hand lessons from cousins as they trained in classes. She practiced faithfully and relentlessly, eventually going on to study at Koresh School of Dance.  Mosley-McCray continued her studies under former Martha Graham Company Principal Dancer, Jeanne Ruddy.  Ruddy, an original member of Agnes de Mille’s Heritage Dance Theater and a Broadway dancer in the original The King and I starring Yul Brynner, was a faculty member with The Julliard School for 10 years before establishing her own company in Philadelphia.

The illustriousness of Mosley-McCray’s training and dedication to hard work has realized itself in her own company, Feet of Faith. Never giving up her dream to create dance has borne fruit in the dance works and youth that she has shaped to embody not only solid technique, but also the essence of the joy of dancing. In roughly 266 hours per year, Mosley-McCray opens her dance school, located at 58th St. and Chester Ave. in West Philadelphia, to “all ages, no experience needed” and turns out a body of enthusiastic and very limber performing artists.

Their recent production Faith in Motion was performed by The Feet of Faith Dance Company, which by all accounts is an extension of the dance school program and open to their students.  Given that it is a student production, a more critical review has been forgone for this publication. To Mosley-McCray’s credit, many of her pupils have mastered grand dèveloppé à la seconde movement, their extended legs resting easily against their ears, demonstrating strength and balance. Back bends, grand jetés, splits, cartwheels, lifts, and turns, many of the 39 dancers performing showed not only good technique but also wonderful stage presence in groups, duets and solos. It is evident that these children and teens have instilled with in them a love of dance. They are smiling, confident and practiced, making good use of the stage, aware of each other’s presence and position {where they are supposed to be and when they are supposed to be there). Lifts, leaps, and extensions are strong and polished.

Because so many of the dancers performed so well, I hesitate to mention names lest I leave out someone; but a few must be mentioned. Charles Owens was simply outstanding. His technique is wonderful and his phrasing nuanced. He is strong, lithe, daring and disciplined. Frances Tolbert and Sabriyah Henderson Miller are also very strong dancers who performed well in solos, duets and group compositions.  Youngsters Jaden McCray, Autumn Coaxing and Jade Blount all show great potential and excellent command for their tender ages. It must be said that the mother-son duet with Mosley-McCray and her son Jaden was tender and touching. I would like to see Mosley-McCray develop that piece further because the choreography and theme is really lovely.

Mosley-McCray has put her faith in motion with this company and produced a wonderful addition to the dance community. Let me also give kudos to all who had a hand in making possible those lovely costumes and beautifully groomed children. Well done.

About Ashabi Rich

Ashabi Rich, a Norristown native, began dancing in A.D. Eisenhower High School's extra-curricular dance club studying Graham technique. While attending Swarthmore College, she continued in modern dance through elective dance classes under Patricia Boyer who eventually established the department for Swarthmore’s major in dance. Ashabi later went on to become a dance major at Temple University studying with Hellmut Gottschild, Eva Gholson, and Patricia Hobson among others. While at Temple she performed with the East Indian Dance club (Kathak). She became a company dancer with Philadelphia raised ballet dancer John Jones (United Souls of America), and later spent six years with Robert “Baba” Crowder's Kulu-Mele African Dance and Drum Company. She has also been a guest dancer with Alo!Brasil, and taught at the Stephen’s School of Dance in Germantown.

Ashabi has studied dance under dance and drum icon John Hines, Faye Snow, Gilset Mora, Carmen Butler, Ione Nash, Dottie Wilkie, Onyin Harris, Youssouf Koumbassa, and Cachet Ivey. As a student at the American Dance Festival/Connecticut College, Ashabi studied under Clay Taliaferro, Walter Nix, Gay Delange, and Thelma Hill. Ashabi is a Certified Reiki II practitioner in the Mikao Usui lineage through Reiki Master Helen Blue and Grandmaster Earlene Green. She is a martial arts aficionado having studied judo, Praying Mantis kung fu, Wing Chun kung fu with Sifu Mo Bah Wei (Frank Wyatt), Shotokan karate (Teruyuki Okazaki), Akido (Yukio Utada), and Jujitsu-Shotokan karate (Andrew Lyn. Sr.). She is SAG-AFTR membership eligible from the movie-In Her Shoes (screen credit Asabi Rich.) and is a graduate of Temple University with a BA in English. Currently Ashabi is a graduate student at Temple University's Klein College of Media and Communication studying for an MS in Globalization and Development Communication.

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