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.
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- Talia Mason’s Onion Dances: Dancing Memories - July 5, 2016
- A Response to Beyond Dance Company … In Kind - June 30, 2016
- Review: Beyond Dance Company: Not a Girl… Not Yet a Woman - June 28, 2016
- Philadanco II and Pennsylvania Ballet II – 2 gether we Dance - June 21, 2016
- Birds on a Wire Dance Theatre’s HATCH – Words On A Strip of Paper - June 12, 2016
- The Social Sessions: Chapter 1 – Building Homes…..Literally - June 5, 2016
- Saayuja, The Merging – A Celebratory Blend of Bharatanatyam and Carnatic Music - May 10, 2016
- Lela Aisha Jones | Flyground : Native Portals Keeping The Conversation Going - May 5, 2016
- Philadanco’s Global Artistry: Four Choreographers, One Aesthetic - April 23, 2016