By Debra Danese for the Dance Journal
The story of Hip Hop dance in America was told through the perspective of Chosen Dance on Saturday, September 16, 2017. Artistic Director and company member, Clyde Evans Jr, led the performance at UpTown! Knauer Performing Arts Center with fellow dancers Justin Valentine, Adrian McLean, Francis “Tony” Bell, Lee Harris, Ericka Garrison, Siheed Woods, Michael Trapson, Samantha Sword, and Brian “Blaze” Frazier. Evans set a pre-show party tone by spinning records on stage as audience members took their seats.
Evans used the game of charades to introduce the different styles of hip hop and tell a brief history lesson. He presented the information as bits of trivia to keep things light; yet informative. This was followed by group or solo dances that demonstrated a specific style of hip hop. Evans showed a knack for being in front of a crowd and I believe he will understand if I say I would not choose him as a charades partner. The audience was mostly baffled by his clues. However, the dancing that followed was always on point and often incorporated a touch of humor. Popping, breaking, and locking allowed the dancers to show just how versatile they are. Justin Valentine performed an impressive tutting solo and I was surprised to learn that the King Tut, or tutting, was inspired by the cartoon character Bugs Bunny. Evans also did a solo in the style of animation. His movements were so precise that he made this challenging style look effortless.
Audience members were invited on stage at one point to show off their own street dance abilities. They formed a cypher and took turns center stage. Men, women and children showed remarkable skills and reminded those of us watching just how much talent there is in Chester County. This was followed by the company performing freestyle solos that showcased their personal flair. Their subtle nuances and musicality were just as masterful as the head spins and hand hops.
All of the Chosen Dance company members are local and from come a newly established organization called ReallyPhilly Llc. Run by India Bernardino, Really Philly Llc is a place to cultivate talent in hopes of providing artists opportunity to pursue their passion at a higher level. Evans, who founded Chosen Dance in 2002, wants to help Philadelphia-based dancers make the transition from the club and street dancing to concert stage dancing. He chooses to create Hip Hop concert dance works without the use of explicit language, violent content or misogynistic behavior. He wants parents to feel confident that their kids will not be exposed to destructive material when attending a Chosen Dance show, nor any audience member to feel assaulted by the material presented. The company’s reputation for this was evident by the diverse age range of the audience. Fun, upbeat music by artists such as Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan and James Brown kept the performance both entertaining and family-friendly.
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