Review: Chocolate Ballerina Company

By Debra Danese for The Dance Journal

Audience members got a glimpse of Chocolate Ballerina Company’s first set of works as they presented “Premier Prima…A Fight to Success.” The new company was founded by Chanel Holland this past January. Her company’s purpose is to fuse ballet and contemporary with the hip-hop culture. Friday night’s show at The Performance Garage was well attended by family and friends. However, an audible restlessness set in as the 8:00 start time approached 8:25. Everyone settled back in as Holland took the stage to greet and thank everyone for their patronage.

The program featured three works, by three different choreographers. Costuming and lighting were kept simple while still being effective. The music by artist’s such as Meek Mill, Kanye West, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis set the tone for a fusion of styles with an urban feel. Holland presented her own work first, which highlighted some nice lines and leg extensions by the dancers. Holland’s combination of dancehall, African, hip-hop, ballet, and contemporary styles showed the company’s versatility but lacked cohesiveness. The strongest sequences featured breakdancing, which were well executed. The ballet and contemporary variations appeared to be too challenging at times and exposed technical weaknesses in the dancers.

Guest choreographer “Gates” presented “The Making of HER.” He made skillful use of the dancer’s flexibility and powerful physicality. The company performed with excellent facial expressions and nice movement qualities. There was a moment in the piece where two company members were featured. One was dancing ballet on pointe while the other was doing hip-hop. The picture seemed to brilliantly capture the company’s mission in just a few brief moments. Other moments felt disjointed with the performers out of unison and the company’s only male dancer entering and exiting without a clear purpose or intention.

Another guest choreographer, Ashley Hackney premiered, “The Revolution will not be Televised.” This was the final work in the program and showcased the company’s strengths the best. There was a clear choreographic theme throughout that the dancer’s seemed to connect well with emotionally. They performed the piece with powerful energy and attack. Hackney made good use of formation changes and dynamics to add to the structure of the piece.

As a newly established group, The Chocolate Ballerina Company gave a nice sample of what they are about. They had a supportive audience who were clearly excited to be introduced to their work. Unfortunately, there were still some growing pains evident as they are finding their voice. The full program ran under 30 minutes with the overall quality appearing unpolished. However, there is evident potential there for them to grow artistically and prosper as a valuable part of our dance community.

About Debra Danese

Debra graduated with a degree in dance from the University of the Arts and also holds a B.A. in Arts Administration. She is accredited at the Master Level with the National Registry of Dance Educators. Debra has performed in Europe, Tokyo, Canada, and the Caribbean. She teaches and choreographs world-wide and has been an international guest artist in Switzerland, England, and Slovakia. Debra has been an Artist in Residence on five occasions in Norway where she showcased full length dance productions at the acclaimed Nordland Theatre. She has also presented an original dance production at the Elspe Festival in Germany. Debra has been featured in Dance, Dancer and Dance Teacher Magazines for her work in dance education. Additionally, she has been a contributing writer for Dance Studio Life Magazine since 2010.

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