For Greer Reed, Artistic Director of the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble (AWCDE), this year’s 2nd annual Black Dance Festival is about the future of black dance, while still honoring its roots.
There isn’t one singular style that describes the current aesthetic of black choreography. Each African-American choreographer, Reed explains, “is creating from their own experience…and everyone’s experience is different. I believe it’s in the way the work is approached. That is the soul of it.”
As she pointed out, Kyle Abraham’s work is different from Sidra Bell’s, or Camille Brown’s, or other renowned and current black artists. And those may be different from Reed’s own aesthetic as well. Having trained at the Ailey school, in techniques like Horton and Dunham, Reed’s movement style honors some of the more traditional approaches.
Last year, audience members were privileged to see Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations,” one of the most famous works by any African-American choreographer and company. Dayton Contemporary Dance Company also presented, a group that continues to celebrate the late greats.
This year, we’ll still get a dose of the traditional, but many of the work shown will be representative of newer voices.
Philadanco, a Philadelphia based company founded in 1970, will present “Suite Otis,” an older, popular piece in their repertoire that is set to Otis Redding songs. In addition, the group will perform “Wake Up,” a ballet by Rennie Harris. Harris, also from Philadelphia, strives to preserve the hip-hop culture through his work.
From New York, Camille A. Brown will show her latest, “Mr. TOL E. RAncE.” The piece explores African-American humor throughout history, using Brown’s fresh and rhythmic movement vocabulary.
The festival would not be complete without the AWCDE, Pittsburgh’s young and fiery company that has wowed us with their energy and ability for the past three years. They will be performing three different works.
The first is a definite favorite (of the company and the audience) – Camille A. Brown’s “New Second Line.” This short piece is “a celebration of the spirit and culture of the people of New Orleans.” The exuberance of the movement is exciting and contagious.
In addition, the company will take on “Breath” by Terence Greene. Dancer, Kendra Dennard, describes the piece as life’s struggle that we’ve all been through. She says of the work’s theme, “When everything has been beaten out of you, you always have your breath. You can let out that exhale at the end of a hard day.”
Lastly, the group will perform “Unwritten,” choreographed by Antonio Brown. Dennard describes Brown’s movement style as fast, but buoyant. “You can’t hesitate,” she says. “If you drop your energy, you won’t make it to the next step.” The piece itself is a narrative about a man who is attempting to write, and how he pushes forward when he feels stuck.
Although this year’s festival features less companies, Reed has expanded the educational component, with workshops and lectures open to the public.
For four days, Wednesday through Saturday, master classes of all different styles will be taught by various professionals, each followed by a thirty minute lecture. The detailed schedule is as follows (all classes held at the August Wilson Center – 980 Liberty Ave, Downtown Pittsburgh):
Wednesday, October 31st, 12:30-2:00: Terence Green.
Thursday, November 1st, 12:30-2:00: Crystal Frazier.
Friday, November 2nd, 12:30-2:00: Camille A. Brown.
Saturday, November 3rd, 11:00-12:30 (no lecture): Greer Reed.
The performance schedule is as follows (all shows at the August Wilson Center – 980 Liberty Ave, Downtown Pittsburgh):
Friday, November 2nd at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 3rd at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 4th at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Click HERE for ticket information and purchasing, and for directions to the August Wilson Center.