Perelman Theater, Philadelphia
Philadanco has had a very tough year financially and for their fall series at the Kimmel Center titled Risky Business by artistic director Joan Myers Brown, might have more than one meaning. Brown was definitely referring to a program packed with risky, athletic moves. The legendary Brown, has piloted the company for 45 years and her school for 55. Winner of every arts accolade along the way, Danco does Philadelphia proud on tour all over the world, but the city doesn’t return that love with financial support.
But, despite these hardships, Danco opened its 45th home season with a theatrically thrilling, choreographically exciting program of five works. Pulse by Daniel Ezralow, has dancers sliding across the stage with precarious velocity, dressing in bluish iridescent dance togs and socks hydro foiling in and out of dramatic pools of light. The deceptively simple work is Ezralow‘s visual representation of spacey electronica music by David Lang, that builds to a sonic matrix as the dancers pulse together in floaty ensemble configurations and just as fast in breakaway solos. Jah’Meek D. Williams is suddenly the center, in mach speed spins and later Victor Lewis, Jr. locks into a plie with a spellbinding hand dance like he was trying to capture atoms.
‘White Dragon’ choreographed by Elisa Monte for six dancers has a modern-primitive feel, with the dancers are costume in colorful skimpy outfits that could be part of a cultural rite, moving in agitated angular patterns. The music, by Glen Branca gets more 80s clubby and the ensemble sections are more fluid in the back half of the piece with ramped up athleticism and double-tempo phrases. A central duet entrances with sculptural and acrobatic intensity, danced with stunning precision by Rosita Adamo and Joe Gonzalez.
Ray Mercer‘s ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ features a 5 foot standing table that dance on and dive off of, and otherwise use as a relationship cliff. Mercer’s dynamic movement ideas beautifully anchored to couples’ figuring it all out. Like Pulse, this full ensemble piece, shows more refinement every time out and is much more than its dazzling dance effects. Elyse Browning in a scorching solo on top and underneath the table. Roxanne Lyst, always with gorgeous athleticism, is in fearless flight vaulting in breathtaking lateral splits. In one of the sizzling duets, the towering Adrian Moorefield and Janine Beckles have such steeled litheness and intimacy in their partnering.
‘Ghettoscape with Ladder’ is classic by Talley Beatty, set to Natalie Cole’s rendition of Good Morning Heartache. Four men carry in an eight foot ladder and on it is former former Danco and Ailey star Deborah Manning St. Charles (who now teaches at Danco). She reprises her role from 15 years ago, dancing Beatty’s precarious precision with as much theatrical power and balletic grace than ever.
The premiere piece ‘Latched’ by Christopher Huggins, set to Sohn, a pulsing Brit electronica band. Huggins has the dancers in black tops and tights, it is choreographically it is Huggins at his most witty and mysterious. The theme of couples coming together only to be pulled apart, it is a simple physical play on the push-pull of relationships. Huggins’ flowing choreography also technically demanding with low to the ground lift combinations, for instance, that displays Danco’s dazzling athleticism and Huggins’ vivid musicality.
‘Risky Business’ has such artistic depth and technical magic that, in fact, they are more relevant than ever. Brown is about to take embark on a six week European tour with their smash production ‘James Brown: Get on the Good Foot‘ that premiered last year at the Apollo in New York, was given a dicey reception by critics, but played to sold-out houses in New York and L.A. Danco dances on without fail.