An explosive performance with attitude from Philadanco

"The Big Bang" by Philadanco was a performance of primal beauty at the Perelman Theater.
"The Big Bang" by Philadanco was a performance of primal beauty at the Perelman Theater. (TOMMIE W. EVANS / Philadanco)
Posted: April 23, 2013

What a smokin' program Philadanco gave at the Perelman Theater last weekend! On Friday, Danco veterans and newbies alike danced like a well-oiled machine, gunning to overtake the pack of dance companies on the Avenue of the Arts.

Within the broad time-travel theme of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, artistic director Joan Myers Brown created a bill that began with the late Harold Pierson's 1971 Time/Space, set to Nina Simone's "Sinnerman." (Pierson was once Danco's artistic director.) Costumed in confectionery colors, the company of 14 exploded onto the stage like Pop Rocks. Their rib-pumping stomps and running leaps made those new to Philadanco gasp and raised old-timers' glad responses.

In Milton Myers' Love 'n' Pain, the eight company women struck attitudes (read 'tude) in shades of red and black to an Aretha Franklin medley. Rosita Adamo, a member since 2009, opened with a sassy solo, and Roxanne Lyst, in the company since 1999, closed it with a soulful, bluesy solo that turned brassy as she got past the heartbreak, consoled by the others. In between, they strutted their stuff elegantly, each ending in a don't-mess-with-me pose, then all together in deep knee bends at "Respect."

Ray Mercer's sensational Guess Who's Coming to Dinner premiered with Philadanco in 2011 and looked even better this time. Adamo, Janine Beckles, Heather Benson, and Elyse Browning were utterly fearless jumping off a five-foot-high table into the ready arms of the magnificent Justin Bryant and powerhouse 12-year vet Tommie Waheed Evans. Ruka White and Adryan Moorefield also gave split-second partnering in this daredevil work to music by Craig Armstrong and Clint Mansell.

The concert could have ended there and left the audience screaming. But for PIFA, resident choreographer Christopher Huggins created another dance for the company - The Big Bang - as good, if not better than his classic Enemy Behind the Gates.

Ten dancers huddle in a tight cluster, their faces illuminated from above. An abstract, hazy video projection seems to contain all the peoples of the world, in all their colors, as it rotates slowly in the forming dust and gases. To Max Richter's mystical string work, "On the Nature of Daylight," the dancers break into couples, each intricate duet deepening the primal beauty of this ethereal dance.

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