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IMPRESSIONS: Philadanco in the Harkness Dance Festival at the 92nd Street Y

IMPRESSIONS: Philadanco in the Harkness Dance Festival at the 92nd Street Y
Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram

By Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram
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Published on April 6, 2017
Photo: Julie Lemberger


Date: March 3, 2017

Choreographers: Christopher Huggins, Francisco Gella, Ray Mercer

Dancers: Rosita Adamo, Janine Beckles, Elyse Browning, William E. Burden, Clarricia Golden, Joe Gonzalez, Victor Lewis Jr., Dana Nichols,  Courtney Robinson, Jah’Meek D. Williams

Lighting design: Clifton Taylor, Nick Kolin

Composers: Sohn, Philip Glass, Gidon Kremer, Bongi Duma (original Score) and John Powell

Super 8 choreographed by Ray Mercer, a company member of the Broadway show The Lion King, concludes with “a celebration of the importance of cohesive community,” as stated in the program. Certainly a performance by Philadanco is just that. The dancers are so focused, and connected that the company dances as one. With immaculate partnering, this company radiates pride in its precision and presentation.

Joan Myers Brown attended their appearance in the five week-long Harkness Dance Festival to support the company she founded forty-seven years ago. Indefatigable, she has trained over 4,500 dancers and oversees a schedule of 50-60 performances and as many residencies each year. 
Dancers in blue and rust colored short unitards. A group of dancers make a tableau with the central figure lifted into the air. A single figure stands in the foreground looking towards the group.
Philadanco in Ray Mercer's Super 8; Photo by Julie Lemberger/
The three works: Latched by Christopher L. Huggins, a former Alvin Ailey American Dance Company member, Between the Lines by Francisco Gella, and Super 8 blurred as one; the challenges on the dancers were so similar. With the exception of a few holds in Super 8, the choreographies demand that the dancers keep moving, each shape rarely held longer than a beat. But they never looked rushed, the images sharp and distinct. The blend of ballet and modern disciplines and the energy is consistent throughout. These appealing dancers could do anything, so one could hope for more.
A group of dancers stand with their legs wide apart while another dancers hoists himself into the air.
Philadanco in Ray Mercer's Super 8; Photo by Julie Lemberger/

This talented, respected company could take more choreographic risk. Their audiences, whether children in schools, aspiring young artists, adults, or seniors, are clearly reminded that dancers symbolize strength and grace and that Black bodies are beautiful. Perhaps that is enough in these fractious times?

Maybe one day soon, Philadanco will answer the global call and put its artistic muscle towards statements that can galvanize us or dare to us to see the world anew. They are ready.

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