The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia is Philadanco's home base for performances. Whenever they aren't touring the country or the world, they are performing there for a packed theatre of enthusiastic and supportive dance lovers. This Spring Series performance is a special one because it is during the Kimmel Center's 10 year anniversary season.
Seeing a Philadanco performance never, ever disappoints me. They are one of the best modern companies that this area has to offer. What I love so much about their work is that their dancers and choreography is so versatile, and they always give the audience a taste of everything within one performance. Every single show that I've seen has many different elements and a wide variety of styles, not only in the dancing, but the music choices as well.
The performance consisted of 4 separate and unique pieces of choreography. The first called, "Gatekeepers" was about soldiers walking towards Heaven while searching for the wounded and creating a pathway for others to follow. They used various lighting cues to represent the different paths and the force that was guiding them to their ultimate destination. At the end of the piece, they were in a horizontal line looking towards a light that was coming from the side of the stage. It was as if the gates of Heaven had opened, and the light was inviting them in. The dancing for this piece was very modern and African inspired, which involved loose limbs and heavy, relaxed feet stomping into the floor. The music is not what you would expect for this mood and style because it was upbeat and at one point evolved into techno. But, I really enjoyed the music and how it lifted the energy of the piece.
The next dance titled, "Tribute" celebrated the soulful music of Philadelphia International Records. The mood and time period had completely changed to a joyous, groovy celebration of culture and music. The movement style reminded me in some ways of how people would be dancing in a club or any type of social gathering. It was fun, exciting, and sensual all at the same time. This piece was choreographed by Dwight Rhoden, who I mentioned in my last post about Complexions, and it was outstanding. It was a dance that made the audience want to dance. There was intricate dancing in unison, the women dancing together, men dancing together, and a series of partnering duets involving interesting lifts and connections between the 2 dancers.
"Suite en Bleu" was choreographed by Gene Hill Sagan in Israel, and it was a contemporary ballet piece. I love contemporary ballet with its gorgeous lines and fluid movement. The music was classical, so there were classical elements in the choreography, but there were also contemporary elements such as the floor work that the dancers did. They were all wearing ballet slippers, and their costumes were a beautiful yet simple royal blue color. The girls' skirts were down to their ankles so they looked very pretty when the dancers spun, although, I would have liked to see more of their legs and feet. One girl got her foot caught in the material a couple times and my heart skipped a beat every time because I thought she was going to fall. But, she saved it, and the dance went on without a hitch.
The last dance was called "Wake Up" and it was another complete turn around from the piece before it. It was about the birth of hip hop, and based on the dancers' costumes and the backdrop, I believe this dance took place in the 70s. The mood changed throughout the piece because it started off slow and almost solemn, with one of the men getting shot, collapsing on the ground, and coughing and gasping for air. Then all of a sudden, he gets up, the music changes, and we're taken to the streets where hip hop began. Everyone was happy and having a good time. The movement was free and organic because hip hop was not made with a formula or technique. The dancers were just feeling the movement and expressing it through their bodies. One of the best parts of this dance for me was looking around and seeing people in the audience jammin' and dancing along with the music! Everyone was so into it and completely taken over by the fun, high energy. It's really special when dancers connect to their audience that way because there is a feeling of inspiration and unity in everyone. As always, at the end of the performance, the dancers of Philadanco got a well-deserved standing ovation from the entire theatre.
So, it went from African-inspired modern dance, to a soulful and funky dance party, to precise and polished ballet, to fun and groovy hip hop. Philadanco always satisfies the interests of every audience member because they have such a wide variety of styles in their performances. They are a well-rounded company that proves that they are not just one-trick ponies. I leave their performances feeling happy, inspired, and ready to dance every time.
Philadanco has auditions coming up this June, and it's a great opportunity! They have auditions for the company, the apprentice company (D2), and the summer intensive training program. I plan on auditioning for D2, which I got into last year, but was not able to attend. I would love the chance to take advantage of that opportunity. Here is a link to the flyer.