For three nights between 9th and 12th November 9, 2017, the California State University in Sacramento held the Black Art of Dance. The dance performance was held in the University of Nordhoff’s Hall. The building is aptly designed for theatrical performances. During the dance, it provided enough space for choreographed movements. Sacramento/Black Art of Dance is a modern dance organization renowned for the Black Concert which is held in the United States. The company is believed to follow in the footsteps of Katherine Dunham. Abbreviated as S/BAD, the dance group’s main aim during such events is to explore common dance practices among indigenous Africans. It also exhibits modern dancing styles among African-Americans. All these were evident during the performance. The session was aggressive and creative dance performances which showed artistic sophistication. The dancers did not let the crowd interfere with their performance. They did not even seem to notice the crowd; that was how focused they were in their performance.
Various people were involved in the in the production of this dance. Dr. Linda Goodrich directed the whole concert with Bernard Brown playing the assistant director role. Phillip Flickinger played the role of a student choreographer. One of the most notable performances included Look What You’ve Done by Claudia Baeza and Jai Wolf’s Indian Summer. Others included Precious Lord, Take My Hand performed by Ledisi. Groove Assassin also played their piece African Sunrise.
The whole concert included two parts separated with an intermission. During this part, the performers showcased their diverse performing abilities. Every part was divided into about four pieces that showed incredible dances. The fact the tickets for the event were sold showed that the audience were eager to enjoy the performances. In fact, it gave the dancers more energy to produce incredible performances. The adoption of different customs also helped in grabbing the attention.
The whole event was a breathtaking spectacle from the start to the end. The idea behind the performance was to create a platform for students to perform such concert dances in the country. The whole performance was aesthetically developed from the dance and choreography of Katherine Dunham. Moreover, the pieces used during the show included gospel, hip-hop, as well as Afro-Mexican beats and songs. It also utilized ballet in some instances with the modern and contemporary styles being showcased in turns during the performance. The manner in which the dancers merged all these different styles was unbelievable; it had most people in the audience glued on them. In brief, it was a performance that had both precision and passion. While this made it difficult for some viewers to understand the elements being communicated through this dance, it did not take away the joy from it. One of the most notable things was the interaction of these dancers with the audience. The audience did not have to move, but they felt like they were dancing among themselves. The gestures and emotions depicted by the dancers played these roles. Such techniques helped in easing the technical work. In fact, the more they did it, the more it appeared effortless and flawless in the eyes of the audience.
The performance meant so much to the audience. Witnessing ethnic diversity being appreciated through dances is quite elevating, especially in the wake of common stereotypes and prejudices. The way the dancers moved revealed they had taken time to master the art. Most of the people in the audience were regaled by the dance moves which was evident in their applauses. With the kind of performance they put, it was hard to argue that all of them were seasoned professionals. The dancers understood each whether they came out in two, threes, or whatever shape and size they appeared for the audience. All night, the audience kept looking for mistakes from them that but they could not find any.
What are the major cultural influences in Look What You’ve Done?
Black Art of Dance was influenced by Black Arts Movement. It is not only the dancers that emerged from this association. Others like theaters, poetry performances, and music also materialized. The group believes that through dancing, Africa-Americans can gain social and historical recognition in the field of literature and arts. Through the dance, they believed that they can educate others through various kinds of expressions regarding the cultural differences. The dance group also used such performances to advertise their political stands as well as address other community issues. While the movement played a huge role in the development, no single individual influenced them like Katherine Dunham did.
Just as Dunham stated, the Black Art of Dance believed that through dance, society can pay attention to the rites of passage. She also argued that discipline was key towards attaining an artistic mission. She dispelled the idea that African-Americans could perform naturally. The group often trains and that was evident in their performances on the stage. The group annotated traditionally-inspired work and jazz choreography in their dances. The dancers could not attain this if they did not train hard.
What MEANING did Look What You’ve Done have? How did you arrive at that conclusion?
The dance had four girls performing. However, it was noted that three of them appeared insult the other innocent girl both physically and mentally. The aim of the dance was to show to the audience how rampant bullying had become and how it is a serious problem in the modern society. The dance also showed how bullying can lead to unforgettable effects on different individuals. Apart from isolating the victims, the dance also showed that bullying could cause irrecoverable impacts on the bullied. The dance managed to display how the perpetrators of these crimes frequently display their foolishness. It showed the importance of supporting the victims, especially those who are targets of such crimes. During the performance, it was notable that the audience were sympathetic to the child. The performers only realize their problem after they have tormented the other girl and become ashamed of it.
How do the production elements of Our Backs inform the ability to see the cultural differences and meaning of the dances?
A number of factors and elements helped in defining the meaning as well as the cultural influences of the song Our Backs. Different from the other dances, the piece had five performers, including three women and two men. Women put on open dress costumes and with colored shorts underneath them. On the other hand, men wore t-shirts and pants. They had various colors, including brown, orange, red, and yellow. Another important element is that the dancers included people of mixed races. It helped in depicting the value of humanity despite the differences in the color of the skin. The different types of music played throughout this performance also helped in describing the revolutionary position of blacks in society. The beautiful nature of the capella music and the amazing sounds from the cello, violin, and piano helped in defining the moments in a deep way.
Observations and Meaning
What dance genre and styles were visible?
As the piece started, two dancers emerged from the backstage performing numerous movements, including kicks, leaps, and jumps. While doing this, the audience could see the immense strength the men had in their legs. All these must have come from the strenuous exercises in which they engage. Towards the end of the first song, many females joined the stage wearing ribbons. The rhythm of the song suddenly changed as these females each took a partner and engaged in partner dancing. The engaged in many featured movements that occurred in circular paths. The only constant thing was the lighting that remained almost dim for the entirety of the performance.
The observations differed from one dance to the other. For example, the end of the fourth dance left the audience mesmerized and the dancers feeling the effects of their unbelievable dance. The fifth dance begins immediately after the end of the fourth dace with women dancing ballet and a woman singing an Afro-fusion music. The performance lasts for a while then one by one the women leave the stage. The singer in the background is replaced by a woman uttering audible words. This continues until the stage remains empty. Nothing much changes on the aspect of lighting and other.
How did the dance elements affect dance patterns and thoughts?
It is worth noting that in some of these dances, the performances started in an almost similar manner. The stage would remain dark and silent. The only things heard were the clutters and murmurs from the silence. The beginning of Dance 7 adopts a scarier approach with the beats played and the dancers doing some form of synchronization. It then quickly turns into a break dance with one person improvising a move as the others remain still. The beats in this dance seem to come from drumbeats. The costumes they have in this case appear hazily and one cannot tell the color. The beats suddenly change from danceable drum sounds to a sound heard in a horror movie. The dancing style also appears to conform to these sounds. Eventually, the light disappears and the performance ends in the same way as it had begun.
How can you describe the energetic movements of the dances?
From the various dances experienced, it was observed that the cinematic elements and quality seemed to diminish from Dance 1 moving towards Dance 8. As it began, the lighting was bright indicating a warm mood. This slowly changes to a more subdued lighting as the performance progressed. This indicated that the mood changed from bad to worse as the concert proceeded. The performances were mainly female dominated because they were based on a style developed by a female dancer. One could argue that the lack of male numbers took something away from the concert, but it would be wrong to suggest that it was not an exceptional event. The music, the dance, the choreography, the costume, and the lighting all played significant roles during the performance. The audience also played its part throughout the show by listening and applauding at the necessary moments. Altogether, it was a wonderful show.
As seen in the videos, the dance adopted various production elements that depicted that it obtained this idea from somewhere. The dancers adopted the BASTE strategy throughout their dance. Body, action, space, time, and energy were all evident in the dance by the group. The dancers used their bodies and at times body parts to bring out the messages. The use of the inner self was also evident, especially in the silent performances. The dancers used dance steps, facial expressions, gestures, and partner lifts to depict the mood of the songs or beats. The dancers also used space to interact. At times, they stayed at one point and in some instances changed places. Since the dancers performed in groups, they used the spaces of each other in the correct manner. It was also common to see the dancers focus on their lines of travel. Time is the other dance element that comes out in the videos. They use rhythmic patterns, timed their relationships, speed at certain instances, beat, and tempo at different times during the dance. The dancers used their energy during the movements. It is not fair to say that the dances had a lot of energy because every dance has an element of energy.