Magical Evening of Modern Dance

Rich in symbolism: the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company was part of this week’s Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts line up (Photograph supplied)   BDblaq Dance opened for the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company with an intriguing male and female tap duet. The stage was bare, except for a length of rope and a wooden staircase, which was partly used as a drum. Lighting was initially provided by an iPad screen, music was minimalist drumming occasionally punctuated by melodic references to Fever and the Pink Panther theme song. The tapping was driven and expert, with constantly changing tempo. The female imitated the male tapper using her arms and hands to drum the stage and echo all his foot and leg movements. After a furious tap duo, the couple entwined themselves in the rope and each other like an echo of some classical Greek sculpture before walking offstage to deservedly enthusiastic applause. Then came Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. It performed four pieces of original narrative dance, all of which were hypnotically beautiful, perfectly and precisely executed and rich in symbolism, cultural reference and emotive impact. Shed — in two movements, Escape and Discover — had the company moving towards us en masse from back stage left, clad in black raincoats and marching in impossibly slow motion to music that mixed bass didgeridoo with African drumming. Each dancer’s coat was removed by the dancer immediately behind them, revealing costumes of yellow, green, red and blue. The movements and the tempo increased to a furious drumming and the company charged repeatedly downstage at speed with contra-rotating arm work, which conveyed a mixture of elation and aggression. Next was J Lawrence Paint (Harriet Tubman Remix), an extended, highly emotive dance on Tubman’s life, death, symbolic meaning and apotheosis. Tubman’s appearances in slave costume changed subtly throughout until finally we see the top of her cloth headscarf, but not her face. The music was a powerful mix of Billy Holiday, soulful piano and furious gospel and the dances were executed by ever-changing groups, from soloists to six dancers, including a cortege of the entire company bearing Tubman’s cruciform body away in ethereal lighting. Finally, Children of the Passage was a five-movement dance essay using historical costume, Afro-Cuban rhythm, brass sounds, New Orleans dirges, death and revenants and ending with a St Vitus-like trance. We all rose as one to celebrate these incredibly gifted, hard-working young dancers who had given us a magical evening. • The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company performed March 3rd and 4th at Ruth Seaton James as part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts