April showers are pushing up the flowers, as daffodils are everywhere and the magnificent trees that line Lenox Avenue are ready to go into full bloom any minute now. The beautiful pear blossom trees that line Lenox outshine Park Avenue any day. Between the blossoms and the nightlife, we got it going on.
You heard it here first. According to our own personal theatre critic, Patrick Bradford, “rush to the Music Box Theater on Broadway to see George C. Wolfe’s masterpiece, ‘Shuffle Along.’” The show is magnificent on several levels. Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and the rest of the cast are superb. McDonald is schedule to leave the show shortly after previews, which ends when the show opens April 28, for a London-based production. I knew she sang, but who knew she tapped? Then again, with Savion Glover as choreographer, anything is possible.
People are still talking about the Greater New York Chapter of the Links luncheon. The house was sold out, with Dr. Marcella Maxwell alone having close to 130 guests. Mel Jackson, husband of Link Debbie Jackson, served as a most charming Link husband, greeting the ladies, who looked fabulous, as they walked through the door, and helping Link ladies off of the stage as each was introduced, making her debut walk down the runway.
Some of those seen in their Easter finery were Dr. Thelma Dye Holmes, preparing for Northside Center’s gala on April 24, which is always a much-anticipated affair of the spring social season, and her sister, Janice Dye Holmes, who recently retired from Harlem Hospital now that her daughter, Ashley, is in residency after graduating from medical school; Tony Fay; the Hon. W. Franc Perry, acting Supreme Court justice, with his son, Jackson Perry; Kim Parker, Esq, executive director of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association; the Hon. Rose Pierre Louis; the Hon. Tanya Kennedy, Supreme Court justice; Eleanor Kennedy; Dr. Pam North; and Melissa Bonaldes, Esq.
Most dearly missed was Dawna Fields, who is resting with a broken ankle. Feel better, my dear. Without a doubt, the loveliest little lady there was Willa Tatum, looking absolutely adorable in her bunny ears. It’s so nice to see children be children. Wouldn’t you agree?
The Harlem Arts Alliance hosted a wonderful presentation at Aaron Davis Hall on dance, at a special monthly meeting. The show included a presentation to Dianne McIntyre, who dazzled the full house audience with stories from the 1930s and 40s, when 290 Lenox Ave. was known as the Harlem Arts Center. There, budding artists such as Roger Furman and even Romere Bearden, who took art class during the WPA, gathered to support one another with encouragement and praise.
Many may remember McIntyre, a Cleveland native who began her professional career in Harlem, where she founded Sounds In Motion, a professional company comprising dancers and musicians. Described as a pioneer of the dance world and an “electrifying dancer, a master of rhythm and dynamics,” she has a repertoire that spans the dance world. She is a Visiting Distinguished Scholar at Spelman College and has enjoyed the honor of seeing the premiere of the new ballet “Change” performed by Dance Theatre of Harlem at City Center. The ballet closes April 9.
Also on the program were dance performances by Elisa Monte Dance. From that company were Alrick Thomas and Tiffany Rea-Fisher. Empowering as it is debilitating, Thomas’ performance in “Current” portrays, through dance, the effects the digital age has had on people’s minds, bodies and souls. Digital in tone, with music most appropriately by StarMan, “Current” dispenses with fluidity and languid strides. Thomas covers the stage with jaggered movements. His body strong and controlled, he never stops to take a breath.
The dance makes the audience feel that just when you think you’ve got it, you find yourself trying to get it. The real problem is trying to define it. But you can’t, because it is digital, and digital never keeps still long enough to be defined. Like grains of sand, either it falls through your fingers or is blown away by the wind. Digital moves in nano-seconds until the final bow.
Rea-Fisher danced to a recording of “Run to the Rock,” a song originally recorded by Nina Simone. The dance, of the same name, “Run to the Rock,” is another strong piece, subtle at times, at other times rapidly paced, both loving and hating, and questioning the Rock. “Run to the Rock,” was the song used during the climatic scene in the movie “The Thomas Crown Affair,” starring Rene Russo and Pierce Bronson. Rea-Fisher delivers an equally intriguing performance. One can leave with several different interpretations of the Rock.
A panel discussion followed, moderated by Kaisha Johnson, with panelists Camille Brown, Sita Frederick, Theresa Ruth Howard, Francine Sheffield and Marya Wethers. Time and space doesn’t permit me to expound on their personal dance profiles, which are luminous, but I encourage you to Google them. They are fascinating artists and continue to make a solid contribution to dance. It was quite a coup for HAA to gather them together in one place. Each panelist spoke prolifically with passion on the topic “Perspectives on Cultural Identity in Dance.” With a focus on the equity, inclusion and diversity in the arts, the discussion can be summarized by saying the limited perception of possibilities open to Black dancers has to be dismantled. The public, and especially dance critics from the white space, have to be educated to realize Black dance is art. It is sophisticated and so much more than brown, muscular bodies. There is a story to tell.
On the eve of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s opening NYC spring performance, Virginia Johnson, former prima ballerina and now Artistic Director of DTH, was unable to personally attend and accept her award. Accepting and speaking in her place was Chyrstyn Fentroy, a beautiful and magnificent dancer with DTH, who I am sure will ascend to prima ballerina status one day. Concluding the program was Harlem Arts Alliance Board Chair Voza Rivers, and as we all know, when Voza talks, we listen, because he has dedicated so much of his time, energy and love towards keeping the arts alive, especially in Harlem.
Until next week … kisses.