With the support of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Bootleg Theater was able to present BlakTinx Dance Festival Dancing On the Edge online. Curated and directed by Licia Perea, the festival was divided up into four different programs, with the majority of the works centered around two common themes, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests calling for justice following the police murder of George Floyd. Program Three features works by Bernard Brown, Joshua Estrada-Romero, Anthony Aceves, Stacey Strickland Jr., Alan Perez, Shantel Ureña, and Sadie Yarrington.
Bernard Brown, Artistic Director of Bernard Brown/ BBMoves is one of Los Angeles’ beloved performers and choreographers. For the festival, he submitted a solo of his titled Leanin’ In created to Steven T. Gordon’s music by the same title. It is a solo that I reviewed for LADC when Christopher Salango performed it quite beautifully on the 6th Annual BlakTinx Dance Festival at the Bootleg Theater in 2018.
It is a powerful solo that focuses on the struggles of Black men in this nation’s society. Brown has a particularly strong presence onstage and it was good to see him perform Leanin’ In even if it was on video. Brown’s character struggles to rise up from under the pressure of suppression by a white society, pushing back, reaching up and expressing anger. Once on his feet, we witness the man’s fear – almost shame – at being who his is while being knocked down and forced backwards repeatedly. Through his excellent acting, Brown shows us the moment when this man decides that enough is enough. He will not give in and we watch his journey to his desired freedom and justice in spite of the constant attempts to enslave him once again. Brown completely embodies his community and their right to be equal.
Performed to music by Faraualla, Joshua Estrada-Romero has taken movement phrases from his work Danca, Musicorum, Ritmo, with dancers from his company FUSE Dance Company and combined them with excellent editing techniques to produce a strong and entertaining dance for camera.
In my February 12, 2020 review of this work, I wrote that Danca, Musicorum, Ritmo was “filled with Estrada-Romero’s signature musicality, grounded energy, inventive phrasing, and a quality that I truly appreciate, the use of slow movement in opposition to fast paced music or vice versa”. With the aid of his understanding of the importance of good editing, along with the talents of his company members Leann Alduenda, Chandler Davids, Samuel DeAngelo, Kathy Duran, Stormy Gaylord, Stephanie Lin, Joseph Lister, and Edward Salas, Estrada-Romero has managed to make a totally different work while staying true to the original work.
Without a Mask was choreographed and performed by Anthony Aceves, co-Artistic Director of AkomiDance based in Orange County. It takes place in the confines of a small room lit solely by one floor lamp and a string of white Christmas lights. Dressed in a simple gray sweater and running shorts, we watch Aceves pace about in frustration at being forced to shelter-in-place. Although he gives a genuinely nice performance and visualization of James Bay’s song “Let It Go”, the video fails to make a clear statement like the one made in his program notes. Videography for Without a Mask was by Nick Walker.
For the festival, Stacey Strickland Jr. submitted a video of his dramatic and moving work Stained Concrete first performed at the Bootleg Theater as part of an earlier BlakTinx Dance Festival. It is a dance that definitely speaks to the current subjects of the Black Lives Matter movement and although Strickland sometimes depends too heavily on the lyrics of the music he chose, Stained Concrete is a beautifully crafted dance work. He uses unison movement to represent community while a solo taking place nearby expresses anger, fear, or a call to action. His work is supported by a strong cast of dancers whose names are Kimiko McCarthy, Jennifer Bulger, Ajah Muhammad, Jamie Mick-Burton, Stacey Strickland Jr. The music for this work was by Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton and John Legend, with excellent lighting design by Wouter Feldbusch. Stained Concrete was videoed by Raélle Dorfan and edited by José Garcia Davis.
Unlike his film Time Up the River – Interior seen on the festival’s Program One, Alan Perez’s Time Up the River – Exterior fell far short of express any clear idea or thought. The work was performed by Robert Gomez and Perez in what appeared to a desert landscape and while it showed promise at first, the film was over before it had a chance to succeed or fail. Perhaps viewing his two films together would help to make better sense of this one. Time Up the River – Exterior was filmed by Christopher Lopez with music by Mother’s Space – Troels Hammer.
Choreographed, performed and edited by Shantel Ureña, Las Vidas Negras Important was a strong statement in support of Latinx Lives Matter. Filmed at various spots outside and making use of hand written signs of protest, the film shines a spotlight onto questions such as where were you when I.C.E. took our families, or why destroy property while protesting? Ureña makes use of different video techniques to alter the timings of her Hip Hop based movement, and to give a feeling of the identical situations repeating themselves again and again without resolution.
She acknowledges that the Black community has the highest death rate due to COVID-19 and that “the health care system has failed the African-American community”. Yet Ureña’s film speaks to the Latinx community’s own frustration at trying to get America to listen to its struggles. The music for Las Vidas Negras Important was by Bill Withers
Grief, frustration and a sense of not being able to use dance as a form of creating her arts is at the center of Sadie Yarrington’s short but perceptive film called Reflections on May 28,2020. We listen to words written by Yarrington as we watch her film herself by aiming the camera at a mirror. We hear her thoughts on why she grieves, why she is angry and what she as decided to reflect on during this extraordinary time of quarantine. I think that Yarrington has discovered a new media to create her art in addition to dance. Reflections on May 28,2020 was written, filmed & edited by Sadie Yarrington
Written by Jeff Slayton for LADC, June 25, 2020.
To visit the BlakTinx Dance Festival, click HERE.
To visit the Bootleg Theater website, click HERE.
To read Slayton’s review of Program One, click HERE. Program Two, click HERE.
To view all four of the BlakTinx Dance Festival “Dancing On the Edge” programs, click HERE.
Featured image: Eddie Salas, Samuel DeAngelo, Rebeca Montecino, Kathy Duran, and Matthew Kindig in “Beyond the Body” by Joshua D. Estrada-Romero – FUSE Dance Company- Photo by Edwin Lockwood.