“The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.”
What an impressive experience. I had the pleasure of attending UP! Dance Project produced by Jocelyn E. Isaac last Saturday. It was refreshing to see what can happen when we all pull together with one common goal.
The Project was completely SOLD OUT! The theatre was small; however, the demand was large. I was fortunate to arrive during tech runs. Jocelyn and her team of women worked like a well oiled machine getting companies on and off stage and in order. They were pleasant and informative. There was no chaos, which is kind of unusual when dealing with multiple companies all at once. I applaud the companies for being so professional. Kudos to Joy of Motion for being supportive of the independent community.
NOW FOR THE DANCING!
The show opened with the quote above. Jocelyn was the first piece and last piece of the production. Each piece was introduced with a poetic excerpt from various authors, poets, and sources. I do wish the narrator projected a bit more. I am not sure what the cohesive theme for the show was, if any. Each piece had a world of its own. You could clearly see the choreographers voice in most of the pieces.
Here are a few that moved me:
4 Motherless Child
Choreographer | Jocelyn E. Isaac
Music | Motherless Child – The Wailin’ Jenny’s
Dancers | Megan Dortch, Kaya Simpson, Tenice White, Erin Wilcox
This piece was so gorgeous. The dancers, succeeded by Erin Wilcox (gorgeous), all wore plaid. It made me think of old Hollywood hitchhikers/hobos. They all seemed to be searching throughout the piece. It was a great way to set the tone and pace of the production.
Choreographer | Maverick Lemons
Music | When A Black Man Walks – Neiel Israel
Dancers | The Maverick Lemons Dance Project (Patrick Casimir, Chivas Merchant-Buckham, Taariq Muhammed)
This is currently my favorite piece of the year. I saw this piece earlier this month in On The Brink, which was PHENOMENAL, at Atlas Theater. Maverick is THAT GUY! He has a unique way of conveying messages that seem like they are being spoken directly to you. His attention to body language in his pieces is what make him stand out in my opinion.
This is a spoken word piece and it moves like raging rapids. The tone is almost humorous, but the words are haunting. “When a black man walks…” The last time I saw the piece it was with a different set of men. It was just as powerful and the strong black men were BEAUTIFUL. This piece is revolutionary.
What I’d Say
Choreographer | Jocelyn E. Isaac
Music | What I’d Say – Ray Charles
Dancers | Michael Bradford, Michael Hairston, Taryn Hochleitner, Tyra Jackson, Gail Robinson, Warlesha Ryan, Kaya Simpson, Sydney Todd
This piece was very fun to watch (outside of ducking and dodging the heads of audience members in front of you…but that’s a good problem). The red definitely popped on stage and the movement was captivating and seductive. The piece did not need the tap portion. It seemed forced. Otherwise, the dancers were upbeat and understood their audience.
Music | Spiritual – Jay-Z, Formation – Beyoncé, We Will Not – TI, If I Ruled The World – Nas & Lauryn Hill, Black America Again – Common & Stevie Wonder
Dancers | Vibe Tribe Youth Hip-Hop Company
I was so proud of these young people because they were effective and intentional about their delivery. I could feel their passion for their craft and their message. Nothing makes me smile more than black kids with a little umph. The talented group could use a few more lessons in backstage etiquette; however, that’s a simple conversation.
I believe I teared up a bit with their performance. We need more of this.
Music | Wynton Marsalis, Supercapitalism & FKJ, So Much to Me
Dancers | Dayo n Dance (Calotta Brown, Aliyah Caldwell, Shaila Islam, Jaleesa Sharp)
Dayo n Dance is that gentle kiss from God on a stressful day! I think the DMV should be on the look out for the swift rise of this company. Their message is so clear and liberating. I believe that is what we need in this day and time. I appreciated the diversity of their piece and the freedom of the movement. Ebony Ingram has a fresh point of view and approach to choreography. She has a brilliant eye and unique understanding of music that typically only musicians understand. This piece made me feel good. Mix Go-go and jazz and we have a party!
The Dayo piece was the easiest story to follow in the production. I’d also say it was the most technical as far as choreography. The concept was concise and meaningful. Jaleesa Sharp was a breath taking lead. She is so intriguing. The costume choice was perfect. I am excited about the future of Dayo.
Calm B4 Storm
Choreography | Jocelyn E. Isaac
Music | Vivaldi Recomosed Summer 3 – Max Richter
Dancers | Tyra Jackson, Michael Bradford, Kaya Simonson, Erica Ty, Rachelle Provost, Sydney Todd, Aleigha Mayo, Erin Wilcox
EXCELLENCE! Perfect title! Jocelyn definitely saved the best for last. This piece was like laying eyes on a skyscraper. If Jocelyn wasn’t a choreographer, she would be an architect. The shapes and forms presented on stage were the most unique things I’ve seen and IT KEPT MOVING! Often huge ideas like this lack stamina. They begin strong and end mediocre, but this piece literally kept its form all the way into the light fade. I loved that she showcased her performers. It was so strong that I couldn’t tell if they were improving or she was just that crazy!
Michael Bradford is a marvelous dancer. He was showcased in the piece as the only male. He definitely pulled his weight. The precision of Michael’s artistry is what sets him aside. I am always drawn by the focus he brings to his work.
Now, who didn’t notice the lady with the purple hair! Tyra J. is FIERCE! My breath was taken away when she walked straight toward the audience with a face that could’ve put a hurricane in its place. She commits to each moment. She was seemingly the backbone of each piece she performed in.
Jocelyn has done something simple, yet groundbreaking. The DMV now has UP! Prayerfully she will continue to do it quarterly so the community can continue to grow. This brilliant black women definitely is the epitome of Bring It Black. We hope to see more from you soon!