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VCU Dance to present Dallas Black Dance Theatre

9/6/2013, 4:31 p.m.
A dance company that has performed before an estimated three million people in 30 states, 14 countries and on five ...
Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s Tyrell Rolle, Amber Merrick and Jamie Thompson/ Enrica Tseng

— A dance company that has performed before an estimated three million people in 30 states, 14 countries and on five continents will soon perform in Richmond.

The oldest, continuously operating professional dance company from Dallas, features an ensemble, contemporary modern dance company that consists of 12 professional, diverse and multiethnic full-time dancers performing a mixed repertory of modern, jazz, ethnic and spiritual works by nationally and internationally known choreographers.

Designated as an “American Masterpiece Touring Artist” by the National Endowment for the Arts, the company is in the midst of its 37th season. Dallas Black Dance Theatre will be in town on Sept. 21, from 10 a.m. to teach a “Community Master Class” hosted by Dogtown Dance Theatre, which is located in Richmond’s Manchester district.

According to information from VCU Dance, the company, founded by Ann Williams, will open the evening with Variations I, a structural composition of theme and variation and collaboration between choreographer, Milton Myers, and composer, William Catanzaro. Asadata Dafora’s pioneering 1932 solo, “Awassa Astrige/Ostrich”, follows with a single male dancer imitating the graceful but powerful movements of the ostrich. “Ostrich deserves its popularity — all sinewy muscle, the bare-chested, feather-skirted Christopher McKenzie strides back and forth with unhurried ease, turning his head casually, he is the image of a proud and magnificent creature,” said Margaret Putman of Theater Jones.

The program continues with choreographer Bridget Moore’s “Southern Recollections: For Romare Bearden” dedicated to the life and work of Bearden who left a legacy of art that is socially relevant, depicts beauty in color, revealing his love and passion for humanity.

“Combining jazz-dance language, everyday gestures and ballet moves, particularly pirouettes, Moore structured ‘Southern Recollections’ around sudden yet smooth changes in direction,” reviewed dance critic Manuel Mendoza of Dallas Morning News. “Sensual hip and shoulder rolls were enhanced by skin-tight dresses in shades of blue, green, yellow, red and hot pink that recalled 1920s club fashion.”

“Instinct: 11.1” and “...And Now Marvin” close the program in Richmond with a tribute to a mother and the legendary artist Marvin Gaye.

Williams, the founder and artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, is a founding member of the Dance Council and The International Association of Blacks in Dance. She recently announced that she will be stepping down next May after 37 years of running the company.

“This is my last year,” said Williams. “I have had the opportunity to mentor more than 300 beautiful people that are out around the world doing their own thing.

“Many have their own companies, their own dance schools. Many dance in Broadway shows, many are at colleges and universities. I feel good about the experience I’ve been able to give them. I call them all my kids.”

Williams received her early dance training under Barbara Hollis, a member of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, Edith James, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. She received additional training under Alvin Ailey and Arthur Mitchell. For 36 years, Williams has directed Dallas Black Dance Theatre from a community-based and semi-professional organization to a professional dance company. The company’s repertoire includes works of such noted choreographers as Ailey, Ulysses Dove, Talley Beatty, Christopher Huggins, Elisa Monte, Milton Myers, David Parsons, Darryl B. Sneed, and others.

Company member and VCU Dance alumnus Richard A. Freeman, Jr., who choreographs for Dallas Black Dance Theatre, DBDT II, and the Atlanta Dance Connection, will be performing in Richmond. He is the former assistant director for the dance company’s Bloom Performing Ensemble and currently teaches in the Dallas Black Dance Academy.

Freeman is “long, lean and elastic” reviewed dance critic Mendoza. At age 10, Freeman received a three-year scholarship with the Washington Ballet and is considered one of the dance company’s most talented male dancers as well as a favorite with his colleagues, said Williams. While a student at VCU Dance, Williams saw Freeman in a summer dance program and offered him a place in her company on the spot.