DCDC presents Emergence
When a dance company takes the stage, it shows the audience what it values artistically. Maybe it values a specific dance technique, like modern or ballet, or likes dancers of different shapes and sizes. On the other hand, it may prefer dancers with a uniform line and physique – this value is most evident in companies that have large balletic corps. Urban Bush Women is a dance company of women; Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – male dancers in drag who parody the values of classical ballet. Diversity might be an issue, a value or both. American Ballet Theatre recently announced Project Plié, an effort designed to eventually reflect the company’s value for people of color on the stage and in the studio and audience.
On Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. in the University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s Emergence program will show a preference for choreographers who have a connection to Ohio and are yet early in their creative game. They are artists whose work – often done in small companies, on talented students or outside New York – elicits anticipation for when a larger audience will witness them really hitting their creative stride.
Choreographers Stafford Berry, Terence Greene, William B. McClellan, Jr., Bridget Moore and Susanne Payne represent degrees of connectedness to DCDC and emergence in the field of dance. Greene, McClellan and Payne are former dancers with DCDC, and Moore and Berry – a recent transplant to Ohio – are choreographing the company for the first time. Of all the choreographers, Greene has the longest connection. He danced throughout the 1990s with DCDC and is a Cleveland, Ohio native. However, Greene contended that his connection to DCDC transcends geography and art, and is bound by spirit and the legacy of the company’s founder, the late Jeraldyne Blunden, as well as the choreographers who she presented when he was a dancer – many of whom were considered emergent at the time their work appeared on the DCDC stage.
According to Debbie Blunden-Diggs, artistic director of DCDC, the company’s repertory has always included early works by high caliber choreographers who had not yet reached the attention of a national audience. Blunden said, “I feel it is very important to invest in these rising artists. DCDC has always invested in the works of prominent, up-and-coming choreographers.”
In some instances, the investment has paid off for the field of dance and forged connections that exist today. Dwight Rhoden, a former DCDC dancer, now has his own New York-based dance company, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and is a featured choreographer on the FOX network’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” Debbie Allen, dancer, choreographer, actor and director is often a judge on the show, and she is a former student of the late Mike Malone, who choreographed Black Nativity, Coming Forth into Day and Troubavari, older works in DCDC’s repertory that were audience favorites when danced. It was through Malone that Terence Greene learned of DCDC back in 1989.
Greene recalled, “I was working with Mike Malone at Karamu House and he told me about a lady in Dayton who was looking for two male dancers. He thought Jeraldyne would like me. I joined the company in 1990 and my connection to the company is still Jeraldyne.”
Greene proffers a spiritual connection to DCDC through Jeraldyne Blunden. He credits her with his entrée to choreographers who were emerging at the time, but whose work is now a part of concert dance culture and the annals of dance history – Ulysses Dove, Ronald K. Brown, Donald Byrd, Jawole Zollar and Bebe Miller. That spiritual connection influences the artistic process that he works out in the studio with dancers. “She’s still inside of me – spirit,” Greene said of Blunden. “She sowed in me the history of what Black dance is, and now it’s my turn to carry on the torch and give back. While I’m choreographing, I’m telling them the stories that famous choreographers gave to me. I’ve treaded for them. I have a lot to give to the new ‘me’ of the company – young men.”
Bearing a torch aflame with the memories of his decades of experience as a dancer, Greene hardly sounds like an artist who belongs on an emerging choreographers program. He is now the dance director at Cleveland School of the Arts and has dances in the repertories of professional companies in the Cleveland and Pittsburgh area. “I’ve been seasoned 20 years ago,” Greene laughed, “but I’m glad that somebody still thinks I’m fresh.” “Breath” is the title of his work that will be performed by DCDC. “My original vision for ‘Breath’ was on DCDC, but the timing didn’t work out for me to set it on them immediately,” said Greene.
On October 5-6, audiences will see a freshly evolved version of Greene’s first thoughts about “Breath.” “Since I first envisioned it I went through health problems and almost lost a kidney. Now everything about breathing has a new meaning for me and for DCDC dancers. It will for the audience, too.”
DCDC will present Emergence on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. at the University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre, 300 College Park Ave. For ticket information, please call 937.228.3630, 888-228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com. For more information about DCDC, please visit dcdc.org.