Preeminent pre-professionals

Preeminent pre-professionals

Dayton Contemporary Dance Second Company presents Change

By Arnecia Patterson

Photo: DCDC2 presents Change on April 27 at the University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre; photo: William H. Crenshaw

As Dayton Contemporary Dance Company winds down its 45th anniversary season, it casts the klieg lights on one of its performance traditions: the annual concert highlighting its pre-professional training company popularly referred to as DCDC2. Because its dancers are still looking forward to starting careers, certainly, DCDC2 is accurately billed as pre-professional. However, that characterization presents as a misnomer once the house lights go down, the stage lights come up and DCDC2 comes on. The sixteen dancers, ages 18-25, are skilled artists despite being artists-in-training. Some are pursuing degrees at area universities, and others already have degrees from professional and university dance programs and studios. DCDC2’s reputation for clean, precise movement, so technically and emotionally committed to the choreography, comes from performing throughout the area and working with the resident choreographers whose dances will be featured on its annual spring concert.

This year’s concert, entitled Change, will take place on Sunday, April 27, at 4 p.m. at the University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre. Six choreographers, Rodney A. Brown, Amy Renee Jones, Marlayna Locklear, Richard Priore, Demetrius Tabron and DCDC2 director Shonna Hickman-Matlock, will have work on the program that, according to the company, is conceptualized around “the shapes of change constructed of interactions, reactions, relationships, life conditions and situations.” DCDC continues to provide opportunities for young choreographers and dancers to shape their visions and find their voices by remaining true to its history of letting the second company shine in its own concert.

DCDC2’s artistic reach throughout Dayton provides its dancers with a busy year filled with chances to perform at civic and social events and in schools. By the end of the season, the exuberant polish with which it delivers its repertory of dances warrants a full, dedicated performance. That was not always the case. In the 1980s, the performance was called An Afternoon of Dance and took place on a Sunday afternoon in an intimate venue like Sinclair Community College’s Blair Hall or the Dayton Art Institute. At the time, DCDC produced the concert with the Dayton Ballet, and it often included an additional guest performance by a smaller local troupe as well. The shared concert between DCDC2 and Dayton Ballet’s second company reflected the personal and professional relationship between both companies’ founders, Jeraldyne Blunden and Josephine Schwarz.

They enjoyed a lifelong friendship and modeled their companies based on spot-on instincts about a growing dance field coming out of New York and taking hold in cities and regions across the United States. It also reflected a barely existent repertory for training companies; after all, some of the country’s professional companies were just beginning to tour. Training companies had negligible performance presences, although they actively added rigorous evening and weekend instruction for the best student dancers in the studio – those who dreamed of becoming professionals and had the technique and drive to think it possible.

Today, DCDC2 builds its diverse repertory on the choreography of emergent artists who need professional-grade dancers to realize their own life perceptions and experiences artistically. Change is dedicated to such realizations. Guest choreographers Rodney A. Brown, founder of the Brown Dance Project and a professor in The Ohio State University’s dance department, and Priore, a senior faculty member and choreographer-in-residence at CityDance, in the Washington, D.C. area, are guest choreographers on the program. Amy Renee Jones, Marlayna Locklear and Demetrius Tabron are currently professional dancers with DCDC. They wear the dual hats of dancers/resident choreographers and are invited to create works for the DCDC2 repertory. “Each choreographer has their own movement language; however, all are derived from a blend of modern, ballet and jazz elements,” Hickman-Matlock explained.

Shonna Hickman-Matlock, the director of DCDC2 since 2000, knows the process of working with choreographers and the performance demands of delivering movement and emotional variegation. Professionally, she danced and toured with DCDC from 1983-95. Hickman-Matlock has three works on the Change program. They are “If You Leave Me, Everything Will Change” choreographed to Tilley Key’s rendition of “Ne Me Laisse Pas Seule Ici (Don’t Leave Me Here by Myself),” “I’ve Been Changed” set to gospel vocals of Roberta Flack and LaShun Pace Rhodes, and “Internal Struggles” which uses the music of Demoniac, Max Richter and Two Fingers. According to Hickman-Matlock, contemporary dance is her way of communicating personal observations and imaginations framing a list of human characteristics – “intimacy, simplicity, honesty, purity, spirituality” are some that she names. Choreography is physical, however, so Hickman-Matlock has to use her years of experience to translate subjective descriptors into recognizable movements to which DCDC2 dancers apply their training.

“My movement language and vocabulary includes ballet and modern dance elements,” Hickman-Matlock said. “It is lyrical, yet weighted and organic, with arch and release use of the torso region.”

DCDC2 presents Change on Sunday, April 27 at 4 p.m. at the University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre located in the Kennedy Union. Tickets are $15 general admission and seating is limited. For tickets to Change contact Ticket Center Stage at 937.228.3630 or 888.228.3630 or ticketcenterstage.com.  

Reach DCP freelance writer Arnecia Patterson at ArneciaPatterson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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