The DNA of contemporary dance

The DNA of contemporary dance

DCDC2 presents ‘The Ways of Humanity’

By Arnecia Patterson
Photo: DCDC2 presents “The Ways of Humanity” program on Sunday April, 28 at UD’s Boll Theatre; photo credit: William H. Crenshaw


The word humanity conjures a variety of images and thoughts depending on the forum where the discussion takes place. On Sunday, April 28 at 4 p.m. in the University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company 2, the repertory-training ensemble of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, will create a forum featuring eight contemporary dances by choreographers who have history or are currently dancing with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. In its concert, “The Ways of Humanity,” artistic license and creativity will reference a range of experiences that could fall under the concert’s title – female body image, love, pain, surrender, death. Combine that with contemporary dance’s reputation for borrowing movement from the world of what’s happening now and its penchant for subverting precious classical dance language into prosaic steps as weighted with emotion and thought as they are with the moving body. Together, the reputation of the art form and the declaration of the program, “The Ways of Humanity,” may add yet another layer of meaning to what viewers think about when considering humanity – a layer of movement. The concert’s aim, according to its program guide, of “connecting to the breadth and depth of the human spirit,” is a dance performance. On a Sunday afternoon, in the darkened Boll Theatre, it will be up to the dancers of DCDC2 to elicit those moments of connection between people in the audience and the humanity embedded in the crafted dances they will perform.

As the pre-professional training company of DCDC, the second company uses dancers who fall into a storied hybrid – part student/part performer who undertake thankless rigor in pursuit of the next opportunity to present personal accomplishment as the center of attention. According to Shonna Hickman-Matlock, the director of DCDC2, dancers train for “professional field experience that provides a realistic perspective on the artistic and professional challenges of careers in dance.” Right now, the company is comprised of 18 women and one man, ranging in ages from 18 to 27. Some have local lives as undergraduate dance students at Wright State University and Sinclair Community College. Others have moved to Dayton to dance with DCDC2 after studying at national programs like the University of South Carolina and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s certificate program. One DCDC2 dancer has performed with Ballet Theatre of Maryland. For lengthy hours of rehearsal and no remuneration, DCDC2 offers dancers a wide range of venues to show their talents. One is likely to see the company perform at a special event at a local high school or university, a festival or holiday activity. Despite the busy, other lives that its dancers lead, DCDC2 fosters a strong profile for contemporary dance in Dayton and the surrounding area. “The second company plays an integral role in the organization’s presence and maintains a heightened visibility of modern dance in the community,” said Hickman-Matlock. A long list of short gigs come off as brief interludes of dance that interject some diversity into an event where dance is not the main idea, but an evening-length program unfolds a cohesive movement theory – a slate of imaginative works that offer lasting comment on the topic at hand.

A dance concert that promises “The Ways of Humanity” is an opportunity for DCDC2 to take its time and show the work of young choreographers using traditional technique, experimental smatterings and negative space left to be filled with the audience’s interpretation. Two of the eight works are by choreographers – and former DCDC and DCDC2 dancers – Gina Gardner-Walther and Rodney Brown, who are now professors of dance at Wright State University and The Ohio State University, respectively. They have first-hand knowledge of the student/dancer hybrid whose human condition is a range of emotions when faced with the demands of dance; both have danced works by revered choreographers whose contributions to modern dance have outlived them. In addition to dancing works by Merce Cunningham, Talley Beatty and Ulysses Dove at venues around the country and abroad, as professors both are now accustomed to managing a dance laboratory filled with bodies that are willing to take on any experimentation the choreographer sees fit to execute. According to a program description, part of Brown’s work “Serpents and Crows” is set to the music of Polish classical/avant-garde composer Henryk Mikolaj Górecki. It uses “codified dance vocabulary, pantomime gestures and expressionism” in its “translation of personae,” according to the DCDC2 program guide. Gardner-Walther’s dance, “Bittersuite,” references themes of pain, surrender and acceptance and is set to one of the 1950s most popular vocalists, Dinah Washington, singing to the instrumentation of British composer, Max Richter.

The concert is rounded out by the imagination and craft of six additional choreographers, Robert Priore, Demitrius Tabron, Susanne Payne, Marlayna Locklear, Amy Renee Jones and DCDC2 director Shonna Hickman-Matlock who said, “I hope the audience is entertained and enriched. I would like it to witness what makes art connected on a human level.” The works on the program use a range of contemporary movement—pantomime, gestures, running, walking, fluid torsos, shapely arms and hands working rhythms of a code that everyone learns to speak in the moment. It is complemented by a symphony of music genres like neo-classical, rap, rock, R&B, classical, neo-soul and Egyptian dance music. The habitué of concert dance may see humanity differently after the experience.

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company 2 presents “Ways of Humanity” on Sunday, April 28 at 4 p.m. in the University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre in the Kennedy Union, 300 College Park Drive. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at Ticket Center Stage by calling 937.228.3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com. For more information, visit dcdc.org.


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


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