Tag Archives: Solomon Espie

Bench Strength

Beckles Dancing Company demonstrates steady artistic growth and maturity in the company’s annual spring performance simply titled 21.

Photo: Beckles. Beckles Dancing Company

Dallas — Simple body lines. Subtle musicality. Intense emotional connections. These were the common threads that elevated Beckles Dancing Company’s spring show, 21, at the South Dallas Cultural Center last Friday evening. While there were some noticeable discrepancies among the works on the program mainly pertaining to the content and context or lack thereof in some of the pieces, it was an improvement from last year’s show which was a less consistent mix compared to this year’s more cohesive blend of professional and student-based choreography.

A few of the works that didn’t quite hit the mark in terms of concept and content, with content also pertaining to facial expressivity, were Loris Anthony Beckles’ group pieces Magical and Whispering Wolf as well as his solo Clifton-Bainbridge-Park set on long-time company member Tina Mullone. In Magical, dancers Lacy Brent, RoseMarie Sanders, Amaya Scoggins, Kaleb Smith, Angel Sparks and Taylor Townsend executed the Afro-Caribbean movements, including hip swirls, shoulder rolls and rhythmic foot stomping, with a natural ease and uniformity that comes from years of training and dancing together. And while the lively spirit of the dance was not reflected in the dancers’ expressions, which remained stoic throughout, the dancers fully embodied the steady drumming in Betty Carter’s composition with their playful gesturing (i.e. head bobs and open-close hand pulses) and deep leg lunges with swooping arms.

The dancers’ facial performances were also lagging in Beckles’ Whispering Wolf, but the dancers redeemed themselves with their competent technique, which featured rudimentary ballet steps layered with constantly changing arm movements and directional changes as well as luscious Graham torso contractions and weighted walks. One of things audiences can appreciate about Beckles’ choreography is that it never feels rushed. For him it’s about the journey, which is why when Mullone performed a series of simple plie tendues with proper epaulement in Clifton-Bainbridge-Park, viewers felt like they were seeing these well-known ballet steps for the first time. If the solo was meant to be ironic then the passive expression Mullone wore as Sam Cook crooned Nat King Cole’s I Love You For Sentimental Reasons was a clever choreographic choice.

Photo: Beckles Dancing Company

Maria Fernanda Gonzalez, Alma Alvarado, Kyndall Ash, Kaleb Smith and Jacqueline Rea (members of Espie’s After School “Character Counts” Dance Company) did a phenomenal job of capturing the anxiety and urgency in Gonzalez’s Washed in the Blood with some dynamic movement choices and intense facial expressions. And while the lack of transitions between certain tricks (i.e. cartwheels to the knee, stag leaps, backward shoulder rolls and side leg tilts) minimized their shock value, the dancers’ intensity, both physical and emotional, stayed true throughout.

The other student piece on the program, Layla Brent’sStages, featured edgy pointe work and exciting partnering skills and a well-rounded structure. Both couples (Layla Brent and Jared Smith and guest artists Erin Brothers and Kade Cummings) displayed amazing control and technical fortitude throughout the fast-paced piece. Later on Layla Brent and Smith showed great stylistic diversity when they nailed the sustained movements and luxurious body contortions in Andre R George’s Du Lahka. When I saw these two dancers perform the piece at last season’s show I was enraptured with the couple’s beautiful lines and intricate counter balance poses. This time around I knew what to expect movement wise which gave me and others more opportunity to relish in the beautiful love story driving the movement.

Another highlight of the night was Beckles’ Benchmarks. Broken into five sections, the work featured a variety of dance styles from ballet and modern to African improvisation at the end, as well as various moods that were represented through the dancer’s bodies and the different colored fabrics the dancers peeled off the ever present bench. Beckles cleverly incorporated the bench in every section of the work by having it act as a physical support and in one section a barrier for the performers. In the first section Lela Bell Wesley and Mullone used the bench to accentuate their reactions to one another such as when Wesley bent Mullone backwards over the bench. Lacy Brent used the bench as a home base during her more balletic solo, while Sanders used the bench as barrier as she slowly revealed different body parts. The African dance jam at the end was engaging and gave each company member a moment to shine.

>>This review was originally posted on www.TheaterJones.com.

 

 

DC Honors This Sunday

Dance Council of North Texas Honors is This Sunday!

Don’t forget the 2013 Dance Council Honors is this Sunday, Sept. 29 at Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT). Honorees include Ann Etgen and Bill Atkinson, Nycole Ray, Solomon Espie, Sharen Bradford and Peggy McCaslin. Honorees’ bios are below.

The event also includes performances by selected Dance Council scholarship recipients and DBDT II as well as a reception and silent auction featuring arts-related items and theater ticket packages.

You can purchase tickets here!

More info about this year’s event is available at www.thedancecouncil.org.

 

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Ann Etgen and Bill Atkinson – Mary Bywaters Award for Lifetime Contribution to Dance

The husband-and-wife team of Bill Atkinson and Ann Etgen is truly a Dallas institution. Each had extensive professional ballet careers in New York, Canada, and South America before coming to Dallas. Etgen was a member of the New York Metropolitan Ballet Company and Atkinson has performed with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Ballet AAA. In addition to maintaining the Etgen-Atkinson Ballet School and directing the Dallas Metropolitan Ballet, Etgen has also served on the Dance Panel of Texas Commission on the Arts and Humanities and both have held offices in Regional Dance America/Southwest (RDA/SW).

Nycole Ray – Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence

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A Detroit native, Nycole Ray graduated from The California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in dance. She received additional training at the California State Summer School of the Arts, Wayne State University and as an exchange student at the London Contemporary Dance School in England. Ray has performed with the Bruce Wood Dance Project, Walt Disney World Entertainment, Christopher and Friends directed by Christopher L. Huggins, the Lula Washington Dance Theater, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II and the Zadonu African Dance Company. This year marks Ray’s 16th season with Dallas Black Dance Theatre and her 4th season as the artistic director of DBDT II.

 

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Solomon Espie – Larry White Dance Educator Award

An Ohio native, Solomon Espie graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in physical education. He taught for the Columbus Public Schools and was an assistant track and field coach at OSU before moving to Dallas in 1985. It was his daughter who encouraged Espie to take a ballet class at Dallas Black Dance Academy and the experience would lead him to start the Lisbon Elementary School “Character Counts” Dance Company. Currently, Espie serves as President of the Board of Trustees of ARGA NOVA DANCE/Beckles Dancing Company where they have initiated a Resident Artists Program at the W. E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy.

Sharen Bradford – Mary Warner Award for Outstanding Contribution to Dance

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Sharen Bradford is a successful dance photographer whose interest in capturing dance on film began when she received a 35mm camera from her father. Bradford has also studied dance with Dottie Hunt and has a BFA and MFA in dance from Southern Methodist University. She was the Executive Director of Allen Street Photography Gallery and taught photography classes for SMU’s School for Continuing Education. She is also the owner of The Dancing Image and has photographed dance companies, including the Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet, Bruce Wood Dance Company/Bruce Wood Dance Project, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, TITAS and more.

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Peggy McCaslin – Texas Tap Legend

Peggy McCaslin began her training at the age of 10 at the Ballet Academy and is currently celebrating her 42nd year of teaching.  After receiving her BFA from Texas Christian University in 1972, McCaslin taught at The Wilshire Academy of Dance under the direction of Mary Wilcox and Pam Sparks. The studio became the Dallas Ballet Center in 1987 and McCaslin established the DBC Tap Connection in 2002. The Tap Connection has appeared in numerous National Tap Day events and tap festivals, including The Rhythm Junkies’ ‘Everything On Tap’ festival and The Drawbacks Youth Tap Ensemble.