By Gabrielle Beacken
The Philadelphia Dance Company, PHILADANCO performed four incredibly intricate, yet soulful, rhythmic routines, Friday night on the Kendall main stage. The event was co-sponsored by the College’s own dance company, Synergy.
PHILADANCO was originally formed in 1970 and has since trained over 4,500 dancers. The nonprofit dance organization prides itself on a high level of skill and proficient performances, and it has become a competitive dance outfit through its variety of genres, popularity across all regions of the country and impressive number of performances.
Joan Myers Brown is the founder and executive artistic director of PHILADANCO. Brown received national recognition this past July when she received the National Medal of Arts Award presented by President Barack Obama.
With the combination of Brown’s talent for choreography and innovation and the participation of 15 highly exceptional dancers, there was no doubt that the show would be anything less than spectacular.
The 20-minute-long pieces were all distinctive from one another, which was easily proven in the first number, “By Way of the Funk.” The first image the audience saw was three dancers on stage, but the attention was diverted to one man in the middle wearing a fringed, black leather vest. Dressed all in black and white, sparkles and leather, this piece took the audience through the revolution of funk music from the ’50s to the ’70s. The choreography was full of soul, rhythm and, most importantly, funk.
The second modern piece, “Gate Keepers,” seemed to have multiple stages, the first being very modern with an emphasis on arm extension and control with lots of leaps and jumps. When the music turned to a nature tune with the sound of pouring rain, the dance became a sequence of duets. Yet, these duets were more like two solos occurring at a time with one ending in a standing position looking down at the other performer, who knelt on the floor. An interesting element occurred when three dancers would enter the stage — one would dance, and the others would watch with their hands behind their back for about 30 seconds before exiting.
“Moan,” the third piece, was a series of scenes “honoring the musical genius of Nina Simone,” according to the event program. The dance opened with a woman in a long-sleeve, colorfully patterned dress with a purple head wrap and ended with the company dressed all in blue and denim. It then focused on one male performer who danced to the lyrics, “Don’t let me be misunderstood.” Fast tempo chaîné turns were the core focus of this piece, and seven in a row seemed to be no problem at all.
Each scene was accompanied by soulful vocals. Unlike the other pieces, the lyrics were clearly understood and followed directly by the choreography.
“(‘Moan’) had beautiful music accompanied by simple costumes that were perfect for the dance,” freshman civil engineering major Alex Dispensiere said. “The dance was full of turns, leaps and lifts, one right after another. It showed how talented the dancers were.”
Lastly, the audience was out of breath just by watching the fourth and final piece, “Enemy Behind the Gate.” The dancers began by passionately marching out on the newly red-lit stage. Not a beat was unused — there was a movement for every single count. This dance highlighted difficult partner work with various and complicated lifts, extensions, splits and leaps.
PHILADANCO ended with an explosive last impression on the College. “It is important for students to watch the performances to see how beautiful the art of dance truly is,” Dispensiere said regarding the significance of dance culture on campus.
Read more about PHILADANCO here: PHILADANCO and friends dance into the past.