Dancers from across the diaspora gathered tin Toronto, for a celebration of dance culture and creativity.
The closing night featured world- renowned dance companies, Alvin Ailey Dance Company and PHILADANCECO showcasing their talent and love of the art form.
A fitting kickoff to black history celebrations in our city, the TD sponsored, International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) Conference brought together over thirty dance companies for three days of friendly artistic competition.
An audience packed with eager young aspiring dancers, family, friends and dance enthusiasts were treated to performances from artists of all shapes, styles and backgrounds, each displaying passion, creativity and showmanship.
In the first half of the evening ,we watched Danza Corpus equipped with visual aids and flamboyant wardrobe stalk the stage. In this solo presentation, the story and music were well choreographed but seemed to lack a confidence in execution.
But where Danza faltered ,the National Dance theatre of Jamaica, did not. With strains of Reggae melodies interlaced with audio loops of Bob Marley's distinctive voice and Busta Rhyme's head-nodding lyrics, this dance company performed one of the most innovative pieces of the evening. As a group they had presence and chemistry, but individually; each dancer gave off an aura of invincibility, crucial to the presentation's rebel theme. With manual dexterity (females lifting males, males throwing females) and an excellent sense of theatrical timing the story of Jamaica's revolutionary soldier, Bob Marley, was told with each emotion etched on their faces. Without a doubt, this company raised the bar and set the tone for the rest of the evening, the Jamaicans brought their A game.
Bwsene !nmotion Australia, Salia ni Seydou and State of Emergency all gave diverse performances and the audience was entertained and beguiled by each groups technique and distinctly unique approach to dance.
However, the final piece before intermission, by the Lula Washington Dance theater entitled the Healers was simply breath-taking. Three gorgeous male dancers in silken,white robes appeared on stage, running, tumbling and storming into our consciousness. They partially disrobe, the audience screams their approval and then not only do they dance, the leap with an electricity that is unseen but felt. The musical arrangements work perfectly with the theatricality of their movements and when it ends we are all left wanting more.
Following the intermission the Philadelphia Dance Company presented Guess who's coming to dinner.
As one of the larger dance companies on stage this evening, the energy and execution of their piece was phenomenal. From the costumes to the music incorporated, this crew showcased a level of mastery not fully achieved in the first half. They moved as a unit, each step- choreographed and executed on cue with the music. Though just a single 15 minute performance, we were treated to a group routine and two solo routines. The prop (a steel platform) used throughout the presentation was ingenious. Dancers leapt, shimmied and tumbled as if this structure was also dancer, a natural inhabitant of the stage. PHILDANCO's solo routine was by far the best of the evening, this young dancer passionately told her story, her body stretched and arched around the platform, bewitching and intense. In the end PHILADANCO received a standing ovation. Only fitting, for one of the most entertaining groups in the conference.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance theatre presented the Evolution of a Secured Feminine, a solo performance as a dramatic and emotionally stirring as a broadway production.
Rachael McLaren, tells a story that embodies the melancholy, strength, vulnerability and vigour of a career woman through dance. Her costume's duality instantly captivates the audience's attention and the melodies of Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson make this the most thought provoking performance of the evening.
With stellar performances by the Dallas Black Dance theater and the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance ensemble, Dance Immersion's IABD conference aimed to showcase excellence in dance across the diaspora and certainly achieved that.