DANCE REVIEW: American Dance Festival 2010, Part One: African American Dance Ensemble / Kate Weare Company / Monica Bill Barnes and Company / Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company

This summer, I am attending the American Dance Festival Six Week School to further my modern dance abilities. While there, I will be attending performances of the festival and writing short reviews on what I see. There will be several posts dedicated to the performances, with several short reviews per post.

African American Dance Ensemble- “Treasured Reflections: African Dance in Motion”
While I have taken some African Dance classes during my ongoing study of dance, it is a kind of dance that for me is extremely difficult. I am ballet-trained and am not adept at moving totally freely and shaking my hips, nor do I have much rhythm, all of which is necessary to pull off the African dance style. In addition, due to my lack of proficiency in this style, I rarely see it performed except by teachers and fellow students. The performance at Duke University by the North Carolina-based African American Dance Ensemble showed me what I am missing. From eight to ten pm, the company performed one energetic, engaging dance after another. Accompanied by a few drummers who remained onstage throughout, the troupe’s dances covered such topics as honoring one’s ancestors and the elderly to praying for rainfall to a poetry and dance tribute of the modern day and of President Obama. The founder, artistic director, and leader of the company, the well-known Baba Chuck Davis, narrated and guided the dances as well as occasionally participating along with the dancers. The performance was rather late at night for me, but the joyous, spirited and proficient dancers imbued me with energy and excitement that belied the hour of lateness. I am incredibly happy and fortunate to have seen this performance, and I am inspired to make another attempt at studying this form of dance in the future.

Kate Weare Company- “Bridge of Sighs”/Monica Bill Barnes and Company-“Another Parade”
These two choreographers shared a bill and performed at Duke University. The first piece, Kate Weare’s “Bridge of Sighs”, was a story of relationships both good and bad performed by two men and two women, including Weare herself. This piece was raw and innovative. Her movement was unlike any other I’d ever seen, with the emotional and physical tension between the dancers apparent and palpable through not only partnering, lifts and jumps, but also violent slapping, hitting and kicking. The dancers were also marvelous actors who easily conveyed with facial and bodily expressions the strain and toll of difficult relationships to an original score by One Ring Zero. So far, this is my favorite piece of the ADF that I have seen due to its incredible, emotional choreography and movement quality.
The next piece in the shared bill, “Another Parade”, was also entertaining, but for me lacked the brilliance of movement as well as emotional depth. There were four performers, all female, including Barnes, who seemed to be telling a story of four young hopefuls trying to become successful. The soundtrack was mostly divided between Bach and James Brown pieces, but the buoyant, lighthearted style of dance rarely varied, no matter the music. An amusing highlight occurred when the dancers brought several dancers from the ADF program up on stage to slow dance with them, but for me, the piece paled in comparison to its predecessor and should have been performed first.

Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company- “Oyster”
This Israel-based dance company performed a spectacular, dazzling work of dance and theatre at the Durham Performing Arts Center about a group of traveling clowns and circus performers and their relationships to one another. The dancers were incredible. Their movements were all strong, beautiful, lithe, graceful and sometimes strange and twisted and contorted to display the emotions of the characters. The dances all flowed through, interconnected, and the dramatic lighting and mournful music made this show a real highlight for me.  The most fascinating dance was one in which the female dancer floated in and out of her partner’s arms while suspended on a rope. The only negative aspect was that, in my opinion, the show, which only ran for around an hour, was far too short. I would have loved to see more of this story and of the unbelievable dancers of the company. I hope they come perform sometime near me, for I would love to see these performers again in the future.


  1. These are great reviews. You have painted a vivid picture of what you saw and have conveyed a wonderful sense of the emotions you felt during each of the pieces. This was a great combination of the dance and the visual arts! We will have to be sure to check for performances of any of these companies in LA!

  2. Go Israel-based dance company!


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