Christal Brown has a lot to say. It may not all be pretty, but it can be pretty compelling.
The founder and artistic director of Inspirit, a contemporary dance company, offered a program of gritty works on Sunday at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center. And while some of the six dances were too enigmatic to appreciate, the company has enough thoughtful and unusual work that it presented itself as a group on the verge of a significant artistic breakthrough.
Only time will tell. But let it be known now that this collective of all-female, mainly black artists from the Bronx should be watched.
Brown got things off to a great start with “Take That,” a solo written, choreographed and danced by Brown. Dressed in white slacks and jacket, she moved with a stalking, predator quality, similar to a wrestler, as she wove personal tales.
All her stories ended with the same tag, “take that.” She finds the phrase can apply to her mother giving her an outfit she dislikes, to her handing in a letter of resignation at a crummy job and to her boyfriend’s bestowing on her an engagement ring. All along, she was really telling the audience of her struggle for self-determination and artistic freedom. In the end, she glanced over her shoulder and directed at the audience, “I hope you can . . . take that.”
This was the best work of the afternoon — and perhaps her simplest.
Her other dances, which don’t include the spoken word, were more complex and at times bewildering. In the case of “Dreams and Visions,” this was intentional. The group dance for her 10 members tapped into multimedia to create a dreamscape where events elicited an emotional reaction even though they remained mysterious. To music by Farai Maliangra, there was a sense of going back in time, perhaps to slavery in Egypt. The two women ushered a masked woman who then found a baby in a basket along the river. While she scooped it up, another woman swaddled and cradled the baby.
Off to the side, six others waved their arms toward the sky as if they are caught in a hole or dungeon. Some broke off and rolled along the floor as traditional music, similar to gospel, played. Then, the scene instantly changed to city sights and sounds. The video screen, which earlier showed abstract blue swirls and footprints, changed to a view through a car windshield driving speedily along a busy boulevard. It was odd, but familiar, just like a dream.
The newest work on the bill was “The Mocking,” based on “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Using the movie score as its impetus, Brown focused on the white girl, dressed in red, who “kissed the Negro.” As the girl struggled on her knees, a quartet of black women, dressed in black, bore indifferent witness. This work felt underdone. Brown should and could do more, and more pointedly.
“Past Her Rites” was nearly perfect, however. This dance spoke of how women move about as men. And then when they are safe to be women, some feel insecure and must return to the mantle (suit and tie) of the masculine sex. This was a fascinating work that spoke of Inspirit’s legitimate potential.
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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts