My review of the Black Choreographers Festival opening in today’s SF Chronicle:
“For the past three years, it’s been good to have the Black Choreographers Festival on the scene, but it hasn’t been clear whom the festival’s performances are for. Was BCF, picking up where the defunct Black Choreographers Moving Toward the 21st Century left off, trying to stimulate another national dialogue on race in dance? Instilling local pride? Pitching itself to aspiring African American dancemakers or to a more general dance audience? If the latter, why were the performances so frustratingly uneven?
At Friday’s opening of the festival’s fourth annual installment, BCF’s purpose seemed to crystallize in a word co-founders Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra Kimbrough Barnes use a lot: community. And BCF has built a wide and wonderful community indeed. Opening at Oakland’s Laney College Theater, the festival moves on to second and third weekends at San Francisco’s Project Artaud Theater and Dance Mission Theater, which – along with ODC Theater – are all sponsors. There’ll be symposia, family matinees, an art exhibition and a master class with sensational tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith, out from New York.
All of this is tremendous for the community. For the average dancegoer at one of BCF’s concerts, though, it means a huge range in quality. The bad news is you’ll have to sit through sub-par work to get to the good stuff, like Smith’s appearance Friday and Saturday, when the festival moves to Project Artaud (look forward, too, to the roof-raising West African stampings of Oakland troupe Diamano Coura). The upside is the chance to find standout choreographers whose work should be seen far more often. And at Friday’s opening, the clear winner in that category was Reginald Ray-Savage (commonly known as Reginald Savage).
Savage has led his Savage Jazz Dance Company in Oakland since 1992, but it’s never broken out much beyond a cash-strapped local season. That should change. Not only is Savage a master teacher, producing taut, controlled dancers as well trained as any on the Bay Area modern dance scene. But he’s also a fine choreographer.
He proved this in two pieces that broke from his usual mission statement – “Not jazz dance. Dances to jazz music.” – to take on intense classical scores. This being Savage, though, the look was sexy, from the sculpted sultry postures and teasing deep plies to the women’s V-neck leotards.”
Click here for the full review.