Black Choreographers Festival Mashes Up Disciplines

The summer series shows at Laney College Aug. 26-28.


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Giordan Cruz (choreographer Dazaun Soleyn) from BCF 2016 Artist Mentoring Program.

Kimara Alan Dixon

It’s almost a truism that the East Bay is home to many talented dancers but also painfully thin—particularly in its purported capital, Oakland—on suitable performance spaces. Last February, the quintessentially Oakland event, the 11-year-old Black Choreographers Festival: Moving Now, had to cancel its home-based performances when the Laney College Theatre became unavailable. But co-directors Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra Kimbrough Barnes had long planned to spread BCF beyond its annual black history anchor in February.

The August performance calendar, they figured, was less competitive and allowed them to throw the spotlight on younger and perhaps lesser-known aspects of BCF, such as those in its Artists Mentoring Program for which emerging and mid-career choreographers pair up with more established ones.

The lineup for this summer’s festival promises a refreshing mix of the many faceted expressions by primarily local African-American choreographers. Among them are Dimensions Dance Theater’s Latanya Tiger and Colette Eloi. Interdisciplinary performer Chris Evans teams up with Congolese-born dancer Byb Chanel Bibene and musician David Boyce. Alonzo King LINES Ballet alumnus Gregory Dawson has made an international name for himself with high-powered ballet-based choreography, and he is offering a world premiere. Kimbrough Barnes will show an excerpt from the upcoming Anxiety, which considers parental challenges of raising children in difficult times. Traveling from Los Angeles to the festival is the JazzAntiqua Dance & Music Ensemble, directed by Pat Taylor, a group that has explored the two-sister arts from a distinctly African-American perspective for more than 20 years. And Culture Shock Oakland, perhaps the Bay Area’s largest hip-hop company, no doubt will show, one more time, how a popular art can evolve into a concert genre.

BCF’s artists from the mentorship program could not be confirmed by press time. Other youth participants will perform at the Sunday matinee. Observing young, eager and full-of-promise students is one of the great pleasures of any dance watching. Dimensions Extensions Performance Ensemble is the youth group of the Bay Area’s oldest modern dance company. Even after retiring from a distinguished teaching career at San Francisco State University, Albirda Rose continues her commitment to the young Village Dancers who otherwise might never have the opportunity to become performers and/or dance teachers.

Black Choreographers Festival summer series, Aug. 26-27, 7:30 p.m., and Aug. 28, 4 p.m. $10-$25; Laney College, 900 Fallon St., Oakland, BCFHereAndNow.com

This report appears in the August edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

Published Aug. 22, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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