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    Black Burlesque (revisited)

    Beat & Greet

    "Black Burlesque(revisited)" is an international convergence of artists with a surplus of good feeling.


    Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group (New York) combined with Black Umfolosi (Zimbabwe) and Noble Douglas Dance Company (Trinidad) at Dance Theater Workshop last week to present "Black Burlesque (Revisited)," an ambling, good-willed evening of African singing and dancing.

    Choreography by: Reggie Wilson, Noble Douglas, Thomeki Dube.
    Directed by: Reggie Wilson, Noble Douglas, Thomeki Dube.
    Dancers: Rhetta Aleong, Thomeki Dube, Paul Hamilton, Charlene Harris, Penelope Kalloo, Richard Lessey, Louanna Martin, Pene McCourty, Dumisani Ndlovu, Brian Sibanda, Clemence Sibanda, Reggie Wilson..
    Music by: Armand, Whistler and his Jug Band, Adewale, Ayuba, Charles Iwegbue and his Archlbogs, Unknown House Beat, Fayanne Lyons, Maxwell, plus traditional from United States, Trinidad and Tobego, Zimbabwe.
    Costumes by: Adrienne McDonald.
    Lighting Design by Tyler Micoleau, Visual Design by Thabiso Phokompe
    Dance Theater Workshop
    219 West 19th St.
    Oct. 22 - Nov. 1, 2003

    Over a period of seven years, members of the three groups traveled to dance together, teach each other. "It came out of an honest attraction," Wilson said, of the three groups coming together. The warmth of their attraction is the strong point and is the substance of the show.

    I never could tell if there was a commentary on early burlesques, minstrelry or 'race' circuit entertainment, despite the title. Rather it seems to be a new version of the description, a revue show culled from these three points on the African and Diaspora arena. Occasionally when old-timey music played and the performers made slow, casual, amused eye contact with the audience, some walking in stylized stiffness, some in a natural gait, I thought there was reference to older entertainments. This burlesque was presented with neither polemic nor meditation on stereotype. I get the sense rather than the artistic directors were interested in putting their respective contributions in the soup together, to blur the geographic origin of the various materials a celebration and creation more than a commentary.

    Black Burlesque (revisited)  
    Put together a little haphazardly, the structure of the performance revealed the problem of having three artistic directors: no cohesive vision lent rhythm or form to the flow. Segments lasting roughly five minutes a piece came one after another, sometimes in awkward transition. The first half of the evening, clocking an hour, seemed to be a warm up for the last, which cut between segments in a cleaner, quicker manner, and generally was faster, more energetic and engaging.

    I saw Reggie Wilson's work at Danspace Project a year or so ago, and loved the entire evening but remember being riveted by Wilson's solo. "Black Burlesque (revisited)" only brings Wilson on stage a few times, but each time he is there, he is an enormously magnetic presence.

    A highlight was a bit of South African gumboot dancing performed by the four men of Black Umfolosi. Repeated later, this complicated, stampy business was perfectly balanced between rhythmic engagement, physical beauty and speed of happening. The four men have a collective sweetness to them. Later, it, along with other movement material, becomes the property of the entire group, blurring the origin of the phrases, transforming them into something new.

    NOVEMBER 7, 2003

    Reader comments on Black Burlesque (revisited):

  • [no subject]   from Dumisani Ndlovu, Jun 3, 2008

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