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    Niles Ford's Urban Collective in FLICfest 2012
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Niles Ford's Urban Collective

    Farewell to Niles Ford and Three Hours

    FLICfest still coming of age


    FLICfest 2012 was the year of Niles Ford. His posthumous show and memorial video were far more compelling than any other performance this reviewer watched. Ford died of a heart attack at age 52, two weeks before his group was scheduled to perform at FLICfest, and the love and energy in the show and the crowd were deep when his troupe performed anyway, in tribute.

    FLICFEST 2012
    Choreography by: Niles Ford, Keith A. Thompson, Brittany Bailey, Robin Neveu Brown.
    Produced by: Jeramy Zimmerman.
    Dancers: Urban Collective: Katie Balton, Stephanie Booth, Edwardo Brito, Stephesha David, Jessica Parks, Laura Rekuc, Cara Robino, Michelle Siegel, Nabowire Stokes, Royce Zackery
    Keith A. Thompson: Emily Berry, Matthew Cumbie, George Hirsch, Jin Ju Song-Begin, Sara Roer
    Brittany Bailey and Hannah Darrah
    Robin Neveu Brown and Kevin Brown
    Lighting design by: Royce Zacker (Ford), Matt Wharton (Brown).
    Irondale Center
    January 19-21 and 26-28, 2012

    The range and finished quality of Ford's Urban Collective show, Summer of Hate/15 Steps, felt like the work of an entire year, from stylish duets for famous torch songs, to animated movies that treat injustice with humor and wisdom, to large group dances with many different elements. What stands out from the show and the video that followed of his previous works is the inclusiveness of his approach. He tried to mix everything and everyone into a cohesive presentation, never an easy task. He also needed to be onstage, dancing as recently as last year's Invisible People show, still glowing with fluid musicality even as his vitality subsided.

    Urban Collective in Summer of Hate/15 Steps in FLICfest 2012
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Urban Collective in Summer of Hate/15 Steps

    Ford often used his shows to make forgotten or ignored issues the focus, fighting the good fight through danee and film. At FLICfest, a short, anecdotal film about a marijuana arrest points out how unfair and technically illegal most such arrests are in NYC, how MANY there are and how they target black and brown people even though studies show that more white people smoke pot. The Invisible People show documented and acknowledged the large but largely ignored influence that early house music DJs had in getting people to dance together.

    Vogue, bboy, Broadway, Ailey and ballet all found places in Ford's work, and Urban Collective always found good dancers with heart and tried to fit them together. The final group dance at Ford's FLICfest show felt cohesive even as it sometimes felt like a dance revue, and energy and good spirit radiated from the stage.

    A program note from his dancers: "Niles Ford was many things to many people: he was a mentor, a teacher, a confidant, a comedian, a friend, an inspired artist and, to us, a family member. He gave so much of himself to each one of us and helped us to grow not only as dancers but as artists and people. Niles taught a love of life and brought the joy of dance to so many."

    In the three other choreographies seen, an hour felt like a long time. Keith Thompson's Beginnngs Forever Lost is a surprisingly weighted, torpid group piece addressing immigration policies that break families. Movement and recorded stories/experiences had little apparent connection, and Jinju Song-Begin was the sole dancer to break through the movement and keep sparking.

      L,R: Brittany Bailey and Hannah Darrah in FLICfest 2012
      Photo by Julie Lemberger
      L,R: Brittany Bailey and Hannah Darrah
    Brittany Bailey's Goodness Management, a duet with Hannah Darrah, begins mysteriously and inauspiciously; ten minutes of recorded guitar tuning remind us that the stage remains dancerless. Bailey eventually enters to sit with her back to the audience and remove her shirt, perhaps to arouse curiousity while nothing moves. Whether to fill time or by intent, things develop leisurely and sporadically. Bailey makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while Darrah lies down, Darrah loosens her hair while speaking snippets of thoughts. The movement that does come is worth the wait, with both moving together in sweeps to the floor or against each other in charged contact. Both move quite well, but the piece does not.

    Robin Neveu Brown, with husband Kevin, make Pare, full of menace and insinuations of domestic violence, both disturbing and dull. Moments of partnering where wife shows the strength and grace of a dancer work well, but the overall feel is creepy and unresolved — this relationship is apparently not going to end, or improve. Dozens of lamps onstage add light and metaphor but not meaning. They are a welcome visual element of change anyway.

    The bar seems to be running smoothly between showings now and there is a new marley floor smelling of fresh vinyl, but this year of FLICfest (FLIC=Feature-Length Independent Choreography) seemed to have a bit of sophomore slump. Or was it just January?

    FEBRUARY 2, 2012

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