Dancers performing in Latasha Burns’ “The Jazz Continuum.”Photo: Stephen Pisano
C.The elebrity Series kicks off 2023 this month with two groundbreaking dance performances by award-winning female choreographers of color. It will be held from January 19th to 21st.
“Look Who’s Coming to Dinner” was inspired by the 1967 film of the same name, about two families accepting their children’s interracial marriage. Batten Bland says her narrative theatrical dance work is like a movie sequel.
“I think we know very well who’s coming to our door or our house,” says Batten Bland. “I think we have prejudices and ways We respond with fear. For me, it is more important to see them fully and clearly than to see who is coming. ”
This performance uses movement, music, and dialogue to describe a dinner party as guests arrive. As the work progresses, relationships between the characters are suggested, the table they eat at transforms into walls, doors, and screens, and the plot moves forward. , family, and the ongoing search for common ground. Decades after the film’s release, the theme is still very important.
“Nothing has changed, unLuckily,” says Batten Bland. “We seem to be shifting our labeling and segmentation to exclude groups that we deem fit for purpose or hierarchical status.”
At some point in every performance, the fourth wall breaks. During that time, performers and audiences engage in the practice of sharing something, like breaking bread together. This connection aims to engage the audience in a more tangible way, encouraging them to examine their own biases and initiate dialogue about them.
“What struck me is that the film talks about a very specific classicism in terms of who can get an education,” says Batten Brand. “I think it will be interesting for the Boston community, because the more access we have to education, the more we have the right to question and explore ideas and systems. That is the role of this work.”
“The Jazz Continuum” similarly embraces the art of the past. The entertaining performance examines the evolution of American jazz and black ballroom dancing styles. Barnes says the idea of a musical continuum struck her when she and her father identified melodies and beats that were used in multiple pieces of music across the ages. used similar tools to build genres over time, revealing how each musician inspires the other.
“Because of my father, I was exploring this initially in music, but eventually I began to explore this phenomenon more deeply in dance,” Burns says. We aim to recognize the intention, power application, flow, and other aspects of cross-genre dance forms, as well as from a shape recognition perspective to identify steps of a particular dance style in dance.”
Ensemble performances guide audiences through styles of dance and music, from jazz and Lindy Hop to hip-hop and wacking. Like jazz, improvisation is central, with both musicians and dancers feeding on each other and absorbing the energy of the room to create a performance. Audience, musicians and dancers all work within and feed into the same artistic continuum.
“Our offering to the continuum, wThis is what we intended these presentations to be, and we do it in the hope that it will inspire those who witness it to return what they felt from the stage,” Barnes says. We want you to feel what we’re feeling on stage, whether it’s grief, empowerment, or overwhelming joy.”
Burns is a U.S. Army veteran and, she says, has applied many of the leadership and management skills she learned during her service to her dance career. During her time in Boston, she held workshops for veterans and a series of dances aimed at engaging her dance and street dance communities during a few days at her dance complex. Host an event.
Both Batten Bland and Barnes explore key themes in their beautifully deployed ensemble works, from collective artistic heritage to conscious and unconscious social prejudices. Seen side by side just a week apart, the performances are sure to provoke thought-provoking and lasting emotions.
“Stephanie and Latasha are powerful talents with unique vision, unbeatable resumes and undeniable talent,” said Gary Dunning, president and executive director of Celebrity Series. “But with back-to-back performances in January, I’m confident it will be the most exciting dance her week Boston has seen in a long time.”