Joyce Theater, NYC
October 7, 2006
Reviewed by Nancy Wozny

Philadanco's Corey Baker and Elisabeth H. Bell
Photo by Lois Greenfield, courtesy Philadanco


Philadelphia is known as the city that loves you back. So it only follows that its beloved modern dance company, Philadanco, danced with a generous heart and robust athleticism during its recent showing of works. This handsome company has been a mainstay of the Philadelphia dance scene for the past 37 years. (Founder Joan Myers Brown will receive a Dance Magazine Award this year.) The family-friendly matinee featured works by notable choreographers who are especially adept at revealing the company’s strengths.

No brakes were allowed in Daniel Ezralow’s Pulse. Dancers spilled onstage as if running downhill and slid backwards, arching their arms as if to use the airspace to slow down. Snazzy footwear facilitated smooth sliding and gliding across the stage. The kinetic excitement built to a crescendo as the dancers slid into each other as if attracted by a center-stage magnet. Exhilarating momentum created a sense that the dance was traveling past our field of vision. Ezralow’s illusion conjured a tipping stage as the dancers pummeled through space. Tricky, and fun to watch.

Ronald K. Brown’s excerpts of For Truth, set to the mellow songs of MeSchell Ndegeocello and Femi Kuti, synthesize movements from African dance, street vernacular, hip hop, and modern dance into a steamy whole. Brown’s seamless fusion creates a recognizable yet inventive vocabulary. Although Philadanco’s style is more tightly wound than that of Brown’s company, the increased muscular edge revealed a different dimension of the richly textured choreography. For Truth contains both celebratory and contemplative qualities; one minute it exudes a party feel, the next, a moody internal dialogue. Odara Jabali-Nash embodied this paradox in her delicate solo in “Section One: The Chosen.” Her earthy performance mined the subtleties of Ndegeocello’s sultry songs. There’s so much to watch in Brown’s work. Each dancer seems to take hold of his idiosyncratic style in their own way, leaving ample room for their individuality to shine through.

In Cottonwool, Christopher L. Huggins created an effective vehicle to display the troupe’s technical chops and charisma. Huggins explores the play between balance and stability in his rousing romp for the whole company. Dancers teetered as if poised on a tightrope in an exploration of risk taking and the energy at the edge. Daredevil partnering spiced up this otherwise mainstream modern dance. In the end though, it seemed that the Philadanco crew was just too sure-footed to make the wobbles believable. Chalk it up to Philly pride. See