Philadanco Performance Probes Race, Gender Boundaries

By Dilesha Tanna, Layout Editor

The theater was dark and packed with an eager audience. Beams of light and foggy mist slowly filled the empty stage. Dancers appeared on stage, moving gracefully in the silence. Soon, the music started, and the dancers synchronized their steps to its rhythmic beats. And with that, the show began.

On September 23, the well-acclaimed dance group Philadanco performed in Goodhart Auditorium at Bryn Mawr College. They put together a performance that consisted of four 15 minute dance pieces, each one unique in its own special way. The first piece immediately grabbed the audience’s attention as it began by manipulating perspective and dimension as the dancers arranged themselves in a straight vertical line. In between the consistent action of the dance, there were parts where the music stopped and the dance focused on the breathing and silent movements of the dancers. Following this dance, the second piece was more upbeat and added elements such as claps and stomps to fit in with the rhythm of the music. In direct contrast, the third dance showed the dancers’ movements like black silk. It focused on the swift yet graceful and smooth movements of the dancers, who were adorned in black costumes. The show finished with the last piece emphasizing the sharpness of the dancers and their environment through their movements, stage lighting, and contrasting black and red outfits.

Additionally, the show brought together the traditions of African-American dance with elements of ballet, lyrical, modern, and jazz, demonstrating that dance transcends all cultures. There is no language needed to understand such an art form. Even the choice of African and American music brought out this amalgamation of cultures. The rhythms of the songs and the styles of different cultural dance forms enhanced the meaning of the performance.

Philadanco aims to share a message about discrimination with the audience by including choreography in their repertory that mixes dialogue in with the songs and dance to present some of the racism Black individuals have faced. Their message traces back to the origins of their company, which helps provide opportunities for Black dancers to perform and express their love and creativity for this art form.

Along with providing a unique perspective on race, Philadanco also displayed an interesting view on gender in some of the works performed. In dance performances, men are often in charge of carrying women for various leaps, jumps, and flips. However, in their evening of dance, the gender roles were sometimes obscured. They incorporated steps where men lifted women, men lifted men, and women lifted women. Even their costumes demonstrated a similar appearance, as one of their pieces included both men and women wearing black dress-like costumes.

Overall, the message of the show brought an interesting perspective to the value of dance among all cultures, and the variety of costumes, stage lights, formations, and movements kept the stage in a constant state of excitement.

From the print edition published Oct. 5, 2016

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