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Review: Dallas Black Dance Theatre Celebrates the Music of Nina Simone

by Danielle Georgiou 26 May 2011 4:17 PM

Guest blogger Danielle Georgiou reviews the premiere of “Nina Simone Project” and other works presented in the company’s Spring Celebration Series, which runs through Sunday.


Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is the Artistic Director and Choreographer of DGDG: Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. She also serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble.

  • Dallas Black Dance Theatre presents its “Spring Celebration Series” through Sunday, May 29 at the Wyly Theatre. Details. Tickets.

Dallas Black Dance Theatre is closing its 34th season this weekend at the Wyly Theatre with its “Spring Celebration Series.” With guest artists Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater and choreographer Dianne McIntyre, the evening is full of performances that range from the sentimental to the spiritual to the memorial.

While all of the work tries to convey some sort of message, it fundamentally returns to many of the dancers’ training in Lester Horton technique, classical ballet, and jazz. They remained true to that mission with their opening piece, “Verses,” that combined all these styles with a meditative quality, though at times it became monotonous. The sexually charged “Pulse” was entertaining but confusing: Was it a dance about the virility of men, the relationship between men and women or just an experiment in combining styles and partnering?  And then there was a clearly defined homage to Horton in “Variations I.”

Each piece highlighted the training and talent of the dancers, most notably, principal dancer and choreographer Nycole Ray with long-time company member Katricia Eaglin and new talent, Michelle Hebert and Diana Herrera, who both had standout performances (Hebert in “Pulse” and Herrera in “Variations I”) at the opening Wednesday. The company as a whole gave an emotional, committed and inspiring performance.

The night closed with a premiere of a new work by guest artist Dianne McIntyre. The “Nina Simone Project” consists of nine pieces of music by Nina Simone, interpreted and staged by McIntyre, with the help of narration by Regina Taylor. It illustrates the life of the artist by conceptualizing her personal narrative and the tales of her songs, while confronting the universality of the concepts.

It began with Taylor, with her deep and alluring voice, describing the beginning of Simone’s life. Then a video component started that seemed superfluous and like a last thought, design-wise. Once the dancing started, however, and it transitioned between the different pieces of music, the choreography stood out through the  quality of the dancers and McIntyre’s organization. She used the music and the dancers to the best of their abilities.

The simple, and straightforward quartet in “Color is a Beautiful Thing” laid out the plot of the piece and seamlessly flowed into the dynamic and sexy “Be My Husband,” which utilized risky moments of suspension, flying tosses and lifts. “Backlash Blues” picked up on the universal theme of race issues in cities. “Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter” marked both the highlight of the performance and an unfortunate change in theme, emotion and movement. It’s a confident play between the sexes that is simultaneously comic and tragic, but it is followed up by an exuberant ensemble piece that left questions unanswered.

The project has a promising start, hits a few obstacles in its ending pieces, and becomes a saturated work of narrative gospel. But it memorializes and introduces people to Nina Simone in an entertaining way.

A full version of this review will be printed in the June issue of Art+Culture Magazine.