Wednesday, February 07, 2018

“Celebrating Black History” by Verb Ballets a study of two choreographic styles

Verb Ballets chose to highlight two young Black choreographers for its “Celebrating Black History” recent program at the Breen Center before a near sold-out performance.

Using the same company of dancers, Antonio Brown, Cleveland native and former Cleveland School of the Arts student was paired with Tommie-Waheed Evans to create the program.  Though none of the selections was particularly Black in story or music, the evening did show a difference in choreographic styles.

“Continuum (2011)” and “Passing By (2012),” both created by Brown, were upbeat, high energy pieces, danced to the choreographer’s remix, with lighting by Trad A Burns.  Both were like abstract modern paintings, had no unifying themes, storyline or a consistent dance vocabulary.  The dancers were constantly moving with energetic explosions.  Because of the pace, the performers were not always in sync, lines were sometimes staggered and movements not always precise.  The overall effect was acceptable, but not exceptional.

Evans’ pieces, both theme centered, were coherent and audience pleasing.  “Surge, Capacity, Force (2017)” based on the cry “But why, I just want to be here,” offered “a reflection on the human dimensions and increasing complexity of national security, including the physical and psychological borders we create, protect and cross in its name.” 

Evens created a vocabulary of modern dance, superimposed on balletic and gymnastic movements which translated into a dynamic explosion of creative yet disciplined movement, danced to patriotic and folk music and a webfeed of spoken words.

“Dark Matter,” the program’s highlight, told the philosophical ode of “love is not so much lost when it was never found for it to be love you must be willing to fight for it and not let it pass you by otherwise it is just a fantasy a yearning of your heart for what you’re not ready to grasp for.” 

A powerful piece, with disciplined moves, with compelling effects created by Trad A Burns lighting, it brought the audience to its feet for an extended curtain call.  Especially appreciated was the dynamic solo dancing of Omar Humphrey.

Next up for Verb:
“Havana Nights,” Friday, April 20, 2018, a benefit gala celebrating the company’s return from its residency in Cuba. 

“Spring Series,” April 27, 2018, 8 PM, E.J. Thomas Hall, Akron University.

“Dance Works 2018,” May 17-19, 2018, 7:30pm, Cleveland Public Theatre

For information and tickets go to: or call 216-397-3757.