Dallas — Reviving works from the late Eleo Pomare, Beckles Dancing Company shared Pomare Plus at the South Dallas Cultural Center with an eager audience. Packed with nine numbers, the show featured a wide variety of styles with work from both Pomare and Artistic Director Loris Anthony Beckles. The evening included guest performers in addition to the younger company members. Beckles noted in the program that his company members range from twelve to forty-six years of age—a challenging age gap. But by weaving their experiences together, they produced a provoking program.
An excerpt from Sweet Suite opened the performance with the whole cast of Beckles Dancing Company. As dancers in red velvet tops and black leggings jazz-walked onto the stage, I was instantly aware of the tight space of the black box theater. The intimate nature of the setting seemed too small for the larger cast and their expansive extensions. The sassy music begged for more expression and confidence from the younger movers.
Meanwhile, the smaller space was perfect for a Kiss in Deep Time, an excerpt from Some Sundiata. Soloist Lela Bell Wesley slowly crossed the stage in a diagonal line through a series of arching arms, oozing undulations, and sultry steps. Moving in and out of shadow, her deep releases and swaying upper body created a dreamy tone. Matched with the calming spoken word playing above, this piece embodied a softer, more mature atmosphere.
For Almostnudeants, a work in progress, BCD returned to the stage in various shades of black. In an intriguing beginning, the dancers moved in individual solos sprinkled throughout the space. Intermingled with stillness, the contrast amongst the short solos and stark holds made for a stunning visual effect.
Moving into a duet between guest artists of Terrance J. Johnson Dance Project’s Tristan Rodney and Anthony Wade Jr., Claret Tango played with themes of masculinity, relationship, and power. Rodney and Wade held angular extensions and contracted upper bodies true to Graham technique. Referring back to the tango music, the two twisted together in partnering sections in between sharp turns and long, deep second holds. I wished for more chemistry between the duet to match the intensity of the music and choreography.
NightSpell was the first Pomare work of the evening. Tristan Rodney truly shone in this emotionally charged solo. Circling arms interrupted by quick elbow jabs added texture to the otherwise smooth, reaching steps. Rodney’s fluidity was most present in his rolling, falling, and pushing in and out of the floor. Ending in silence, he beat his body percussively with an intense focus that revealed experience and maturity.
Duettino, a short duet between Lacy Brent and Kaleb Smith, felt tame in comparison to the previous piece. Traditional partner work paired with classical modern technique had the potential for a beautiful duet, however the lack of connection between the dancers led to more controlled, monotonous tone.
Returning to Pomare’s work, Out of the Storm introduced a solo work portrayed by Wade. Dynamic and powerful, Pomare’s choreography contained big lunges, lengthy arabesque holds, and teetering tilts. Wade attacked his work with confidence and precision.
After intermission, guest performer Donna Clark of Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company tackled one of Pomare’s most well-known and controversial works: Narcissus Rising. Under a single light, Clark appeared in a scandalous array of black leather. Motorcycle sounds echoed throughout the theater as she rocked from side to side in a weighted slowness. Imitating a biker gang member, her oiled body radiated attitude as she squatted low with arms angled to hold the imaginary handles in front of her. As the speed of the soundtrack increased, split panel red and green lighting displayed Clark’s shadowed outline while she began to hit her body percussively. A crashing sound signaled a strobe light that captured her jumping, falling, and flailing in rapid succession. While the piece was originally created for a male performer, Clark performed her role with spectacular dedication and commitment.
The evening ended with Beckles’ Percussion Discussion. Returning to a more subdued modern technique, dancers in black costumes with red accents circled together for a series of side bends, swirling arms, and off center tilts. Despite the impressive choreography, the dancers never quite matched the dramatic dynamic of the music.
The ambitious program touched on an assortment of choreographic, thematic, and structural ideas. Pomare Plus successfully merged younger dancers with more seasoned movers without disrupting the flow of the evening.