Los Angeles Dance Review: EMOTIONS (Blind Dance Company)

by Lara J. Altunian on August 25, 2017

in Dance,Theater-Los Angeles

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THE BLIND DANCE COMPANY’S EMOTIONAL VISION

Hydeia Muhammad’s Blind Dance Company premiered its first show, Emotions, in the Los Angeles Fashion District to a well-deserved roar of applause. Performed at a building called The Lazarus Experience, the company’s production proved that an all-blind ensemble was no miracle, but rather came to life from CRE Outreach non-profit arts organization as a result of courage, determination and a desire to push the limits of what seems possible.

The venue was small, food and drink plenty, and air conditioning nonexistent at the loft hosting the event. The featured works—from hip-hop to contemporary—were impressive for first-time dancers. In between each number, raffle-filled pauses with cute prizes gave them time to change outfits. Before every segment, they made their way back out onto the floor by holding each other’s hands or clothing, forming a line that led them to center stage. Uneven woodwork added an extra layer of complexity to their movements, which they were able to conquer without a stumble or a mid-routine falter.

An entertaining skit labeled “Emotions” about a group of high schoolers serving detention and bursting with feelings of love and rebellion kicked off the show and established a playful and touching atmosphere for the acts that followed. Each dancer took their turn performing mini solos to a slew of fun songs. Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” for instance, represented one character, Lisa (played by Natalie Gross), and her desire to show off her assets to her peers in order to prove she was the more attractive pick for the boy she and Maria (played by Sylvia Taylor) were fighting over. Gross’s freestyle was laid back as she stood from her chair and began moving her backside to the rhythm.

At times, the confinement of the space and positioning of some of the props made it difficult for anyone sitting on either side of the floor to see the full scene, especially when the troop unknowingly blocked the audience’s view of their fellow performers with their bodies. As the night went on, this became less of a problem thanks in part to the transition from group dancing to ballroom duets, which were used to personify individual emotional feelings.

The following pieces dropped the acting component and went straight into classic partner dancing with a “Pitied Love” waltz by Gross and Ronald Chism to Des’ree’s “Kissing You,” a “Hidden Passion” tango by Taylor and Kenny Lee to “Santa Maria” (author unlisted) and a “Euphoria” salsa by Gross and Taylor to DJ Rebel’s “Cuba 2012.” Muhammad’s choreography held little back with dips and turns that at times disoriented the dancers, but only briefly, as a moment’s pause allowed them to be guided back into the next step by the beat. The couples often seemed understandably unsure during many of these sections, but were able to ease into their roles and enjoy themselves toward the end of their routines.

Lee and Barbara Ford’s “Swing of Hope” to “Proud Mary” by Ike & Tina Turner was the biggest crowd-pleaser by far. Their personalities shined as they vogued to Turners’ smooth voice, losing themselves in the music. Before the dancing began, they made sly faces to indicate a flirtatious interest in one another and thereafter brought the number to life with their attitudes. Their footwork was well-synchronized in tune with the rhythm and side-to-side hip thrusts as they extended their arms in front of them and bent their wrists to choruses of Turner’s harmonized “toot, toot, toot”-s made the piece even more engaging.

Also captivating was Gross’s contemporary solo to Banks’s “Waiting Games” in the following section, “Sorrow.” Her kicks and body twists with which she lowered herself onto the floor matched the waves she made with her arms and the background hums in the song’s melody. Although her lines weren’t straight as she moved through the different positions, the fact that she was already in three other varied numbers that night and would be a part of the finale indicated strong stamina and a potential to grow into a better dancer with time and practice.

“Freedom,” the hip-hop fusion which included all cast members and closed out the show with songs by Michael Jackson (“They Don’t Care About Us”) and Beyoncé (“Formation”) was the group’s overarching message to everyone in the audience. Designed as a march for which they brought out and used their walking sticks, the steps had a lot of power as the dancers turned to face forward then to the side while stomping and grooving in place. The majority of the seven members in The Blind Dance Company are middle-aged and almost all of them lost their site later in life according to the evening’s program. For that reason, their efforts and courage to do something new were inspiring. Theirs was a genuine show of pure gumption which perfectly fulfilled their motto: “Think it! Do it! Become it!”

Emotions
Blind Dance Company
The Lazarus Experience
presented by CRE Outreach
224 E. 11th Street Loft 501, downtown
played Saturday, August 12, 2017
for future events, visit Event Brite or CRE Outreach 

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