When we first got to know Terence Greene it was in the early 1980’s, before he graduated from Cleveland School of the Arts, before his years performing and choreographing for Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and before his long tenure heading the dance program at Cleveland School of the Arts. From the first he was talented and hard-working, but success in the performing arts is never assured so we’ve been surprised and pleased at his successes over the years, most recently at New Beginnings, a Summer Intensive Concert at Tri-C East’s Mandel Theatre last July.
Most dance recitals are mostly a must to avoid but Greene presented his 100 Introductory, Beginning, and Intermediate students in a performance that was not only genuinely entertaining, but spoke to impressive accomplishments over the 3-week Intensive. We’ll describe some of the dances here and conclude with some speculation about the future trajectory of Greene and his latest vehicle, GreeneWorks Project.
We’ve always been struck by the fierce energy of Greene’s work, but it hit us anew when the curtain went up on the first dance of the concert, Hidden, performed by the Intermediate Dancers. And the 2nd dance, Thought Behind Pointe, sustained this energy even though it was performed by the Beginner Dancers.
Finding our seats before the concert, we’d exchanged greetings with Ballet Mistress Kay Eichman, someone we’d known as a mainstay performer with Dennis Nahat’s Cleveland Ballet and as a ballet teacher. “Will we get to see your students dance?” we asked. “They’re all my students,” she replied. Good news, because that means that every student in the intensive takes ballet; they might not become ballet dancers but they will become better all-around dancers with better lines and better turns.
So in a sense the entire concert is also a showcase for Eichman’s teaching, but she choreographs one number, the 3rd dance, The Mighty Handful, for 6 Intermediate Dancers and 3 Greene regulars, Phillip Williams, Emani Drake, and Demetrius Lee. In The Mighty Handful, Eichman and her dancers show that ballet too can provide crowd-pleasing pyrotechnics. Sky-scraping kicks. Tight and fast air tours for the men. Wow!
By the way, Eichman and Greene are both gone from the faculty of Cleveland School of the Arts. Let’s hope that this is not a lapse back into the credentialed incompetence that characterized CSA’s dance faculty too often in the past.
The 4th dance, Glow, was choreographed and costumed by Jessica Spurlock on the (young, very young) Introductory Dancers. We knew better than to expect impressive dance skills – cute and earnest is about all that one can hope for with such young dancers — but we were surprised and pleased to see how successfully Spurlock had organized her young dancers around group effects and a simple but effective solo by a very young dancer. Bravo!
The 5th dance, Elegie, featured music by Gabriel Faure (Is this Elegie Op 24? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hUJKqHTOEI) performed live for this concert by Emanuela Friscioni on piano and Eleanor Pompa, her daughter, on cello. Greene choreographed and takes the costume credit for some striking, well executed black costumes evocative of the late 19th, early 20th century. The 3 or 4 women wore long dresses with fitted bodices and long, fitted sleeves; the 2 men, frock coats. The dancing included much Martha Graham technique executed with dramatic urgency. We watched it imagining laments and eulogies at the gravesite of a loved one, though we doubt that Greene and his dancers had specific characters and story in mind.
Mme Friscioni is an artist of international reputation and a faculty member at Cleveland Institute of Music as well as Director of Tri-C’s Creative Arts Academy. Her apparent buy-in to the program’s mission of arts education for under privileged youth bodes well for the long-term prospects for the Creative Arts Academy.
Sad to say, a whole lot of tap dancing being performed today by both beginners and advanced tappers makes us wonder if tap even has a place on the stage any more. And then there’s Duke, a tap dance set to Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) as recorded by Club Des Belugas. The Beginning Dancers performed with rhythmically precise, unison arm movements, tapping as they turned, rendering the dance 3 dimensional. We tip our top hats to Choreographer /Costumer Jessica Spurlock, for we haven’t been so entertained by a tap number since Dorrance Dance performed at CPT DanceWorks. (http://coolcleveland.com/2016/04/dance-review-dorrance-dance-cptcle-danceworks-by-elsa-johnson-victor-lucas/)
In the 7th dance, D-67, choreographer Michael Medcalf remembers the 1967 Detroit Riot, also known as the 12th Street Riot, on its 50th anniversary. The title, D-67, might seem too subtle a reference to Medcalf’s subject but there was nothing subtle about the photographs projected on the backdrop as the dance began, photographs of the fires, the destruction and the loss of life. Music for D-67, 1960 What? by jazz singer Gregory Porter, also makes Medcalf’s intended subject crystal clear. Described by The Guardian as “an urgent political anthem with punch,” 1960 What? was originally released on Porter’s album, Water, in 2010 but became better known when club-style remixes started coming out. As the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Riot and the release of the movie Detroit rolled around in the summer of 2017, the time for D-67 had arrived.
Having made his subject clear, Medcalf put 14 of the Dance Academy’s Apprentices, Junior Apprentices, and Intermediate Dancers to work on the 9-minute dance which begins with an eye-catching unison vamp, follows the structure of the music with dancing trios, duets, and solos entering and exiting with the instrumentalists of Porter’s group, and ends with a recap of the unison vamp.
In a concert of outstanding dances, D-67 stands out for its complexity and its political content. Kudos as well to Technical Director Brad Bunn and his staff for vivid projections in Hidden and D-67 and for a technically pristine concert.
And so it went for 15 dances in a fast-paced concert that ran 2-hours including a 10-minute intermission. Phillip Williams, a long-time student of Greene who’s listed as Assistant and Rehearsal Director, choreographed a clearly conceived dance for 12 Intermediate Dancers. Emani Drake, another long-time student of Greene’s, also performed in this piece and provided considerable leaven throughout the concert.
Greene and the majority of his students are African-American but it’s worth mentioning that the Academy includes white and Asian students and they too got a chance to shine in this concert.
This was the 3rd Summer Intensive Dance Academy. We understand from our reading that, thanks to a $300K grant from The Cleveland Foundation, the program is expanding and going year around. We’re optimistic that this program can provide quality dance education for many Clevelanders. Long term, could this become a school as large as the one Cleveland Foundation’s Ronn Richard envisions, including thousands of students? And could a successful dance academy become part of the infrastructure for the local dance company that Greene envisioned in his 2014 concert, Dancing on the Edge? (http://coolcleveland.com/2014/07/dance-on-the-edge-with-terence-greene/)
The Tri-C Creative Arts Dance Academy presented New Beginnings, their summer intensive concert at 7:30pm Saturday 7/15/2017.
To learn more about Tri-C Creative Arts Dance Academy go to (http://www.tri-c.edu/arts-and-entertainment/creative-arts-academy/index.html)
Learn more about Terence Greene and GreeneWorks Project at http://greenewp.com/.