REVIEW: Sac State dancers ‘thrive’ in line performance


Sacramento / Black Art of Dance’s dance production, “Thrive,” features several Sac State students and is available online and on demand Thursday, March 17 through Saturday, March 20 with a special version of the director’s commentary Sunday at 2 p.m. h Image Courtesy of Kevin Wilhite

From the moment it starts, it is obvious that this is no ordinary dance performance.

Camera movements and cuts in different places give the audience a place at the forefront of the adaptations that choreographers and performers have had to make to create a dance performance in an online environment.

“It looks more like a dance movie than a dance performance,” said director Bernard Brown.

Sacramento / Black Art of Dance, part of Sac State’s drama department, is a dance collective that continues the tradition of black concert dance in America, according to its LinkedIn Page. This year’s theme production on demand is “Thrive”.

RELATED: Black Art of Dance brings tradition to Sac State

“I felt it was important to look at the issues and what arises out of that darkness,” Brown said of the events of the past year. “[The theme] to thrive is to find ways to thrive within a system that seeks to help you systemically and institutionally. “

The close-ups of the dancers on stage eased the audience into the experience by showing a typical scene you would expect from a dance performance; dancers on stage move their bodies rhythmically to incredible music to evoke emotions.

The cuts are subtle at first, ranging from a single dancer on stage alone to four dancers moving simultaneously, relying on weeks of practice to time their movements to the music.

“Timing and rhythm are really important in the type of dance that we do in this concert,” Brown said. “We really had to drill the timing with the music, not the timing because [we’re] hear it.

The story continues below the video.

Most rehearsals had to be done via Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the delay associated with online meetings meant the choreographers couldn’t get all of the dancers moving at once on screen.

This problem was almost inevitable given that Brown remains in Los Angeles and none of the guest choreographers, Jade charon and Maurice watson, come from California.

RELATED: Stepping Up: How COVID-19 Affects Sac State Dance Majors

The experience of the dancers is addressed directly in the production segment of Sac State speaker Nicole Manker, Power ”, which lasted for several minutes, with seven songs and three different locations; a Zoom room with the dance spaces of the dancers on screen, an outdoor stage near the Guy West Bridge on campus and a dance stage. The performance captures the struggles that were encountered to create the production.

“There were some parts where we moved with too much individuality because we had adjusted them to fit our spaces,” said dancer Melena Mahannah. “We had to work together to keep everything in sync enough while staying six feet apart.”

Jayda Preyer, a student and dancer at Sac State, injured her ankle in January and although she recovered, she said she had to be extra careful during rehearsals as the floor in her bedroom was a lot more difficult to dance than an ordinary dance scene.

“It taught me not to limit myself as a person and as a growing artist,” Preyer said of performing in an unnatural dance production.

RELATED: Sac State student talks about his homelessness experience

Dancing is a very technical art and requires consistency in terms of floor, space and timing of movements. The dancers were able to overcome every obstacle and, like the theme of the show, thrived.

“Once we got into space together it was a joy to be able to move together again,” said Brown. “The community aspect of dance is something we will never take for granted again.”

Dance production started on Wednesday and tickets are available for online purchase until Saturday March 20. Ticket sales ceased at 9 p.m. Viewers must therefore purchase them before they can watch the show.

There will be a special version of the show’s director’s comments on Sunday at 2 p.m.

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