By 651 ARTS on February 23, 2016
So many years ago, Jeraldyne Blunden, founder of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC) bent on staying “Rooted in the African-American experience,” said “Man has created boundaries for race, religion, and culture. If we can get past that, we can realize that there is much more in life which connects us.” Today, Blunden’s daughter, Debbie Blunden-Diggs continues her mother’s work; the company secures the largest repertoire of classic works by African-American choreographers that arguably break down barriers and connect us. The impressive list include icons such as Asadata Dafora, Donald McKayle, Donald Byrd, and some of today’s frontrunners, Dwight Rhoden and Ronald K. Brown, to name a few. Each of them mine tradition through their dances. Dafora wanted to share his “…adaptation of the pure,” McKyle insists on being “…specific and truthful,” Brown offers a way to “… understand the human experience,” and Rhoden a way to “…shed light…entertain and move through dance.” For 651 ARTS’ Classically Black season, DCDC will present Donald Byrd’s The Geography of the Cotton Field (2014) an investigation into culture and space.
In a 1993 interview for The Los Angeles Times Byrd addressed culture, responsibility and tradition after contributing in the “Black Choreographers Moving Towards the 21st Century Festival.” He said, “…I had an opportunity to really feel like I was a part of the community that I come from. My work sometimes can be abstract and appear not to have a direct relationship to Afro-American concerns, but, in fact, it is based on that…The blackness, the Afro-Americanness.” Fittingly, in The Geography… he affirms, “…the space where we come together is full of everyone’s history and knowledge.” Separately, though together, these dance makers shape and realize platforms for what has been labeled “Black Dance” in their commitment to profess their culture through movement. For “Classically Black,” where a roster of artists is poised to “Redefine, Reposition, and Reclaiming Our Story,” DCDC will apportion their responsibility.
Jessica Lynne and DéLana R.A. Dameron reflect on ways they make a home, creatively, wherever they are.