Dance program reflects on recent black history and shows the challenges ahead

September 22, 2018

Dance program reflects on recent black history and shows the challenges ahead

 Terence Greene, program manager and artistic director for the Creative Arts Dance Academy at Cuyahoga Community College, takes a no-nonsense approach when whipping his dance ensemble into shape.

He quickly tells them to stop the chatter and focus. He’s kind of the Cecil B. DeMille of dance theatre.

But at the end of every scolding, he reminds them how much he loves them.

“I want them to learn professionalism early,” said Greene, while taking a break from rehearsals at Tri-C’s Metro Campus. “Discipline is important with everything you do.”

He’s got his job cut out for him over the next week or so, to get the 25-30 young artists ready for the debut of “MLK: The Dream Endures,” playing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Tri-C Metro Campus Mainstage Theatre, 2809 Woodland Ave., Cleveland.

The dance performance tries to convey how living in the black community is almost as challenging today as it was more than 50 years ago. The show opens with poet Orlando Watson narrating a piece titled “In the City” while the Tri-C Jazz Orchestra plays, along with its director, Dominick Farinacci.

Farinacci’s  orchestra plays throughout the show, with a screen in the background showing images from the civil rights movement.

Watson’s narration speaks of modern times and includes a roll call of some of the young black men killed by police in recent times.

Afterward, dancers gracefully move about the stage showing the dramatic scenes from the 1963 church bombing in Alabama in which four young girls were killed.

Rashawn Anderson, 25, a dance soloist, did research for his role as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Anderson won’t have a problem blending into this period role, with the soft waves in his ’do, and small, neatly trimmed mustache — he’s a good fit.

“I did research. The one thing that inspired me the most about Dr. King is the way he carried himself on a day-to-day basis,” said Anderson. “He had a lot of responsibility representing those who were in need, as well as being a husband and father.”

Toryon Abner, along with Phillip Williams, both 23, are soloists playing black men in the crowd during the unrest of the 1960s. Both obviously have no recollection of those times, but feel research would be a waste of time.

“Nothing much has changed. I live this each day,” says Abner. “The music I’m dancing to is like a jazz tempo. I feel that my message will be understood.”

Greene, who does all the choreography, has been with Tri-C for the past three years. Previously, he worked with dancers at the Cleveland School of the Arts. Watching the young artists, ages 11-26, rehearse, it’s hard to believe that it all came together only a few weeks ago. Most of the young artists are from Cleveland’s School of the Arts.

“These are my babies,” Greene said. “I’ve been working with some of the kids since the School of the Arts. Everyone in the ensemble will have a part in the play.”

Dance soloist Noreen Thomas, 26, who is black, plays one of the sympathetic white women.

“There were white women who helped the marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma,” says Thomas. “I think this entire show is super complex because there are many parts. People will get the full effect of the production once they see us in full costume.”

A contribution from the Cleveland Foundation’s Arts Mastery Initiative allows the Tri-C Dance Academy to extend the program into the community. The MetroHealth System collaborated with Tri-C on this production.

The program is part of a yearlong, citywide series of events by Tri-C and MetroHealth marking the 50th anniversary of King’s death this past April. Tickets are $15. Parking is free. For more information, call 216-987-2060.

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