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Black Dance Festival keeps tradition alive and vital

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
© Lois Greenfield
Philadanco! Credit: Lois Greenfield
Camille A. Brown & Dancers Credit: Christopher Duggan

Greer Reed wasn't sure when she launched the Black Dance Festival at the August Wilson Center in 2011 whether she wanted it to be an annual celebration. But the hard work of presenting a festival over several days with groups traveling to Pittsburgh to take part was fully vindicated with success. Her choice was clear.

“Last year was a huge endeavor. I was involved in lots of black dance festivals when I was dancing and learned a lot from them about how to keep black dance alive and the tradition going,” Reed says.

The August Wilson Center will present Black Dance Festival II, featuring seven dance companies performing at five events, on Friday through Sunday.

Friday night's program, which will be repeated Saturday night, will present two pieces. The August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble will perform “Breath” by Terence Greene, the story of a group struggle through life, in which breath is the rejuvenating force after hardship.

After intermission, Camille A. Brown & Dancers will revive “Mr. Tol E. Rance,” which was introduced last season at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty. Brown's piece takes inspiration from Langston Hughes' comment, “Humor is what you wish in your secret heart were not funny, but is, and you must laugh. Humor is your own unconscious therapy.”

Saturday afternoon's program is devoted to emerging companies and artists, starting with the Hill Dance Academy Theater.

“Ayisha Morgan-Lee does wonderful things with the kids in her school,” Reed says. “I thought it would be really awesome for those kids to be performing onstage at the August Wilson Center.”

The young dancers will perform “Footprints,” “Order My Steps” and “He Reigns.”

“I remember being a young dancer and getting those opportunities, standing on the stage of the Kennedy Center in awe of all the people who've danced there. I think a lot of times we don't realize the effect that has on young artists,” Reed says.

The other Saturday afternoon attractions are Greene's “Pulse,” performed by Cleveland's Urban Dance Collective; “Moments,” performed by Dance4Nia Repertory Ensemble, and “Brother,” performed by Rennie Harris RHAW.

Sunday's program is identical for matinee and evening performances. It will open with “Suite Otis” (Redding if you didn't guess) performed by Philadanco!, from Philadelphia. After intermission, the same company will dance “Wake Up” by Rennie Harris.

The August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble also will perform on both halves of Sunday's programs, offering Antonio Brown's “Unwritten” and excerpts from “New Second Line” by Brown.

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