The past, present and future in dance was celebrated during the August Wilson Center for African American Culture’s Black Dance Festival.

The three-day festival—which ran from Nov. 4-6—featured some of the best dance groups on the scene including Deeply Rooted, Rennie Harris Puremovement, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Ailey II and the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble.

(Photos by J.L. Martello)

“What a privilege for the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble to share the stage with acclaimed Ailey II, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Rennie Harris Puremovement and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. I believe you will be inspired by these incredible dance companies as we celebrate the past, present and future of African-American dance,” said Greer Reed, artistic director of dance initiatives at the August Wilson Center.

To say that the audience was inspired by the cluster of dance groups was an understatement.

The audience was transported to another time and place through the graceful dance moves presented by the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. Their “Wild is the Wind” and “Ferrotype Excerpt: Tleftraeh” pieces told a poignant story of transformation and seemed to tell a story of slavery, love and triumph. The Chicago-based dance company’s mission is to re-imagine and diversify the aesthetics contemporary dance by bringing together modern, classical and African-American traditions in dance.

The August Wilson Dance Ensemble took the audience on a sensual, futuristic journey with its rendition of “Function.” The seven-member group showcased, clean, fluid lines. The vision for the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble is to provide a bridge in the regional dance community, reaching across ethnic and socio-economic lines to bring different dancers of different backgrounds and different styles together to celebrate the diversity of dance.

The phenomenal evening ended with the powerful Ailey II, which uses African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues to explore the deepest recesses of the soul.

The four dance numbers that Ailey II did paid homage to choreographer Alvin Ailey. “Revelations,” which originally debuted in 1960, is one of Ailey’s most popular performances.

“Pilgrim of Sorrow,” took the audience on an emotional ride from empathy to jubilation. “Take Me the Water” had a processional churchy feel as the dancers taught the audience the gospels through the beauty that is dance and “Move, Members, Move” brought the audience to it its feet and brought the dancers out for an encore.

The Ailey II dance company emerges the spirit and energy of the country’s best young dance talent with the passion and creative vision of today’s most outstanding choreographers. Ailey II was started in 1974 as the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble. It embodies Ailey’s pioneering mission to establish an extended cultural community that provides dance performances, training and community programs for all people. To date, it is one of the most popular dance companies in the United States.

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