Last year, while walking along Shermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn, I came across a building I had never seen before. In the window were large-scale photos of dancers in action. I wondered what this was all about. I solved the mystery several weeks ago, when, on a whim, I picked up a copy of local newspaper The Brooklyn Eagle. The article which caught my eye was "Brooklyn Ballet Presents 'Roots and New Ground'" and was accompanied by a photos of a classical ballet dancer dancing with a hip hop dancer. LINK
The article opened: Brooklyn Ballet Founder and Artistic Director Lynn Parkerson explains: "Roots and New Ground" brings together artists working in a variety of traditional dance and music forms - ballet, African, Celtic, Middle Eastern, urban vernacular, modern and jazz. We're finding connections, blurring boundaries and honoring great traditions. Old is the new 'new!"
I decided to go to the performance. What a treat! One of my favorite pieces was "Snap," a duet for a robot and his reacher set to Temu Bacot's funk music.
What I noticed straight off was the racial and age diversity of both the audience and the dancers. There were lots of children there, many of whom were sitting up front on thickly stacked orange mats. In the theater itself, there was little physical space between the the dancers and the audience; this set-up contributed to a more intimate performer-audience connection than the typical theater generally allows. Being so close to the dancers really brought their facial and bodily expressions into sharp focus and allowed the personality of each performer to shine through.
At the end of the performance, Brooklyn Ballet Founder/Director Lynn Parkerson invited people to stay for a Q and A session with the choreographers of the different pieces presented in the show. I asked the panel: "Do you allow dancers to have input into the choreography?" Michael "Big Mike" Fields answered "Yes, it's a lot like basketball. You can guide the players but then you gotta let them play." Matthew Powell answered that he, too, allowed dancer input into choreography. His reasoning behind that practice? "Dancers are like snowflakes; no two are alike."
I'm excited to learn more about and keep returning to The Brooklyn Ballet. I am heartened to know about a community-based dance company that brings all kinds of people together in meaningful, collaborative ways that honors each person's contribution to the creative process.
Please do check out the Brooklyn Ballet's website to check out all their offerings, which include classes, workshops, and performances.