- Alan Kimara Dixon
- Students from North Carolina School of the Arts performed in Juel D. Lane's "Touch and Agree," as part of the mixed program "Juel D. Lane and Friends."
"A Night of Choreography with Juel D. Lane and Friends" was the type of evening that should happen all the time in Atlanta. Seasoned dancers shared the stage with students, new work premiered alongside older favorites, pieces included a great range of solos, duets and group work, huge institutions sent dancers to perform with independent artists, and Atlanta choreographers worked with artists from around the region and the nation. Oh, and there was fantastic dancing involved, too.
The mixed program played for one night only last Thursday, May 10, at the Southwest Performing Arts Center. Atlanta choreographer Juel D. Lane recently made a bit of Atlanta dance history when he became the first independent Atlanta-based choreographer ever to be commissioned by the Atlanta Ballet in March, and the evening was a way of celebrating and saying thank you to the teachers, mentors, colleagues, collaborators, dancers and choreographers who have helped him along the way.
Especially memorable was Lane's opening solo, an energetic tour de force in which the dancer combined broad smooth, almost classical, arcs with more abrupt, rhythmic moves. New York choreographer Camille A. Brown showed pieces of her new work "The Real Cool," which examines stereotypes of black performers in the media: she moved robotically in white gloves and tweed jacket to a slow jazz version of "What a Wonderful World," creating a sharp, but wistful satire of enduring images of black entertainers. Atlanta choreographer Ursula Kendall Johnson displayed her facility with group arrangements in "Breathe," as her female dancers pulsed and shifted to the organic soundscape by Atlanta musician Quentin "EQ" Johnson. Dancers of the Atlanta Ballet reprised Lane's "Moments of Dis," also with music by Johnson, and the piece's funky, retro, dramatic energy came across again as it had at its premiere at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in March. Especially impressive was work by Lane's students at the North Carolina School of the Arts, particularly an opening duet for two men. To Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," the pair seemed to act out a troubled relationship, one that vacillated between the romantic and the adversarial, with Cooke's lyrics taking on a double meaning: "Now I find myself wanting to marry you and take you home."
In all, it was exciting to see so much talent in Atlanta and to see the sold-out audience respond with so much enthusiasm. We'd be lucky if Lane gave us more evenings with friends like these.