"35 Minutes of Dance" was the title of Akua Femi's program at the African Heritage Center on Saturday evening. In that short time span, the young choreographer showed seven dances lasting from two to six minutes. They were cool but committed, concentrated but not crowded, focused works of considerable individuality.
Sometimes, Femi's dancers would open but flatten the upper torso, like figures in an Egyptian relief. Or, they pushed the left side and then the right forward in alternation, like African tribal dancers. The stork stance was a frequent pose, and Femi favored whirling dervish turns as well as the bacchante's running leap with arms raised and head bowed. She used the floor for throbbing movements of debasement.
These diverse elements were made to match by sharp phrasing, and applied to a contemporary subject matter. One dance dealt with urban "dirt dwellers." tIn a shattering passage, a woman crawled off on her back, contracting the torso and clawing the floor. Her abrupt force was akin to Mary Wigman's famous "Witch Dance." In another piece, a man and woman were attracted like magnets, and then replaced by two women whose different erotic dreams evolved into a duet of sleep-walking and ritual.
Femi isn't yet consistent in the degree of stylization she imposes on a dramatic subject, and it might help to include in the program the poems that accompany some of the works, because the dancers' enunciation tends to be winded. The music for reed, percussion and bass fiddle by Rahman, McBee and Anderson, like Femi's choreography, used modern and ethnic ideas to create a consonant and often haunting style.