It was extraordinarily hot Saturday at the Dance Place, but only some of the heat could be attributed to the weather. A good deal was generated by the spirit and energy of the performances given by the D.C. Youth Ensemble and the Andrew Cacho African Drummers and Dancers. The double bill was a celebration of black heritage, with the DCYE's program focusing on black American artists and the Cacho performers on African heritage.
A seven-year-old company under the direction of Carol Foster, DCYE specializes in entertainment with a message. The center of the Dance Place program was "Tribute," an amalgam of song, dance and dramatic monologue based on playwright Lorraine Hansberry's collection of writings, "To Be Young, Gifted and Black." Hansberry's call to action, "This nation needs your gifts, perfect them," serves as both guiding principle and description of all the DCYE's programs, and this work was a rousing explication of her philosophy.
"Tribute" contained touches of anger, but the emphasis was on pride and the notion of facing up to challenge. It was a direct answer to Hansberry's cry that talent not be wasted. Members of the ensemble, who range from tots to young adults, were poised, congenial and eager to please as they belted out songs, danced up a storm and declaimed with passion. Of note were Lawrence Hilliard, who has a sweet, creamy voice, and Rolita White, a gifted "triple threat" performer -- singing, dancing and acting.
In addition to choreography by Foster and original music by Pamela Alexander, the DCYE program also featured a duet, "I Love the Lord," choreographed by alumnus Earl Bernard Lucas.
The Cacho Drummers and Dancers also gave a spirited and joyous performance of traditional ceremonial and challenge dances. Masqueraders on stilts who hopped and gamboled fantastically mingled with dancers led by Bonita Cacho, who moves with marvelous authority and freedom. Proclaiming obeisance to the drums before beginning their individual challenges, the dancers acknowledged the source of their profligate energies. Driven by these propulsive rhythms, the dancers achieved a state of ecstatic transcendence.