There’s been a lot of discussion lately about race and dance. The latest issue of Pointe magazine has three black ballerinas on its cover. And while there were no black ballerinas at Saturday’s CityDance DREAMscape gala, there were dancers of color doing everything else, and what was so gratifying about the evening was that it never felt like “diversity night.” Rather, it seemed that co-producer Rasta Thomas had sought out the best guest artists he could in every genre, and by extension, dancers of every skin tone ended up onstage.
For the second year, CityDance rented out the Lincoln Theatre and put on the gala to support the free after-school classes it offers at six city schools. Virtuosic duets are a staple of dance galas, and of the eight on Saturday’s program, the best was easily Sasha Janes’s “Lascia,” performed by Pete Leo Walker and Anna Gerberich of the Charlotte Ballet. Granted, Walker is a beast and Gerberich is his offstage partner, but Janes creates lifts that you won’t see anywhere else. “Lascia” was his first ballet, made for himself and the woman who is now his wife. It’s set to a languid Handel aria, and at one point, both dancers loll on the floor. Walker slowly rises, and even though both dancers have their arms outstretched, he balances Gerberich across his back.
Two duets featuring members of Philadanco easily overshadowed one performed by dancers from Ailey II. Ulysses Dove’s well-crafted “Bad Blood” opens with Janine Beckles and Adryan Moorefield seated on a bench, but this is no meet-cute pas de deux. Beckles and Moorefield take turns ignoring each other, and when they do connect, they’re fierce, with a recurring theme of spinning in and out of lifts like tumultuous lovers. “When Dawn Comes,” featuring Moorefield and Jennifer Jones, was equally unsentimental.
But this wouldn’t have been a gala without some schlock, and that came courtesy of Thomas’s company, the Bad Boys of Dance. The adult audience went wild for their shirtless torqueing to Michael Jackson and failed to notice that the CityDance students did a better job of staying in sync.
Far more deserving of applause was the Washington Ballet’s Brooklyn Mack, who performed a fireworks finale from “Le Corsaire.” About 60 students were in the balcony during the first half of the gala, and they squealed for every jeté or high-fan kick. These moves are somewhat standard in professional dance, but the youthful enthusiasm was infectious. Keep on dancing, kids, and someday you can do the same.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.