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Jack Anderson

Rod Rodgers: Continuing

Ensemble in "Jazz Fusions."
Rod Rodgers Dance Company
Closed June 10, 2006
Evenings at 7:30 p.m.
Abrons Art Center, Harry DeJur Playhouse, Henry Street Settlement, 466 Grand Street
Information: (212) 674-9066
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, June 11, 2006

Rod Rodgers, a longtime presence on the downtown dance scene, died in 2002. But his Rod Rodgers Dance Company, now directed by Kim Grier, remains a presence there. A festival called "The Dance Legacy Continues" proved that Rod Rodgers Dance Company seeks to be a continuing presence.

Ensemble in "Uh'man of the See-Line Woman"

Events included a benefit, June 8, at the company's recently renovated studios at 62 East Fourth Street, which it co-owns with the Duo Theater, and performances, June 9-10, at the DeJur Playhouse, including a Student Concert by the East Village Dance Project, led by Martha Tornay (based on classes at the Rodgers Studios), a Youth Program Concert, and performances by the Rodgers company itself.

Three pieces, June 9, were by Rodgers. "Jazz Fusions," with music by Leon Parker, was notable for contrasts between rooted movements for the troupe's men and fluid swayings for the women. "Fredome! Freedom…" had a choral score by Coleridge Taylor Perkinson based on a poem by James Russell Lowell proclaiming that "they are slaves who fail to speak for the Fallen and the Weak." But, in this staging, the stretches of soloists and the surges of groups needed more oomph.

No such problems limited "She Sayings and Soul Songs," conceived by Rodgers and completed by Grier to poetry by Nikki Giovanni and songs by Nina Simone. In the strong opening solo, Sarah Cosner appeared to strike at and push against the space around her. Movements in a women's ensemble seemed to melt the neighboring space; a duet for Nami Kagami and Jamal Green conveyed a sense of loving trust, and a solo for Grier progressed from sorrow to perseverance.

Kim Grier and Martha Tornay in "When We Were Young." Photo by Herbert Delancey.

Michael Foley, a guest choreographer, contributed "When We Were Young," a duet to excerpts from Rachmaninoff's "Vespers" in which Tornay and Grier kept reaching toward each other.

Quite clearly, the Rodgers group wants to keep reaching out. So, what next? Obviously, at its home base, it should serve the community with classes and workshops.

Kim Grier in "Fredome! Freedom..."

But as a company, what should it offer? Although only Grier and her staff can determine that, aspects of the troupe's history suggest possibilities. Rodgers, an eclectic choreographer, attracted special attention with rhythm studies in which dancers moved while playing hand-held percussion instruments, thereby acknowledging both one Central European experimental modern dance form of the 1920's and early 30's and certain venerable African and Asian forms. To stress only such works in the future would be far too limiting. Nevertheless, they suggest areas still worthy of exploration. And, of course, new works of many kinds would always be welcome.

The company should not be afraid to dare. In his own quiet way, Rodgers did just that.

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