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Dance of Art: Ensemble Performance Based on Jacob Lawrence Art

(Posted January 29, 2007)

The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company used four choreographers to create the dance suite honoring artist Jacob Lawrence

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- One of the nation's most vibrant dance ensembles, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, will bring images from the paintings of famed African-American artist Jacob Lawrence to life at Juniata College in "colorography, n. The Dances of Jacob Lawrence," at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 8 in Rosenberger Auditorium in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on the Juniata campus. `
For tickets and information about the Juniata College Presents series, please call (814) 641-3608. General admission tickets for single performances are $20, except where otherwise noted. Single-show tickets for seniors over age 65 and children age 18 and under are $12. Juniata College students are admitted free with a student ID.
The program features dances choreographed by four acclaimed contemporary artists: Donald Byrd, Rennie Harris, Reggie Wilson and the Dayton group's chief choreographer Kevin Ward. Divided into four segments, the program allows each choreographer, using movement and video projection, to illuminate some of Lawrence's most dazzling paintings, including "The Migration of the Negro (1941)," "Harriet Tubman," "The Lovers," "John Brown," "Alice and Her Tormentors" and "The Wounded Man."
Jacob Lawrence is known for vibrantly colored, minimalist paintings that use abstract imagery to convey the African-American experience in the United States. He first came to prominence in 1941, when Fortune magazine published his narrative series "The Migration of the Negro." The series, which depicted the modern-day African-American migration from the agricultural South to the industrial cities of the North, brought Lawrence in the artistic spotlight. He continued to produce art until his death in 2000 at age 92.
His work is in more than 200 museums across the country, including locally at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Loretto, Pa. He received the national Medal for the Arts and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company was founded in 1968 by Jeraldyne Blunden, who received a MacArthur "genius" grant in 1994 for her work with the company. The company has a large repertoire of modern dances, many created by some of the most acclaimed African-American choreographers in the country, including Bill T. Jones, Bebe Miller and Donald Byrd.
The company has premiered such important works as "Children of the Passage," (1999) and "The Flight Project" (2003) based on the Wright Brothers' first flight.
The choreographers for the Jacob Lawrence project bring different styles to the program. Donald Byrd worked with the Alvin Ailey Dance Center before forming his company Donald Byrd/The Group, where he created "The Harlem Nutcracker." He also choreographed the Broadway musical "The Color Purple."
Rennie Harris, artistic director of Rennie Harris PureMovement, focuses his group's work on hip-hop dance. The Philadelphia-based group performed at Juniata several years ago.
Reggie Wilson is the director of the Fist and Heel Performance Group, and has choreographed works for the Dance Theater Workshop, jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors.
Kevin Ward joined the Dayton troupe in 1980 and is currently artistic director and choreographer for the group. He previously performed with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Cincinnati Ballet.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.