Saturday, July 25, 2015

Good medicine from Reagon and Dorrance at Lincoln Center

Toshi Reagon (standing) and some members of BIGLovely
at Lincoln Center Out of Doors at Damrosch Park
(c)2015, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

All of your friends were at The Blues Project last night at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, right?

I know that's right.

And they all tweeted and posted to Facebook and text messaged and Instagrammed. And maybe you were there, too. Most likely, you were. Maybe crowding that space between the seats and the stage, for the first part of the show, and dancing your ass off. So you already know what a celebration that was.

And that's how it goes these days. You don't need me to tell you. You probably don't need any critic.

And why would you need us anyway, since we're talking Toshi Reagon and Michelle Dorrance? And Derick K. Grant and The Empress Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards? And Juliette Jones? And Allison Miller? If the collaboration between musician Reagon (with her band BIGLovely) and tap dance wiz Dorrance (with her Dorrance Dance troupe) hasn't become a sure bet by now, I don't know what has.

Opening the show with her crew, Reagon first called the audience to attention. Basically, she said everything boils down to the environment. Mess that up, and it doesn't matter who you are or where you are: We're all royally screwed. Don't vote for anyone who doesn't get that, who doesn't have environmental concerns top of mind.

"Taking care of the planet will unite all of us past our differences," she said before launching into a clap-along environmental anthem with folk and gospel gleaming through, silver and gold. "No tears will fall, no battle will call/You will miss the world you know...." The set moved on to propulsive, open-throated rock, irresistibly sinuous reggae, and much more--all the confident, stylistic interweaving for which Reagon is noted.

She got folks, young and old, up on their feet. "Don't you need to jump up and down? This is the medicine you need for the hard week we've been through," she said, as we thought about Sandra Bland, about Lafayette. "It's been a horrible week."

For medicine, she and her band brought "sunshine, still shining in the pouring rain," an optimism practiced in music without borders. In the second part of the evening, Dorrance teamed up with, and matched, Reagon and BIGLovely with her own cool blend of old and new across styles, races and genders.

The Blues Project--a suite of ensemble and solo pieces created by Dorrance, Reagon, Grant and Sumbry-Edwards--might be one of the most efficient ways to introduce your newbie friends to concert dance of any kind or to teach them, through subliminal means, what tap's all about. For sure, this is smooth, stress-free education at its finest, right in the middle of pure, nonstop entertainment by dancers giving their best. You see and hear the roots of tap in the African-Irish encounter; the virtues of both polished choreography and expressive improvisation; the comfort of the familiar paired with the kick of new angles and accents and timing; the pleasures of both refined, minimal details and expansive, rip-roaring energy. No filler, and not a bit of cornball to muck it up.

If you are one of the two or three people who did not make it to Damrosch Park last evening, make sure that you find your next chance to see the Reagon-Dorrance collaboration in action. Take your medicine.

Lincoln Center Out of Doors continues through August 9. For all the details and a schedule of events--from Joe Bataan's boogaloo to Afro-punk and Judy Collins--click here.

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