It's difficult to keep up with the high energy of this film. The excerpts that are included are a jam session of such intensity that they make you stand up and cheer, marvel out loud and vibrate to the rhythm.
The film documents a festival that took place at the Brooklyn Academy of Music over a four-day period in 1983, so you know you're getting a pretty concentrated distillation of what took place. And no one gathering could hope to fully cover a field so rich as black dance.But there are unforgettable moments from legendary dancers, including historic footage of Katherine Dunham and flashbacks to early film footage that show the ancestral roots of typical black dances, while they are being performed by their modern counterparts - cakewalk, lindy, break dance, twist, turkey trot and Charleston.
Unforgettable is the word for "The Ostrich," a slow, puissant solo with incredible winglike arm movements from the Charles Moore Dance Theatre; and that company's recreation of Dunham's "Shango" gives insight into her potent ability to underlay classical dance form with primitive compulsion.
Moving and shaking at dizzying speeds is the forte of the Garth Fagan Bucket Dancers and Chuck Davis Dancers. Both directors took on mostly dancers of phenomenal natural talent, not necessarily professionally trained, and the results are not only astounding, but one feels very close to the true African well-springs.
Mama Lu Parks' Jazz Dancers do a stunning lindy hop, and the Jazzy Double Dutch Jumpers give new meaning to speedy coordination in a dazzling jump-rope display. The Magnificent Force's break dance act is made more fascinating by flashbacks to ancestral street dancers, in the early days of film. Soloists of consummate virtuosity include Eleo Pomare ("Junkie"), Chuck Green (tap dance), Leon Jackson and Halifu Osumare (cakewalk and Juba). Jazz bands such as Dejan's Olympian Brass Band add the perfect complement.
How can you complain about the Alvin Ailey Company? But that's what I'm going to do. Not their virtuosity, or their rightful place in such company - just their poor judgment in closing a video of such "excitement, color, rhythm, energy and pride" (true words from the brochure) with "Fontessa and Friends."
This is a vehicle for the every-lovely Donna Woods to show off as glamour girl and call in colleagues who spoof ballet, body-building, and formalities of the dance world at self-indulgent length. "Fontessa" would be a good program number as part of a four-day festival. To close an 87-minute video of such concentrated scope as this, they should have danced "Revelations."