Friday, March 18, 2005

REVIEW: Sandra Organ Dance Company I Have a Dream at the Hobby Center

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Choreographer Sandra Organ takes her heritage seriously. Every February, she presents a program in honor of African History month. This time around she honed in on a milestone in African American History, Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech.”

The evening began with Freedom Bytes, bite-sized dances set to the words of High School students’ writings on freedom. The text, read by children of City of Refuge church, alluded to multi cultural ideas of freedom while the innocence of the children’s voices added potency. Bytes were choreographed by Yolanda Gibbs, Robert Valenta, Richard Decker, Brea Cali, and Alessandra Herszkowicz. Each choreographer sustained interest using a very simple formula: when people are talking about freedom, the smallest movement has meaning. These straightforward choreographic sketches provided some of the most satisfying moments in of the evening.

Organ restaged Dogan, her tribute to Houston’s black newspapers and her own family history. Dogan shows off Organ’s finesse working with text and her own mature dancing.

In I Have a Dream, Organ let the words do the talking. Without any accompaniment, other than MLK’s words, the dancers found their cadence from the deep rhythms of his speech. At times, it felt like too much was going on a stage. Other times a balance emerged.

Organ was joined by a fine group of dancers. In fact, the technical level of the company has significantly improved. Yolanda Gibbs stands out in each work she performs. Her ability to elongate movement, combined with a strong technique that maintains a sense of naturalness, keeps the viewer on edge. When Gibbs takes the stage it’s hard to notice anybody else.

From the overall feeling of the evening, it appears that SODC is on an upswing. The abundance of short pieces gave the evening a slightly choppy feel. I will be curious if Organ takes her interest in meaningful text to the next level.

SODC, I Have a Dream, was presented at the Hobby Center on Feb. 17 & 18, 2005.