Review in St. Petersburg Times

The Uncomfortable Truth

[Originally posted by John Fleming in the St. Petersburg Times' Critics Circle arts blog on June 16, 2010]

‘In the program note for Jennifer Archibald’s new dance, The Uncomfortable Truth, there’s a statement about seven young women examining their relationships with their mothers and breaking free of “the chains of limiting belief patterns and societal or religious conditioning that have traditionally kept women suppressed….” All very solemn and politically correct. But what happened onstage was more in keeping with another statement in the program by Maya Angelou:

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”

And the seven performers of Archibald’s hip-hop Arch Dance Company did just that, getting the Florida Dance Festival off to a dazzling start Tuesday night in Theatre I of the University of South Florida in Tampa. The Uncomfortable Truth is an hourlong epic of nearly continuous action to a heady score of percussive rhythms, electronic blips and bleeps and rock, punctuated with spoken snippets (by the dancers, presumably) on tape about daughter-mother relationships. “My mother taught me to be independent” was a typical remark in the grungy mix.

All dressed in gray tights and green sleeveless tops, the young dancers — Archibald, Clara Belenus, Misuzu Hara, Jennifer Roit, Shayne Staley, Tanesha Sumerset and Mei Yamanaka (above) — were like tightly coiled bundles of high energy, their movement ranging from acrobatic slides and cartwheels to herky-jerky, hyperkinetic arm and hand gestures to the occasional balletic arabesque. Archibald’s choreography gave each dancer her time in the spotlight with virtuosic little solos, and when they all came together for big ensemble numbers, it was thrilling.

The Uncomfortable Truth has something powerful to say, but like a lot of dance, the meaning of it all was a bit mysterious, except that the Brooklyn-based Arch Dance is a sensational group of performers. As Angelou put it, they went out and kicked ass.

After 10 years in Miami, the Florida Dance Festival is back in its original home of Tampa, and last night’s program showed what we’ve been missing, a knockout performance by an up-and-coming company, which has always been a trademark of the festival. There are five more public performances, including David Dorfman Dance on June 24 at USF. For information see the Florida Dance Association Web site.’

Jun 16, 2010