In the Face of Fear Places Front and Center the Foundational Contributions of Black Art in Atlanta
Photos by Julie Yarbrough of Veronica Silk's piece
On Saturday October 29th and 30th, Zachary Todd presented “In the Face of Fear,” at The B Complex in Southwest Atlanta. Part of Atlanta’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs’ two-month-long schedule of arts events in Atlanta, ELEVATE ATLANTA, Todd’s curation of contemporary dance works for In the Face of Fear created a fittingly celebratory air for the closing of the programming. Featuring eight established and emerging choreographers and dancers, either born or based in Atlanta, In the Face of Fear placed front and center the foundational contributions of Black art that formatively shapes Atlanta’s arts and culture.
Beginning the evening was Zachary Todd himself, performing "Remembering Tomorrow," a solo choreographed by Dom Kinsey that was both deft and architectural. Todd moved in and out of a solitary spotlight on center stage, allowing spirals, reaching extensions, and rhythmic swaying to carry him through the piece. By the end, there felt a weariness but not complete exhaustion in his spirit—signifying refusal to give up amid the exhaustion.
The second piece "Work in Progress" came from choreographer Kareem Best. The contractions, clean lines, high releases, and swirling attitude turns felt like they took inspiration from Ailey but lived in a contemporary world of their own set to tracks by John Legend and Kanye West. After performing a solo filled with power and emotion, Best returned to the stage, embracing each dancer. At the moment the dancers collectively embraced, the performance became more raw, the movement looser, as if breaking everything down. At the end, dancers waved their hands high to the right side of the stage, waving them as they exited as if in testimony to the release that just happened for performers and audience members alike.
Javon Moore and Pamela Riddle then performed “Deception of Eden,” choreographed by Veronica
Silk. The dueting partners’ movements vacillated between reflecting the cold utility of their jumpsuit costumes and a deep tenderness that can only be found between two people with deep intimacy. In one poignant moment, Moore embraced Riddle and slowly released her, and she lusciously dipped into the backspace as he held his cheek to her abdomen. There were daring lifts and effortless contact throughout the piece, ending with a longing and heartbreaking separation.
Indya Child’s “Tokoliana” closed out the first act with high energy. The dancers began the piece in a circle, a theme throughout the work, breathing and grounding together. The women then went on a joyous journey. Incorporating movement from the African diaspora, the dancers jumped up in pikes and released into daring backbends. Along the way, the dancers shouted words and sounds of encouragement and praise to their fellow performers to keep the energy at a near peak for the duration of the performance. In one moment of rest, the dancers became more quiet, reflecting on words that called for healing by listening to the ancestors through the body and calling for the end of white supremacy before breaking back out into a kinetic finale.
Opening the second act was Kayleigh Woodruff’s “Undaunted.” Featuring dancers from the Gibson Repertory Ensemble, the choreography showed off their incredible technique with flawless pirouettes, leaps and arabesques. The piece began with a satisfyingly magnetic solo. More women joined the stage as the piece progressed, running to the swelling strings and breaking out into precise unison and counterpoint phrase work, swaying through voluminous reaches and extensions. At the end, the dancers rushed to sit at the foot of the stage, giving one final look to the audience to assert their power.
Thulani Vereen then performed her stunning solo, “Woman.” The light came in and out in the opening moments, catching Vereen in various stages of moving in and out of the floor. Throughout the piece, her arm carriage created layers and textures to the air around her as she glided through and ate up the space with effortless grace and efficiency. She released into her backspace with regality. And at one moment, she dropped into a deep center split, catching herself just before hitting the floor and without touching the ground, pulled her feet underneath her with assuredness and easy confidence.
Zuri Ford presented "HOUZD" alongside Danielle Swatzie in her Atlanta choreographic debut. Ford and Swatzie wandered onto the stage in a fog, literally and figuratively, wrapped in thick comforters and dressed in pajamas. The dancers slowly emerged from their slumber but into a quarantine fever dream. The trance-y, house-inspired electronica music, created by Ford’s brother Myles Ford, crescendoed into a frenzy as the dancers tossed and turned in their beds. When they emerged from their beds, the dancers’ stayed separated through grounded and athletic movement phrases coupled with frantic and exasperated gestures. The piece reached an apex as the music cut to a splittingly high pitch as the dancers threw fists down from against their temples as if to force the ongoing nightmare to end.
Xavier Demar’s moving “As She Goes” closed out the show. A tribute to the recent passing of Demar’s grandmother, the choreography softly propelled the dancers through swaying canons, their movements passing like waves through one another. The dancers threw their fists in the air as the tides changed, grasping and collapsing to ethereal and mournful music. The dancers fueled their movements through breathwork, exhaling, and sighing through the release of grief. The dancers lay flowers at a corner of the stage, and one dancer, Dom Kinsey, yearned to return to the memorializing site. At first, the other dancers held her back, eventually leaving her to process on her own, though it was clear through the support of the cast and the spirit of the life lost that she was not alone.