“Celebration at 40 affirms Dimensions’ vital legacy as one of the most long-lived and fruitful products of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s,” says Deborah Vaughan, founder of Dimensions Dance Theater. “We look forward to our next phase of artistic creativity and activism.”
Over the course of its rich history, Dimensions Dance Theater has premiered more than 50 evening-length works, many created by company co-founder and artistic director Deborah Vaughan, and others by distinguished guest choreographers. For its 40th anniversary celebration Dimensions Dance Theater will showcase some of the range of its production including excerpts from My People (1973), choreographed by co-founder Elendar Barnes; Yesterday/ Yesternow (1983), choreographed by Garth Fagan; Isicathulo and Amatshe/(Can and Boot) (1988), choreographed by Dingani Lelokoane; Resilience (2000); a collaboration, Between Shores, with Omar Sosa, Zimbabwean mbira artist Stella Chiweshe, and Cuban choreographer Isais Rojas; Spirits Uplifted (2005), choreographed by Deborah Vaughan; a collaboration with Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir; Rooted In Ritual (2006), a collaboration with Haitian dance maker Peniel Guerrier; and Catalyst: One by One (2011), a multidisciplinary work featuring a commissioned score by the late composer and musician Khalil Shaheed.
The highlight of the evening’s celebration is devoted to the world premiere of all four parts of Rhythms of Life: Down the Congo Line. Rhythms of Life is one of the company’s most ambitious works to date, tracing the evolution of traditional Congolese dance forms from their birthplace onward to Brazil, the Caribbean, and finally New Orleans. Vaughan invited four dance makers with roots at various points along the Congolese diaspora to choreograph one section each: Hervé Makaya (Congo), Isaura Oliveira (Brazil), Jose “Cheo” Rojas (Cuba), and Latanya Tigner (New Orleans). Although portions of the work premiered in 2012, Dimensions Dance Theater’s 40th anniversary celebration is the first time all four sections will be performed together.
All told, Dimension’s 40th anniversary celebration will involve more than 30 artists—dancers, vocalists, and instrumentalists, including MJ’s Brass Boppers (Hurrican Katrina Survivors), Kiazi Malonga, and Brazilian, Cuban, and Congolese drum batteries. Members of the audience have an opportunity to participate in the program—whether by taking part in the opening processional, by making offerings at an altar modeled on sacred elements from the African diaspora, or by dancing at the program’s conclusion.