Dancers heat up stage in Black Spectrum contest

By Arlene McKanic

“You cannot sit on the floor!” scolded Music Director Derek Galloway from the stage. “That's rude!” Still, not everyone was able to get in.The long program – which started around 8 p.m. and didn't wind up till after 10:30 p.m. — was made up of a series of juried competitions and hosted by actor Victor French with assists by comedian Adam Phillips and Black Spectrum founder Carl Clay and the occasional crowd control appearances by Mr. Galloway. The first act featured the DeVore dancers, a crowd of adorable little girls dressed in bumblebee black and yellow who did a strenuous, semi-African dance. The hip-hop competition began after that with the LI Boogie Crew, whose appearance brought screams of joy from the audience. They were also girls – most of the dancers in the show were young girls – who danced with an angry, thrilling energy. They were followed by the Split Personalitiez, who did their thing to a quirky medley of music, including the theme to the Meow Mix commercial, Peggy Lee's “Fever” and “The Love You Save,” which featured a little girl strutting across the stage in a huge Afro wig. A sort of narrative seemed to accompany the routine. Now and then the sound of sirens sent the dancers, which included a few boys, fleeing. Their successors, Genesis Dance, were truly professional and synchronized, which is tough to do, given all that breaking. They were followed by Da Firm, who featured their boy dancers first.”Jonathan!””Go Chris! Go Chris!””Go Peter!” Screamed their fans as they went through their frenetic paces.Clay then presented the Pioneer Awards with help from Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who promised that next time the event would be held in the larger venue of York College.Clay read a proclamation from U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), and then the pioneers, who have contributed to Queens' dance legacy were honored with cheers and standing ovations. They were Tiffany Mussenden, who accepted for her grandmother; Bernice Johnson, Kim Wright, who accepted for Gloria Jackson; and Adrienne Brown. Caroline DeVore and Ron Kennard got the Keeper of the Flame Awards.The hip-hop competition was decided on the basis of originality, entertainment value and energy, by judges Dyane Harvey of the Forces of Nature; Buster Grant of the Opus Dance Theater; Jamel Gaines, artistic director of the Creative Outlet Dance Theater of Brooklyn; and Marilyn Hamilton of the Encore! Marilyn Hamilton Dance School. The verdict was: Third place for the Boogie Crew, second place for Genesis Dance and first place for Da Firm. The Edge School of the Arts then danced to a mix of up-tempo Donna Summers songs. Their routine began with three girls tap dancing on wooden planks laid on the stage for resonance. They were joined by a crowd of little girls in black fringed skirts, fishnet stockings with seams up the backs and bare midriffs — these were little girls, remember! But they did a lovely routine. They were followed by a crowd of synchronized tap dancers, and then by more little girls in marabou feathers and an older, mixed gender crew. Again, the crowd screamed their approval.The little girls in the feathers did the hootchie kootchie.”Oh my God, that's Carrie's daughter!” Somebody screamed.The routine ended in a whirlwind of black sequins, black marabou feathers, tap shoes and fishnet stockings.”Oh, Lord Jesus!” gasped Ms. DeVore – these weren't even her dancers. Earlier it had been pointed out to her that one of her dancers was wearing the wrong costume; she soon left the auditorium to sort that out.The Step Competition began with Phaze II from August Martin High School. They were followed by CHCC Omega Steppers, who performed part of their routine with three of the six girls blindfolded. The blindfolded dancers wowed the crowd by sweeping their legs over the heads of their kneeling colleagues. They in turn were followed by the Umoja Steppers, who were simply dressed in white T-shirts, black pants, belts and Timberland boots. While the judges were voting, the program went on to the dance mix compilation. The first act was the JJ Dance studio, who performed an African dance; the audience began to hum in anticipation just from the rattle of the gourds from behind the drawn curtains. Then the curtains parted and African dancers, in bright yellow dresses and head wraps and accompanied by frenzied drummers, exploded onto the stage to shrieks of joy from the crowd.The next act couldn't have been more different. They were a soft shoe crew from Adele's Creative Dance Center, and they wore the most beautiful of the costumes: Black velvet jumpsuits with scarlet tops edged with sequins. But they weren't your Dad's soft shoe either – they were as funky in their own way as everyone else, especially when they did that Rockette-like collapsing chorus line thing at the end. The It's Dance Residence Youth Dance Ensemble (IDRYDE) started their act with a single dancer sitting on the floor in a beige leotard. She sat for so long and looked so pained that I began to think this was the whole act, but then she was joined by her colleagues in the same costumes. The piece was a combination African and modern that was mesmerizing and sensational. The Lucile Hill Theatre of Dance Movement, dressed in black with black mesh tops over gold lame held their difficult initial positions for such a long time that the audience roared in appreciation. They were followed by another spine tingling African dance by the Gloria Eve Performing Arts Foundation.The winners for the step dancing were: Third place for Phaze II, second place for the Omega Steppers and first place for the Umoja Steppers.The evening finally ended, as it began, with the DeVore Dance company. The girls came on with folding chairs and did a number on and around them like Cyd Charisse – it was almost inappropriate. At the end they daintily folded up the chairs and walked offstage. Then the younger dancers rushed out in African costumes to more feverish African drumming. When they were through the mix compilation winners were announced: Third Place went to Lucile Hill, second to Gloria Eve, and first place went to IDRYDE.The show was over.”It is the arts that let us know that we have humanity,” said Clay, who then gave a bouquet to Caroline DeVore, who'd just come back from downstairs to receive it. This is but the first of what is slated to be an annual tribute.

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