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'Black Dance, USA' Choreography Blends Tradition and Modernity

The Clayton performance featured modern dance, traditional West African dance and martial arts.

A pastiche of dance styles. The athleticism of well-toned bodies. Remarkable choreography. All of these came together Saturday night at Clayton's Edison Theatre in Black Dance, USA, a concert by Forces of Nature Dance Theatre Company interspersed with performances by Karen Prall and Carvon “Taz” Futrell.
It was, quite often, a rousing show.

The event is sponsored by Better Family Life, a community development corporation dedicated to the prosperity and growth of the American family. The show is designed to bring together family, friends and community in a positive, safe environment and to encourage fun for the whole family.

Forces of Nature artistic director Abdel R. Salaam engineered the star performances of the evening. Salaam's choreography utilizes a unique blend of performing arts including modern dance, traditional West African dance and martial arts, all under the umbrella of high theatricality.
Spirituality, environmental health and survival of life on earth are fundamental themes in Salaam's work. At times, the performance by the New York dance company was breathtaking.
"Axis: Temple of Ice" featured a stage-sized nylon tarp undulated by dancers to resemble ocean waves. The effect allowed for some stunning moments during a simulated storm when a dancer—propelled by two male dancers—moved through the waves in a dolphin-like manner and again when she was lifted to the very top of a violent wave by dancers underneath the nylon sheet.

One section of "B Flowin'…B Smoove!" featured a serpentine move by the company of dancers that was, in a word, cool. The skilled dancers appeared to be made of rubber bands.
Forces of Nature's final program, "A Question of Modesty," was set in a small African village. Anyone who doubts that dancers must have the stamina of Olympic athletes would have been left doubt-free after this performance. The talented dancers moved at a frenetic pace that would put the most conditioned Olympian to shame.
Karen Prall's "Melange" paid tribute to the early dancers who began breaking the mold of African dance techniques and whose work has carried over into modern dance. The performance began with a singular African drum and an early dance style, then morphed into modern music with a modern dance style. The transition was effective.
Carvon “Taz” Futrell's work has been touted in The New York Times, and he lived up to the promise in a performance in which hip-hop technique could be barely be noticed underneath a definitive style of crisp yet smooth moves.
A surprise performance by The Futrell Boys—a group composed of Futrell's five younger brothers—offered musical performances in a modern day Jackson Five incarnation that wasn't quite ready for prime time but proved a crowd-pleaser nonetheless.
Forces Of Nature Dance Company provided an enjoyable evening and gave a stunning performance that will surely remain one of the strongest and intriguing dance presentations in St. Louis this year.

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