Matthew Rushing’s ‘Moan’ an N.Y. hit
The Philadelphia Dance Company, commonly known as Philadanco, presents "Back to Black," taking place at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater Dec. 7-9. This exciting program of fan favorites will also feature the Philadelphia pPremiere of Matthew Rushing's "Moan," set to the music of the late R&B/jazz diva Nina Simone.
Joan Myers Brown, Philadanco founder and artistic director, reflected on the intriguing theme of her company's latest theatrical presentation, saying, "When we were in New York at the Joyce [Theater], I did almost the same program, so a woman said to me, 'I'm so glad we are back to Black!' I said, 'What do you mean, back to Black?' She said, 'Black dance! 'Cause I just love it!' I said, 'Well, what is Black dance anyhow? Characterize to me, what is Black dance.' She said, 'What you do!' I said, 'What is Black dance? Black people dancing? Is it Black choreographers? Black music?' She said, 'Y'all do all that! That's Black dance!' So I'm like, 'Okay...I think I'll use that!'"
Philadanco is having quite a bit of success with "Moan," the new work by Matthew Rushing, rehearsal director for the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The piece makes its Philadelphia debut and features "I'm Gonna Leave You" and "Don't Explain" by Nina Simone, the unique artist known as the "High Priestess of Soul."
"I got a call from the Jerome Robbins Foundation saying they wanted to give Philadanco money to commission a ballet," Myers explained. "They had a list of choreographers if I wanted to pick one of their choreographers – or did I want to come up with a choreographer? Matthew was on the list, so I selected him, and it's a good opportunity for him. He's choreographed on Ailey, but I don't think he's done a lot outside, so it's a chance for him to step outside of his normal pattern of working.
"He came up with the Nina Simone [theme] and called it 'Moan.' It's an interesting piece, and I think it's a fitting tribute to Nina." The program also includes Milton Myers' "Echoes: A Celebration of Alvin Ailey," and Ronald K. Brown's "Exotica" follows with a "dramatic excerpt" from the larger piece entitled "Lessons." The evening concludes with "Suite Otis," a fan favorite based on the music of the late R&B great Otis Redding. Brown would like to encourage longtime patrons and first-timers alike to make a Philadanco performance part of their holiday celebration.
"We just had a very successful season in New York. We did nine shows in seven days, she said. "We got like seven great reviews. The only one that didn't give us a great review was the New York Times, but it wasn't bad, because they usually slaughter people. I think seeing that we just had a big run in New York's Joyce Theater, if they could go to New York (to see Philadanco perform), then they can come see them (in Philadelphia). We have some new dancers that the people aren't familiar with, and you'll get a chance to watch them grow with Philadanco."