Not So Black and White

What exactly qualifies a dancemaker to take part in the Black Choreographers Festival? Chops aside, does "black" mean African-American? Dark-skinned? Of African descent? Finding the question infinitely more interesting than any definition they could impose, the festival's organizers are letting the answer work itself out beneath the floodlights. Nineteen years in the running, and the roll call of choreographers only gets more eclectic. A sample bill from this year's festival stacks the Haitian-inspired rhythms of Colette Eloi back-to-back with Ramon Ramos Alayo's Afro-Cuban fusion and the rootsy modern of Amara Tabor Smith. All three of these particular artists participate in the festival's Artists Mentor program, which couldn't provide a better roster of potential mentors for up-and-coming choreographers. From international tap phenomenon Jason Samuels Smith to modern master craftsmen Robert Henry Johnson and Robert Moses, the festival boasts an impressive cast of top-tier dance-makers. Add to this equation the head-spinning array of outreach activities surrounding the event, and it's easy to see why the festival has earned a national reputation for amplifying the colloquy around what black really means.

The Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now starts at 7 p.m. at Laney College Theater 900 Fallon (at Ninth St.), Oakland. Admission is $10-$20. The Oakland events run Feb. 8–10; the fest then moves to S.F. on Feb. 15–17 at Project Artaud Theater 450 Florida (at 17th St.) and on Feb. 22–23 at Dance Mission Theater 3316 24th St. (at Mission). Visit
Feb. 8-23, 2008

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