BEST DANCE PERFORMANCE IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS Minneapolis 2010 - Kenna Sarge and the Battlecats
This shared program featured works by Kenna Sarge and the Battlecats at the Southern in January, cutting a swath through African, contemporary modern, and hip-hop dance forms that had the audience (including many teenagers) bouncing in their seats. Sarge's "Dedicated to Guinea" started the program off with traditional West African dance and drumming by the Voice of Culture Drum and Dance, a charismatic group of children and young adults who performed with multi-rhythmic exuberance that looked both improvised and tightly choreographed. The almost mystic connection between drumming and dancing in West African culture was embodied by a group of young women who alternated seamlessly between the two forms, often fusing them with startling virtuosity. Later, Sarge layered West African and modern dance in a searing duet exploring the appropriation of the N-word. Three works by the Battlecats, choreographed by J-Sun Noer, expanded and recontextualized hip hop, rendering it rawer, more flamboyant, more contemplative. In his solo "Remembering" Noer contrasted hyperactivity and repose, playing with signature positions (e.g. pretzeling legs) in a meditative way. At his most volatile, he makes you want to get inside his lanky, Eminem-like body, just to feel the alternating current that surges so eloquently through it. In "The Uncarved Block" Noer and seven exuberant Battlecats mixed vaudeville, animal moves, fake fights, and Looney Tunes animation. Their intricately orchestrated bodies merged with beat boxer Carnage's live musical score in a supple and nervy homage to the highly inflected language of hip hop.