Breaking the silence with ‘Mr. TOL E. RancE’
Last Friday I had the privilege of seeing “Mr. TOL E. RancE” and it was an absolutely amazing show.
Before reviewing the performance, I had quickly scanned over its content of racism, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But, in no way could I have anticipated the experience and the reality I faced that night.
Choreographer and artistic director Camille A. Brown and her entertainers were beyond impressive with brilliant choreography and fantastic dancing.
Mr. TOL E. RancE is far from a boring show.
The dancing was truly admirable with dynamic steps and extremely emotional movements.
It was fun!, lively!, and sad, and mesmerizing, and exciting!, and funny, and exhausting, and uncomfortable…but, that isn’t a bad thing; these uncomfortable moments ultimately constructed the overall performance. They broke THE silence by blindly confronting one’s deep psyche through alluring and (at times) morose movement.
The dancers gave a unique experience, one I wish I had gone through earlier in my adult life.
Through each act, Brown’s layered choreography was embellished by various types of emotion which made the audience not only question reality, but start a conversation with their personal thoughts and emotions when dealing with race in American history.
One of my favorite elements of the show was pianist Scott Patterson and his on-stage presence. The music was beautiful and touching, and harmonized remarkably well with the choreography and individual entertainers.
This gave a really fun twist to the performances along with the projected graphics and text behind the dancers. Brown not only used all senses of the human body for this performances, but she also utilized the space to full theatrical advantage.
Not one stage corner or leg from the grand piano was ignored.
Thanks to theater coach J. Michael Kinsey, the combination of dance, live music, and theater was a huge success, and very enjoyable. The successful acting by the dancers represented African Americans in the arts and entertainment within the past hundred years in American culture.
One act started with the era of minstrel dancing, the next reflected the essence of a fun can-can stage, and the next an amusing modern day game show. The executions seemed timeless, but at the same time, seemed too familiar for the audience in Richmond that night. What was funny or entertaining evolved into questions of, why is this funny? Should I be laughing?
Mr. TOL E. RancE received a well deserved standing ovation as the curtain fell. Yes, both choreography and the entertainers were amazing, the music and theatricality were fun and enjoyable. But, I think the ultimate goal for Brown and entertainers was to start a conversation with society, and within each audience member’s mind.
What is my contribution to racism? Why do I react this way? Why do I feel this way? Why do we not have this conversation more often?
The audience was politely awakened with reality, accountability, deep contemplation, and last but not least, a great show.
Nicole has been dancing since early childhood and can't get enough. You can find her salsa dancing at Havana 59 or tango dancing at the Vmfa. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from VCU and strives to keep the arts alive! She loves all things lavender, pugs, and crisp weather.
“What does it look like when people are smiling, it’s a mask, and they’re crying inside?”September 4, 2014
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