Dancers Bring out the Essentials
It’s refreshing to see a show that embraces the sexuality inherent in duets such as The Most Beautiful Boogieman. Performed by Essence before break in Warner, it was the product of Oberlin College Professor of Dance and African American Studies Adenike Sharpley’s clever orchestration of many media into one cohesive piece.
The plot line of The Most Beautiful Boogieman was not clear in the piece and the description was hidden within the lengthy program notes. While the piece was most definitely a ballet in its format — although not in the dance technique — classical ballets have the advantage of an audience that already understands the plotline. In this case, however, song lyrics and prerecorded interludes were not enough to explain the progress of the story despite how successfully they illustrated the atmosphere.
The program notes cited historical influences for the piece: “boogie music” and legends about the boogieman. True, these elements were present in this story of a man haunted by the loves he has lost, but there were only traces of history in this piece, like the ghosts dressed in pink that performed intimate duets with him.
The production featured Marion Parker’s Boogie Band, a live band playing boogie music that served to unify the many aspects of the piece: dance, music and pre-recorded texts accompanied by a slideshow. Though the band overpowered the singers at times, it enlivened the show, perking up the audience and giving the dancers a rare opportunity to dance to live music.
As the audience entered the theater, a recording of an interview played as an introduction to the show, but few audience members stopped their personal conversations to listen to the history that was being narrated for them.
All of the soloists — College first-year Kristal Boyd, College juniors Jasmine Powell and Anthony Osei, College senior Vanessa Flowers — were visually engaging. It was surprising to see so many male performers, like College senior Juan Sosa, College first-year George Oma and Osei on the stage at once.
And damn, they could move.