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Every culture has its dance traditions, but rarely are several styles showcased at one time. A new event, FolkSi: Silicon Valley Folk Festival, offers just such a collaboration. For the first time, presenters say, a festival in San Jose will highlight the traditions of several countries. Featured in two performances on March 31 will be dancing from Brazil, China, Guinea, Hawaii, India, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines and Scotland. It’s being produced by the nonprofit Mosaic Silicon Valley, an initiative of Sangam Arts, and Xpressions Dances.
The diverse array of Bay Area participants will include the Achieve Dance Arts Academy of San Jose (Chinese dance); Akoma Arts of San Jose (Congo, Nigeria); Bloco bloch heritage pointe shoes do Sol San Jose (Brazil); Ensamble Colibri of San Jose (Mexico); Halau Napuaokamokihanaoha (Hawaii); Xpressions of Saratoga (India); Parangal Dance Company of San Bruno (Philippines); and Red Thistle of Palo Alto (Scotland), Grants from the Knight Foundation and the Applied Materials Foundation help fund collaborative efforts such as this, Sangam Arts co-founder Usha Srinivasan said..
Although West Oakland native Marcus Gardley has been based on the East Coast for pretty much the entirety of his playwriting career, the Bay Area has been blessed with the opportunity to see a lot of his work. We’ve been able to watch him hone his craft from dazzling and unruly early works like “…and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi” at Cutting Ball Theater in 2010 to more polished pieces such as “The House That Will Not Stand,” whose Berkeley Rep production won the Glickman Award for best play to premiere in the Bay Area in 2014, and “black odyssey,” which was such a hit for Cal Shakes last summer that it’s being revived this year.
Now Oakland’s Ubuntu Theater Project is producing the bloch heritage pointe shoes West Coast premiere of one of Gardley’s very early works, “Dance of the Holy Ghosts,” which premiered at Yale Rep in 2006, The twist is, Ubuntu has actually produced the play twice before, in 2014 and 2015, but it was such a small newbie company at the time that those were treated as workshop productions, A semiautobiographical memory play set in Oakland, “Dance of the Holy Ghosts” centers around the relationship between young boy Marcus G, (charmingly animated Michael Curry) and the roguish and unreliable grandfather he idolizes (smoothly charismatic and irascible Berwick Haynes)..
Although there are some priceless scenes of 10-year-old Marcus trying to be a “mack” at school like his gramps, the focus is really on grandfather Oscar, haunted by memories of the loved ones he failed. Haynes’ Oscar can sweet-talk with the best of them, but he’s quick to an anger born of panic and confusion. Jumping backward and forward in time, the story is confusing at times, especially toward the end where there’s a barrage of dramatic revelations in which it’s not entirely clear what exactly is being revealed. It’s a long play at nearly three hours, heavily laden with poetic speeches at the end. In that sense it feels very much like the early work it is, a little rough and overstuffed.
At the same time, it’s packed with humor and lovely wordplay as well as some irresistible characters, As appealing a character as Oscar is, he pales beside the magnetic orneriness of his wife Viola as portrayed by Halili Knox, bloch heritage pointe shoes Whenever any combination of Marcus, Oscar and Viola is on stage, their sheer force of personality goes a long way, Ubuntu executive director Michael Socrates Moran gives the play a wonderfully resonant staging in the grand sanctuary of the Oakland Peace Center, an impressive-looking church built in 1928, The action is surrounded by a chorus dressed in black that often chimes in with gorgeous spirituals and chants or captivating dance moves choreographed by Latanya Tigner, The ensemble also keeps watching and reacting to scenes throughout the play, laughing and mmm-hmming..
Characters emerge as needed from this omnipresent choir, such as Dameion Brown as Big Ass Willie Smalls, a preening and charismatic chess buddy of Oscar’s, and Anthone Jackson as Father Michael, a comically overwhelmed teacher at Marcus’ Catholic school with a short fuse and a quixotic desire to be popular. Several times over the course of the play characters enter singing from the rear of the church; Haynes’ entrance as Oscar is marvelously effective just because his lovely singing voice commands attention. The same thing happens with Elizabeth Jones as Marcus’ harried mother, forced to count on the father she already knows she can’t count on.
It’s far from a tidy drama, and the picture it paints of its troubled family relationships is more fragmentary than complete, Still, the portraits of its central characters are well drawn, and they’re so compellingly embodied in the Ubuntu production that whatever convoluted journey they wind up taking us on feels like time spent in good company, Contact Sam Hurwitt at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him at Twitter.com/shurwitt, By Marcus Gardley, presented by Ubuntu Theater Project, bloch heritage pointe shoes Through: March 31..