In honor of Black History Month, the Wichita Falls Ballet Theatre (WFBT) presented in its Signature Series the Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT). The WFBT in the first act shined in the 3 dances that opened the show. The dance, entitled “Momentum,” was especially beautiful with 23 dancers floating across the stage. The costumes where exquisite, and the lovely dancers were very well received by the audience. The Artistic Director of DBDT, Melissa Young spoke before the show, and jokingly said that polite clapping was unacceptable that if the audience enjoyed the DBDT’s performance to react to it. The audience boisterously clapped at the end of the dance, and they hooted and hollered, and gave the performers a standing ovation.
“I think Melissa invited the audience into the show very beautifully, and you got the impression that she cared about the audiences experience, as much as she cared about the excellent work that her dancers were going to perform for us,” said Margie Reese, the Executive Director of the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture, who was the driving force behind partnering with the DBDT.
In the second act the troupe of dancers debuted parts of “Odetta,” which is a performance highlighted by audio files of Odetta F. Gordon speaking and singing, along with other singers. Deemed the queen of American folk music by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Odetta Gordon was a coloratura soprano. She was an activist for civil rights and sang with orchestras and operas all over the world before her death in 2008.
All of Act II was devoted to songs she made famous, and the dancers told the story with their bodies and their passion as they portrayed the emotion of Odetta’s songs, which was not lost on the audience who responded with a passion of their own.
“The next thing we are bringing into the community is a focus on Women’s History Month which is the month of March. So, to kick off the month we are bringing in an ensemble of six vocalist. The name of the organization is New Arts Six whom will be performing traditional African-American spirituals,” said Margie.
According to their website newartssix.org, they “are classically trained artists devoted to the preservation of African-American music, poetry and literature. These unique performances of Negro Spirituals, interwoven with dramatic dialogue and lively poetry serve as a present-day testament to the preservation of ethnic folk tradition inherent in African-American life and culture.”
“They are operatic trained so with their skilled voices, you hear the soulful sound of mostly religious songs, but they add some jazz music in it too. You know that you are hearing excellent artists,” Margie explained, “When people say they didn’t know what to expect from the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, then they don’t know what to expect with New Arts Six either. When we say traditional Negro Spirituals, people may have some idea of what that will sound like, but when they hear these women, I think they will also be surprised of the outcome,” Margie said.
The performance will be on March 8th at the First Presbyterian Church on Taft Boulevard. “There is plenty of parking in the church parking lot. There is another reason you live in a town like Wichita Falls, because you can see people’s joy when they are helping to share creativity, and so I am really excited that we will be at the church. The arts happen everywhere,” she said with a smile.
– Cindy Kahler Thomas