Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideas of individual and social truths are the inspiration for the Black Movements Dance Theatre’s upcoming show, entitled “Truth Be Told.” Encompassing themes of love, sadness, resistance and oppression, the BMDT dancers and collaborators tell the stories of personal and collective truths.
“As dancers, as artists, we’re storytellers, so it’s about defining our truths. So the pieces in this show range from very personal things — like dealing with a breakup — to, we have a piece about Martin Luther King Jr.,” BMDT co-director Alexandra Ciejka (MSB ’15) said.
Assistant Director Raquel Rosenbloom (COL ’16) agreed that the new production will be expansive in its thematic exploration.
“We are working to expose the truth in different ways, and we have various pieces — civil rights pieces, a piece that is all about being in the truth and resisting the truth,” she said.
The pieces are more than a culmination of choreography; the performance is more than a recital or showcase — “Truth Be Told” is a theatrical experience. Balancing movement and drama, the BMDT dancers use dance as a means to express themselves and their stories. But this does not mean that the dancers aren’t also technically impressive.
Unlike any other dance company on campus, BMDT is difficult to define because the dancers are so diverse in background and experience, so their pieces consistently vary in style. There are sequences of very classical ballet and lyrical movements that are moments later contrasted with the sharp, strong and heavy modern-based movements. This juxtaposition is also experienced through the musical choices, which range from classical music to African drumbeats to contemporary, high-energy instrumental pieces.
Ciejka confirms that this is not particular to this show, but it is very characteristic of BMDT.
“We’re definitely a technical dance company, but we are also a dance theatre, so it is really about expressing ourselves and having a clear, cohesive show with a theme. We do a lot of modern … but we also do African, we have dances in the show that are lyrical, and I’m choreographing a tap dance, so it’s a very wide variety, stylistically,” she said.
BMDT was established in 1981 in an effort to create a dance company that reflected the cultural and ethnic diversity of Georgetown and that focused largely on the African roots of modern and traditional dance styles. The group continues to see this mission through by utilizing the skills of each individual dancer, moving through solo, small and large group sequences to allow the audience to connect with the personal experiences of the individual or group of dancers. The structure of the dances is undoubtedly modern in its theatrical and storytelling patterns of movement, and this only serves to accentuate the meaning behind each piece. The pure athleticism of the dancers alone is impressive, but when paired with their grace, it makes for clear, understandable and beautiful performances.
“BMDT is about expressing ourselves through our bodies. Our motto is ‘Dance with your body, move with your soul’, so we try to incorporate that theater and soulful aspect into our performances,” Rosenbloom said.
There are pieces in “Truth Be Told” that are student-choreographed, some are created by professional guest choreographers, one piece is part of a collaboration by the entire company and some are choreographed by the company’s artistic director, Alfreda Davis. This diversity in sources of choreography is also a great advantage for the dancers.
“The guest choreographers coming in is an amazing opportunity for all of us to work with professional dancers, and we really love having them because they push us as a company. They bring new, creative material to set on us, which is an honor, and it helps us grow and learn new ways of dancing and moving,” Rosenbloom said.
Indeed, it is a good opportunity. In rehearsals, the professionals push these dancers to their limits and challenge them to perform their best. Having a pair of knowledgeable and experienced eyes to pick apart each bit of choreography, only accepting the best from the BMDT dancers, has helped their execution tremendously. This is a professional-level show at a cost that is friendly to a student budget. It really is a show for everyone — from the most experienced to the dance newbies.
“There are a wide variety of styles. There are very slow, sad pieces, and then there are a lot of really fun, upbeat pieces, and in pieces like that, we really want everyone to get up, celebrate with us and dance with us — and it’s really a celebration about dance and about expressing ourselves,” said Ciejka.
“Truth Be Told” will be running at the Gonda Theatre in the Davis Performing Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 27 and Saturday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. Student tickets are $8 and can be purchased online, over the phone or at the Davis Center box office.