By the time you read this Kwanzaa will have come and gone, but for a precious few at the Apollo Theatre last Saturday it will be a celebration to remember.? To say it was a festive occasion would be an understatement.? It was a cornucopia of dance, music, poetry, and celebration in keeping with the theater?s splendid legacy.
?Regeneration? was the afternoon and the evening?s theme?there were two shows one at 2pm and another at 7pm?and it was repeated several times by moderator-cum-griot Imhotep Gary Byrd.? He not only introduced the acts but provided the overflow crowd with extensive fragments of African American history and culture.
And if he left anything out, it was capably covered by Olabamidele Hart-Husbands during libations and the ?nation building segment,? where many of the community elders, including Rev. Malika Whitney and June Terry were among those honored.
Other than a dramatic poem by Sonia Sanchez, which she read accompanied by dancer Dyane Harvey-Salaam and a musician, a couple of songs by Theresa Thomason, who possess exceptional vocal range, and Frankie Malloy IV on the bylophone, it was a medley of dances, and they ran the gamut from an ancient Khemeti (Egyptian) motif to hip-hop, and various styles in between.
All of these energetic numbers unfolded under the direction of Abdel R. Salaam and his Forces of Nature Dance Theatre.? The most spectacular performance featured Harvey-Salaam as Maat, her golden wings iridescent under the dazzling lighting by William Grant II, as it would be throughout each segment.? With music by Alice Coltrane, this was a ?hesi? ritual, a series of prayers or incantations that awaken the power of ?ntru? within an individual or collective self, the program explained.
The ensemble was well-coordinated and it was truly a ?kinetic metaphor? for the awakening of ?jas,? the spirit of Nguzo Saba (the seven principles).? They also stirred the audience who responded cheerfully, both individually and collectively.
Salaam, along with Temishia Johnson, reprised ?Club Legacy?Hands Up/Popo Down Remix,? one they choreographed back in 1999 and updated, as Byrd noted, to underscore some of the chaos in the streets today around police reform.
This resonated well for the vast majority of the audience who have been witnessing or actively involved in the protests against the police abuse and the killing of unarmed Black and Latino young men.? After intermission a similar depiction was rendered by the troupe this time highlighting the way young Black men are killing one another, the perpetual menace of gang violence.??
Much of Salaam?s creativity, whether in dance, costume or music, is part education and a lot of entertainment, ?edutainment? might be the best way to describe what he does so magnificently.
Summoned by another commitment I couldn?t stay until the end but the drum choir, during a lengthy burst of rhythm sent me bouncing from the theater with only the wish I could stay to the conclusion.? Regrettably, too, I was unable to experience the evening performance where there was more of the same as well as a tribute to the versatile Williams Family of Harlem, including Lloyd, Valerie, Ron, Barbara, Grace, Hugh, and Ade, each representative of one of the principles of Nguzo Saba.