Hey young world, the world is yours
Hey young world, the world is yours
Young world, young world, the world is yours
This melodic mantra is indeed a message to not only the dancer’s but the audience as well. These dancers were in their own world…more like galaxy—and yes, the “world is yours.” The performers are the captains, co-captains, and supporting crew of this SUPASONIC vessel and we are the passengers travelling with them through the ages, celebrating 20 years of SUPA dance education and performance. Founder, CEO, Dancer, Choreographer, Educator, Rapper, Delta Diva, Model, Entrepreneur, Designer, Philanthropist, Wife, and SUPA BLACK GIRL Traci Young-Byron stated that “The pieces from Friday all came from years 2023-2014. The remainder 2013-2004 will be done in June” (Young-Byron 2024). Okay, thanks. Let me book my flight neowwwow!
Phenomenal dancing, choreography, lighting design, costume, music selection and performance quality are the dominant variables in this spectacular showcase of Black talent, culture, and identity but, it must be noted that there is something to be said about her ability to work with amazing talent but couple that with the large amounts of bodies on stage at the same time, with seamless transitions, listen, SHE BAAAD! Her intricate use of space as well as the creative spatial patterns are a skill, rather, an expertise. The dancers were not just taking up space or walking across the floor as a filler, they were daaancing. Jamaican dancer, educator, scholar, choreographer, and the originator of L’Antech dance technique Dr. L’Antoinette Stines articulates that there is a difference between dance/daunce and daaanc[ing]. Though she references this in a Caribbean context, this differentiation is applicable here: Daaance is a “medium of communication" globally…, [this includes] body "language and culture" and body "language and structure"…[there is a] relationship [with]…the body's 'nation language’” (Stines 2005, 36) and this includes a variety of movement forms which allows for “processes of evolution and revolution and result[s] in hybridisation, creolization” (Stines 2005, 36) resulting in a “Supazination”(I made this word up) technique which Young-Byron describes as “a movement aesthetic that is hyper-feminine, energetic and percussive. [The] technique is always the focus, I[t] explore[s] the whole body…mov[ing] it in ways that may be deemed unconventional or even unacceptable at times for Black women; [the] aesthetic is also fueled by musicality” (Young-Byron 2024).
Conversely, “'Daunce' on the other hand refers to the movement structures dominated by the vocabulary of European Classical Ballet. This hegemonic training procedure provide[s] the genesis of and the training methods of Modern Contemporary Dance. 'Daunce' reflects the culture of Europe from which it originated” (Stines 2005, 36), and to be clear THIS IS NOT WHAT IS HAPPENING AT YCDT! The dancer’s play with energy, sensuality, culture, Blackness, identity, virtuosity, and expression. They are risk takers, from the YoungBucks (the babies) straight up the Rep dancers. The movement vocabulary is a kaleidoscope of genres and styles such as Horton technique, Hip Hop, Jazz, African, Booty Shaking, Miami Bass, and Ballet while maintaining Young-Byron’s signature aesthetic that includes attitude, confidence, femininity, power, and strength. And can we talk about the #SupaStrut? I don’t have the space to discuss that but please look it up!
There is so much to say about each piece and If I did, I would be writing a second dissertation so, I will approach this review thematically.
“For Your Glory” and “Worthy” choreographed by Young-Byron set the atmosphere, very Ailey-esque with clean lines and shapes. It was emotive and rooted in Horton technique. The dancers wore white short flowing dresses with a black ribbon tied around the collar, which gives the effect of gospel/church while centering their youthfulness.
“A Touch From You” featured the YoungBucks (the little ones) and choreographed by Ms. Thurston demonstrated Young-Byron’s aesthetic and pedagogy.
“Rolling Stone,” “How Does it Feel, and “A Tribute To Stevie Wonder” choregraphed by Young-Bryon were all crowd pleasers and definitely showcased the dancers pristine technical competence. There was booty popping, struts, jazz walks, active backs and torso’s but there were also jeté’s, bison jumps, 2nd position split leaps, grandiose battements, tilts (6’o clocks), triple pirouettes, hip rolls, contractions, attitude turns, fouetté turns, brisé’s (for those who have no idea what I’m talking about, think leap, jump, kick, turn, and spin) and many other movements in my Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet book.
“Revival” was reminiscent of “Ron K. Brown/Evidence: A Dance Company” from the flowing white pants/costumes to the movement vocabulary of smooth fusions of styles, effortless flow, and riding of the rhythm, and then those infamous floor patterns, entrances and exits.
“A Song For You”: In Honor of the Late Mr. Christopher McKennon was a tear jerker, pulling on the heart strings of all who were invited to take a peek into her relationship and journey with her dear friend Mr. Chris. Young-Byron captured his idiosyncrasies in movement, style, and personality. The most poignant moment for me was the section where the dancer/soloist put on the blue coat. She daaanced her interpretation of this profound human. This section signified his final moments, accepting his fate and taking his rest as he laid in the coffin. Thank you for allowing us to celebrate and remember him through this very beautiful tribute.
I asked Young-Byron to describe her teaching pedagogy, she stated “Lead with the heart and the body will follow. With the right mindset, a dancer can learn anything. My approach is to ignite the brain and heart. Once that is achieved, growth occurs” (Young-Bryon 2024). I have learned so much from watching this performance, speaking with her, as well as reflecting on her teaching style that I observed over 20 years ago and I can say that what Young-Bryon offers her students is a pedagogy of performance BUT she is also rupturing stereotypes about black women’s beauty, the negative connotations about black culture, and more specifically the misnomer that Black dancers don’t have “technique.” Baybay! These dancers will and can dance circles around some of the dancers that I have seen in conservatory dance programs. And this is not just concerning their ability to masterfully execute movement but more so their performance quality and that is a skill that is not “taught” in dance programs in higher education. This is not a course or class. It is not a line item on the syllabus. You either do or you don’t and YCDT do! This is what a pedagogy of performance looks like.
I would be remised I didn’t mention Mrs. Adrienne, “She's 50 years old and a former dancer” (Young-Byron 2024). She started out as a parent whose daughter danced with Young-Byron for many years and “She eventually asked [Young-Byron] if she could join the company. She started with YCDT at age 44 or 45 I believe. She loves it and has no shame dancing next to and with children half her age” (Young-Byron 2024) and Mrs. Adrienne set the stage on fiyah! This is clear example of the love, support, and nurturing that are offered at YCDT as well as that SUPAPOWER that is all up and through this academy.
Conclusion: What happens when these kids leave this nurturing environment and enter predominantly White Colleges and Universities who do not offer this level of technique and artistry, do not celebrate or recognize their culture, don’t value the information that they offer, and don’t see their Black girl magic and attempt to dim the light that Young-Byron and her team Ja’Naye Thurston (YoungBucks), Nivia Woodard (Youngsters) and Misha Michel (YCDT) has ignited? Parents, if your kids decide to further their interst and love for dance in college, ensure that your kids are entering dance programs that have faculty that look like them and offer some of the same characteristics and aesthetic qualities that you have experienced with YCDT.
Nicole Tyler—costume manager
Lighting Designers—Apon Nichols and Raaheem
YCDT Paraphernalia/Digital Media
Darryn Def Designs Ferguson
L'Antoinette Stines (2005) Does The Caribbean Body Daaance Or Daunce? An exploration of Modern Contemporary Dance from a Caribbean Perspective, Caribbean Quarterly, 51:3-4, 35-54, DOI: 10.1080/00086495.2005.11672275