By: Tony McCray
DansArtery, a local performing arts group led by choreographer Eleanor Johnson, provided an intriguing mix of music, vocals, dance, and verbal presentations from performing artists past and present in the production of
“Roots, Rhythm, and Movement” at the Pensacola Voices complex in Downtown Pensacola. The Pensacola Voices location is right across the street from Seville Quarter’s main entrance on Government Street. County Commissioner Lumon May, the Escambia County Commissioners, and the UWF Historic Trust invested in the production which was well worth every dollar invested!
This was DansArtey’s fourth studio production. The production’s theme was to “explore the rhythmic folk journey of African-Americans through song, dance, poetry, politics and music”. The program focused on the movement of the African culture from the continent of the Motherland to America through various forms of the performing arts. The presentation, additionally, explored the European perception that “African’s were inferior to Europeans and they used this to justify slavery”. Johnson made sure the voyage of Africans on the slave ships sailing across the Atlantic was emphasized so that the audience would begin the artistic journey with the horrific crime of slavery committed against the African people.
With Anita Baker’s vocal, “The Rhythm of Love” in the background, Poleon Williams of Polimbotree and the congas/drummers from Puerto Rico, Carlos Bogella and Miquel Aldohondo bringing the sounds of drumming as the producer herself took center stage in her own event with an African dance symbolic of the African “Homeland” experience.
All in all, the journey was an ageless interpretation of the cultural connectivity of the African culture with the African-American slavery and civil rights saga and its strength of survival and continuing evolution. Johnson’s focus on the music of Gospel through Mahalia Jackson to the melodic vocals of Al Jarreau and the growth of Jazz within the African-American Culture provided a significant tribute to the production’s message of the culture’s endurance.
In an interview with the Gulf Coast Voice, Eleanor Johnson described DansArtery as, “A movement that touches the heart and the main vein to that special place in the community. I created the company in Detroit as an alternative program and space for individuals to showcase their talents. I felt the program would serve as an alternative arts program to take to the grassroots community in the malls, the schools, the churches and the neighborhoods. Our next Roots, Rhythm, and Movement event is scheduled for Seville Square as an outdoor happening”! Johnson added, “I am seeking an apprentice to study with her from 6 to 8 months with a stipend to be awarded to the successful applicant’. Eleanor Johnson can be contacted at (404) 593-4494 for more information about upcoming programs and the apprenticeship program.