On Stage: “Bench” Marks the Holidays

Ahmad Simmons and Angela Dice“The Bench” isn’t your normal holiday treat full of tinsel, glad tidings and mistletoe. But it does provide a sense of family, which is what the holidays are all about, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s and everything in between.

Kiesha Lalama-White’s production for Conservatory Dance Company sticks to tradition, probably the second-most important thing about the holidays. Lalama-White’s  traditional jazz vocabulary and warm-hearted story line, along with cousin David Lalama’s traditional jazz score provide the glue that holds “The Bench” together.

It follows a single family through an album of memories, the kind with which we can all identify. Love. Marriage. Parenthood. Sibling Rivalry. Family Dinners. Lalama-White pushes all the right buttons and while we may realize it, in the end, it’s almost impossible not to be touched.

Everything is clearly etched for the audience. Lalama-White’s style is filled with sharp accents andAngela Dice with Annalee Traylor and Naila Ansari standout scenes include the initial love duet and a conversational dinner with the family. Lalama’s score lays out a rich landscape of sound for the dance, with a live quartet where he plays keyboards and brother Ralph, a wonderful saxophonist in his own right, in tow.

Lewis Folden’s angular screens provides a versatile backdrop with subtly projected abstract patterns and Aimee Greer’s vintage/contemporary costume design adapts to all the situations, particularly with a voluminous skirt that acts as an umbilical cord between mother and daughters. Only visual artist Michael Dickins’ family snapshots are not totally defined.

Angela DiceBut it’s the young cast that brings the story to life. They have to run the gamut, from child-like fights to the ancient aunt who commands everyone’s attention. Ahmad Simmons (Man/Father) and Angela Dice (Woman/Mother) have the maturity to carry roles far beyond their current means. James Washington (Son) has a robust technique and beautiful control of the movements — a fight between him and his father is a highlight — and  Annalee Traylor and Naila Ansari provide wonderful support as the daughters.

All told, “The Bench” is a taut portrayal of family that is one of CDC’s finest productions over the years and a model for the future.

“The Bench” continues through Dec. 20. Check Listings for more information.

One Response to On Stage: “Bench” Marks the Holidays

  1. Correction – The name of the Lalama brother who plays the saxophone in this performance is Ralph, not David. David is the composer/arranger/conductor and pianist. Ralph plays saxophone, flute and clarinet.

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