Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Celebrates Community and Resilience

Photos by Todd Rosenberg

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater is grounded in the celebration of African-American and American techniques in dance and storytelling through modern and classical styles. The company was founded by Kevin Iega Jeff in 1996 with Gary Abbott, LaVerne Alaphaire Jeff, Diane Shober and Linda Spriggs.

Together, they worked under the model of what is quoted as Jeff’s commitment to the process of art and created an inclusive environment for dance to thrive under the guise of teamwork. The company is now under the leadership of Nicole Clarke-Springer, who has served as the Artistic Director since 2019, and Makeda Crayton, who was recently promoted to Executive Director earlier this year. 

Their one-night-only show proved to be a theme of community, as they danced to their opening number, JUNTO, choreographed by Kevin Iega Jeff in 1990. A full company dance, their movement reflected both togetherness and community as they dressed in bright hues that reflected springtime.

Each dancer extended each movement in full, always maximizing the reach of their body’s potential. With flowers as their backdrop, the light, jazzy tunes by Pat Metheny were the ideal accompaniment to the perfect choice for an opening number. 

The show also included a selection by the company Mama Rose, that was choreographed by Keith Lee and performed by Emani Drake, as the 2023 Princess GraceDance Performance. As she danced to Archie Shepp/Jasper Van’t Hof (Live in Concert), it proved to be an outstanding solo number because it received a standing ovation at the end.  

The evening’s focus seemed to be geared toward the idea of both resilience and fight. That, whether together or separate, there would not be complacency in mistreatment. Throughout each dance, their movement reflected the idea of using one’s voice to speak up and speak out. This was especially seen in VESPERS, choreographed in 1986 by Ulysses Dove. 

 While this value was present throughout the night, its concept could have been better executed in the final number, MADONNA ANNO DOMINI, choreographed by Nicole Clarke-Springer in its world premiere. While it started out encouraging, with dancers moving to the voice of someone sounding like President Barack Obama, its development and end proved to be a bit dark.

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