PHILADANCO's "Bewildered," featuring (l-r) Tommie-Waheed Evans, Rosita Adamo, Adryan Moorefield, Janine N. Beckles, Courtney Robison, and Victor Lewis, Jr., from the full evening work "James Brown: Get on the Good Foot, a Celebration in Dance." (Lois Greenfield)
The Philadelphia Dance Company, in conjunction with The Apollo Theatre, is presenting their newest engagement titled “James Brown: Get on the Good Foot, a Celebration in Dance” at The Music Center’s Ahmanson Theatre February 14-16.
The show celebrates the accomplishments and influence of the incomparable James Brown, and offers a unique insight into the rich history of the legendary Apollo Theatre. It will feature original dance, and the musical score is made up of both new compositions and of course, classic James Brown music.
“Get on the Good Foot” is directed by renowned choreographer Otis Sallid. Sallid’s past work includes “Smokey Joe’s Café” on Broadway, the 2006 Super Bowl Halftime Show (The Rolling Stones), and the Spike Lee films Do The Right Thing, School Daze and Malcolm X.
The production will be performed by the Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) and will feature original dances by choreographers from all over the world, including Ephrat Asherie (United States), Souleymane Badolo (Burkina Faso), Camille A. Brown (United States), Thang Dao (Vietnam), Aakash Odedra (United Kingdom) and Jennifer Weber (United States).
PHILADANCO was founded in 1970 by Joan Myers Brown, who was the recipient of the 2012 National Medal of Arts Award. A non-profit organization, PHILADANCO is widely known for its innovation and preservation of black traditions in dance, as well as consistently performing for multicultural audiences and their focus in the development of their talent.
Tommie Waheed Evans, a dancer in the show, is an Los Angeles native out of South Central. He studied at the Ailey School in New York City, and has performed for such names as Debbie Allen and Thaddeus Davis. As a choreographer, he has a continuing collaboration with PHILADANCO, as well as collaborations with The Garden State Dance Festival, Grace Dance Theatre, and Cleveland’s Verb Ballet, just to name a few.
Evans recently gave Living Out Loud an exclusive insight into the production, his involvement, and his own successful side projects.
Living Out Loud: How did you first get involved with dancing ballet?
Tommie Waheed Evans: I went to Alexander Hamilton High School, which has a music academy. At first I was a musical theatre major, and through that you have to have a requirement of dance.
LOL: How important is it to stay fit, eat well, and rest?
TWE: It’s very important. The fit aspect of it is important because you need to have stamina. Your stamina has to be very high to endure dancing for a total of 75 minutes to a 2-hour show. You have to look good in your costume, so it’s important that you’re eating correctly so your muscles stay lean and your body stays slender and nice-looking. The resting part of it, you’re doing a very physical activity, and there’s no way you can do it without lots of rest. You also need to take care of your body…Also eating healthy helps your muscles recover.
LOL: How has the process of running your own company been for you, as well as offering your choreography to other companies?
TWE: I’m not going to lie; it’s been a bit difficult (laughs). I’m constantly doing something…I work all kinds of projects, wherever opportunity leads me. Currently, I am part-time faculty at the University of the Arts. I’ve been there for 3 years. This year, I’m doing a collaboration with the Philadelphia Orchestra…That’s something I’ve been preparing for. In the middle of all that, I still have my regular schedule. But if I ever have these opportunities, I go for it.
LOL: PHILADANCO is coming to LA. What can you tell us about the upcoming show, “James Brown: Get On The Good Foot, a Celebration in Dance,” at the Music Center?
TWE: First, I just have to say I’m hugely excited to be coming home to dance. It’s always a big deal to come back home and dance for your family, friends, teachers and loved ones. Also I’ve never danced at the Music Center; I’ve only been as a child to watch other companies perform. So the fact that I’ll be on stage makes me very excited. The show is a dance concept…So for 75 minutes, you’ll be seeing a variety of dance styles done to James Brown music. This is very awesome because his music is so rich, it’s so historic, funky, moving, exciting – it’s just so great…It’s got high energy, it’s exciting, it’s powerful and very creative. It’s directed by another Los Angeles native, Otis Sallid, who is a genius. It’s just a great show.
LOL: What’s your take on paying tribute to such icons as James Brown in this avenue of artistic expression?
TWE: I think it’s important because we live in a generation where you can Google anything, but sometimes people don’t really know, which is really sad. I’m new to this figure, and seeing this figure. Of course we know the popular songs, but to be involved in this show has broadened my knowledge of him. The fact is that he was the hardest-working man in show business. It’s great to be part of something that gives that back to the next generation so they can know about. When Frank Sinatra passed, everyone paid homage to him, and we wanted to do the same for James Brown. Like I said, James Brown was such an extraordinary man, so to be part of something where you’re paying homage to him and the work that he has done, it’s just wonderful. Through this project, we really went back and visited some of his unknown music and some of his popular music. The one thing that keeps happening with this show is that it makes people so happy, and brings back memories of where they were when this music first happened.
LOL: Is there any way in which James Brown influenced you in your career?
TWE: I would say his excitement to be on stage, and to entertain. That’s just quite inspiring.
LOL: Why should the public of LA go see this show?
TWE: People should come see the show because PHILADANCO has a phenomenal group of dancers…The music is just non-stop funk, soul and excitement coming at you. Plus, you’ll see movements and dance styles you would have never imagined with James Brown music.
LOL: Any words of advice for youngsters who might want to follow in your footsteps?
TWE: You have to go for it. When I look back at my career, how it started, I walked by the dance class, and I knew I wanted to be in the dance class, and became committed to being in it. Once I got in, my paths opened. You have to commit to it. You have to work hard. There’s no turning back, you have to go for it.
LOL: What’s the biggest reward you’ve achieved in your career?
TWE: I would have to say, being able to see the world. I’ve been to so many places.
LOL: It’s your homecoming. What are the reactions from your family and friends as the performances in LA approach?
TWE: My mom invites the whole world (laughs). My family and friends are very supportive. They’ve been excited, waiting since July of last year.
Edison Millan contributed to this story.
Philadelphia Dance Company
“James Brown: Get on the Good Foot, a Celebration in Dance”
Friday, February 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 15 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 16 at 2 p.m.
The Music Center’s Ahmanson Theatre
601 W. Temple St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012