Mahogany brings rhythm, dance

The assistant artistic director slowly claps off counts five, six ,seven, eight and 12 arms gracefully bend in unison. Intense piano music fills the ear, emotion fills the room and fire fills their eyes.

There are only six days left until its “Fall Premiere” and Mahogany Dance Theatre is putting in hours of work.

“The rehearsals have been intense,” said Ne’Shae Williams, 26, assistant artistic director and former president of Mahogany. “They have to be intense because we have to be intense on that stage.”

The Fall Premiere, which will be presented Nov. 13, is not only a celebration of Mahogany’s five-year existence, but is also a showcase of the choreography, versatility and talent of its members.

“Every piece, with the exception of one, is student choreographed,” said Candace Roscoe, 19, rehearsal director and an FSU dance and exercise philosophy student from Miami.

“We will be doing a hip-hop piece that was choreographed by Tawana Hall-Charlton, who is a new choreographer from Miami.”

The hip-hop piece will be a highlight because it goes beyond “booty-shaking,” according to Adrienne Cheatham, 20, a public relations student and the president of Mahogany. The Chicago native adds that the piece includes real hip-hop and urban movements including the pop and lock dance style.

“It’s a hip-hop flavor that we’ve never done,” said Cheatham.

Mahogany’s versatility far exceeds hip-hop. The theatre will feature funk, modern, jazz, African and ballet dances.

“It’s a myth that black girls can’t do ballet,” said Shepiro Hardeman, the founder and artistic director of both Mahogany and the FAMU Strikers.

“These girls know numerous techniques of dance, and they will deliver a very powerful, exciting and entertaining concert.”

Mahogany Dance Theatre, will headline the Fall Premiere, which will also feature the FAMU Strikers. Together they will cover an array of expressive dance styles.

As a result of their largest membership and fierce competition, this year Mahogany will present one of its best premieres, according to Wilfred “Dubbie” Reddick, 22, a psychology student from Jacksonville and the first male member of Mahogany. Along with Reddick, 37 women help to complete the theatre.

Mahogany was founded Oct. 9, 1997. FAMU Strikers have been around since Feb. 25, 1989. Since then, the theatre has expanded its publicity and has also been a stepping-stone for members to reach higher heights in the art of dance.

Sherron Williams, who was a freshman member of Mahogany last year, auditioned to a piece she learned while in Mahogany and is now dancing professionally with the legendary Alvin Ailey Dancers in New York City.

“I’m never shocked to hear of the accomplishments of Mahogany dancers,” said Vivian Momah, 19, a health care management student and Mahogany stage manager from Miami.

“The talent is phenomenal, and through their appreciation for dance, they have the power to evoke a different mood with every piece they perform.”

Spectators of the Fall Premiere can expect to see a different facet of their own lives being expressed on the stage, according to Williams, who adds that each piece is geared to touch the audience, be it spiritually, inspirationally or lyrically.

Mahogany’s hard work won’t be in vain when its showtime. Student spectators have come to expect quality and excellence from the theatre.

“Every Mahogany show I have been to has blown my mind,” said Kelley Green, a senior english student from Charleston, S. C. “I know to expect a quality concert.”

As Mahogany continues to rehearse, it is clear they all have the same focus in mind. Williams stops them in mid-motion and gives a few critiques. She sometimes breaks into an expressive demonstration of her own.

Seeing this, the members get motivated, quickly return to their positions and improve the run of the sequence.

Lindsey B. Sarjeant, who is also viewing the rehearsal, shakes his head with admiration.

“It’s amazing to see what these girls can do,” said the director of jazz studies and faculty adviser to Mahogany.

“They are a fine aggregation of dancers who are filled with genuine talent.”

The concert will be presented in Lee Hall Auditorium at 7 p.m., and costs $5 for the entire viewing public.