Who's Got the Funk?

Todays News

BY ANDREW FABIAN, ANDREW.FABIAN@SRQME.COM SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY NOV 29, 2019

Whether it’s the African polyrhythms or James Brown’s exalted, aerobic treatment of the genre, few styles of music compel a body to move quite like funk. So, it was probably just a matter of time before Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD) and its troupe of expert movers decided to incorporate the music into a live performance that celebrates funk’s origins while reframing it in a fresh, modern way. The soundtrack for this collaboration is provided by none other than Reverend Barry & The Funk, the area’s eminent 8-piece funk band that features a 3-piece horn section. 

The Funk are fronted by bass player, bandleader and primary vocalist Barry Nicholson, while a bevy of Grammy-nominated musicians accompany Nicholson with expert virtuosity. With their high-energy mix of celebrated covers and dazzling originals, SCD was given plenty to work with. “The music created the space for fun and experimentation,” says artistic director and co-founder Leymis Bolaños Wilmott, who was inspired to choreograph dances specific to the individuality of each of the six SCD dancers pegged for the show. Without divulging too much, Wilmott says each dancer will have certain “obstacles” or “props” with them on stage as they perform to some undisclosed funk classics from James Brown and others, as well as the debut of original music from Reverend Barry & The Funk.

But in spite of the lighthearted fun of the music, collaborating and choreographing for the genre proved to be a worthwhile challenge. “Funk is so improvisational and fun,” says Wilmott, a contrast to the more formal approach of a typical SCD show. It was important that Wilmott find a balance between honoring the fun and subversive nature of the genre while still packaging it in a stage production that SCD feels familiar to audiences. And, of course, it all had to be framed in a way that was clearly contemporary. “There’s this implied fourth wall in our performances,” says Wilmott, “but I wanted to try and break it down a little bit to have a relational, call-and-response theme that was so central to the genre.”

The funky string of shows opens Thursday, December 5 at 7:30 pm and runs through Sunday, December 8 at the Jane B. Cook Theatre. 

Photo by Sorcha Augustine, "Dancer Monessa Salley showcases some funky bounce."

Sarasota Contemporary Dance, 1400 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota, 941-260-8485

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