Press Clippings

Dance company brings whistles, batons and Afro-Dominican dialogue to Community Folk Arts Center

Adobe Illustrator has a lot more in common with Afro-Dominican identity than you might think.

Dominican author Nelly Rosario draws this connection with her poetry, weaving graphic design manuals' instructions for setting the appearance of black ink into a racial dialogue narrated in a mix of English and Spanish. Rosario's poetry served as a backdrop for Areytos Performance Works' song and dance Saturday at the Community Folk Art Center.

"If you don't choose the right settings, it won't print black enough," explained artistic director Sita Frederick after the performance, emphasizing the arbitrary nature of racial categorizations.

The New York City-based Areytos Performance Works, led by Frederick, is a dance theater company at the intersection of Afro-Caribbean traditional dance and contemporary modern dance. The group is particularly interested, said Frederick, in the politics of black identity.

"There's just been a lot of definitions thrown around about what it means to be Dominican, Haitian and black," she said. "It's very complicated, and things get oversimplified all the time."

Saturday's show centered on the carnival-esque Gaga and Guloya, two street performance traditions that stem from both Dominican Vodun tradition and a celebration of community.

The theater company opened with a solo dance from Genaro Ozuna, who balanced blowing a shrill, ear-piercing whistle with baton-twirling and strutting in traditional Gaga form. Ozuna wore a half-red, half-black costume he designed himself.

Next, Rosario's poetry filtered through speakers as Frederick and Alethea Pace, a dancer trained in contemporary and West African forms, took the stage.

"Print me in color ... black absorbs all frequencies of light," narrated the voiceover as the two women, both in tightly pinned braids, flexed their arms menacingly. Their dance, also accompanied by whistles, was a graceful entwining of bodies punctuated by combative, martial arts-style dance-fighting. Behind them, a projected video played scenes of merry street dancers.

After the performance, Frederick invited audience feedback and then held an informal dance workshop.

"They're working on the streets; they're in festivals," said Tanya Johnson-Ruffin, director of education at the Community Folk Art Center. "They're trying to not only entertain, but educate."

Modern Dance Innovations On Clave Beat: Areytos Premieres New Works

Modern Dance Innovations On Clave Beat: Areytos Premieres New Works

"We went to see dance troupe Areytos Performance Works' amazing presentation of Herencia Cubana: Bembé, Salón y Calle, at the Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture, and are still relishing that magical moment, where past and present and movement and music and persons and communities and histories just meld....

Sita Frederick's company has a wealth of creative talent in choreography, skillfully blending centuries-old ritual forms, through the classic dances of the 19th and 20th centuries, and fully into 21st century modern dance. A brilliant example of these new works is the haunting Sirenas, an exploration of the power of our blue planet and its lunar energy.

In the stunning Permiso, the subtleties and power and gender struggles of the genre that is rumba are explored in new ways, in expressions that shatter all audience expectations. Maletumba II was deeply moving, another wonderful incantation of roots and modernity and possibilities.

Uptown Choreographers Juggle Politics and Pride at Harlem Showcase

Uptown Choreographers Juggle Politics and Pride at Harlem Showcase

by Monica Levette Clark
May 25th, 2004

“This series showcased multi-ethnic dance makers emerging, evolved, or established in the game. Sita Frederick, who can act, dance, and sing, put on a one-woman show of sorts in her BitterSuite. In 10 minutes she gave us candy, costumes, comedy, props, and commentary with a political edge. Ditching ridiculously high platform boots, a green military uniform way too big for her, a black mustache, and a thick Spanish accent, she revealed her small frame in short shorts and a halter top. Her legs and midriff bare, she appeared less dynamic than the character she'd portrayed earlier, her movements ranging from a chain of traveling turns to grounded contractions and swiveling hips, danced to a recording of traditional Gaga music performed by Boni Raposo. Camille A. Brown's Shelter of Presence set five black male bodies moving to a spirited gospel medley by Take 6. Brown's attention to detail, and the intense pride on the faces and in the posture of these men, made the dance fulfilling to watch.”

The Dance Insider: Flash Review Journal

The Dance Insider: Flash Review Journal

November 23, 2005

“In "Bittersuite," José Ortiz inserts Sita Frederick's figure into documentary footage from Frederick's recent trip to the Dominican Republic. As Frederick references the actions of the bodies on-screen, her several selves, both onstage and projected, seem caught in a dialogue across time and space, witnessing and questioning the past.” — Chris Dohse