A review of an interpretative dance piece, about American Star athlete and activist Muhammad Ali
Inspired by the mind of Fred Ho “The Opulence of Integrity” is an interpretative dance piece written to encompass much of the life and consciousness of legendary American Boxer Muhammad Ali. Presented at Belk theatre here at UNCC, the ensemble work was split up into four movements. Each of which were divided by a monologue, by Washington D.C. poet Patrick Washington who played the voice of the boxer and activist, that focused on a specific aspect of Ali’s life such as his relationship with renowned civil rights leader Malcolm X. The monologue along with the overhead images and quotes attached to the piece meshed well in contextualizing the emotion shown by the choreography in each movement.
In their movements, dancers Dante Brown, Orlando Hunter, Cameron McKinney, Gilbert Reyes, Shannon Thorpe and Ricardo Valentine greatly exhibited the bravado, the pride and the struggle for identity which choreographer Christal Brown wished to demonstrate of men of color in the USA, using Ali’s story as a conduit. This reviewer was not able to completely analyze the symbolism behind each dance but that is honestly more due towards not knowing the complete story of Muhammad Ali, however I found the ensemble for the most part to be a legible translation of the choreographer’s goals.
Mixing punches jabs with what looked like African styled dances to a backdrop of house music and Afro beat by Zimbabwe musician and composer Farai Malianga, the spirit and personality of Ali looked to come alive. It would be interesting to hear what the man himself or the family of Ali think about “The Opulence of Integrity” if/or when they have a chance to see this presentation. Although the piece is not the type of theatrical art I am particular to, the amount of digital and print information the show made use of to get its point across along with the physical movements of dancers helped to not only keep my attention but to pique my interest.
The cast members themselves are a troupe comprised of motivated and kind individuals hailing from places like Tennessee, Washington D.C., NYC, New Jersey and North Carolina. Even UNCC senior Shannon Thorpe had a part in the piece as a show of support to local artists, which she did an knock out job in. From the answers the troupe gave during the Q+A it was easy to see that they were very much involved in the work they helped present to the audience of Belk theatre. Topics during the Q+A ranged from the choreographer making sure that the piece is well understood through different mediums, to building trust amongst peers off stage in order to have trust onstage, to finding meaning in your work, all of which shone through in their artistry during the “The Opulence of Integrity.”