Dee-Lite and Robert Henry Johnson don’t lie!!


IMMHTISAG.52015-Review of 10/25 & 10/26 FLACC performance:

 “Next up was Zari Le’on’s “In my Mother’s house there is still God!”, my favorite piece of the evening. Costumed like an evil fairytale queen, Le’on began downstage center with her back facing the audience. Strong, punctuated movements led her forward and back: extended arms with a fist, percussive feet, deep lunges, grand pliés in a wide 2nd position. Le’on wove a spell to the milky, electronic score and with the exception of a few turns at the end, we never saw her face. This choice added an unexpected aspect of anonymity to the dance.” -Heather Desaulniers


Photography by Sarah Blade

Review for glitterBLACK:

Zari Le’on Concert Not To Be Missed

As I left my house last night to head down to The 418 Project in downtown Santa Cruz to see Zari Le’on Dance Theater, I told my husband I was expecting to see some ambiguous modern dance with Africanist styling. I was so wrong. ZLDT’s four woman ensemble marched into the dance space singing “Down to the River and Pray.” Their a cappella voices and boot stomping filled the room and established the space as theirs. For the next hour these four, powerful dancers performed a non-stop, high energy, African-American inspired suite of dances into which we were emotionally drawn.

glitterBlack is Zari Le’on Dance Theater’s evening concert of “contemporary vernacular” dance. Le’on joins the fundamentals of ballet and Dunham techniques with contemporary street and club (“vernacular”) dance. The effect is electric. Her purpose is to express the life experiences of African-American women: her joys, sorrows, prayers, and force of will.

With Katherine Dunham’s Haitian-inspired techniques driving the choreography, Le’on created movements that took up space physically and psychologically. Even a simple walk across the stage was done with bold determination. The irresistible musical rhythms and fierce movements drew us into their world of real women living real lives.

The dancers—Kitami Sari Blakey, Kali Ites Houchen, Shaunah Trumbell, and Le’on, all native Santa Cruzans—shared the leading and supportive roles, more like the traditional call-and-response relationships than a soloist with chorus. Each woman completed the choreography with her own unique style (although I wish their synchronized steps were better synchronized). Their physical presence (no waif-like ballerinas here), the power in their legs, the ecstatic toss of arms and heads, the vitality in the torso, kept us on the edge of our seats.

At the end of the hour, we, the audience, flew off our chairs as if we had been waiting for an invitation to join them. The comments from the crowd were limited to a speechless “Wow!” If you missed last nights performance, make an effort to see them tonight at 8:00. You won’t be sorry.



Photography by Joshua Klipp

Review of Belly of the Beat at Dance Mission:
I was impressed with the way you incorporated the use of Katherine Dunham technique in your choreography.  It is so refreshing to see young, emerging choreographers like yourself using the technique in this way.
There was a recent article written by L.A. Times dance critic Lewis Segal, where he implied that “no one” really uses Katherine Dunham’s technique anymore. He should see your work!   Any true “disciple” of the Dunham technique will recognize the Dunham “stamp.”    The powerful leg lifts, isolations, and carriage of the body- were all incorporated into your own choreographic style.  Kudos to you for developing your own style, while continuing to honor legendary dancers that have blessed us all.
Denise Pate


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