DCDC to salute music of Marvin Gaye this weekend

‘What’s Going On?’ to be presented virtually Sunday and rebroadcast on Nov. 29

Legendary Marvin Gaye’s timeless tunes provide the creative foundation for Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s aptly titled performance “What’s Going On?,” to be presented virtually Sunday, Nov. 22 at 4 p.m. with a rebroadcast option offered throughout the entirety of Sunday, Nov. 29.

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Nicknamed Prince of Motown and Prince of Soul, Gaye, a two-time Grammy winner who passed away in 1984 at age 44, continues to inspire generations. His smooth-as-silk vocals soothed and enticed but in May 1971, upon the release of his album “What’s Going On” and despite pushback from Motown producer Berry Gordy, he memorably challenged everyone to deeply reflect on the world around them. As the Vietnam War escalated, his passionate call to action was simple: “We’ve got to find a way to bring some loving here today.” With “What’s Going On” as a centerpiece, DCDC, entering its 52nd season, hopes to remind audiences of the powerful relevancy of his enduring legacy.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

“Marvin Gaye speaks to the sign of the times and has an incredible portfolio,” said Debbie Blunden-Diggs, DCDC chief artistic administrator and producing director. “'What’s Going On' was very iconic for him. He was speaking to what was happening then and we are in a sense responding to what’s happening now. We built this season before COVID-19 and (America’s) social justice (reckoning). The fact that this concert is (happening) right now is even more significant.”

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“The seamless musical essence of Marvin Gaye is soulful, inspiring, uplifting, sexy, and extremely political,” echoed company member Qarrianne Blayr, DCDC associate artistic director. “He’s also very straightforward in his messaging (with themes) such as self-love, community love and basic respect.”

The main performance will be filmed inside the Dayton Art Institute’s Rose Auditorium, but to heighten the digital experience, Blayr choreographed “I Want You” on location at the Balsley House in the Oregon District. Featuring company members Devin Baker, Robert Pulido, Elizabeth Ramsey, Matthew J. Talley and Countess V. Winfrey, the routine will capture the look and feel of a music video.

“It’s a very groovy, intimate, clever, and artistic routine,” she said. “As for the song itself, ‘I Want You’ is groovy and sexy on top but underneath it says ‘I want you but I want you to want me too.’ It’s a straightforward (message) which could speak to romance, community or even an organization. DCDC wants to be here for Dayton but we want Dayton to want us to be here as well.”

In addition to Blayr, choreographers include the aforementioned Baker, Ramsey, Pulido and Winfrey. Adherence to guidelines have been particularly productive.

“The blessing and the challenge for this show is that it contains new choreography,” Blayr said. “We are able to build in the distance instead of retrofitting protocols into pieces which have already been done before, especially in terms of partnering.”

Organizers acknowledge the concert’s title encourages thoughtful introspection just as Gaye intended nearly 50 years ago. Self-awareness is key as the troupe moves forward in spite of obstacles that have made this year unprecedented.

“It’s a challenging time,” Blayr said. “It’s not easy to try to come up with different ways to present work in the caliber you know you can do. But if everybody seeks to give their best artistic work, their best community development idea, at least the African-American community and the DCDC community can continue growing and thriving, especially if we ask how we can pivot with the times.”


What: “What’s Going On?”

When: Sunday, Nov. 22 at 4 p.m. (one-time only Live Watch Party immediately followed by Lights Up, an online conversation with dance artists, creative team and community guests) or Sunday, Nov. 29 available all day beginning at midnight (does not include the live post-show conversation).

Cost: $25

Tickets: (937) 228-3630 or visit daytonlive.org

More info: Visit dcdc.org or visit DCDC on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

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