To The Editor:
If a dancer’s entire body becomes the instrument with which he expresses his deepest emotions to a receptive audience, then Michael Leon Thomas gave a virtuoso performance through dance to a captivated audience on February 22 at the Dillon County Theatre.
Each original composition presented by Mr. Thomas was simply perfection in choreography – an agile body moving through space, carried on the crest of lyrics from popular music, and fully demonstrating his complete control and versatility as a professional dancer.
His expressions, his sculpted extensions, his athletic strength, his sense of humor, and his apparent ease in executing complex variations were revealed throughout his entire program…each selection so finely tuned, brilliantly executed, and beautifully concluded with astonishing precision. Totally amazing!
At the beginning of the program’s second half, there was a black stool situated upstage center. This utilitarian prop essentially became Mr. Thomas’s inanimate partner for two of his compositions – literally supporting him, freeing him from the confines of the floor, and allowing him to communicate emotions, not by a dancer’s customary movement through space but from a pivotal point – a fixed position – that never confined Mr. Thomas. Although suspended there, he claimed total control of that space, pushing against and through its invisible boundaries. These may have actually been the most physically demanding performances of his program. Uniquely creative!
All professional artists, no matter their chosen genre, offer in performance, on canvas, in music, in stone, or in literature, subtle glimpses of distinctive elements from their wise teachers and from the masters they have studied in the classroom or in the studio. These elements form the essential foundation upon which each artist begins to explore, to shape, and finally to create his own honest responses to awakening emotions and his personal reactions to life’s realities in the increasingly complex world around him. Ultimately, this developmental process culminates in the creation of each artist’s own personal style; at last, the artist becomes a true original. This is Mr. Thomas! From the opening movements of his performance, Mr. Thomas powerfully exhibited his singular style – one which has earned him a stellar reputation as an acclaimed dancer both here in America and abroad.
Someone more knowledgeable than I of the art of dance might have easily detected the stylistic influences of Judith Jamison, Martha Graham, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, or Mikhail Baryshnikov. For myself, however, I thought that at times I caught on that stage clear glimpses of Marcel Marceau or Charlie Chaplin – especially as evident in the highly entertaining choreography performed to “That Old Black Magic”! In that particular performance, Mr. Thomas literally “painted” every visual image expressed in the lyrics of the song. His comedic, frenzied movements fueled by his boundless physical energy and underscored by wonderfully exaggerated facial expressions was priceless!
Everyone is attendance was amazed, some of whom remained seated long after the performance ended, and all were truly grateful and very proud that this young Dillon native had returned to delight his hometown audience. I have waited too many years to enjoy a performance by Michael Leon Thomas. On Saturday night, the wait was over, and hopefully, Dillon will not have to wait so long for Mr. Thomas to return. What a beautiful way to spend an evening in Dillon!
I very much appreciated that Mr. Thomas opened the evening by showcasing the exceptional talents of Byron McDaniel and Desiree McLain – two young professionals who deserved this recognition and who, as well as others, deserve opportunities to express themselves before their hometown audience!
Bravo, Michael Leon Thomas!
Gerald M. Berry
To The Editor: