Demopolis turns to ‘The Bends of Life’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 4, 2006

Even though there weren’t many people in the Demopolis Middle School gymnasium, the crowd size was not indicative of the performance by New York City-based Wideman/Davis Dance group.

Last night their dance interpretation of the story of Gee’s Bend, entertained a handful of Demopolis citizens, but the four performers put their all into the performance none the less, to demonstrate that the arts can be a way of life.

Thaddeus Davis and his wife, Tanya Wideman-Davis, created and choreographed “The Bends of Life…Surviving, Sewing, Standing” along side Patro Davis as the director.

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“We want to be an influence to young people because dance can provide stability and entertainment in lives,” Davis said. “It also keeps you soft and helps your emotions stay in tact. It makes you human.”

“We just want children’s minds to be open to art,” Wideman-Davis, a Chicago native, said, “and plus there’s just so much potential in the Black Belt.”

As a former accountant, St. Louis, Mo., native Carla Yvette is currently involved in almost ever aspect of the arts from music and television, to teaching and dance.

“I was privileged growing up and I want to give back more than I received,” she said.

And Montgomery resident Ron McCall said he just wants to make sure the arts stay alive because when budgets get cut, artistic activities are the first things to go.

“We have to keep out test scores up, but we also have to get our humanities up,” he said, “and I think we can only do that through the arts.”

Although the project is in “phase three of about 25 phases,” Davis joked, the audience thoroughly enjoyed its journey back to the time when Gee’s Bend first began.

“It was…amazing,” Demopolis resident Sarah Hallmark said almost at a lost for words.

“I liked it,” her five-year-old son Parker chimed in.

Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson was also there to enjoy the performance, which surpassed her expectations.

“It was more than I expected. They are extremely talented,” she said, “and so well-versed on the history and the culture of Gee’s Bend.”

But the group’s knowledge all came from reading about Gee’s Bend, since they’ve never been to the infamous quilting location.

“But we have plans for an extended stay,” Davis said.

And those aren’t the only plans the group has for the future, Wideman-Davis said. One of the next steps is to put the performance on a large-scale screen to add video and their own music score to the performance.

“We want to be able to add more props too,” she said, “and have all the elements we’ve wanted to have since we started the project.”