DCDC’s ‘Musicology’ salutes legacy of Prince

Dinner theater presentation slated Oct. 29-30 at Sinclair Conference Center.

Credit: Michael Ochs Archives

Credit: Michael Ochs Archives

The enduring musical legacy of Prince (1958-2016), one of the best and most gifted entertainers and musicians of his generation, will be saluted by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in “Musicology,” slated Oct. 29 and 30 in the Ponitz Sinclair Conference Center at Sinclair Community College.

The Minneapolis-born, Academy and Grammy Award-winning legend will forever be associated with his iconic 1984 album and film “Purple Rain.” However, the breadth of his catalog, chock full of hits written not only for him but other artists such as the Bangles and Sinéad O’Connor, cemented his influence as a cross-genre giant within the music industry. Whether exhibiting stylish flair on stage with his guitar or taking pop culture by storm when he decided to rebrand himself simply as a symbol, Prince boldly and proudly created a distinctive, trendsetting landscape all his own.



Entering its 54th season, DCDC is excited to explore Prince’s vast repertoire. Spearheaded by DCDC chief artistic and producing director Debbie Blunden-Diggs and DCDC musical director Deron Bell, “Musicology” is fueled by a sense of nostalgic reverence, which has kept the creative juices flowing and adaptive.

“I grew up listening to Prince and he was a musical genius,” said Blunden-Diggs. “His whole portfolio of music goes from soup to nuts and there’s just so much plushness there to bring to life through the art form that is our communication, which is dance.”

“We are working with an extensive library of music from a phenomenal artist,” echoed Bell. “But I have to yield and pull back because I’m looking at the entire night from pre-show through dinner, the show, the finale, bows and post-show. It would be easy to just do a bunch of Prince songs and jam and be funky, but this isn’t that kind of party. There is a discipline to the evening from the moment people arrive. The energy in the room will continue to climb throughout the evening but there will be a mystique, an element of surprise, so that takes work.”

The decision to program the concert as dinner theatre stems from the organization’s desire to draw more people – returnees and newcomers – back to dance in a more engaging, less stuffy fashion. Blunden-Diggs is mindful of COVID hesitancy among those who haven’t been attending productions as often as before but hopes the lighter format will provide a welcoming change of pace.

“I thought this would be a really fun, social dance event,” she said. “We’re not completely out of COVID, but it’s very clear that people are looking for things to do. So, I thought creating a structure that has been successful for us – dinner theater – would provide a different kind of social environment to view dance. DCDC’s offerings in and of themselves are healing. And being a part of an event, a performance, has some healing properties, which sort of speak to your soul in a different kind of way.”

Inside the music

The concert title is a nod to Prince’s 2004 album of the same name. The musical selections will be presented as a mixture of live music provided by the Deron Bell Band, pre-recorded tracks and an infusion of both through new technology.

“I did a lot of research on Prince’s music and we also had rehearsals to understand the placement of each song,” said Bell, who has served as DCDC music director since 2009. “Some songs are heavily guitar-driven or have heavy drum beats. Other songs rely on the tone of the keyboard to bring you into its essence. For me, the songs have to sound good, feel good, and have all the parts where they need to be to suit the choreography that has been designed. It’s a big responsibility but I love the journey – it’s not a challenge.”



In terms of song placement, Bell says the lineup will be an assortment of familiar and perhaps lesser known tunes signifying DCDC’s commitment to producing unique experiences.

“There will be songs that hit the top of the charts but also songs that didn’t get radio play that were still great songs – radio can only play one song at a time,” he said. “But there were so many other artists he wrote for and other songs that may surprise you. When you talk about a night of Prince music, there are so many sides of his artistry that infuses so many different styles and genres of music. Prince is known for great music whether it’s rock, funky, smooth or sensuous. We want to deliver magical moments through dance and music.”

Bell also shared words of wisdom about interpreting within the tribute structure.

“I often tell leaders of bands and younger musicians who aspire to be musical directors that when it comes to doing tributes or recognizing or honoring another artist’s music don’t try to duplicate that artist because you’re not that person,” he explained. “But what you can do is offer professional courtesy and deliver the song in a manner that sounds good, feels good, and let the delivery be complimentary to the artist. DCDC is not offering Prince in concert. DCDC is dancing to the sounds of Prince. So, it’s a matter of respecting the artist, complimenting the dancers with the melodies, the chords, the drum beats, that remind you of the artist that was once there while appreciating the artistry of the dancers delivering it.”

Choreographic insight

Robert Pulido, a native of Los Angeles, beginning his eighth season as a DCDC company dancer, notably choreographs a swing/jazz-centric routine meshing “America” with “Let’s Go Crazy.” Inspired by the lyrics to both songs as relevant societal statements, he aimed to create a piece connecting ordinary uniformity with joyful spontaneity.

“‘America’ has a very mundane feel, like an assembly line in which no one necessarily has their own identity, until one person starts to develop their own personality, which sparks others to do the same,” said Pulido. “And when that happens, they realize they all can be different people and can just have a party.”

Additional choreographers include company members Elizabeth Ramsey of Toledo and Quentin Apollovaughn Sledge of Chicago.



“Musicology” follows DCDC’s well-received performance of Abby Zbikowski’s “Indestructible” in September at the “Fall for Dance Festival” at New York’s historic City Center. Kasey Broekema of The Ballet Herald praised the troupe saying, “I was beyond impressed with the strength and formidable power of the ensemble.”

Blunden-Diggs is confident “Musicology” will deliver another signature imprint.

“Part of the mission of this company particularly in 2022 is to show up in spaces in all of our Blackness but not to the exclusion of people who are not Black,” she said. “Dayton is in our name and what we want to take with us everywhere we go is that a product of this level of quality was built in Dayton, Ohio.”


What: “Musicology”

Where: Ponitz Sinclair Conference Center of Sinclair Community College, 444 W. Third St., Dayton

When: Oct. 29-30; 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; Doors open 30 minutes prior to performance

Cost: $66.50-$71.50

Tickets: Call Dayton Live at 937-228-3630 or visit daytonlive.org. Ticket sales will only be available through Thursday, Oct. 27

About the Author