Two weeks ago I attended MADCO’s fall presentation, an ambitious program with three world premieres. I thought each work challenged the dancers to move in a specific way and they met the challenge. However, I was not taken by any of the works specifically. Much too often their works fall in the trap of having everyone dancing all the time which does not allow for dramatic continuity and aside from costuming them differently, they start looking alike. I thought James Robey’s work had interesting tensions that should be explored further, though the use of a central character seemed to create certain expectations that were not totally resolved. Two other works founded up the program. One was a repeat of “Land’s Edge,” a PILOBOLUS work that was gifted to them as part of New Dance Horizons II. It was the strongest of all the works and it was great to see the dancers perform it at a higher level of intensity as well as a better physical and intellectual understanding than they had in October. The repeating of works is vital for their growth and the dancers’ development, but we often tend to simply move on and create more new works for the sake of newness.
This past weekend I attended the Ovation Series that Charlie Robin manages at the Edison Theatre on the campus of Washington University. He brought a marvelous group of 13 men from Argentina performing in “Che Malambo.” The show was approximately 90 minutes of high power machismo, foot stopping, bolas flying and sheer fun entertainment that had the audience cheering their approval. The 13 men of various physical stature that presented a harmonious evening of stylized Argentinean folk must have been exhausted when the show finally concluded.
What I am really fascinated by is the wealth of world class dance that people in St. Louis have at their fingers tips and seemingly do not take advantage of. In a city the size of ours, the dance performances that both the Edison Ovation Series and Dance St. Louis offer give our city an incredible showcase of the art form. For simply 8 or 9 evenings a year, you will have seen close to 36 dance events in 4 years — to be able to catch and admire that many performances, you would have had to travel the world and pay 3 times as much.
I am thrilled that what the Edison Ovation Series and Dance St. Louis do compliment each other. And do not think it happens by chance, Charlie and I do correspond and exchange plans for the future so as to do exactly that, enhance the audience going to experience dance.
A week has gone by since our friends from Shanghai Ballet arrived in town. After riding a bus for over four hours from Overland Park, KS where they had been performing the night before, they looked amazingly fresh when I peeked at them in company class. One thing that they truly where was hungry. Per their request, we provided them an authentic Chinese dinner and needless to say, little to nothing was left once they got through with it. And that seemed to be the theme for the 2 days and 3 performances they gave.
Extremely well trained, slender, disciplined and focused dancers embarked on the three performances of “The Butterfly Lovers.” This sumptuous production of a well known Chinese story was brought to life through inventive and creative choreography in very simple and direct terms that endeared the audiences who remained attentive throughout the performance and exploded into warm and thunderous applause when the last step was delivered. Watching them glide through the steps with complete assurance gave me a great appreciation for what Xin Lili, the Artistic Director of the Shanghai Ballet, has achieved and developed within the institution. Their path seems to be the right one for such a company and their future looks bright.
No sooner than when the third show came to an end that a final reception was held in their honor and food was gobbled one more time. After smiles and new friends made, the dancers had to file onto the bus to catch a few hours of sleep before heading, at 7 AM the next morning, to Memphis, Tennessee for a 3 o’clock show. Oh to be young again!
For me it was a special three days as I renewed friendships with individuals that are now guiding the dancers, like Xin Lili and Ming, who I had worked with as dancers as far back as 1986. Our smiles of recognition showed the loving nature that that experience was. Our miming of conversation made us all laugh. Photos were taken and soon Facebook was carrying them around the globe and beautiful messages from other dancers involved in those days of ‘86 starting sending comments. It was a precious and dear time and we said good bye hoping that the next time we saw each other would not be 27 years later.
Safe journeys Shanghai Ballet
What a unique opportunity lies ahead for all of us! Our friends from China, Shanghai to be specific, are arriving in town following fantastic reviews and commentaries from all of the cities they have already toured. Having worked with them in the 80’s and the 90’s, I have a special place in my heart for them as individuals. Xin LiLi, Artistic Director and Choreographer of “The Butterfly Lovers,” the Chinese version of “Romeo and Juliet,” was one of the leading dancers in a couple of the works I staged in Shanghai when working with them.
Shanghai Ballet’s work should appeal to all, the color and texture of their approach to dance is uniquely theirs. Their training is also superb and because of their vision they do so with special sensibilities. This large production, with over 50 dancers on stage, fulfills all the wants of those desiring full length works.
This show should bring hundreds of families to enjoy a masterful work beautifully performed. Do not miss it if you are in St. Louis this upcoming weekend, November 8 and 9, 2013 at the Touhill.
Last weekend I saw the The Big Muddy Dance Company performing to an excited audience of about 500 at Casa Loma Ballroom, a most interesting venue not usually associated with live dance performances but one that should definitely be looked at seriously for unusual performances and attractions. Needless to say it would need major improvements as the problems that upset Paula David, Artistic Director of The Big Muddy were obvious but did not interfere with the power of the dancing and the artistry of the performers.
The evening was full of great energy with pieces that appealed to all. Perhaps, because of who I am and where I come from, it was the most introspective numbers that appeal to me the most. Kameron Saunders’ quartet for 4 men had all the right qualities and ingredients and the premiere of Thom Dancy, a new member of the company, introduced us to someone to watch. His work was marvelous because it dared to be quiet, a good change of pace from the energetic approach of all the other works.
It is marvelous to welcome The Big Muddy Dance Company to our St. Louis arena. What Paula David has done in three short years needs to be praised and applauded. Her ability to surround herself with dancers that engage the audience at all levels is special and to have them back their dancing abilities with personality is a special joy. I look forward to their other presentations and am thrilled that for their January performance they have chosen to stage a work of mine, “A Media Luz” to music of Astor Piazzolla. Rehearsals are already at such a high level that I can’t wait to see the final result.
Before I arrived in St. Louis to become the Artistic & Executive Director of Dance St. Louis, I was very much involved in the creation of new works. Over 45 years have passed since I created my first work for The Joffrey Ballet and I must have done over 100 small works, created some 6 to 8 full length ballets and choreographed and/or directed countless operas. So, when taking over Dance St. Louis, I knew I would have to curtail that aspect of my career. Fortunately, those creative juices have been allowed to flow thanks to the kindness of Saint Louis Ballet, who has asked me in the past to re-stage two of my duets, and MADCO, who performed my Bach Cantata.
Recently, The Big Muddy Dance Company and Paula David came to me and requested that I stage on them “A Media Luz,” a work that I created in 2002 (I think) for the New World Dance Ensemble. The work became a huge hit and was their second calling card along with a work by Robert Battle, director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to revisit the work! Tina Santos, my assistant at New World, came to St. Louis to help re-stage it and what an amazing week that was. By the end the dancers were exhausted and already relished in the work. When I returned from touring with New Dance Horizons II, I was able to work with them for a couple of hours. Their energy and performance quality was already at a high peak, just a few touches here and there and the work begun taking incredible shape. I could not hide my satisfaction with their commitment and dedication to the work. Unfortunately, we have to wait until January 18th to see it on stage. But, that will give me the opportunity to be surrounded by the dancers a few more times and feel the connection to the art form we, Dance St. Louis, tries to promote.
If you can, join The Big Muddy Dance Company for their performance in January. It should be fun and so far I am really proud of how they dance this piece and how well the work itself works.
*photos courtesy of The Big Muddy Dance Company
The time has come for everyone to rush to the Touhill and get a glimpse of an incredible performance that showcases 4 creations of un-paralleled beauty, passion and drama. Our four companies, Leverage Dance Theater, Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company, MADCO and Saint Louis Ballet shine brightly in magical creations by Nejla Yatkin, Uri Sands, PILOBOLUS and Emery LeCrone.
Each work is a jewel unto its own. Together they create a string of creative pearls that will have you glued to your seats, marveling at the images conjured by the choreographers and the interpretation of the artists.
From the white purity and romantic piano music played brilliantly by Daniel Schene, Director of the Piano Department at Webster University, in Nejla’s piece, to the abstract neo classicism of Emery’s intricate patterns to contemporary music, to the powerful drama of Uri’s creation inspired by an incredible American woman, Ms, Henrietta Lacks and the fluidity of the performers to the intricacies of PILOBOLUS’ work staged masterfully by Jude Woodcock and performed with strong assurance by the dancers, you will be positively and completely overwhelmed.
Do not miss this! There is no conflict with the Cardinals playoffs, so no excuse is allowed. Come and cherish the gifts that St. Louis has to offer and the gift that Dance St. Louis is bestowing on all of us.
*photos by Steve Truesdell
I finally got to see all of the New Dance Horizons II works and I could not be more thrilled at what has been created and how it is being danced.
Something very special occurs when you commission four independent choreographers and have them stage works on four different dance companies that appear together in an evening of dance second to none.
Having worked in a repertory company and having experienced and seen the thrill of performing different works I never thought of what would happen if the same approach was done utilizing four different groups with their own points of view. The result is New Dance Horizons II.
Emery LeCrone’s work for St. Louis Ballet is full of choreographic intricacies and requires total concentration and a complete physical commitment to the work. The dancers are doing exactly that. Although I have only seen some 5 minutes of the work, it is a fascinating abstract piece that takes you into the dancers’ bodies.
The imagery that Nejla Yatkin has created for Leverage Dance Theatre, the harmonious intensity, fluidity and emotionality of Uri Sands’ work for Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company and the amazing theatricality and physicality that is demanded of MADCO in PILOBOLUS’ “Land’s Edge” will make dance lovers drool. What a joy to be part of this unique adventure and how proud we feel to have this take part in Missouri, where the motto The Show Me State certainly applies to New Dance Horizons.
See you at the Touhill THIS WEEKEND. Don’t complain if you miss it.
Love and peace,
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company, Dance St. Louis, Emery LeCrone, Leverage Dance Theater, MADCO, Michael Uthoff, Nejla Yatkin, New Dance Horizons II, Pilobolus, PNC Arts Alive, PNC Arts Alive New Dance Horizons, Saint Louis Ballet, Touhill Performing Arts Center