With the first days of fall come the expectations of great dance to be enjoyed by all of those who are fortunate enough to live in St. Louis. We at Dance St. Louis have prepared a feast of fabulous companies, exciting performers and challenging works. Which is more than I can say about most of what I have seen over the summer.
Having made a negative comment, let me start instead with the high points. I was able to fly to Jacob’s Pillow and catch a Friday night performance of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. It was thrilling, Being a late bloomer to his style, I was fascinated. Who would have known that less than 48 hours later Merce was to die, and with his passing an incredible link to the power of the 20th Century in dance was lost. I was also able to catch a performance of Jason Samuels Smith and Company at the smaller Doris Duke Theatre. A virtuoso of tap accompanied by four other very gifted artists and musicians. His mastery brought the house down and offered great opportunity to all the performers to shine. The intricacies of tap dancing still elude me but I am able to admire greatness when I see it.
The balance of the summer was spent planning and relaxing, managing to take off a couple of weeks and visit Chile, my place of birth, where I had not been for almost two years, one of the longer stretches since I left home as an 18-year-old boy dreaming of becoming involved in dance. I guess coming close to collecting Social Security does weaken your immune system, and for the first time even I fell prey to what is known as “Chilenitis.” Whether I drank water or ate the wrong mayonnaise, I paid the price and my first 72 hours home were nothing pleasant to write home about. Once up and about I was unable to catch any dance performance as none was taking place, but to my delight and through the prodding of friends of mine, we met with some enterprising people who are excited about the possibility of making Dance St. Louis’ SPRING TO DANCE™ a staple of the Chilean Dance Culture. Still much to iron out, but their excitement was genuine, now it’s about making it happen and raising the money.
No sooner had I landed, come to the office to say hello and give little trinkets to the nine marvelous women with whom I work, that I was on a plane to St. Paul, Minnesota to attend the Midwest Arts Conference. I was excited as its focus was to be dance and so many of those companies that were to be there had been part of our first two SPRING TO DANCE Festivals.
What was obvious was that we had definitely chosen the best and it showed. What was very disappointing is that the one adjudicated show that was to give all of us Presenters from the area a great look at some of the more exciting local dance creators and performers, turned out to be a bust. The selections were terrible. They presumed them to be avant-garde, but that should not mean boring. An incredible opportunity to get people excited about our art form, an art form that many are still reticent to showcase, was wasted, and the presenters left the theatre disgruntled and disgusted.
So our labor of love continues, and we are hoping to mend fences and get more people excited about the beauty of dance. I visited Fall for Dance in New York City while taking in Hair choreographed by Karole Armitage, whom we so successfully showcased last year, plus a performance at the Joyce Theater of a company unknown to me. I returned to join our supporters over dinner, then took the first plane to Chicago to view a performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna (pictured below), and then flew to Phoenix to look at costumes and sets for a project we are putting together with the Touhill and University of Missouri-St. Louis that might see us partnering also with Kansas City Ballet. I will be able to catch an open-air performance of Ballet Arizona, a company I directed for seven years, and will report in due time about all of this.
I did manage to visit Denver and spend time with my grandchildren, and what a joyful three days those were.
Will keep in touch.
Love and peace,