Excitement in Florida, Kansas and St. Louis

COMPLEXIONS leap-cropped-webAt Dance St. Louis we have just completed the opening of our 2009-10 Season with three performances by Complexions (left). It was a rousing start to a great season.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

As my travels continued some truly exciting dancing took place that I was fortunate to witness. I headed south to Sarasota, a beautiful town in Florida where Ringling Brothers Circus has set their museum and had the sense to build three theaters for live performances. In partnership with Baryshnikov Arts Center from New York City, a festival of music, theater and dance was launched. My interest and time determined that my focus would be dance.  The theaters were small by usual standards and performances were sold out.

I saw three companies that performed twice a day. My main reason for being there was to see Aszure Barton & Artists. I had seen her at Jacob’s Pillow some three years ago and fell in love with her work. Since then I have tried hard to make certain that as soon as her company got off the floor, she would come to St. Louis. After seeing what I saw, I must shout, “She Is Coming, She Is Coming!” (Aszure is pictured at below right with Michael Uthoff). The performance confirmed and MU & Aszure copyexpanded my belief in her work. It was creative, physical, sensual, funny, visually striking, perhaps profane to some but at every moment, with every step and image, your attention was riveted to the stage and the glorious ability of her dancers/artists. The respect she has for the craft and her dancers makes me wish for youth and the ability to perform again. If I could I would rush to be part of her group. And “She Is Coming to St. Louis!”

Back to St. Louis via Tampa, where I spend the afternoon with my great friends, Tito and Gigi Capobianco. He is a famed Opera director with whom I have worked all over the USA and with whom we embarked on our ill-fated mission to resurrect the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was great seeing them and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. I must remember to go see them more often, but Tampa is not always in my way to someplace.

I came home to the battle of the cash flow. Expectations are high, results have not met them, but it is amazing what we are accomplishing so far. Let us hope it is a sign of tremendous things to come. So, that done, with a small bag packed I headed West in my trusted Toyota Highlander. This time my objective was the opening of Kansas City Ballet. We have presented them before and will bring them back for our SPRING TO DANCE ® FESTIVAL 2010, and we are also discussing a couple of projects with them.

Artistic Director William Whitener and Executive Director Jeff Bentley had great reason to be beaming. Not only did the company look very good, but in a couple of weeks ground will be broken to bolender centerstart construction of the Todd Bolender Dance and Creativity Center (artist sketch at left). To top that, in a couple of years they will be moving into a brand new Arts Center where they will be the resident dance company, allowing them to dream of many more things to create.

Bill Whitener is a staunch believer in the teachings of the past, as his program this time showed. But more important in my opinion, it gave the dancers an unusual opportunity to work in things that they had never experienced and that had not previously been part of the company’s vision. By trying them now, the dancers will be beautifully prepared for the expanded repertory that should come their way once the Arts Center is built.kb ballet--kim-cowan- will-whitener- elena-kinikova

Looking at the company I was impressed by the quality and precision and beauty of the women They seemed to have improved tremendously every year. The men accredited themselves well but it was a program that gave the ladies more of a shine.

I discovered, like the audience did, a little jewel of pastiche and mannerism created in the 19th Century. Frescoes, choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon (right), saw four women convey all the mannerism of an era. I could not help but smile and be amazed at the performers and really be impressed on how the audience responded to it.

The other encounter I had was with Splendid Isolation III, the work of a young choreographer, Jessica Lang, of whom I had heard a lot but had never seen anything. She is a graduate of Juilliard, if I am not mistaken of around the same time that Aszure Barton graduated It says a lot for the teaching at that time. Her work was luminous. She had the guts and fearlessness to be simple. To be emotional. I was truly impressed, and St. Louis audiences will also get the privilege of seeing her work when Kansas City Ballet appears at our SPRING TO DANCE next May. Do not miss this.

The rest of the program showcased the company’s willingness to try some things that are great preparation for the future. The pas de deux from Le Corsaire was danced with clarity and precision, though they have yet to capture the grandeur of a work where an entrance is as important and riveting as a series of turns and leaps. Carmen closed the program. St. Louis’ own Kimberly Cowen shone through a role created for her, but I felt the work itself did not meet my expectations. The Rodion Shchedrin score used, that I believe was used by a Fernando Alonso production for the ballet of the same name, dilutes the drama of the action. And though there were some really brilliant ideas within the development of the work, by the end I was not involved in the drama. Yet, I left the evening grateful for what our neighbors out West are doing. It would be great if St. Louis starts developing a company of similar vision.

Speaking of St. Louis, after meeting with Bill I was back in my beloved Highlander and heading East hoping to beat the rains as the road stretched itself for the next 250 miles. Once home, Cisco my dog was happy to see me. I loaded some new tunes into my Iphone and took a walk. Proceeded to try and prepare the garden for fall, but with a weakened back from dance injuries and being ran over by taxis, I can only do so much at the time. All this in preparation to attend one of the opening performances of a new company launched in St. Louis, Missouri Ballet Theatre.

Directed by Adam Sage, the company, as the “New Beginnings” title of its program insinuated, did bode well. Made up mostly by very young and promising dancers with relative small professional experience, it was marvelous to watch them throw themselves with total abandonment into a venture that it was obvious they were delighted to be part of. I was delighted to see the make up of the company. Theirs was no cookie cutter look where all dancers look the same and you cannot tell one from the other. They are all well trained, and when they learn that “less is more,” it will be great to see them grow.

The evening gave everyone a chance to shine. It might have been too many works, but I am sure Adam wanted to have all look at the possibilities that lie ahead. Jennifer Medina, one of St. Louis’ own, contributed an interesting work. In her dance and in a work like Hoop, choreographed by Mr. Sage, where the beauty and sensuality of a young dancer like Grace Austin partnered by Samuel Lopp was showcased, lie the possibilities for Missouri Ballet Theatre. We wish them much luck in these difficult times, but it is in times like this when great creativity and initiatives are born.

So, next time I will catch you up on my trips to Chicago, where I saw the new premiere of Julia Rhoads with her Lucky Plush Dance Company and Lar Lubovitch’s production of Othello with the Joffrey Ballet.

Until then.

Love and peace,


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