Punks, Yankees, and Othello in Chicago, Luckily

The raking of leaves is upon us, and my late summer tumultuous traveling schedule is now a memory. But what glorious dancing was I able to see, guaranteeing you excitement for years to come from Dance St. Louis.

No sooner had I unpacked my bags, cleaned my clothes, and prepared for our first annual board meeting and the welcoming of five new board members, than I was up in the air again, this time heading to Chicago. Rainy, gray and windy but still exciting.

I landed to rush to the hotel and meet Bonnie Brooks, former executive director of Dance/USA and presently the chair of the Dance Center at Columbia College in Chicago. It was fascinating to spend time with a kindred soul so knowledgeable and in love with the art form. After a savory Italian dinner we sat down to watch the world premiere of Lucky Plush Productions’ Punk Yankees.

I had seen Julia Rhoads’ work some three years ago and was fascinated about the possibilities. She was one of the first to be invited to perform at our first-ever SPRING TO DANCE® FESTIVAL 2008 and was chosen again last year when she previewed a section of Punk Yankees (below)to the delight of our audience and the praise of Dance Magazine. She will be coming back again in 2010.

The work is inventive, visually stimulating, and appealing on many levels. It uses the spoken word, video images, and computers, where the audience can even Twitter to the artists on stage who do spend a few minutes responding. The premise has to do with how much is borrowed and stolen from others acknowledging nothing. Julia takes known phrases and movements from famous and not-so-famous choreographers’ works. She weaves them into a pattern that makes those of us who can spot them smile with gusto and yet remains interesting to those that would not be aware of the artists being referred to. The concept is very engaging, and she keeps her audiences going (though I would love to advise her to cut some 20 minutes of the 80- minute work and I think it would be a great work). But regardless, fun was had by all, and I could not help but marvel at how her mind works and the commitment, artistry and professionalism of her performers.

The following day, waking up early as I usually do, I spend the early time of the morning answering e-mails through my Iphone. I was supposed to have lunch with a local agent, but it was cancelled—and how great for me as I opted to stop by the Joffrey Ballet to clear up some issues we had about their coming here for Nutcracker at the Fox this December. I was able to first meet with Ashley Wheater, the artistic director, who was kind enough to allow me to watch the company class that he taught. It was a marvelous class that made me want to get back to dancing. Fortunately my body was cleverer than my mind and I remained seating.

With time in my hand I opted to take advantage of the life and bustle of downtown Chicago and do my Xmas shopping. Little did I know that their taxes are considerably higher than St. Louis. Finally the evening was here, and in the drizzle I walked to the gorgeous Auditorium Theater to view Joffrey’s production of Lar Lubovitch’s Othello.

Do not ask me why I had come to the theater almost predisposed not to like the work. But how pleasantly surprised I was to be part of the sold-out audience that marveled at the end result. The Joffrey dancers showcased their metier brilliantly. I am certain their dancing of the work was more powerful that some of the other companies that have performed it (American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet). All the leads were superb, but Fabrice Calmels as Othello (whom we know in St. Louis from his appearances in different roles at Nutcracker at the Fox) stole the show with his stature and power. The sets and costumes though minimal in style conjured all that was necessary. Slides were well put to use. Though I could say I liked this and not that, and did not feel that some things were as strong or purposeful as they should have been, it was an evening that all enjoyed and greeted by a thunderous ovation.

How thrilled I am and how greatly excited our St. Louis audiences should be that the Joffrey Ballet will be returning regularly in our Nutcracker at the Fox, coming this year for six performances December 3-6. Negotiations are in place to have them come to St. Louis regularly with some of their other works.

 

Thank you for sharing this summer and early fall with me.

Love and peace,

Michael

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