Tag Archives: Arts Midwest

March Madness

Every year I try to travel and see as much dance as I can. I’m lucky to do this a few times a year, but I never have enough time to see it all. Of course, Flor, my wife, has begun wondering if we will ever see anything other than dance. I have to say no sometime soon.

Last week, we survived the rotten weather in both New York City and Chicago but were able to get our fill of dance. As usual, some works were brilliant and others left a lot to be desired. But what I’ve noticed that has really developed over the past 15 years is the caliber of the dancing. You seldom see bad dancing anymore at a professional level. When you do see that standards are not met and the works are not of the highest caliber, your patience is exhausted. That was not the case last week.

I was at David Koch Theatre in New York watching two pieces by Paul Taylor’s American Dance Company. He shared the program with the Jose Limon Dance Company who performed Doris Humphrey’s “Passacaglia” and then with Shen Wei Dance Arts who danced his “Rites of Spring”. Both works opened the program and certainly they were seen by audience members that had never seen them before and perhaps would never have. Whether they would go see them now is still in the air. It would be nice if they did. The Limon Company danced well. Perhaps, unfairly on my part since I was a dancer with the company in the 60’s, I felt the performance devoid of any passion. Shen Wei’s work called for concentration and commitment, which he got, but I felt the show got lost on the large stage.

Paul Taylor’s company danced a series of different works which shows us the immense talent of Paul and the crazy way his brain works. “Beloved Renegade” premiered in St. Louis and was beautifully performed once again here. The live chorus and orchestra added a subliminal touch. “Big Bertha” a sarcastic, somewhat grotesque work which audiences not always appreciate was, for me, a great addition and followed by the frolicking nonsense of “Troilus and Cressida” the inclusion made sense. The second night the revival of “Diggity” brought more of Paul’s humor and appeal to the stage and the closer “Promethean Fire” showed us of what a great master he is. An incredible work of invention, beauty and power. One not to be missed! Those of you coming to our 50th season next year will not miss it, they will perform it both nights in October of 2015.

Then it was early call and flight to Chicago, through some weather delays we were able to make it to a showing of a commissioned work from Thom Dancy. A young choreographer and performer with The Big Muddy Dance Company in St. Louis who was staging the work with DanceWorks Chicago. He has come up with a whimsical duet that shows a new facet of his talent. DanceWorks Chicago is an experimental company of only six dancers so three casts performed it and it was revelatory to see how each one brought a different quality to the work.

Later that evening, we attend Giordano Dance Company. A Chicago fixture based on Jazz Dancing. Here the performers were completely devoted to the material provided for them. Though disappointed on the work of Mia Michaels and not very kin on a new work commissioned for them dealing with the problem of living with Hepatitis C, they got down to dancing what is best associated with them. I loved Autumn Eckman’s duet because it was out of their comfort zone and allowed them to truly shine. An evening filled with beautiful dancing and beautiful people.

Our next stop was River North Chicago Dance Company at the Auditorium. Here again, the new acquisition of Ivan Perez left me cold. Inventive, no doubt, marvelous material but it went nowhere for me. The opening, an exquisite sculptural work for only male dancers by Frank Chavez, started the evening very well. The highlight came from a new choreography by one of the dancers, Hanna Brictson. I loved it. She showed her dancers, all women, in the most dynamic way and it was obvious they wanted to do well for her. The other world premiere was by Adam Baruch, again inventive, again creative and once more, as it happens to me with many new works, I left with an ambiguous feeling as to where all of this was going. The evening closed with Frank Chavez’ popular Habanera, the music of Cuba and we all left with a smile.

We made our final hellos and goodbyes amidst the cold wind blowing throughout the streets.

Arrived home to St. Louis on Sunday. Glad to be back.


Arts Midwest Conference

Every September, Arts Midwest puts together a conference so presenters from our region, artists from all over the Midwest and agents from all over the country can get together, see the work and like a bazaar, peddle their talent to prospective buyers.

This experience can be exciting, but is often overwhelming. You walk aisles and aisles of agents and artists hoping to catch your eye so they can tell you about their greatness and why they should be the chosen act. Since Dance St. Louis is a dance only presenter, our scope is somewhat more limited as we only look at dance.

Having said that, what I look forward to the most is the showcases where you can see the artists live. However, this time Austin was a real disappointment. Usually artists from the region, which you do not have a chance to see, perform and this past week that was not the case. Most of what I saw I had already seen and at that moment was not interested in seeing. But, the exchange with my peers was energizing and discussions about the future with fellow dance presenters were encouraging.

Having little to see, I went looking for excitement and creativity outside the conference. My very good friend Yacov Sharir, now a Professor Emeritus at UT Austin, is doing some really fascinating work with computer art and dance. I never quite grasped the possibilities but what he is doing certainly makes you look at dance differently. If all works as we plan, his experiments will be shown at our SPRING TO DANCE FESTIVAL 2015 and you, our audience, will get a unique experience.

I was also grateful to Stephen Mills, Artistic Director of Ballet Austin, who allowed me to intrude on one of their rehearsals of this year’s staging of  A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I had not seen the company but had read much about them. They certainly are a strong and solid company who seems to work effortlessly in these kinds of works.  Although, my curiosity is peeked and I would like to see them performing repertory work.

Austin is supposed to be beautiful and have many good restaurants. But, these conventions do not allow you much time to see anything other than a hotel room, the conference hall, the bars where you exchange ideas and perhaps one store that you struggle to find so you can bring to your wife something other than a T-shirt.

All in all, my trip was great because of friends that I have not seen for decades, new work that is fascinating at UT, and the possibilities that Ballet Austin showed.