Tag Archives: Dance STL

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.

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New Dance Horizons III Post-Show

It is almost impossible to express the feeling one gets after the final applause of New Dance Horizons has died out. The opportunity to see so many of the local artists, that we have gotten to know, grow beyond our wildest expectations and deliver performances that would be received with ovations anywhere in the world is a privilege. The idea to push the limit while inviting the local companies to join us and move forward is taking root and for it we are all better off.

An evening of diverse choreography, of diverse styles, and of diverse sophistications made for 2 hours of dancing bliss. And those who missed it, shame on them.

IMG_5772Roni Koresh pushed buttons, in more ways than one, working with MADCO. Points of Contact was a work of incredible energy, challenging the norm for MADCO and making them rise to the top as they discovered a different commitment to creation. It was a powerful opening that had people wondering how it would be topped.

 

 

IMG_6070The Big Muddy Dance Company was paired with Kate Skarpetowska to bring to life a work that I felt completely taken by. Inspired by the book “Awakening,” A Mariner brought to life, in a most sophisticate and poignant way, the experience of those mired in a state of mental limbo, brought to life for a few moments by a drug. It explored the pathos of feeling what it would be like to have experienced the moment and then be asked to revert back to a state of inertia. It was truly poignant and great compliment to Kate’s work.

 

IMG_6245Saint Louis Ballet brought to life Brian Enos’ work Bloom. This work surprised us all as it created magical moments that challenged not only the dancers but the audience as well. It took us on a journey that we were not sure where it would lead, but that once we arrived we could not help but scream for joy. I wish to thank our three choreographers, all of the dancers and the three companies for “making my day” and that of 1000’s of viewers.

 

*photos from New Dance Horizons III dress rehearsal taken by Steve Truesdell.

My Summer Vacation

Usually at this time I would report on some exciting dance event that I had seen somewhere in the world. Usually I go to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and am excited about a new artist they showcased, but that is not the case this year.

After the last curtain call for SPRING TO DANCE® 2014 had finished and the last applause died out, I prepared for our final board meeting and looked at making sure our finances were in order for the summer. After that I began to concentrate on an extended vacation that my entire body and soul needed. In over 50 years of dealing with various aspects of the dance world, this was the first time I was going to shut myself out and work on re-energizing for the next 50 years.

The success of 2014 had been obvious and the excitement for what the upcoming season would bring was exhilarating. So I closed my house, had some dear students of mine at Webster look after it and headed to Mexico, Oaxaca to be precise, to be with my wife, her daughter and her family to enjoy the beauty of its people, the magic of the landscapes and the history of the surroundings. It was great! I tried some writing that still leaves a great deal to be desired and managed to establish a pet like relationship with “Salma Hayak,” a chicken that two years ago landed on our backyard in Suchilquitongo, where Flor’s parents have a home, and adopted it as mine. We had great conversation and became close friends until she decided that the best place to lay eggs was in my little office and especially behind the computer. It was fun for a while, but her constant cackling while finding the right position started to get on everyone’s nerves.

When I said I saw no dance, that was not entirely true. La Guelagetza, an incredible feast that happens in Oaxaca each July/August. People come from all regions of the state to show their dresses, dances, and products. It is incredible and the joy they possessed as they danced, sang and played instruments through the “andador” was awe inspiring. But…

All things come to an end and after the four weeks were over I was driven early in the morning to catch a flight back to St. Louis and was able to spend a week in the office before I headed elsewhere.

With all in order at work, we packed again, this time for winter, and headed to Chile. There, my brother had prepared a true love fest as the entire family, with the sad exception of my daughter and her family, got together to baptize a small sail boat he had built in the “chilote” style of the southern islands of Chile. It is a beautiful boat and he gave it my mother’s name “Lola.” For three days by the lake we sang, we talked and we ate and ate and ate all day long. My nieces’ husbands are great cooks so from ceviches, to incredible meats, to paellas, to special Chilean corn dishes, we kept on eating. Family soccer games broke out and the close to 10 grandchildren my brother has brought shrieking laughter and joy to all.

When that was done, we returned to Santiago and were supposed to head up the mountains for two days of skiing. Fortunately, reason prevailed and we took a one day sabbatical while enjoying the streets of Santiago and cursing the incredible traffic jams, that cars on loans that will be hard to pay, fill the streets. But on the following days we ventured up with Sara, trying for the first time to master the slopes. Thank heaven for that so we could take it easy and not pretend to be younger than our actual age.

We also visited the Ballet Nacional Chileno’s office, a company my father had created. They have a new director and it is much smaller than before. A few “old” faces where there to say hello and made me feel welcome. But, minutes later, down in the streets we were, too much to see and too much to shop for.

As if all of this was not enough we headed to the shore with some dear friends of ours Pedro and Daniela whose company we thoroughly enjoy. She is a former dancer classmate of mine and has always been involved in the arts and so has he. He now has a program that brings to life Pablo Neruda’s writings. If all goes well we shall have them be part of SPRING TO DANCE® one of these years, as she interprets those poems beautifully in movement. We had glorious food at quaint rocky resorts, where fishermen bring their fresh catch. A couple of hours at Neruda’ s home in Isla Negra and two days were gone. So we hopped in the car and went to Valparaiso, an incredibly beautiful port, and Vina, its sister resort. We were just passing by as we headed to a place my nieces have further north. There, we gathered most of the clan again, walked the rocky and sandy beaches, told tales until late at night as new dishes were being cooked by the husbands of Francisca and Ale. A final lunch at a restaurant by the beach and off we were to face the traffic to Santiago. It was a long holiday weekend so we expected the worse, but it was not too bad.

The following day, a lunch with “locos,” a Chilean seafood delicacy was offered by my brother’s wife in honor of Flor’s birthday. And after a short nap we were headed back to the airport with memories to last a lifetime and renewed energy to face the excitement that is Dance St. Louis.

Needless to say, all this was tempered gravely by the news of events in Ferguson that had everyone in Chile worried. We could not quite judge the magnitude of the events until we landed here. Now our job is to find the healing process through the only thing we know, dance. And realizing we are one of the most integrated art forms, we might in partnership with all the local dance companies, help in the process.

Next one will be about dance, so I hope not to have bored you with my overindulgence in the beauty that my life in general has offered me and is offering me.