Tag Archives: dance

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.


The Big Muddy’s Season Premiere Performance

Last weekend I saw the The Big Muddy Dance Company performing to an excited audience of about 500 at Casa Loma Ballroom, a most interesting venue not usually associated with live dance performances but one that should definitely be looked at seriously for unusual performances and attractions. Needless to say it would need major improvements as the problems that upset Paula David, Artistic Director of The Big Muddy were obvious but did not interfere with the power of the dancing and the artistry of the performers.

The evening was full of great energy with pieces that appealed to all. Perhaps, because of who I am and where I come from, it was the most introspective numbers that appeal to me the most. Kameron Saunders’ quartet for 4 men had all the right qualities and ingredients and the premiere of Thom Dancy, a new member of the company, introduced us to someone to watch. His work was marvelous because it dared to be quiet, a good change of pace from the energetic approach of all the other works.

It is marvelous to welcome The Big Muddy Dance Company to our St. Louis arena. What Paula David has done in three short years needs to be praised and applauded. Her ability to surround herself with dancers that engage the audience at all levels is special and to have them back their dancing abilities with personality is a special joy. I look forward to their other presentations and am thrilled that for their January performance they have chosen to stage a work of mine, “A Media Luz” to music of Astor Piazzolla. Rehearsals are already at such a high level that I can’t wait to see the final result.

This year is coming to an end…

It was the last weeks of December and all through Dance St. Louis all creatures were stirring including myself.

The year is coming to an end but for us it is a continued flow as budgets for next year are being presented, programs are being devised, advertising campaigns are being put in place and hope is eternal.

 Since arriving back from my trip to Paris, my dance experience has ranged from the ridiculous and upsetting to the divine and praiseworthy.

 I ventured out to see The Moscow Ballet Nutcracker that was presented at the Peabody, fortunately for just one show. It was one of the most atrocious productions I have ever seen. It was devoid of any magic, with sets that did not define a time or place and with costumes that seem to have been rented without any sense of style. Its young dancers, presumably Russian, are certainly enjoying being in America but their refinement left much to be desired.

 What was more upsetting was the use of close to 70 young kids, all eager and full of stars in their eyes. Like children, they performed with a sense of magic. Too bad they were only there to fill the seats of the theatre with parents and grandparents purchasing tickets regardless. The Nutcracker should be a marvelous experience and the story should flow. The music, which was canned and an insult when the top prices were $85, should make you want to hum and dance. I am sorry, but we work hard to establish an awareness of what is good in dance and this was a step back in the culture of St. Louis.

But, there is always redemption and I flew on a Sunday to Chicago to view Hubbard Street’s last concert where works by Aszure Barton, Armando Cerrudo and Mats Ek were being performed. What joy! What talent! What greatness!

 The dancers excelled at every ballet. Their fluidity and stage presence enhanced every movement. They had complete control of every gesture. The audience was spellbound and so was I.

 Aszure’s piece was a delight of the senses. It was fluid, imaginative, rich in texture and never disappointing. I could have left the theatre after her work and felt fulfilled.

 Cerrudo’s two works seemed to be almost a filler. Though brilliantly danced and each very good as independent works, they somehow did not quite fulfill me.

 Mats Ek’s work was another thing. Did I like it? Not sure, but I could certainly not dismiss it. Images, some disturbing, surprisingly appeared from what was some incredibly inventive choreography. A disturbing piece and yet enlightening by the mastery of the art form it chose to convey itself. 

 No sooner then when the curtain dropped, I was running to the Orange Line to catch my Southwest Flight to St. Louis.  Once in town, one more Nutcracker awaited. I was thrilled to see the improvement of the dancers of St. Louis Ballet. Some new scenic elements and ideas were added that improved the production but I still wish it would have been more magical. It lacks being carried out as if through the eyes of a child. Regardless, I felt more compelled by this showing of St. Louis Ballet than I had in years past, great tribute to the dancers Gen Horiuchi has surrounded himself with.

 Now I fly Frontier to visit my Daughter, her Partner and my grandchildren. I think another Nutcracker awaits.

 So, until next year. Thank you for making this year so memorable and I hope you will join Dance St. Louis on another Magical Mystery Tour of dance.