Tag Archives: Touhill Performing Arts Center

Dance Theatre of Harlem

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Speaking of Dance with Virginia Johnson

A weekend of high expectations and potential grand jury announcement tension came to an end with resounding success. Nothing could have been timed better to heal the wounds that are hurting St. Louis than to have Dance Theatre of Harlem burst onto the Touhill stage and amaze the over 3,000 people that saw them.

A company that has celebrated 45 glorious years since inception and recently came back after an 8-year hiatus has been reborn and like a Phoenix, is flying high. I am glad that I waited a couple of years to bring them to St. Louis as they have matured beautifully and today can be considered, once again, a national treasure.

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Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven

Each of their works highlighted a different quality of their dancing to the audience. From the neo-classical mixture of New Bach and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux to the poignant beauty of Ulysses Dove’s Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven and the energetic and demanding pace of Darrel Moultrie’s Vessels, the audience was taken for a ride.

Founding member and Artistic Director Virginia Johnson and her staff must be commended for the job they have done and the dancers for their talent, qualities and marvelous control of their craft.

We certainly hope that they will return sooner than later. It was a joy and one that we hope could be felt beyond the walls of the Touhill, so it could reach those in pain for the happenings in our city. How glorious would it have been for all to see how diverse Dance Theatre of Harlem truly is; a picture of what we hope America can be.

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The Athletes of Diavolo

Dance St. Louis, Diavolo, Transit Space, photo by Ben GibbsWhat great timing! Here we are watching the Winter Olympics, marveling at the beauty and sophistication of Figure Skating and the devil-may-care attitude of Giant Slalom, Snowboarding, and Ski Jumping. All of these athletic feats are a warm-up to watching DIAVOLO showcase all of these qualities in a performance that has conquered the spirit and emotions of audiences all over the world.

Diavolo Dance TheaterThe dancer athletes will propel themselves around the stage while creating unimaginable beauty and defying gravity. Watch the Olympics, and then grab the phone to purchase your tickets to this incredible event (314.534.6622).

Join us as we marvel the human body and the limits it can propel itself to. See you at the Touhill February 28 and March 1, 2014.

Wizard of Oz starring Ballet Memphis

It is not always that in dance you marvel at the beauty of simplicity, but this was the case in Ballet Memphis’ version of the Wizard of Oz.

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Free Speaking of Dance with Michael Uthoff and Wizard of Oz choreographer Steven McMahon

Devoid of any ostentatious scenery and costumes, with a small group of committed dancers and a choreographer that went to his youthful roots to device a charming evening of dance, a magical production ensued that captivated children and adults alike. The narrative line was pretty close to the movies’ and therefore everyone could follow without problems.

I did feel that the opening scene was somewhat weak and though the Tornado was cleverly dealt with, it was the one moment that more should have happened. It is possible that Ballet Memphis took for granted everyone’s knowledge of the story, and therefore I was interested to see how people would respond to the ongoings if unfamiliar with the plot line.  I think some audience members could not totally define the plot as I was doing and perhaps their enjoyment was not as great.

The company presented two casts of Dorothy’s and Witches and each brought a different quality to the work. One could choose one over the other, but I do not think it would be fair.

Virginia Pilgrim and Dylan G-Bowley of Ballet Memphis

Virginia Pilgrim and Dylan G-Bowley of Ballet Memphis

The Young People’s Performance and the Matinee, both filled to the brim had kids smiling ear to ear and parents proud for having made the decision to bring them to the BALLET. Many chose to dress like one of their favorite characters and that added a special feeling to those of us standing at intermission watching the crowds.

As Toto went on the ride to Oz inside of Dorothy’s basket, I was hoping that as total surprise to the audience, when she “landed” back in Kansas and came out of the house, Toto would run from the wing and leap unto her arms. But, not every dance company can travel with a trained dog.

Now, we look forward to seeing Ballet Memphis in May at our 7th Annual SPRING TO DANCE® FESTIVAL 2014. They will be closing our Thursday evening show (May 22, 2014) and all those who became their friends in route to OZ should welcome them as they return to the Touhill.

Diavolo and Alvin Ailey are still to grace our stage, what a treat awaits! Don’t miss either of them.

Shanghai Ballet

A week has gone by since our friends from Shanghai Ballet arrived in town. After riding a bus for over four hours from Overland Park, KS where they had been performing the night before, they looked amazingly fresh when I peeked at them in company class. One thing that they truly where was hungry. Per their request, we provided them an authentic Chinese dinner and needless to say, little to nothing was left once they got through with it. And that seemed to be the theme for the 2 days and 3 performances they gave.

Extremely well trained, slender, disciplined and focused dancers embarked on the three performances of “The Butterfly Lovers.” This sumptuous production of a well known Chinese story was brought to life through inventive and creative choreography in very simple and direct terms that endeared the audiences who remained attentive throughout the performance and exploded into warm and thunderous applause when the last step was delivered. Watching them glide through the steps with complete assurance gave me a great appreciation for what Xin Lili, the Artistic Director of the Shanghai Ballet, has achieved and developed within the institution. Their path seems to be the right one for such a company and their future looks bright.

No sooner than when the third show came to an end that a final reception was held in their honor and food was gobbled one more time. After smiles and new friends made, the dancers had to file onto the bus to catch a few hours of sleep before heading, at 7 AM the next morning, to Memphis, Tennessee for a 3 o’clock show. Oh to be young again!

IMG_0311For me it was a special three days as I renewed friendships with individuals that are now guiding the dancers, like Xin Lili and Ming, who I had worked with as dancers as far back as 1986. Our smiles of recognition showed the loving nature that that experience was. Our miming of conversation made us all laugh. Photos were taken and soon Facebook was carrying them around the globe and beautiful messages from other dancers involved in those days of ‘86 starting sending comments. It was a precious and dear time and we said good bye hoping that the next time we saw each other would not be 27 years later.

Safe journeys Shanghai Ballet

Shanghai Ballet This Weekend

Dance St. Louis, Shanghai Ballet, The Butterfly Lovers, winterWhat a unique opportunity lies ahead for all of us! Our friends from China, Shanghai to be specific, are arriving in town following fantastic reviews and commentaries from all of the cities they have already toured. Having worked with them in the 80’s and the 90’s, I have a special place in my heart for them as individuals. Xin LiLi, Artistic Director and Choreographer of “The Butterfly Lovers,” the Chinese version of “Romeo and Juliet,” was one of the leading dancers in a couple of the works I staged in Shanghai when working with them.

Shanghai Ballet’s work should appeal to all, the color and texture of their approach to dance is uniquely theirs. Their Dance St. Louis, Shanghai Ballet, The Butterfly Lovers, butterfly linetraining is also superb and because of their vision they do so with special sensibilities. This large production, with over 50 dancers on stage, fulfills all the wants of those desiring full length works.

This show should bring hundreds of families to enjoy a masterful work beautifully performed. Do not miss it if you are in St. Louis this upcoming weekend, November 8 and 9, 2013 at the Touhill.

New Dance Horizons Opens Tonight!

The time has come for everyone to rush to the Touhill and get a glimpse of an incredible performance that showcases 4 creations of un-paralleled beauty, passion and drama. Our four companies, Leverage Dance Theater, Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company, MADCO and Saint Louis Ballet shine brightly in magical creations by Nejla Yatkin, Uri Sands, PILOBOLUS and Emery LeCrone.

CTEach work is a jewel unto its own. Together they create a string of creative pearls that will have you glued to your seats, marveling at the images conjured by the choreographers and the interpretation of the artists.

From the white purity and romantic piano music played brilliantly by Daniel Schene, Director of the Piano Department at Webster University, in Nejla’s piece, to the abstract neo classicism of Emery’s intricate patterns to contemporary music, to the powerful drama of Uri’s creation inspired by an incredible American woman, Ms, Henrietta Lacks and the fluidity of the performers to the intricacies of PILOBOLUS’ work staged masterfully by Jude MADCOWoodcock and performed with strong assurance by the dancers, you will be positively and completely overwhelmed.

Do not miss this! There is no conflict with the Cardinals playoffs, so no excuse is allowed. Come and cherish the gifts that St. Louis has to offer and the gift that Dance St. Louis is bestowing on all of us.

*photos by Steve Truesdell

NDH2-PNC-logoFinal-blackI finally got to see all of the New Dance Horizons II works and I could not be more thrilled at what has been created and how it is being danced.

Something very special occurs when you commission four independent choreographers and have them stage works on four different dance companies that appear together in an evening of dance second to none.

Having worked in a repertory company and having experienced and seen the thrill of performing different works I never thought of what would happen if the same approach was done utilizing four different groups with their own points of view. The result is New Dance Horizons II.

Emery Headshot St  LouisEmery LeCrone’s work for St. Louis Ballet is full of choreographic intricacies and requires total concentration and a complete physical commitment to the work. The dancers are doing exactly that. Although I have only seen some 5 minutes of the work, it is a fascinating abstract piece that takes you into the dancers’ bodies.

The imagery that Nejla Yatkin has created for Leverage Dance Theatre, the harmonious intensity, fluidity and emotionality of Uri Sands’ work for Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company and the amazing theatricality and physicality that is demanded of MADCO in PILOBOLUS’ “Land’s Edge” will make dance lovers drool. What a joy to be part of this unique adventure and how proud we feel to have this take part in Missouri, where the motto The Show Me State certainly applies to New Dance Horizons.

See you at the Touhill THIS WEEKEND. Don’t complain if you miss it.

Love and peace,

Michael