Dance for a Wish 2012

The 4th Annual Dance for a Wish Event presented electric, dazzling, high-energy dancing, potent and creative choreography, and inspirational readings by Rudy Francisco; all for the benefit of the Make a Wish Foundation. The Sept. 30, 2012 performance was at the Garfield Theater in San Diego.  This review will be updated with performance videos in the future, but a sample of Keone Madrid work is at right and Cheney & Kubitz work below.

An event highlight was the enthusiastic audience gripping Lois Lane Choreographed by Keone Madrid (Choreo Cookies and Movement Lifestyle); danced by Pat Cruz, Keone Madrid, Chris Martin, Vinh Nguyen and Jason Patio. The duo of Sheldon Cheney & Mathew Kubitz did a steller, world-class performance of Blood Stream; Choreographed by Tarua Hall.

There is not enough space in this review to list all the fine dancing, dancers, support people, staff and choreographic efforts on display at Dance for a Wish 2012, which was produced by Outreach Through Dance (OTD). Melissa Adeo, OTD Artistic Director, presented her prize winning work, In the Wild. Sara Orbita, OTD Co-Artistic Director, collaborated with dancers in Don’t Live With Regret.

This popular event played to an enthusiastic audience that at various times sang along with, clapped and stomped with the performance.

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Orpheus Eternal

The Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, universally appealing, is re-incarnated in a variety of classical and contemporary dance genres. Orpheus, the legendary musician, poet & prophet, had the ability to charm even stones with his music; but failed to retrieve his wife Eurydice from the underworld, and died tragically at the hand of those who could not hear his divine music.

The most famous dance versions of Orpheus are: Monteverdi’s opera, L’Orfeo (ballet); Gluck’s opera Orfeo et Eurydice (ballet); Offenbach’s operetta Orpheus in the Underworld (Infernal Gallop); and Stravinsky’s Orpheus ballet (Balanchine choreography).

A striking contemporary ballet version of the Gluck ballet was choreographed by Pina Bausch for the famed Paris Opera Ballet, which is currently on a world tour; and during the weekend of July 20, 2012, was performed at the Lincoln Center Festival in NYC (click for NY Times Review which includes video excerpt and insights to the choreography).

Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo in classical and modern dress are represented by the Harnoncourt / Zurich Opera Ballet at left; and the Rene Jacobs / Tricia Brown Dancers performance at the right. The timeless quality of Monteverdi’s great work entertains in these two approaches, which include interesting notes. The English National Opera performed a memorable performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo in 2006. An excerpt from the REVIEW follows: “First performed in 1607, Claudio Monteverdi’s masterpiece Orfeo wasn’t quite the first opera written – that honour goes to Peri’s Dafne – but it’s testament to the brilliance of the composer that it sounds as fresh today as it must have done then.”

Stravinsky’s Orpheus, was premiered at the City Center on April 28, 1948, with choreography by George Balanchine. The September, 2012 performance at Lincoln Center received mixed REVIEWS (sample). Offenbach’s famous Can-Can is at right. The Szegedi Kortars Balett performed Orpheus of Stravinsky in April, 2012. This Hungarian Company has excellent samples of contemporary ballet performances on You Tube and Vimeo such as: Carmina Burana, Elektra, Medea, etc. The Orpheus legend is retold in Yu Li’s Voyage, which is set in San Francisco of the early 1900s. Yu Li, a poor Chinese girl, voyages to San Francisco. Yu Li is indentured to the Mandarin Chan, a SF shopkeeper. Tony Orfeo, an Italian ex-military officer, is on the same ship as Yu Li. Tony and Yu Li meet, become star crossed, and dance their ill-fated love story. This work-in-progress, is currently under revision.

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Flamenco

The roots of Spanish Flamenco music, trace back to 18th century Gypsy and Andalusian music & dance, which consist of cante (singing), toque (guitar playing), baile (dance) and palmas (hand claps).  Flamenco is popular worldwide; with  performances and teaching of Flamenco, old and new forms, taking place in many countries.

As part of a Hispanic heritage program, featuring art, food, music, crafts and dancing, Patricia Astorga-Casey and dancers from DanzArts,  presented Flamenco dancing in San Diego, on September 26, 2012.  The colorful costumes, enthusiasm and energetic dancing engaged the audience that clapped along with the performance.  Video excerpts of the performance (lower left) and a more inclusive video of DanzArts (at right) are included in this review.

Heralded by The New York Times as “one of today’s great dancers of any genre,” Soledad Barrio and her company Noches Flamenca are currently engaged for two weeks at the Joyce Theater in New York City.

Spain, Portugal and the Americas (North, South and Latin) have all experimented and redefined Flamenco.  In Portugal, the Fado, a song form variant of Flamenco was championed by Amalia Rodrigues  (see video below right).

Fados, Carlos Saura’s 2007 Spanish film, explores the Portuguese version of Flamenco, Fado.  The video excerpts on left & right contain excellent excellent commentary on Fado (click on You Tube button in the videos to see commentary).

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The Tao of Bach (Tai Ji Dance)

Chungliang Al Huang, danced The Tao of Bach: A Musical Tai Ji Dance Offering, on Sept. 13, 2012, at the Tryon Festival Theatre, Urbana, Illinois.

Creative artist, dancer, philosopher Huang, has had a long and intimate relationship with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, as indicated in his BIOGRAPHY and NOTES for the Tao of Bach concert.  Excerpts from the Herald-Review coverage of the event follow:

Tai ji master Chungliang Al Huang has been called “a master in the arts of living” and “a sage for the modern age.”

A celebrated author and globally respected keynote speaker as well as a dancer, choreographer, calligrapher, and philosopher, Huang has collaborated with cultural icons as wide-ranging as Sammy Davis Jr., Bruce Lee, Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, and Jane Goodall. He and his wife, Suzanne Pierce, performed in Krannert Center’s inaugural events and were the Center’s very first artists-in-residence, and for years he has called Champaign-Urbana home.

In The Tao of Bach, Huang joins forces with a collective kinship of multi-generational artists. The quartet of musicians—cellists David Darling and Michael Fitzpatrick, flutist Alexander Murray, and harpist Ann Yeung—will perform J. S. Bach’s solo suites and partitas as Huang improvises movements based on the Chinese meditative art of tai ji. Collaborative partners from the University of Illinois’ eDream Institute (Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media), Advanced Visualization Laboratory, and National Center for Supercomputing Applications will complement this synthesis with animations mirroring Huang’s use of flowing calligraphy as a choreographic metaphor. These connections flow naturally for Huang, who says that “Bach’s original manuscripts are calligraphically breathtaking. They are music for both the eyes and the senses—waves of dancing energy.”

For more about Chungliang Al Huang visit the Living Tao Foundation.

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Caravaggio, Two Dance Takes

The great and controversial Italian painter, Caravaggio (click for biography and photos of masterworks), is being fancified in movies and dance.

TAKE ONE: Not to be outdone, Italian Choreographer Mario Bigonzetti developed Caravaggio, a ballet performed by the Berlin State Ballet, which is available on video. Horst Koegler’s REVIEW of Carrevaggio offers insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the Carevaggio ballet. Vladimir Malakhov, Polina Semionova and the Company provide amazing dancing in Carevaggio. Choreographer Bigonzetti decided to use instrumental music in the ballet, in the style of Claudio Monteverdi. Italian composer, Monteverdi, wrote madrigals and the first operas, but not instrumental music, in the 1500s (the time of Shakespeare and Carevaggio). Arranging for orchestra, Monteverdi’s distinctive, darkly original music would have been superior to Moretti’s lightweight score for the Carevaggio ballet. A brief review by Tom Hays (Greater Manchester UK), a buyer of the video follows:

This review is from: Bigonzetti: Caravaggio [DVD] [2008] (DVD) – This ballet is “inspired” by Caravaggio’s paintings we are told. Several of the dances are given the titles of his pictures but the connection is in no way apparent. The dances are entirely abstract and do not in any way tell a story nor convey anything to the audience. Dance is a language but here it is saying nothing. Much of the choreography is inelegant and the corps move far too often as one – there is little variety of movement. Whatever happened to dance?
The dancers acquit themselves very well and the lighting conveys the chiaoscuro of Caravaggio excellently. It is a pity the choreography was so self-indulgent.

TAKE TWO: Caravaggio: Exile and Death, by Director-Choreographer Darshan Singh Bhuller, gets a gripping REVIEW, by Jenny Gilbert in the London Independent.

Caravaggio: Exile and Death is “dance theatre inspired by the life and work of the 17th century master painter, Caravaggio. Exile and Death takes the audience on a journey of a man’s search for forgiveness and redemption after a life fascinated with youth and sexuality, violence, solitude and love. Scarred by imprisonment and the Catholic Church’s dismissal of his works, Caravaggio lived a painful and dramatic life. Combining highly physical choreography with stunning projections and a beautiful soundtrack, Darshan has created a show that tells the tempestuous story of Caravaggio’s life and art”.

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Dance in Musical Theater

Musicals offer choreographers and dancers opportunities to create and dance, at various professional levels. Two varieties of musicals which utilize dance are the revue, which may or may not have a story, and the narrative or story telling musical.

Visionary Music Theatre Company’s, Labors of Love, a musical revue written & directed by John Nettles, was performed at the 10th Ave. Theatre, San Diego, on Sept. 13-15, 2012. The video excerpts from Labors highlight the dancing in the musical. Choreographer / Dancer Ramon Montes displayed agility & versatility in his solo and group dancing. A live orchestra enhanced the performance of Labors. Artistic Director, Spencer John Powell’s youthful Visionary Dance Theatre Company, provided an enthusiastic and engaging evening, that appealed & charmed the audience.

Narrative or story telling musicals have dancing that tells a story as demonstrated by Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. Non-narrative display that simply provides a bravura demonstration, is presented in Fred Astaire’s, Say it With Firecrackers (click on image to see video).

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Mojalet Summer Series Finale Shines

Mojalet Dance Collective‘s Summer Series Finale, dynamically capped a series of ten varied dance events (30 performances in all), showcasing performing groups including  the California Rhythm Project, Choreographer Blythe Barton, the PGK Project and Mojalet.

The Finale, at the Vine Theater, features +Light 2012, a collaboration between Artistic Director, Faith Jensen-Ismay, Glass artist, Vicki Leon and the Mojalet Dancers; a project supported by a San Diego Foundation grant.  See the exciting melding of reflected light, as projected on dancers and stage, in the video to right.

Commonly Linked and Strength For a Sister show the emerging choreography and dance talents of the Ismay sisters, Alia, Sabine and Sadie.  Choreographer Janis Alvis is represented in Guarded Approach, a flowing and insightful setting to Peter Gabriel music; as is Choreographer Christine Doan’s, Resolve, accompanied by Winner of Danna/DeVotchKa.

Andrew Holmes’, tour de force, Eutuxia, presented athletic, brilliantly executed and subtlety-paced  dance, combined with his personal choreography style.

Preludes Fugues and Riffs, set to Leonard Bernstein’s music, is an exuberant, show-stopping, romp.  The video, at left, gives some insight into this sparkling work; covered very sparsely, in the above review video.

Search for Sustenance ended the program and the Summer Series, with an introspective and compelling group work, that had moments of fire.

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Dance With Words – Do They Matter? – Pt. 1

Cult icon, singer-songwriter, Rodriguez, writes gritty songs with lyrics that matter. Listen carefully to the words, in the video, of the song I Wonder.  Can a choreographer or dancer work with I Wonder and ignore, or treat the words simply as elevator music background?

 

It is the rage, for choreographers and dancers, to use popular songs as the background for new dance works.  The impact of using words with dance is very different, than using strictly instrumental music. Instrumental music may be used, simply, as background for dance improvisations, with little thought about the meaning of the music.  In classical music, the tone poem tells a story.

Ballet works like Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet were composed to be narrative, or tell a story.  Prokofiev’s music demands to be treated as an artistic duet, where the dance moves with and against what is said in the music.

Enter words!  When setting to dance music with words, one can ignore the words, or treat them as something of  importance.  This is easy to do in a short work (3 minutes?); but remember, the audience hears and reacts to words.  Words, listened to by the audience, may interrupt the flow of the dance.

Joni Mitchell, the Canadian musician, singer songwriter, and painter; began singing in small nightclubs in Saskatchewan and Western Canada and then busking in the streets and dives of Toronto.  You would think her songs would work well with dance.  The Alberta Ballet production of The Fiddle and the Drum, used Joni Mitchell songs as the basis for a large work.  A careful read of a REVIEW  of Fiddle tells a sobering story.  A short excerpt follows:    Say it ain’t so!  At a certain point in the Southern California premiere of “Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle and the Drum,” Jean Grand-Maître’s 2007 choreography for his Alberta Ballet troupe began to resemble the stultifying sameness of ice dancing’s “Tango Romantica,” seen at the winter Olympics in Vancouver this week.  But since Grand-Maître, who’s from Quebec, choreographed the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies, this might make some sort of sense.   Set to 13 Joni Mitchell songs  — and against a backdrop of the singer-songwriter’s film and video projections – the 90-minute opus at the Irvine Barclay Theatre (repeating Friday and Saturday at UCLA’s Royce Hall) was all dressed up, albeit in leotards, trunks, war paint and a few romantic tutus, with no place to go.  And while jukebox musicals have been all the rage, not all succeed.  (Twyla Tharp’s train wreck, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” set to Bob Dylan tunes, comes to mind.)   It could be that not all music is meant to be danced.  Sure, Mitchell’s songs have rhythm, occasionally funky, occasionally mellow, and her lyrics often cut to the bone, but to trot out every leap, pirouette and arabesque in the book, just because Grand-Maître can, does not necessarily translate into a cohesive evening.

More to come in Pt. 2.

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Provocation and Divulgence

Visionary Dance Theatre’s, Provocation and Divulgence, delivered what the title implied; 5 edgy and visceral examples of dance and Carmina Burana, at the 10th Avenue Theatre in San Diego, on Sept. 7, 2012.

By Mistake and Design, Choreographed & Costumed by Zaquia Mahler Salinas, opened the program, with vibrant and erotic dancing and interesting cross-dressing.

Vices, Choreographed by Khamla Somphanh, began with a polished, well executed solo, by Somphanh.

Jess Humphrey’s choreography for, All I Feel is Change, was enhanced by onstage audience participation.

de.li.ri.um, Choreographed by Caryn Glass, presented a frantic-paced, bird-like, dance adventure.

Michael Mizerany, displayed his Choreographic mastery in Breathing Corpses, a powerful and dazzling romp, embeded with frank sensuality and sexuality.

Carmina Burana, Choreographed by Daniel Marshall & Spencer Powell, presented a vibrant take on an enduring musical masterpiece. Many different dance companies have staged Carl Orff’s, 1930’s, Carmina Burana. Versions have ranged from classical ballet to hip-hop; in everything from monk costumes to tutu’s. Video examples follow:

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California Rhythm Project

The floors were shaking at the Vine Theater, San Diego, Sept. 1-2, 2012, when California Rhythm Project presented a foot stomping collection of 15 audience pleasing dances.  The program opened with Chan Chan, Choreographed by Nancy Boskin-Mullen.  The costumes and dancing effectively evoked the feeling of Compay Segundo, the great Cuban musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club.

Sidney Franklin and Cari Goodwin performed the duet Achin’ Feelin with subtlety and panache.   Crucial Country Breakdown, showed off the work of Choreographers Rosina Didyk, Gary Larsen and Nancy Boskin-Mullen.  The folksy/country costumes, and exuberant dancing of the company, kept the audience tapping their feet with the dance. 

Special Guest Artist, Claudia Gomez, displayed the zippy, tap routine (Improvisation), which was accompanied by Jeremy Elkin on the Bass Fiddle.  Begin the Beguine, a retro Fred Astaire treat from Broadway Melody of 1940, was a pleasant contrast offering; as was Josh Morris’s,’ satirical, Flight of the Bumble Bee.  The Finale: Shim Shim brought together the full company in a dance blast, which showed off the talented dancers, in their California Rhythm Project tees.

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