Category Archives: cultured.GR

61Syx Teknique is ‘breaking’ barriers in advancing one of hip hop’s original dance forms

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Owner/Director Keegan Loye. Photo credit Darline Nguyen.

By Steve Sucato

In the heart of Grand Rapids’ Comstock Park neighborhood sits an anomaly. No, it’s not a giant sinkhole or a time portal to another dimension—it’s something far more innocuous but perhaps just as rare: a dance school that exclusively teaches breakdancing.

61Syx Teknique Street Dance Academy, with its graffiti-adorned walls, is one of just a few dance schools in the nation that exclusively teaches breakdance. Most dance studios offer classes in a variety of dance styles. Even the ones with a hip hop dance concentration generally offer training in several styles within the genre, such as popping, locking, and krumping. The narrow focus is something 61Syx Teknique owner/director Keegan “Seoul” Loye says is at the heart of their philosophy as artists and teachers.

“We want to pass down the legacy of breaking to others,” says Loye. “Although breaking has been a street dance for decades, it is still very new when it comes to being taught in dance studios.”

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Curiouser and curiouser: Grand Rapids Ballet’s “Alice” overcomes early flaws to delight


Grand Rapids Ballet’s Cassidy Isaacson and Levi Teachout in “Alice in Wonderland.” Photos by Eric Bouwens.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

For a long time, it’s been a common speculation that iconic novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was the product of mind-altering drugs. The world premiere of Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB)’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” Friday night based on that tale by Lewis Carroll’s (the pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), feeds into that notion. The mind-blowing visual spectacle has the feel of a cross between 1960s psychedelia and Disney’s “Fantasia.” But where award-winning Argentinian visual artist Luis Grané’s colorful and cartoon-like costumes and scenic design was a highlight of the production, slow character development early on in the ballet proved problematic.

Known for his illustration work on such films as “The Matrix” (1999), “Ratatouille” (2007), “Hotel Transylvania” (2012) and “The Boxtrolls” (2014), Grané’s bold visual effects and projections acted as a moving scenic backdrop to the 90-minute multimedia production choreographed by Brian Enos. “Alice” was the first ever full-length story ballet Enos has choreographed. He was up to the challenge for the most part, employing a strategic blend of movement styles that helped illustrate each of the ballet’s characters. The artistic director of St. Louis’ The Big Muddy Dance Company, local audiences may remember Enos from his other ballet created on GRB, 2013’s Scottish-flavored “Nae Regrets.”

Family-friendly (although skewing more toward younger audiences), the ballet was set to a well thought out score of existing music by composers Alfred Schnittke, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev and others compiled by Brendan Hollins. Although not set in the usual Victorian era in favor of a more contemporary look, for the most part Enos followed Carroll’s universally known storyline.

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Grand Rapids Ballet’s Michael Auer creates theatrical magic behind the scenes


Michael Auer, creative director at Grand Rapids Ballet. Photo credit Eric Bouwens.

By Steve Sucato

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” said the Wizard of Oz after being caught for the elaborate stagecraft he presented to Dorothy and her compatriots in the 1939 movie classic of the same name. It’s a desire for anonymity Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB) creative director Michael Auer, the organization’s own multitalented and multifaceted wizard, can identify with as well. When it comes to helping others find the courage, heart and smarts in their creative endeavors for the 46-year-old ballet organization, Auer stays behind the scenes.

Born in Vienna, Austria, Auer studied ballet at the Vienna State Opera Ballet and then at New York’s School of American Ballet. He went on to a professional dance career with North Carolina Dance Theatre, Eliot Feld Ballet, Frankfurt Ballet and at Pacific Northwest Ballet. With was there that he met wife Patricia Barker, a prima ballerina with the company. They’ve now been together for 33 years.

After his career as a dancer, Auer’s second career was as a self-taught computer software engineer. He has worked at Microsoft, Boeing, Carnegie Mellon and others—creating software, developing early virtual reality technology, and doing market research.

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