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Caleb Teicher & Company program perfect summer fare to close out ‘ADF in CLE’ dance festival


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(L-R) Brittany DeStefano, Caleb Teicher and Gabriel Winns Ortiz in “Variations”. Photo by Em Watson.

Caleb Teicher & Company
Cain Park’s Evans Amphitheater
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
August 4, 2018

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Playful, may be the best way to describe New York-based Caleb Teicher & Company’s program, August 4 at Cain Park’s Evans Amphitheater in Cleveland Heights. The trio of dance works choreographed by two and a half year old dance company’s namesake artistic director Caleb Teicher, mixed tap, jazz and swing dance styles and were all about having fun, showing out and entertaining the hell out of the assembled audience in the process.

Teicher, 24, hails from Mahopac, New York and made a name for himself right out of high school. Only 17 he garnered a 2011 Bessie Award for Outstanding Individual Performance while dancing with Dorrance Dance (who appeared as part of DANCECleveland’s 2015-16 season). He was also chosen for Dance Magazine’s prestigious “25 to Watch” list in 2012 and was the winner of Dance Magazine’s “Best Emerging Choreographer” Reader’s Choice Award in 2016.

For Teicher & Company’s program, which closed out the second annual ADF in CLE summer dance festival presented by DANCECleveland in collaboration with the American Dance Festival, the comedic work “Small & Tall” led things off.

The vaudevillian duet, performed by Lindsey Jones (the tall one) and Macy Sullivan (the small one), pitted the two vertically opposed dancers in stereotypical, but humorous, dance banter centered on the disparity in their heights.

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(L-R) Lindsey Jones and Macy Sullivan in “Small & Tall”. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Set to songs from the 1920s and 30s including Fats Waller’s “We The People” recorded by former Squirrel Nut Zippers vocalist Tamar Korn and pianist Peter Mintun, Teicher brought a freshness to the age-old bit with some novel choreographic moments that were executed wonderfully by Jones and Sullivan.

The work began with the pair barrel-rolling inward from opposite sides of the stage which initially disguised the dancers’ heights and set up the inevitable laugh-getting reveal when Jones stood up to tower over Sullivan. The two then began a series of visual gags with the shorter Sullivan peeking out from under and around Jones, attempting to lift and move Jones about, and the pair competitively messing with one another such as tossing the other’s costume pieces into the Amphitheater’s empty orchestra pit.  “Small & Tall’s” finest dancing came when the pair began to one-up each other in physical choreography that included several acrobatic lifts and jumps as well as some tap dancing sans the tap shoes.  The work set the tone for the carefree and competitive dancing that would permeate the rest of the enjoyable program.

Next came Teicher’s group work “Variations,” danced to Bach’s “Goldberg Variations BWV 988” and “Fugue in E, BWV 878”.  It was the audience’s first look at the talented Teicher as dancer. In a tap solo to begin the work, he started slowly and then in time with the music, gradually built up the solo’s pace and technical difficulty. Soon he was joined by dancers Brittany DeStefano and Gabriel Winns Ortiz and as in “Small & Tall,” the three of them engaged in playful dance banter teasing one another, trying to outdo the other, and revealing that their goofing was actually some quality dancing by some really talented dancers.

Fast footwork, dazzling tricks and solid comedic timing enriched each series of dance phrases and vignette in the work. In one such moment, the dancers along a horizontal line appeared to chase one another as a unit back and forth in rapid-fire tapping and sliding steps. In other phrases, the trio appeared to move side-to-side like slalom skiers and chugged along making the sound of a passing train.

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(L-R) Brittany DeStefano, Caleb Teicher and Gabriel Winns Ortiz in “Variations”. Photo by Em Watson.

Joining the work halfway in was dancer Byron Tittle who performed a measured tap solo with his back to the audience for most of it.  Then, in perhaps the work’s best comedic moment, one by one DeStefano, Ortiz and Tittle with balletic grace swooned to the floor as if passing out while Teicher continued to dance. Unable to rouse them, Teicher, as if in an episode of sitcom “I Love Lucy,” decided to join them.  Moments later, to the giggles of audience members, he popped his head up to see if the others were awake and returned to fake slumber. Finally giving up on his ruse, Teicher began another adroit solo which by its end saw the others suddenly awaken to applaud him.

The program then concluded with the dynamic “Meet Ella”.  Performed to classic tunes by Ella Fitzgerald from a 1958 live concert in Rome and a 1960 concert in Berlin, the piece was a tour de force of jazz, silent tap and swing dancing delivered by Teicher and co-choreographer Nathan Bugh.  With the grace and moxie of Gene Kelly and the zinger attitude of a Bing Crosby, Bob Hope “Road” movie, Teicher and Bugh were at times best buddies and friendly adversaries in the finely-crafted duet born out of improvisation.

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Nathan Bugh and Caleb Teicher in “Meet Ella”. Photo by Em Watson.

Dancing to Fitzgerald singing “That Old Black Magic,” the pair hit the ground running in the work with a zippy swing duet that saw Teicher get flipped around. Then, taking their cue from Fitzgerald singing “Love is Here to Stay,” the pair held hands and refused to let go.

The duet was a lark wrapped up in clever choreography that validated the recent acclaim that Teicher & Company have been receiving.

Most memorable was a section to the song “Midnight Sun” in which the pair spun dreamily in circles as if the two were on an invisible turntable.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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Hubbard Street Masterful in National Dance Day Performance at ADF in CLE


 

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(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “The 40s” by Lou Conte. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s hotly anticipated performance at the second annual ADF in CLE summer dance festival in Cleveland was a family affair of sorts. All five of the works on the program, Saturday, July 28, at Playhouse Square’s Connor Palace Theatre, were by choreographers from within the Hubbard Street family including three by former company dancer and current resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo.

The program, presented by DANCECleveland in collaboration with the American Dance Festival, led off with Cerrudo’s latest work and perhaps his best to date, “Out of Your Mind” (2018). Created for the company’s 40th anniversary season, the “sock” work was inspired by and titled after, a lecture by 20th century British philosopher Alan Watts. A recording of Watts reading excerpts from his thought-provoking lecture about the nature of the self, was incorporated into the work’s soundtrack that also included music by Canadian DJ duo Blond:ish, American composer Keith Kenniff (a.k.a Goldmund), and English composer Greg Haines. It is the first time Cerrudo has used text in one of his creations.

While the work’s title can imply a loss of one’s sanity, Cerrudo says he sees the title as meaning “thinking outside of your mind.” It was apparent from watching it that his thought process was without restraint and truly inspired.

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(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dancers Michael Gross and Connie Shiau in “Out of Your Mind” by Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

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(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “Out of Your Mind” by Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Abstract and darkly atmospheric, the contemporary dance work for fifteen dancers began with group unison dancing in a series of ever-changing body positions with shifting hand and arm movements; some having the dancers’ arms swarm about their heads. Watching the precision dancing was spellbinding and Hubbard Street’s adroit dancers were exquisite in it.

As the piece progressed, group dancing gave way to various smaller dancer configurations. A duet between dancers Rena Butler and David Schultz fascinated as did a male trio in which two dancers held up and rotated in place a third in a headstand; the upside down dancer frozen in a pose looking as if he were trying to flee. The work’s many dazzling movement phrases came at you as if looking into a kaleidoscope.

The work’s final section then returned the full cast onstage, this time with the dancers entwined arm-in-arm in a line executing cascading and wave-like movements along that line that sometimes resembled a centipede in motion.

Sure to take its place as a signature work of Cerrudo’s, “Out of Your Mind” was far and away the best piece on a program filled with worthy runners-up.

Next, the curtain opened on a brief but visually startling ballooning of a large piece of parachute-like fabric that was quickly yanked into a stage wing revealing a dancer pair with a female dancer lifted over her male partner’s head and positioned in front of another large swath of similar fabric hung as a backdrop. The opening theatrics were part of former Hubbard Street dancer Robyn Mineko Williams’ 2017 dance work for the company, “Cloudline”.

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(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “Cloudline” by Robyn Mineko Williams. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

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(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dancers Jessica Tong and Jason Hortin in “Cloudline” by Robyn Mineko Williams. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Set to a varied soundscape by Sufjan Stevens, Olafur Arnalds and others, the work, after its dramatic opening, slipped into a dreamlike haze conjuring up the hypnotic and surreal mood of the David Lynch TV series Twin Peaks.

Delivered in a series of delicious moving tableaux that drifted across the stage like a line of clouds, each tableau hinted at the joys and heartache associated with being in a romantic relationship or at the longing felt by one who is not. In one such tableau, a male dancer stood still staring into the wings at a back corner of the stage while dancers Alice Klock and Schultz engaged in sweeping and enveloping movement at its center, and a male/female couple sat pressed together at the front left of the stage watching them.

Over the course of “Cloudline” the fabric backdrop slowly sank to the floor like a setting sun and the dancers then used it to make it appear as if a few of them were dancing among the clouds. The piece then ended as dramatically as it began with a male/female couple in an embrace and tented by the billowing fabric, this time magically disappearing in the whoosh of fabric bring yanked off stage and replaced by a forlorn Jacqueline Burnett standing staring after them.

After a brief intermission, the other two Cerrudo’s works were shown beginning with his often performed, “Lickety-Split” (2006).  Danced to the folksy music of Venezuelan American singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart, “Lickety-Split” had a small town, back roads breeziness to it.  In it, you could see the early craft of a choreographic mind that would twelve years later be ready to birth a gem like “Out of Your Mind”.

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(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dancers Alicia Delgadillo and Elliot Hammans in Alejandro Cerrudo’s Lickety-Split. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Sprinkled with carefree play and a touch of humor, the work’s bendy, elongated contemporary dance movement proved as delightfully quirky as the music it was danced to. In one section to Banhart’s tune “This Beard is for Siobhan” a dancer is seen banging their nose on another’s butt cheek while we hear Banhart sing “Because my teeth don’t bite I can take them out dancing and show them a real good time.”

A last minute replacement for choreographer Crystal Pite’s “Grace Engine” due to lighting requirements that couldn’t be met, Cerrudo’s “PACOPEPEPLUTO” (2011) was another piece of choreographic kitsch wrapped in some serious solo male dancing by Schultz and dancers Kevin J. Shannon and Michael Gross. Set to classic songs by Dean Martin including “Memories Are Made of This” and “That’s Amore,” the work, usually performed wearing nothing but a “dance belt” (jockstrap), had the performers here opting for a more full coverage bottoms. In those, keisters wiggled, hips gyrated and the men leaped and bounded about the stage to the approving shouts of audience members.

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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “The 40s” by Lou Conte. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Florian Lochner, above) in “The 40s” by Lou Conte. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Hubbard’s program concluded with a signature work from its repertory Stone Age prior to the company becoming the global contemporary dance juggernaut audiences have come to know and love. Choreographed by company founder Lou Conte in 1978, “The 40s” was nonetheless a beauty of a jazz dance piece performed to big band music by Sy Oliver. Fast, light-footed and full of Broadway  “cool cat” spunk, the work unfolded like a grand Gene Kelly movie production number. It was a joyous end to a monster evening of dance capped by a rousing standing ovation from the audience.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

The ADF in CLE summer dance festival concludes with Caleb Teicher & Company (Tap), 8 p.m., Saturday, August 4 at Cain Park’s Evans Amphitheater. For information and tickets visit ADFinCLE.org

 

 

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Charlotte Ballet-Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Collaboration Pays Tribute to Beloved Institution Dance Makers


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Charlotte Ballet’s Chelsea Dumas and Juwan Alston with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in Mark Diamond’s “Scherzo”. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/THE CHAUTUAUQAN DAILY

Charlotte Ballet w/Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra
Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater
Chautauqua, NY
July 5, 2018

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Call it a tribute program for the two men responsible for much of the dance works created and performed by Charlotte Ballet over the past half dozen years during its annual summer residencies New York’s Chautauqua Institution.

For Charlotte Ballet II program director Mark Diamond, the performance recognized his 30-years as part of the Chautauqua family in the capacity of dance educator at the Chautauqua School of Dance and as a dance maker. For Charlotte Ballet resident choreographer, Sasha Janes — who began his Chautauqua run decades ago as a dancer with Charlotte Ballet (then known as North Carolina Dance Theatre) — the program was an affirmation of the Australian-native’s talents and the many works of his enjoyed by Chautauqua dance audiences over the years.

The program began with members of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in the unusual position of standing onstage (all except two cellists) in a barbershop quartet-like formation performing the “Pezzo in forma di Sonatina (Movement 1)” from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C major, op. 48.

Famous for being a part of the soundtrack to the George Balanchine ballet classic Serenade, the mere use of the music, although played quite beautifully by the CSO under the direction of Rossen Milanov, left one pining for Charlotte Ballet’s dancers to suddenly emerge to dance the Balanchine ballet, even if only the one section of it.  Alas, it was not to be.

Next, with the CSO relocated to the Amphitheater’s new orchestra pit, they joined Charlotte Ballet’s dancers in a reprise of Diamond’s ballet Scherzo, set to the second movement from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor op. 125.

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Charlotte Ballet and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra perform Mark Diamond’s “Scherzo”. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/THE CHAUTUAUQAN DAILY

One of Diamond’s more celebrated group works for the company, the contemporary/neo-classical ballet was filled with the hallmarks of many of Diamond’s works, a mishmash of movement styles and disparate dance movement, some inspired, and some leaving one scratching their head as to their inclusion. But as in many of his works, you get the sense in his choreography that Diamond really cares about each dancer onstage making a contribution.

Scherzo opened with veteran dancer Alessandra Ball James in spotlight dancing a quirky solo that vacillated between sleek beauty and somewhat odd ball dance moves. Although the company is unranked, James certainly qualifies as one of its prima ballerinas for her regality, power, technical prowess and theatrical presence onstage.

Diamond’s non-narrative and seemingly non-stop ballet then continued with its cast of eleven dancers (including three from the School of Dance) moving through a litany of dance phrases in various dancer configurations that was as engaging as it was at times uniquely unusual. In the end, the ballet and the dancers’ performance of it, proved satisfying. It was a fine tribute to an artist whose contributions to the Chautauqua Institution, its dance program, and Charlotte Ballet’s summer residencies there, has been invaluable.

The program closed with Janes’ 2015 ballet, The Four Seasons.  Set to Vivaldi’s score of the same name, Janes’ packed the ballet with energetic choreography to match the breadth of the score’s dynamic range. It led off with “Spring,” a section filled with fast-paced, flirty contemporary ballet choreography performed by eight dancers in various configurations throughout.

“Summer” came next with the trio of Peter Mazurowski, Chelsea Dumas and Ben Ingel in what looked to be a love triangle relationship. The dancers engaged in presentational movement that showed off their considerable technique, line, and extension. Highlighting the section was a short bravura solo danced by Mazurowski packed with leaps and jumps.

The ballet’s “Autumn” section with its dancers in pumpkin-colored costumes followed and had a courtly feel to it. At the center of the action was dancer Elizabeth Truell who was partnered by two male dancers who lifted and twisted her in the air but not without some difficulty at times.

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Charlotte Ballet dancers Colby Foss and Alessandra Ball James perform in the “Autumn” section of Sasha Janes’ ballet “The Four Seasons” with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/THE CHAUTUAUQAN DAILY

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Charlotte Ballet dancers including Raven Barkley (front) perform in the “Winter” section of Sasha Janes’ ballet “The Four Seasons” with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/THE CHAUTUAUQAN DAILY

Janes’ saved The Four Seasons’ showstopper choreography for last. Dancer Raven Barkley, who was named as one of Dance Magazine’s coveted “25 to Watch” dance artists for 2018, emerged from darkness into spotlight wearing a  flowing white robe as the music from Vivaldi’s “Winter” section began building.  Looking formidable, Barkley in tandem with a bold change in the music then lit into an elegant and bendy solo littered with rapid-fire leaps and turns. Afterward she was joined by a large corps of shirtless male dancers who along with her began a stirring unison dance phrase that saw the athletic Barkley match the men jump for jump.

For its part in the joint program, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra performed well, although being in the pit in an open air venue for most of it noticeably took away a level of volume and impact to the music; a failing that will need to be addressed in future.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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