Tag Archives: David Bowie

Dancing Wheels Production to Celebrate Music Icon David Bowie


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Dancing Wheels’ Demarco Sleeper and Sara Lawrence-Sucato in Dezaré Foster’s “Labyrinth: A Tribute”. Photos by Dale Dong and Design by G. Michael Bargas.

By Steve Sucato

Last summer when a freakish windstorm knocked out power at Cleveland Heights’ Cain Park, it also took with it Dancing Wheels’ scheduled world-premiere of “Labyrinth: A Tribute,” a dance work based on the 1986 film Labyrinth starring the David Bowie. While the cancellation was certainly unfortunate, it did provide the 36-year-old Cleveland-based physically integrated dance company with the opportunity to now create an entire evening themed around Bowie and his music. The Best of Bowie at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica will not only feature several Bowie-scored dance works, but the production will be interspersed with facts, lesser known trivia and video footage about the late rock icon provided by local Bowie aficionado, CoolCleveland’s Thomas Mulready and be followed by a Bowie-themed post-performance party.

Acting as master of ceremonies for the evening, Mulready says he has had a lifelong interest in Bowie and his music that has weathered the many stylistic changes in Bowie’s music over the span of his career.

“Everything he would come up with was very different from the thing he did before so if you got hooked into the androgyny of Ziggy Stardust and then a few years later he’s doing ‘Young Americans’ and he is like a soul singer, people would turn off and he would get a whole new audience and lose the old one,” says Mulready. “I was there all along.”

Whether as musical alter egos the “Thin White Duke,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Aladdin Sane” or “Major Tom,” David Robert Jones, a.k.a. David Bowie, is one of the most recognizable and revered figures in popular music history. With a string of hits and record sales of some 140 million over his 50-year career, Bowie was one of the world’s best-selling music artists. The multi-talented singer-songwriter, actor, painter, art collector and 1996 Rock Hall-inductee’s death of liver cancer at age 69 in 2016 sent shockwaves worldwide.

In celebration of Bowie’s legacy, The Best of Bowie will open with the premiere of Dancing Wheels’ rehearsal director Catherine Meredith’s “Pallas Athena.” Danced to Bowie’s “Pallas Athena (Don’t Stop Praying mix No 2)” off 1993’s Black Tie White Noise album, the work and the song’s title come from the Greek goddess, Athena, who is depicted in Athenian statues under the form of Pallas Athena. For Bowie, the song grew out of his interest in how man relates to God.

Says Meredith of the piece, “The impetus for the movement came from my years spent in NYC/London nightclubs. For many, the DJ and the club acted as a god and church/sanctuary where people were free to be who they were without judgment.” In it, Meredith says Dancing Wheels’ dozen dancers will represent the individual’s struggle to have their voice heard above the crowd.

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Dancing Wheels in Michael Uthoff’s “Straight Down the Middle”. Photo credit: Ellie Montenegro.

Next, Pittsburgh-based choreographer Beth Corning’s new work “These Are The Days,” reunites Meredith and Dancing Wheels founder/artistic director Mary Verdi-Fletcher with former company dancers Hoang (Mac) Dang, Libby Dang and Shannon Sterne. Corning, whose ongoing Glue Factory Project for dancers over forty has earned her critical acclaim nationally, brings that same sensibility in working with veteran dancers to this work. She describes it as a visceral, metaphoric reflection of her confusion, disbelief and uncertainty at the current social and political climates in U.S. and abroad. Set to a remastered version of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” along with music by Philip Glass, the work will be performed with the cast in wheelchairs.

“My choice to put all the dancers into [wheel]chairs was a conscious one,” says Corning. The [wheel]chair was not a replacement for movement, but rather a vehicle. The armchair liberal, the strange act of passively sitting while physically having to propel yourself in space in circles — an equalizer of sorts — as we pass each other, trying to connect, constantly moving, almost afraid to stop, to connect, to take responsibility, to relate to the moment.”

Students from the Dancing Wheels School will then take the stage in “Lightning,” a new work choreographed by school coordinator Emma Parker along with Brittany Kaplan and Gabriella Martinez. Danced to Bowie’s 1983 hit “Let’s Dance” and the Bowie/Queen collaboration “Under Pressure,” the lighthearted work will be a toe-tapping lead-in to the program’s final work, “Labyrinth: A Tribute.”

Choreographed by former Dancing Wheels’ star Dezaré Foster, the Northeast Ohio premiere of “Labyrinth: A Tribute” is a dance re-envisioning of Jim Henson’s cult classic film. Set to Bowie’s soundtrack for the film, the family-friendly story ballet, like the film, combines drama, humor and a host of quirky characters to tell the tale of young Sarah’s perilous journey to save — in this version — her sister Toby from the malevolent Goblin King.

“I watched this movie as a young child and David Bowie’s music stayed close to my heart,” says Foster. “I hope the combination of music, movement and story will invite you into this fantastical world where goblins are under your bed and just beyond the meadow is a maze full of mystery and magic.”

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Dancing Wheels. Photo by Dale Dong.

Following the production, audience members are invited to stick around for a post-performance party featuring Cleveland glam band Vanity Crash They’ll take the stage to play Bowie and glam rock tunes. There’ll also be dancing, desserts and drinks (cash bar), a silent auction and a dancer meet-and- greet. For those wanting the full VIP experience, Dancing Wheels is also offering a pre-show cocktail party beginning at 6:30 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres, open bar, silent auction and Best of Bowie bling. Funds raised from this event go to supporting Dancing Wheels’ outreach and educational programming and touring.

Dancing Wheels presents The Best of Bowie, 8 p.m., Saturday, June 10; Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, 2014 Sycamore Street, Cleveland. General admission $40, Groups of 10 or more $30/each, VIP tickets $125. (216) 432-0306 or dancingwheels.org.

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.

This article was first published on CoolCleveland.com, June 3, 2017. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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Canadian icon Louise Lecavalier makes her long-awaited Pittsburgh debut


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Louise Lecavalier in “So Blue” – PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDRÉ CORNELLIER

By Steve Sucato

Canadian contemporary-dance queen Louise Lecavalier makes her long-awaited Pittsburgh debut Fri., Feb. 26, at the Byham Theater in So Blue. The critically acclaimed 2012 work is the first choreographic effort by Lecavalier, best known as the face of now-defunct Montreal-based La La La Human Steps.

Lecavalier has been an icon in Canada since the 1980s; even at age 57, her dancing demonstrates incredible speed and athleticism. Her numerous awards include Canada’s highest dance honor, the Jean A. Chalmers Award, in 1999. She performed with David Bowie on his 1990 Sound+Vision tour and with Frank Zappa…

Source: Canadian icon Louise Lecavalier makes her long-awaited Pittsburgh debut

***PITTSBURGH PREMIERE OF LOUISE LECAVALIER FOU GLORIEUX CANCELLED***

Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Dance Council announced today that the performance of Louise Lecavalier’s Fou Glorieux, scheduled to be presented on Friday, February 26 at the Byham Theater, as part of the Pittsburgh Dance Council Season, has been cancelled.

Despite her best efforts to perform, a sudden illness has prompted Louise to take a hiatus at this time. The Pittsburgh Dance Council said: “We apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused and thank you for your support of Dance Council events.”

The event will not be rescheduled at this time and all ticket buyers will receive a full refund.

For more information, call the Theater Square Box Office at (412) 456-6666.

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Lauper, Liang, Balanchine and Bowie: BalletMet’s ‘Breaking Ballet’ an Entertaining Ride


BalletMet dancers in James Kudelka's

BalletMet dancers in James Kudelka’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Photo by Jennifer Zmuda.

BalletMet – Breaking Ballet
Capitol Theatre
Columbus, Ohio
October 2, 2015

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

To open its 2015-2016 season, BalletMet artistic director Edwaard Liang put together a more populist program of ballet works to further dispel the stereotype that ballet is all raised pinkies and tutus appealing only to the stuffed shirt crowd. Anyone who frequents BalletMet’s programs probably already knows that ballet can come in a myriad of forms. Breaking Ballet, October 2-10 at the Riffe Center’s Capitol Theatre in Columbus, set about proving that point from the get go with the world-premiere of James Kudelka’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun set to the music of 1980’s pop icon Cyndi Lauper.

Kudelka, a former artistic director of The National Ballet of Canada, has over the past decade created several works for BalletMet. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun is the latest in a series that includes 2010’s The Man in Black and last season’s Real Life in which Kudelka taps into folk dance patterning to help create a distinct movement language that permeates each ballet.

Decked out in 80’s-flavored costumes (sans the leg warmers and headbands) courtesy of costume designer Erin E. Rollins, the ballet bopped through a suite of Lauper hits.

BalletMet dancers in James Kudelka's

BalletMet dancers in James Kudelka’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Photo by Jennifer Zmuda.

Capturing a music video vibe, Kudelka’s choreography had the dancers repeating exaggerated hip sways, sideways waddles and arms-on-shoulders Greek folk dance-like circle dances.

Dancing to Lauper’s “True Colors,” BalletMet’s Karen Wing and Austin Finley slowly swayed back and forth, shifting their feet with Wing locked on Finley with and intense gaze during the seductive duet. Then dancers Jessica Brown, Arielle Friedman, Samantha Lewis, Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Carly Wheaton formed a horizontal line across the stage as a bank of low hanging stage lights swiveled toward and away from the audience simulating bright vehicle head and tail lights. The women shimmied, jogged and grooved to Lauper’s catchy tune “I Drove All Night.”

Following two splendidly danced pas de deuxs – Adrienne Benz and Gabriel Gaffney Smith to “The World is Stone” and Emily Gotschall and Andres Estevez to “All Through the Night” –   and an impassioned solo by Benz to “I’m Going to be Strong” that reflected each song’s lyrics, the ballet concluded with the cast reprising parts of the ballet to the song “Money Changes Everything.”

BalletMet's Olivia Clark (center) and dancers in James Kudelka's

BalletMet’s Olivia Clark (center) and dancers in James Kudelka’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Photo by Jennifer Zmuda.

A special encore to “Who Let in the Rain” followed which honored retiring dancer Olivia Clark. Matched with the ballet’s five male dancers, Clark was smooth and elegant in the Vegas-style dance number.

BalletMet's Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Gabriel Gaffney Smith in Edwaard Liang's

BalletMet’s Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Gabriel Gaffney Smith in Edwaard Liang’s “Distant Cries.” Photo by Jennifer Zmuda.

BalletMet's Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Gabriel Gaffney Smith in Edwaard Liang's

BalletMet’s Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Gabriel Gaffney Smith in Edwaard Liang’s “Distant Cries.” Photo by Jennifer Zmuda.

Originally set on former New York City Ballet stars Wendy Whelan and Peter Boal, Liang’s Distant Cries (2005) was a heartfelt pas de deux about longing.  Petite company star Valentine-Ellis dancing to the music of Tomaso Albinoni was thoughtful and vulnerable in appearing to conjure up the memory of perhaps an erstwhile lover portrayed by Smith. Smith appeared out of shadow to partner the supple Valentine-Ellis in a sequence of high bended lifts, sharp turns and desperate embraces. Doubt as to the pair’s true relationship came in the form of Valentine-Ellis more than once, holding her face in her hands as if to hide her emotions. The memorable pas de deux concluded with Smith fading back into the darkness and Valentine-Ellis directing a pained silent cry toward the audience.

BalletMet's Miguel Anaya (center ) and company in George Balanchine's

BalletMet’s Miguel Anaya (center ) and company in George Balanchine’s “Allegro Brilliante.” Photo by Jennifer Zmuda.

BalletMet dancers in George Balanchine's

BalletMet dancers in George Balanchine’s “Allegro Brilliante.” Photo by Jennifer Zmuda.

Like the Beatles’ music, the ballets of George Balanchine seem to never get old in people’s hearts. That held true once again as the Oct. 2 audience ate-up BalletMet’s dancers’ performance of the Balanchine masterwork Allegro Brilliante (1956). Led by first year company member and former Ballet Nacional de Cuba soloist Miguel Anaya, the company gave a solid performance of the vibrant classical work. Anaya is a godsend to the company’s classical repertory. His eye-popping technical prowess instantly raises the bar on what audiences can expect from the company in classical works.

BalletMet dancers in Edwaard Liang's

BalletMet dancers in Edwaard Liang’s “Dancing in the Street.” Photo by Jennifer Zmuda.

BalletMet dancers in Edwaard Liang's

BalletMet dancers in Edwaard Liang’s “Dancing in the Street.” Photo by Jennifer Zmuda.

Breaking Ballet concluded with a similar vibe to how it began with the world-premiere of Liang’s Dancing in the Street. Originally supposed to be an all David Bowie hit music driven ballet, issues with song rights cut that back to a few obscure early Bowie tracks plus the Mick Jagger/Bowie hit the ballet was titled after. That left the door open for Liang to augment the ballet’s score with original music (partially played live by cellist Marc Moskovitz and violinist Katherine McLin) by multi-talented company member Smith. Smith also danced the ballet’s lead role, a being in all white with superpowers. Specter? Angel? The only thing for sure was Smith’s character liked to party and was looking for love. Enter new company member Grace Ann-Powers in a flattering green dress as Smith’s character’s love interest. The former dancer with Montreal’s La La La Human Steps was wonderfully compelling and is one to watch in future productions.

Overall Dancing in the Street was a lark of a ballet, full of crowd-pleasing dancing and a fitting end to a production that placed a premium on fun.

Breaking Ballet continues 7:30 p.m., Thursday, October 8 and 8 p.m., Friday, October 9 and 10. Riffe Center’s Capitol Theatre, 77 S. High Street, Columbus. $29-69. (614) 460-7211 or balletmet.org. 

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