Tag Archives: Modern dance

Parsons Dance’s Program a Delightful Mix of Current and Classic Works [REVIEW]


companyphoto1-travismagee

Parsons Dance. Photo by Travis Magee.

Parsons Dance
The University of Akron’s EJ Thomas Hall
Akron, Ohio
October 12, 2019

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Few choreographers begin their careers with what would be their seminal work. David Parsons did just that with his 1982 work “Caught”.  On the greatest hits list of modern dance works of the 20th century, “Caught” was one of five works Parsons Dance performed Saturday night at The University of Akron’s EJ Thomas Hall.

Presented by The University of Akron’s Dance Department and DANCECleveland to open its 2019-20 mainstage season, the popular NYC-based company was last in Northeast, Ohio as part of DANCECleveland’s 2015 season.

roundmyworld2-travismagee

Parsons Dance in “Round My World”. Photo by Travis Magee.

Parsons Dance’s mixed repertory program capped a week-long residency at the University and led off with Parsons’ 2012 work “Round My World” to music by Canadian-born cellist and composer Zoë Keating.  Constructed on themes of roundedness and circularity, Parsons’ choreography for the zippy work took those themes and ran with them. The troupe’s 6 dancers engaged in a myriad of rounded arm and circular movements and jumps. The visual equivalent of an ear worm, Parson’s pleasant choreographic patterns lodged themselves in the viewer’s mind circling round and round.

Next came choreographer Trey McIntyre’s latest work set to a suite of songs from a popular music artist, “Eight Women” (2019). Danced to music by the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, the work for the company’s 8 dancers had a similar vibe to “Round My World” but with a funkier approach. In it, Parson’s dancers led by Henry Steele, interpreted the mood of such Franklin hits as “Spanish Harlem,” “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Natural Woman” via breezy, direction-shifting hops and turning steps that were soothing to watch.

eightwomen1-travismagee

Parsons Dance in “Eight Women”. Photo by Travis Magee.

microburst

Parsons Dance in “Microburst”. Photo courtesy of Parsons Dance.

A protégé of Paul Taylor, whose company he danced for many years, many of Parsons’ own works show influences of Taylor in their style. “Microburst” (2018) was not one of them. The somewhat unique dance work mixed elements of tap and modern dance to an original Indian tabla score by Avirodh Sharama.  Reflecting the work’s title, the sound effect of a storm ushered in the piece in darkness. Then the stage lights came up on a quartet of dancers whose microbursts of movement were tied to and punctuated notes in the illustrative drum music. Originally performed with a live tabla player onstage, Parsons added the placement of a small silver bell onstage as a stand-in for the missing musician that was rung once during the piece by dancer Zoey Anderson.

Substituting tap and modern dance movement and attitude for the traditional Indian dance choreography one might expect paired with the tabla score, the engaging work was a breath of fresh air in its appeal and in the charm it allowed dancers Anderson, Shawn Lesniak, Deidre Rogan and Joan Rodriguez to exhibit in their dancing.

Then, after a quick costume change by Anderson, the blonde-haired powerhouse from Utah performed “Caught”.

maxresdefault

Zoey Anderson in “Caught”. Photo courtesy of Parsons Dance.

Created by Parsons and company co-founder and lighting designer for all the works on the program Howell Binkley, the 6-minute solo to music by Robert Fripp used a strobe effect and a hundred or so jumps to give the illusion of Anderson flying about the stage not touching ground but for a few pauses to stand in spotlight in a military at ease pose center stage.  An audience favorite, the work has been performed over 2,500 times mostly by male company members. Anderson was spot on in her performance of the work garnering the stunned reactions and appreciative applause audiences generally give the work.

Rounding out the program was Parsons’ 1990 nod to Brazilian culture, “Nascimento” (Portuguese for “birth”). A frequent program closer, the work was inspired by and set to an original score by Brazilian singer/songwriter Milton Nascimento, Parsons’ 8 dancers skipped and bounded about the stage in joyous and playful choreography full of kicks, spins and lifts to an infectious beat that dared you to try and sit still.

Per usual Parsons Dance delivered a program of works with one goal — to entertain.  A rousing standing ovation at program’s end signaled mission accomplished.

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance Reviews 2019, DANCECleveland

New Summer Dance Festival in Cleveland the result of a Perfect Storm of Needs


2015_SL_IAN-DOUGLAS-8-copy

Pilobolus opens ADF in Cleveland on Saturday, July 29 in “Shadowland.” Photo by Ian Douglas.

By Steve Sucato

DANCECleveland and the American Dance Festival (ADF) have teamed up this summer for ADF in Cleveland, an 8-day dance festival July 29-August 5 at Playhouse Square. The inaugural event will include performances by international superstars Pilobolus (July 29), hip hop troupe Rapheal Xavier (August 2) and New York modern dance company Brian Brooks (August 5). In addition there will be a four-day educational workshop series taught by ADF faculty and free community events. For a full schedule of events see below or visit adfincle.org.

Given that DANCECleveland is one of the oldest modern/contemporary dance presenters in the country and ADF, which began in 1934, has been heralded as “One of the nation’s most important institutions” by the New York Times and as “The world’s greatest dance festival” by the New York Post, the question is why has such a collaboration between the two like-minded organizations never happened before?

In talking with DANCECleveland executive director Pamela Young, it took a perfect storm of circumstances to make ADF in Cleveland happen.

“Nothing happens quickly for me,” says Young “I like to think and ruminate on things.”

Young has been in conversations with the Durham, North Carolina-based organization and ADF executive director Jodee Nimerichter for several years working out the structure and logistics of the Cleveland mini-festival.

For Nimerichter, ADF in Cleveland represented a chance to expand their brand awareness in the Midwest. Says Young, while ADF reaches nationally and internationally, it doesn’t pull much from the Midwest, especially when it comes to students attending ADF’s summer school offerings.

Locally, Young was also looking for a way to expand DANCECleveland’s performance options. “There are so many things interesting happening in dance that aren’t spectacle,” she says. “Works that don’t necessarily show well in larger theaters such as solo works or interesting cross-sections of dance and theater…it’s very hard for me to incorporate those into our season.”

In addition, Playhouse Square, feeling the district and their facilities were underutilized during the summer, was interested in adding programming and Cleveland State University’s department of theatre and dance was also looking for ways to enhance their annual summer dance workshop and having ADF’s teaching faculty here during it was, says Young, “a slam dunk for them.”

The addition of ADF in Cleveland to Northeast Ohio’s burgeoning summer dance offerings that include dance events at Cleveland Heights’ Cain Park, Akron’s Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival and the new Lose Your Marbles Dance-centric fringe festival, along with Tremont’s Arts and Cultural Festival and others, is yet another reason why the region is fast becoming one of the top destinations for summer dance in the tristate area and beyond.

2015_SL_IAN-DOUGLAS-20-copy

Pilobolus in “Shadowland.” Photo by Ian Douglas.

THE SKINNY

While in future editions of ADF in Cleveland Young says she wants to feature perhaps lesser known artists and productions that can be seen in unconventional settings (site-specific works, etc.), for this inaugural festival she wanted to introduce the festival with more familiar dance companies.

Marquee troupe and Northeast, Ohio favorite Pilobolus will kick things off performing their highly successful work Shadowland on Saturday, July 29 at Playhouse Square’s State Theatre. Here is a description of the show that I wrote that appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper this past February:

While entertaining audiences across Europe since it premiered in 2009, Shadowland didn’t make its North American premiere until 2015. Nathaniel Buchsbaum, a member of the “Shadowland” cast since 2012 feels the success of the show abroad and not wanting to compete with Pilobolus’ regular U.S. repertory company may have accounted for the delay in American audiences getting to see the work.

Created in collaboration with Steven Banks, the lead writer of TV’s SpongeBob SquarePants and set to original music by David Poe, the 75-minute dance-theater piece combining projected shadow play, multimedia, circus arts, dance and more, tells the surreal story of a young girl’s dream of a sensational world as she comes of age.  In it, the performers contort their bodies into shadow configurations of airplanes, elephants, flowers and more.

Buchsbaum says he will perform several roles in the Pittsburgh premiere of the work from a chef to several shadow creatures. He describes his indoctrination into the show as trial by fire.  “We [he and another new dancer] got the barebones structure of the show in Connecticut [Pilobolus’ home base] and then flew to Europe. Within three weeks of performances adding us in scene by scene, we were fully integrated into the show,” says Buchsbaum.

In a 2015 review of “Shadowland,” New York Times writer Siobhan Burke wrote: “A teenage girl lost in a dark dream, she’s at the mercy of a mysterious giant who, with the rustle of one imposing hand, turns her into a dog from the waist up. Both before and after this transformation, she is chased, threatened, prodded, eaten, humiliated, even tied up and whipped.”

While the show’s target audience skews more mature than that of SpongeBob SquarePants – Says Buchsbaum: “It’s definitely a family-friendly show. We get a lot of kids and adults who really enjoy it.”

Raphael Xavier © Bicking Photography (2)

Raphael Xavier’s hip hop troupe performs Wednesday, August 2 at Playhouse Square’s Allen Theatre. Photo by Bicking Photography

Next, Wilmington, Delaware-native Raphael Xavier brings his award-winning hip-hop dance artistry to Playhouse Square’s Allen Theatre on Wednesday, August 2. As described by DANCECleveland’s website: Xavier has been a hip-hop dancer and breaking practitioner since 1983. He describes himself as an “Innovative Movement Conceptualist,” creating new ways to expand the vocabulary of the dance form and how it fits onto an aging body. Drawing from hip hop culture and his background in photography, music and as a sound engineer, Xavier creates a visual and musical landscape the ties into his choreography. Dance Magazine described Xavier’s dancing and works as “…Artful and mesmerizing, Xavier transforms a bravado dance style into an introspective meditation.”  

Area dancegoers may remember Brian Brooks’ choreography and dancing in a duet with New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan as part of her production Restless Creature at the Ohio Theatre in 2015. Brooks returns to Cleveland with his dance troupe to close out ADF in Cleveland on Saturday, August 5 at the Ohio Theatre.

Brian Brooks Photo by Erin Baiano (2)

Brian Brooks dance troupe closes out ADF in Cleveland on Saturday, August 5 in “Torrent” at the Ohio Theatre. Photo by Erin Baiano.

As described by DANCECleveland’s website, Brook’s troupe will perform Torrent, set to Max Richter’s version of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” The lush piece full of movement sends the dancers soaring across the stage while playing with lines and texture as they perform. Brooks has received numerous awards and was recently appointed as the inaugural Choreographer in Residence at Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance. This innovative three-year fellowship supports several commissions for Brooks each season with the first year featuring Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Miami City Ballet, as well as his own New York-based group.

ADF in Cleveland runs July 29-August 5 at Playhouse Square. See schedule below for event times and dates. Individual performance tickets run $25-$50. Festival passes run $64-$119. Several events free. See adfincle.orgdancecleveland.org or call 216-241-6000 for information and to purchase tickets/passes.

2017 ADF IN CLEVELAND SCHEDULE

Saturday, July 29 (National Day of Dance)

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Pilobolus Master Class – (FREE) CSU Dance Studio – Reservation Required.
1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p. m. Mega Barre Outdoor Community Ballet/Exercise Barre Class (FREE)  – E. 14th Street
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Local Dance School Showcase (FREE) – Ohio Theatre
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Dancing In The Street
Rehearsal to learn the So You Think You Can Dance Routine (FREE) Open to all ages and abilities.  – E. 14th Street
6:45 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Dancing In The Street
Community Performance of the So You Think You Can Dance Routine (FREE) – E. 14th Street
7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Pilobolus – Performance Shadowland – State Theatre*
*This is a ticketed event. Please contact the Playhouse Square ticket office.
9:00p.m. – 11:00 p.m. Silent Disco Party (FREE) – U.S. Bank Plaza

Tuesday, August 1

11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Yoga (FREE) – U.S. Bank Plaza
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. “Dancing Under the Stars”
Salsa Dancing (FREE) – U.S. Bank Plaza

Wednesday, August 2

9:30a.m. – 5:30p.m.  ADF Dance Workshop @ CSU Dance Studios
6:15 p.m. Raphael Xavier Pre-Performance Chat – Allen Theatre
7:30 p.m. Raphael Xavier Performance – Allen Theatre*
*This is a ticketed event. Please contact the Playhouse Square ticket office. ​

Thursday, August 3

9:30a.m. – 5:30p.m.  ADF Dance Workshop @ CSU Dance Studios
7:30 p.m. Dance Cinema Night – “Singing in the Rain” Connor Palace Theatre*
*This is a ticketed event. Please contact the Playhouse Square ticket office.

Friday, August 4

9:30a.m. – 5:30p.m.  ADF Dance Workshop @ CSU Dance Studios
7:30 p.m. Dance Cinema Night – “Top Hat” Connor Palace Theatre*
*This is a ticketed event. Please contact the Playhouse Square ticket office.

Saturday, August 5

9:30a.m. – 5:30p.m.  ADF Dance Workshop @ CSU Dance Studios
6:15 p.m. Brian Brooks Pre-Performance Chat – Ohio Theatre
7:30 p.m. Brian Brooks Performance – Ohio Theatre*
*This is a ticketed event. Please contact the Playhouse Square ticket office.
8:45 p.m. Brian Brooks Post-Performance Q & A – Ohio Theatre

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Airings

Case Western Reserve University’s ‘Au Courant’ an Emotional Journey


Ensemble dancers in Shannon Sterne's "Inundation".  From L to R: Christina Coppel, Kristy Clement, Andrea Alvarez, Emma Steele, Karlie Budge and Abbey Hafer. Photo by Brad Petot.

Ensemble dancers in Shannon Sterne’s “Inundation”. From L to R: Christina Coppel, Kristy Clement, Andrea Alvarez, Emma Steele, Karlie Budge and Abbey Hafer. Photo by Brad Petot.

Case Western Reserve University Department of Dance – Au Courant
Mather Dance Center at CWRU

Cleveland, Ohio
November 1, 2013

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Fervent emotion appeared to be the underlying theme of Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Dance Fall concert Au Courant (aware). The mixed repertory program performed by students, faculty and guest dancers at CWRU’s Mather Dance Center, explored a range of emotions in four diverse dance works including Mark Morris’ delightfully playful “Canonic 3/4 Studies”.

ZiYing Cui in Karen Potter's "Veiled Tears". Photo by Brad Petot.

ZiYing Cui in Karen Potter’s “Veiled Tears”. Photo by Brad Petot.

The program led off with dance department chair Karen Potter’s new work “Veiled Tears” set to music by composer Henry Purcell. It began with a woman’s shrilled moaning cries of woe and despair that pierced the darkness of the theater. The stage lights then slowly came up on guest artist Beth McGee (the one moaning) along with several other dancers veiled by portions of their long tulle skirts pulled up over their heads. In fits and starts the work’s eight performers then scurried about the stage as if lost and anguished.  Potter’s simplistic choreography for them ran through a variety of formations that appeared to merely shuffle the performers around to little end. Beyond a sense of foreboding by the dancers who at one point executed a succession of seemingly self-punishing, violent jumps in the air with arms rod-stiff at their sides and a few visually beautiful scenes of posed veiled dancers in deep knee lunges, arms raised as if buoyed by them, “Veiled Tears” did little to engage an audience. The program’s next work, Shannon Sterne’s “Inundation”, proved the opposite.

Set to an eclectic mix of music from French singer Coralie Clement to Canadian modern chamber music group Esmerine, Sterne’s large group work in five sections exuded the range of dark emotions associated with the breakup of a romantic relationship.

Shannon Sterne and Ryan Andrew Dick in Sterne's "Inundation". Photo by Brad Petot.

Shannon Sterne and Ryan Andrew Dick in Sterne’s “Inundation”. Photo by Brad Petot.

In the work’s opening section “Effusion”, Sterne and former Dancing Wheels company member Ryan Andrew Dick danced a duet to Clement’s music that pointed to a dissolving of said romantic relationship. On a stage filled with horizontal rows of wooden dining chairs, a troubled Sterne, costumed in a black dress, reached out desperately to her mostly unreceptive partner. The pair engaged in a back and forth dance filled with arching lifts and unrequited embraces on Dick’s part.  That section gave way to another entitled “Agitation”, in which an ensemble of eleven female dancers also in black dresses seemed to embody the varying levels of hurt and anger going on in Sterne’s character’s mind. Dancers Karlie Budge as an angry, pouty incarnation and Kristy Clement as a somber one, made the strongest impressions of the group.

The rest of the work saw a return of Sterne and Dick’s duet only more desperate and tumultuous, and the ensemble from “Agitation” again only this time climbing along a winding path chairs.

The nicely crafted and performed work’s finest moment however came in its final section “Submersion”, where Sterne’s character joined several of the emoticon-like ensemble dancers onstage. As the others acted out their various emotional motivations Sterne stood hauntingly still, staring out into the audience, sadness pooling in her eyes, beckoning humanity for comfort.

Dani Dowler and Karina Browne in Gary Galbraith's "Remote Encounters". Photo by Brad Petot.

Dani Dowler and Karina Browne in Gary Galbraith’s “Remote Encounters”. Photo by Brad Petot.

Reminiscent of the interactive digital media works by New York dance troupe Troika Ranch, Case dance department artistic director Gary Galbraith’s “Remote Encounters” (2012) was a duet that utilized video cameras in front of and behind a large video screen and partition that fed real-time images of dancers Karina Browne and Dani Dowler to that screen as they danced. The effect was to make it appear as if each dancer at various points in the work was being echoed in or even sucked into a digital realm a la the TRON movies.  The pair also took turns partially appearing from and disappearing behind the video screen in choreography that made them look as if they were caught between the digital and real worlds. While the work’s premise was an old one and the technology used was somewhat rudimentary in this day and age, “Remote Encounters”, and the two dancer’s performances in it were pleasing.

For Au Courant, the best really was saved for last.  Morris’ “Canonic 3/4 Studies” ─ which the Mark Morris Dance Group performed in Cleveland just this past March ─ was a thoroughly entertaining lark.  Set to a collection of piano waltz’s arranged by Harriet Cavalli and played beautifully by Karen Tooley, “Canonic 3/4 Studies” was a clever and humorous study in the manipulation of a dance phrase. Morris once likened his choreography for the work to the more creative variations on the song Row, Row, Row, Your Boat.  The deliciously constructed and musical piece was in part a tongue-in-cheek bashing of ballet’s somewhat rigid conventions. It had Case’s dancers on the floor, in the air, and marching around as if staring into the pages of an imaginary book. Perhaps the work’s most memorable moment was when dancer Richard Oaxaca in a trio with two female dancers circling him, gave each dancer a slight lift in the air as they passed in front of him coinciding with Tooley dinging a bell. The comedic bit continued for a time with one of the women reversing direction to add a delightful twist to section.  While Case’s student dancers lacked the technique and poise of say Morris’ troupe in the work, their performance was respectable.

Copyright Steve Sucato – 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance Reviews 2013