intermissionmag.com

Dance/Concert Reviews
January 2015

Tango Buenos Aires

Presented by Dance St. Louis

Touhill Performing Arts Center

Ran Jan 30 and 31, 2015

Reviewed by Isabelle Heidbreder and David Mount

The touring history of the dance company Tango Buenos Aires speaks volumes for the level of performance one can expect from this very talented group of dancers, musicians and vocalists. Given the countries they’ve visited, it is obvious the draw this dance form extends well beyond its’ origins in Argentina and Hispanic culture. If you’ve not seen Tango Buenos Aires, you should make the commitment to go see them on their next visit to St. Louis… or even Chicago! It will be worth the drive.

The performers comprise a wide range of ages and yet some are surprisingly young when one considers the difficulty of this dance form. Indeed, two of the musicians, both bandoneon players were truly amazing artists, but to be fair, each of the band members played remarkable solos at one point or another. While one could watch this performance purely for the dance, the two acts, comprised of 25 separate numbers putting this intense and passionate dance form in the spotlight, were aptly applied to the life story of Eva Perón. The number of variations on the basic ballroom dance-class tango step is mind-numbing, limited only by one's imagination and skill!

Without a doubt though, it is the extreme precision and complexity of the couples’ legs weaving around and within those of their partner that make this dance stand out for me especially when performed at tempo vivacissimo! Blend that with the sensuality of entwined bodies, swirling hemlines and limbs, hips and lips, lifts and drags and you have a delicious recipe for drama and seduction. Watch this short video clip to get just a teasing taste of this two-hour treat.

While that complexity, precision and tension is the focus of the evening -- and the audience audibly gasps in awe repeatedly throughout the performance -- one number at the end of Act I grew to be an audience favorite. While some dance is involved, “Las Boleadoras” is a surprisingly impressive choreography employing bolas, a tool of the gauchos, or Argentinian cowboys, comprised of two wooden balls attached by a rope. By rotating their wrists, the balls orbit the body of the performer, and by allowing the ball to hit the stage accompanied by toe taps, heel clicks and stomps, a variety of staccato rhythms are created. By varying the speed and orbital path, the boleadoras mesmerized the audience for several minutes. Principally a tour de force by one of the boleadoras, he accelerated the bolos to blurring speeds, the whiz of the ropes through the air was unmistakable, the artists’ hands and arms moving as precisely as the feet and legs of the tango performers, with the audience jumping to their feet in adulation.

Truly a treat for the sensual, Tango Buenos Aires was in St. Louis by popular demand and if the audience response gave Dance St. Louis a clue, they’ll be back again! If you didn’t feel the temperature rise as they heated up the stage, you couldn’t have been there.

View slide show here.


*********************************


March 2014


Motionhouse Dance Theatre

Edison Theatre, St. Louis

Ran March 21-22, 2014

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Dance is no longer limited to the floor. The heck with the laws of gravity. Motionhouse Dance Theatre dances, leaps, slides, slithers, rolls and splats on a wall that curves to the floor. The performance Scattered is 70 minutes of non-stop action about water. A video is projected onto the curved wall — frozen water, underwater, waterfalls, swimming pools, the ocean and even what it’s like without water. Images of dry, cracked mud appear as the dancers are poised on the wall like sticky-footed geckos with the their fingers stuck in the mud cracks.

A couch appears on the video that the dancers seem to sit on. The background seems real. As the dancers scale the 10-foot curved wall, they hit the exact point that a splash occurs in the video. Although the wall looks like it’s a touchscreen reacting to the pressure of the dancers, it’s really very practiced good timing. The dancers are part of the background and the background is constantly changing. An escalator appears on the screen and the dancers run up it. Or they drop down from the top of the wall on bungee cords becoming part of the projected images. Plastic water bottles become schools of fish in the dancer’s hands as they dart in and out of the ocean -- until a water-cooler bottle comes along and scares the smaller ones away.

This is the first stop of Motionhouse’s US tour. Founded in 1988 by Kevin Finnan and Louise Richards, Motionhouse has become one of the leading dance theatre companies in the UK. It’s highly physical and strenuous dance. Some of the dancers were holding ice packs on bruised ankles during the comments at the end of the performance. Can you imagine your choreographer saying, “Okay dancers, today we are going to run up a 10-foot wall over and over and over again for 70 minutes?”

The video is created in collaboration with Logela Multimedia from the Basque region of Spain. The dancers interact with the video as it all comes together like a mosaic. You’ve probably never seen anything like this before. This is a mind-boggling show. Catch them on tour if you can.

https://edison.wustl.edu/tickets/

http://www.motionhouse.co.uk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_RpNGF_d-g

***  **  ****  **  ****  **  ***


February 2014


Diavolo

Presented by Dance St. Louis

Touhill Performing Arts Center, St. Louis

Reviewed by Isabelle Heidbreder and David Mount

Ran Feb 28 and Mar 1, 2014

Diavolo’s founder, French-born Jacques Heim, describes his distinct transformational choreography style as “architecture in motion”. By blending the repertoires of diverse dynamic physical expressions such as ballet, acrobatics, gymnastics, contemporary dance, martial arts and street dance, he and his troupe search for “the relationship between the danger of our environment and the fragility of the human body.” The motivations behind both well-conceived, and well-written pieces were no less trivial: Heim’s psycho-social intentions consider our interactions with and reactions to our physical surroundings as well as with our fellow humans. If it sounds eclectic, that was the wonderful and compelling outcome of the literally breath-taking performance of Diavolo at the Touhill on Friday night!

The conjunction of all those movement styles coupled with the collosal set pieces in the two socially non-trivial creations performed on stage, demanded near-olympic fitness and focus from the young performers. Both pieces, Transit Space and Trajectoire, required precision and high skill level on the part of the dancers to convey the message safely. It was not infrequent that one or more performers were literally flying through the air, propelled by their own muscles and aided to superhero proportions by the physics of skateboard ramps and rocking platforms that were essential to the production.

Transit Space was very clearly a strong message about our modern societal motivations, in finding ourselves and our purpose in society as a whole and our narrower personal social sphere. Researched in collaboration with skateboarders in Los Angeles, it incorporated movement and physical environment typical of that culture, but imported strong foreign influence in acrobatics, gymnastics, break dancing and capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts form. A narrative accompanied the drums-driven music, sharing with the audience the transformation of the performers from lost strangers to interdependent and collaborative partners. While tense and lacking connection between the participants at the onset of the piece, as the interactions between dancers became less distant, individual displays of skill were replaced by connectivity evidenced by collaborative movements and consequentially, an obvious playfulness that evoked a strong feeling of elatement.

More relaxed, emotional, poetic and haunting, Trajectoire’s demands on the dancers was no less demanding. Precise timing and positioning as well as physical prowess and mental focus were essential as the choreography of this piece resulted in dancers being propelled more than twenty feet by the huge half-cylinder’s boat-like rocking movement, apexing at perhaps fifteen or more feet above the stage, to be caught by as many as four fellow performers! More than once, the audience’s collective gasp could be heard above the musical score. Heim’s message in this piece focused on the need to find balance in one’s journey in life and the resilience of the individual despite serious challenges to our deepest being.

The evening was exciting and uniquely entertaining. The utilization of the large set pieces was artfully done and contributed to, rather than distracted from, the choreography and message. There is no doubt that the audience loved both pieces from the standing ovation at the finish of the night’s performance and the fervency of the applause before intermission. If you love dance, Diavolo is fascinatingly energetic and compellingly meaningful. We’d suggest that if you think dance is boring, irrelevant, and not for adrenaline junkies, the next time Diavolo comes to town, you’re in for both a very pleasant surprise and, by the time the curtain falls, a desire to experience more Diavolo!

***  **  *  **  ***  **  *  **  ***

Diavolo

Touhill Performing Arts Center

Presented by Dance St. Louis

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Ran Feb 28 - Mar 1, 2014

Chances are, you’ve never seen anything like Diavolo. It is truly remarkable, a very high-energy performance that refers to its distinct style as “Architecture in Motion.” It’s more like a well-oiled machine with incredible precision, timing, balance and momentum. The extremely athletic performers sometimes seem to fly through the air as they are propelled off of a structure that rolls back and forth. It’s challenging enough to be dancing on a stage but try to imagine dancing on a surface that is rocking back and forth like a ship being tossed about in the swell of large waves. With backgrounds in dance, gymnastics, tumbling, and acrobatics, the dancers are springing everywhere at once.

There were only two performances but they were both packed with plenty of punch. Transit Space implemented skateboard ramp structures that became bridges and morphed into sliding boards conveying a street scene with restless youth searching for meaning. With a soundtrack of poetic voice artists, the dancers employed wheel-less skateboards and some breakdancing, this piece rolled into a theme about feeling lost and yearning for connection to the gang. It was very energetic with every possible way of moving and using the interactive structures as the performers leaped, rolled and slid off of them. The structures varyingly functioned as sliding boards or bridges or walls or mirrors.

The second dance aptly named Trajectoire (trajectory), makes complete use of a large wooden structure which is like a boat rocking about in the waves. The rocking is created by the dancers moving from one side to the other. The timing must be impeccable, otherwise, the dancers would bump into each other as they leap and hang off the structure or roll under it as it rocks up. There was a collective gasp from the audience as it rolled backward and starts forwards again as a female dancer propelled by the movement flies through the air and lands in the arms of several other dancers on the floor. Talk about a leap of faith… She can’t even see where she’ll be hurling her body until the “boat” has rolled forwards. It was breathtaking. It ends with the smallest dancer sliding slowly out of sight as the structure is tipped up. The theme is described as “a visceral and emotional journey through the ebb and flow of the human experience as the performers struggle to find their balance on a voyage of destiny and destination.”

This company from Los Angeles was founded in 1992 by Jacques Heim, the artistic director. He was born and raised in Paris, France and has worked extensively for other companies in dance, theatre and TV including Cirque du Soleil by creating their performance KA.

It was an incredible performance. Truly mind-blowing. The performers give their all… and then some and they received much appreciation and a standing ovation.


***  **  ***  *  ***  **  ***


October 2013

An Evening with
Judy Collins

Edison Theatre, St. Louis

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman
October 12, 2013

As a teenager of the 60s, I grew up listening to Judy Collins’ music. Although I don’t have any specific memories that were evoked during the concert, there is a general feeling of nostalgia for a time when the world was a vastly different place... at least to my 16-year-old mind. The question is, “can the performer, who is now 74, match the sound that she had when I listened to her album, Wildflowers, repeatedly on my rickety old turntable?” Yes, she can! Her voice isn’t as full or pure as it was 40 years ago and it gets a bit shrill when she goes for those high notes but my ears are not as good as they used to be either! For the most part, she sounds great and delivers a lovely performance.

Judy Collins looked like an angel in her white sparkly outfit, her full, long, white hair swept up on the sides and glowing from the lighting that sometimes cast a beautiful lavender hue. During the first half, she was accompanied by a pianist while she played guitar and told amusing stories in between songs about her Irish heritage and her history. I learned about her relationship with Stephen Stills that resulted in his famous song, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. She told another story about being in a house with a group of people while a newcomer named Bob Dylan was crafting songs in the basement and the sounds came wafting up the staircase. She sang all the old favorites starting off with Both Sides Now, written by Joni Mitchell, and a very heartfelt Tambourine Man, (thank you, Bobby Dylan) followed by Helplessly Hoping by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

After the intermission, she reappeared dressed all in black, her slender figure in skin-tight pants with high-heeled boots. It’s hard to believe she is in her 70s. Seated at the grand piano, she treated us to a very soulful Albatross, one of my personal favorites. Although Judy Collins does many songs by others such as Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, the hauntingly beautiful Albatross is one she wrote…

And in the night the iron wheels rolling through the rain
Down the hills through the long grass to the sea
And in the dark the hard bells ringing with pain
Come away alone
Come away alone... with me.

One of her best-known songs is Send in the Clowns by Stephen Sondheim from the Broadway musical, A Little Night Music. She sang it with such sincerity, there were some misty eyes in the audience including my own.

Judy Collins is also an artist and a writer of several books such as Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music. She is charming, entertaining, and cracking jokes and telling stories while tuning her guitar. An evening with Judy Collins is a very pleasant evening indeed.

**  ***  *  ***  **  ***  **  ***  *  ***  **




New Dance Horizons ll

Touhill Performing Arts Center

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Runs October 4 & 5, 2013

Ah, another season of dance has begun, brought to us by Dance St. Louis. Sometimes we forget how much talent we have in our own backyard. This performance gave the opportunity for four St. Louis companies to shine. Add to that four guest choreographers taking each company in hand (and foot) to create some innovative numbers.

I’ll start with my favorite one first. Land’s Edge by MADCO, was originally choreographed by members of Pilobolus but reconstructed by Jude Woodcock. The dance begins with several couples in 1800s’ costumes that are dancing ballroom-style, but you as watch you realize that they aren’t quite normal. In fact, they look a bit like... zombies? Yes, zombies. There is a more normal-looking solitary man who is scrunching around on the floor. Suddenly, the body of a young woman, laying motionless on her back, scoots across the floor. Yes, scoots as though she were being pulled by something but you can’t see by what. Very intriguing! There is a fluidity in her but she is not moving--as though she were dead, as in having drowned. The solo guy comes over to check her out and nuzzles her as animal would sniff and move around something without using hands. Then, the zombie couples come to look. Two men (who I will call “Frick” and “Frack”) interacting with each other (almost as though they are one body) and pass around the lifeless body of the tiny female dancer. She did an outstanding job of keeping her body loose so she could be moved, lifted, and passed around. As with many Pilobolus dances, there is a great deal of balance and leverage happening. Eventually, the lifeless dancer does start to move on her own and is taken in by the zombie clan until suddenly another pair of legs appears almost off-stage (as though another body is washing ashore). This is dance theatre complete with an interesting story line and was most enjoyable. There’s so much to watch and figure out while still eliciting a feeling of observing some strange little movie. Great stuff!

Leverage Dance Theatre presented a number called Encounters With The Infinite choreographed by Nejla Yatkin of NY2Dance. A solo dancer in a huge ballroom gown with pouchy sides makes minimal movements with her arms and upper body. This is dance of mystery as dancers disappear and reappear in her huge gown or out of a pile of paper snow. The gown that has been abandoned and motionless stands up, and another dancer suddenly grows very tall, being held by two others who are hidden under the costume. How did those three dancers sneak back into the dress right after they rolled off the stage? A mystery! The dancers were accompanied by pianist Daniel Schene, slightly off-stage as he performed Lizst, Debussy and Shuman.

Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company performed One choreographed by Uri Sands from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre among others. The dance is about Ms. Henrietta Lacks, who in 1951 was undergoing treatment for cervical cancer when some of her cells were propagated for medical research without obtaining her permission. These freely-dividing mutant cells multiplied uninhibited, and grown in research laboratories around the world, became known as the "HeLa" cell line. Her immortal cells are continuing to help humankind; even the polio vaccine was tested on her cells. I guess you could say she is still among us today.

In this dance, a group of women, starts with their backs to the audience with spastic arm movements as though they were wringing their hands. As the dance progresses, there is wonderful coherence when all the dancers are moving in unison as though they are a flock of birds all moving together but there will still be one with spastic hand movements (the lone cancer cell?). This dance also ends with paper snow and buckets that appeared to be for catching the snow.

St. Louis Ballet presented beautiful, structured dance in Figurant with choreography by Emery LeCrone. St. Louis Ballet is recognized for its high artistic caliber and they were graceful, beautiful, and the most traditional dancers of the evening. The choreography was splendid, too. However, the music all string and shrill, dissonant, hyper-fast movements, had me on edge and assaulted my sensitive ears. I heard a gentleman exclaim, “I have to turn down my hearing aid.” Sometimes music can enhance the performance and sometimes it takes away from the superb dancers.

Thanks to Dance St. Louis for another terrific evening of culture, art, and entertainment. St. Louis is fortunate to have so many good dance companies to enjoy.


 

May 2013


Spring to Dance 2013

Touhill Performing Arts Center, St. Louis

Sponsored by Dance St. Louis

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Shows reviewed: Thu May 23 and Sat May 25

This is the sixth annual Dance St. Louis extravaganza. Every year, I am impressed with the smoothness resulting from the amount of planning and organizing required to pull off 30 different dance performances by dance companies from all over the U.S. (with a fair number from St. Louis) to strut their stuff over three nights. I attended both Thursday and Saturday night performances.

Starting out in Lee Theatre on Thursday night:

Joselyn Renae Simms, Standards: a duet with a male and female fighting over a dress that conveys fitting into a certain slot, almost a yoke of expected behavior. Choreographed by Ms. Simms and nicely done.

Saunders in Motion, Treading Thin: a dance exploring the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep, the conscious and subconscious. This was originally performed at COCA.

Leverage Dance Theatre, Were They Allies? A contemporary dance of women interacting in various quirky and slightly goofy relationships.

DAMAGEDANCE, Finding Flight: Four women with their backs to the audience, support and lean on each other until finally breaking out of safety and comfort to take bold, giant steps forward.

Then, in the Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall, the evening continued with:


Big Muddy Dance Company, Three for Four (world premiere): These four guys did not miss a beat with interesting, fast-paced choreography, complex partnering, and a mix of conventionality and comedy.

Grand Rapids Ballet, The Envelope:
 This was the favorite of the evening with choreography by David Parsons. This clever dance is based on passing an envelope among the dancers costumed in black hoods and goggles. The dancers position their arms so that it almost looks like they've been put on backwards. This performance was entertaining, clever, well-danced, and amusing.

Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theatre, Tales from the Book of Longing: A dancer (who can also sing) starts out with a sombre dance about longing and frayed relationships teetering on the edge of interaction. Not sure about the big wall that cut the stage in two.

Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Push Past Break: Oh my, those tappers can dance and incorporate tap dancing into anything resembling blues and hip-hop. One of them sings, as well.

ODC/Dance, Cut-out Guy: Five men lifting and carrying each other around the stage, conveying acts of courage and vulnerability from childhood stories to some dissonant music that became grating the longer it went on.

Jennifer Muller/The Works: There are angels among us. In this dance, a woman is grieving and despondent, but an angel comes down from a trapeze to support and carry her.

Big Muddy Dance Company, The 40s: This ensemble came back for another performance of high-stepping, contemporary jazz/Broadway, conveying that flamboyant time period.

Phew, what a night! Came back for more on Saturday but skipped the early performance in Lee Theatre. There was plenty of dance going on, even in the lobby: everything from Hawaiian to African to Latin--much energy and excitement.

Settling into our seats in the Performance Hall, we enjoyed:

Dance Works Chicago, Dance Sport: A clever way of combining dance and sports. Two sportscasters give us play-by-play commentary on the dancer's performance complete with replays in slow motion. Very creative idea but the music overpowered the announcers and I couldn't hear the announcer on the right; I was seated on the left.

Sewan Dance, Hoop Dance: Native American Eddie Madril danced an original form of hoop dance designed to restore balance and harmony. This was a refreshing change from the other forms of dance and was well-received by the audience.

Joffrey Ballet, Le Corsaire: Classical ballet danced beautifully by two dancers with lifts and holds that went on forever. Elegant and stylish, fantastic performance that I would have liked to enjoy a little longer.

St. Louis Ballet, La Vie: This was the biggest dance company. It seemed as though the stage was crowded with dancers, the choreography was chaotic, the women tall and graceful in their halter dresses, the men not so statuesque. The men's costumes looke like they had just wandered in off the street in wrinkled, sweat-stained shirts and loose shirttails.

Robert Moses' Kin, Speaking Ill of the Dead: "We regret to inform you, " is the soundtrack as dancers convey various forms of receiving that message and dealing with the shock and grief. Good choreography by Robert Moses.

Alvin Ailey, Pas De Duke: As in Duke Ellington, that is. A jazzy number with St. Louis’ pride in Antonio Douthit and Alicia Graf Mack, both tall, striking, amazing dancers whose extension goes on forever. Always a crowd pleaser and they’ll be back for more next year with Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in April 2014.

Spanish Dance Theatre, Bolero: They were back with another performance of Bolero starting out with female dancers on the floor with their backs to us; graceful arm movements build to the dancers standing; then, on come the flamenco dancers building into an explosion of Spanish dance and numerous curtain calls.

So much dance for just $15 a night! We are so fortunate to have Dance St. Louis and their sponsors who support the arts Ameren, Emerson, Whitaker Foundation, UMSL, Edward Jones, RAC, Missouri Arts Council, Art Works, and Fox. Every year, more and more people discover this amazing event.

***  *  **  ***  **  *   ***


February 2013

Carmina Burana

Performed by
The Nashville Ballet

Touhill Performing Arts Center

February 22-24, 2013

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

The crowd went wild! This was a huge production! One hundred twenty UMSL University Singers and Orchestra, The Saint Louis Bach Society and the St. Louis Children’s Choir, 60 musicians and 40 dancers of the Nashville Ballet made it a very powerful performance. It received an enormous stand of appreciation and ovation.

The evening began with a performance by the athletic and versatile dancers of MADCO to Bach’s Cantata No.10 and was choreographed by Dance St. Louis’ own Michael Uthoff. It was a much lighter piece in contrast to the dramaticCarmina Burana. It ended with what reminded me of an homage to Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations” with the dancers clustered together and popping out of upturned arms.

Carmina Burana means “Song from Beuren” which is a district in upper Bavaria. It is from a collection of poems written in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries questioning conventional values and traditional religion. German Composer Carl Orff wrote the music for this iconic story in 1937.

The ballet begins with a single woman wearing a huge billowing skirt from which other dancers emerge. She is the Wheel of Fortune that determines the fate of human beings. Sadie Bo Harris, as Lady Fortune, was a stern taskmaster. Although ballet is usually graceful and flowing, she managed to keep her ballet body graceful but stiff, commanding, angular, and with sharp movements. It was in contrast to the warmth and sunshine of the other dancers when spring arrives with a smile on Flora’s face and a colorful dance around the Maypole.

The production is very dramatic and with the music being live packs some power. Sometimes it seemed the stage was a little crowded with the choir on risers on both sides. I kept wanting to push the side risers back further or to only have the large choir in the rear to give the dancers more of the stage. On some of the numbers, the choir was a little tentative as though they weren’t sure when to come in. The children’s choir was seated on the sides of the theatre and although their part was very short, they managed to be respectful though out the show.

After beginning with the unpredictable Wheel of Fortune, the ballet progresses through Spring, then down in the depths of the Tavern (noted as not a good place) and finally into a balance of the Court of Love and Cupid’s arrival. The subject matter is not religious but deals with fate and mortality, nature, drinking and sensual love.Some of the lyrics:

Oh fortune, you are like the moon, unpredict-able, changeable, ever waxing and waning, hateful life first oppresses then soothes and always fades to nothing.

Choreographer and Artistic Director Paul Vasterling did a fantastic job of conveying the feel of this Book of Poems to dance and Nashville Ballet is excellent and a joy to watch. Every dancer was very strong.

The audience leapt to their feet the moment the ballet ended and the standing ovation was one of the biggest I’ve seen. We are so fortunate, Lady Fortune, to have Dance St. Louis bring us these incredible productions.

*   ***  *  **  ***   *   ***  **  *  ***   *

Carmina Burana

The Nashville Ballet

The Touhill Performing Arts Center

Presented by Dance St. Louis

February 22-24, 2013

Reviewed by David Mount

The ice storm on opening night prevented us from attending but the performances on-stage the subsequent evening were far from freezing and the overflow crowd responded so favorably they couldn’t have felt ignored. The Nashville Ballet Company, the three choirs, and three soloists presented a tour de force presentation that will be the talk of St. Louis for seasons to come. This is not intended to omit MADCO who presented a short dance choreographed to Bach’s Cantata No. 10 by Dance STL’s Artistic and Executive Director, Micheal Uthoff; it, too, was a beautiful performance by our local talent and a gorgeous artistic abstract interpretation of one of Bach’s most beautiful compositions.

The stage of the Touhill seemed almost small with all the artists on it performing Carmina Burana. Even with The St. Louis Children’s Choirs in the box seats to the right and left of stage and the UMSL Orchestra in the pit. The Bach Society of Saint Louis and the UMSL University Singers shared the stage with the dancers from Nashville Ballet, and their requisite precision seemed effortless from where we sat. Sadie Bo Harris, in the role of Lady Fortuna, was stunningly graceful and physically eloquent, her intense but changeable emotions exquisitely expressed. Seeing this piece for the first time was a real treat and we kept anticipating her return to the production. This is not to suggest that she was the only performer to present a memorable masterpiece to us; the entire company, especially Jon Upleger in the final pas de deux, did not disappoint, far from it.

This review would not be complete without giving credit to the three soloists whose vocals were wonderfully beautiful: Stella Markou, soprano, Jeffrey Heyl, baritone, and Tim Waurick, tenor.

On the way out of the Touhill, it was obvious that there were audience members who’ve seen this piece before and I heard not one comment that this was in any way less than the best that they’d seen Carmina Burana performed previously. A supreme collaborative performance by what seemed to be more than 150 performers on and off the stage. If you didn’t see it, you missed one of our all-time most enjoyed productions.

Oh, and by the way, congratulations to Mr. Uthoff on two wonderful achievements with this presentation: the wonderful choreography of Bach’s Cantata No. 10 and finding the good fortune of fulfilling a cherished childhood memory. Hats off, to Dance St. Louis!

*   ***  *  **  ***   *   ***  **  *  ***   *

January 2013

Moulin Rouge®
The Ballet

by Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet
Sponsored by 
Dance St. Louis

at the
Touhill Performing Arts Center

Reviewed by Isabelle Heidbreder

Ran Jan 25 & 26, 2013

Upon arriving in St. Louis some 15 years ago, someone told me that St. Louis was the Paris of the Midwest. I laughed (politely yet a bit worried about my Welcome Wagon friend’s state of mind since I am French-born) but didn’t think much of the comparison until I moved to the Central West End in 2009. Since that time, I have fallen in love with St. Louis and, if you ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you I am an unabashed advocate of the city and all that it has to offer, especially as a center of performing arts.

However, it wasn’t until the Royal Winnipeg Ballet arrived that the Eiffel Tower (other than those ubiquitous souvenir-sized ones) and the Moulin Rouge complete with La Goulue, the Môme Fromage, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Zidler came to this city. I cannot help but wonder if many of the enthusiastic ballet lovers present at the Touhill on the 25th and 26th of January were aware that some of the events, characters and cultural references of the show were, in fact, very real. Did you know that the beautiful dancer ”La Goulue”, the greedy one, was named thus for her habit to finish off the Moulin Rouge’s patrons’ drinks? Or, that she ended her days as the fat lady of a circus in a tent painted by her long-time friend and admirer Toulouse-Lautrec? (What survives of the tent can be seen today at the Paris’ Musee d’Orsay.)

If you are familiar with the 2001 Hollywood version of the story, you’ll know the storyline: beautiful laundress and aspiring dancer falls in love with poet, Moulin Rouge owner becomes infatuated with his new dancer and jealous of her attention to said poet. Jealousy turns murderous but his rage finds the wrong victim. (Interestingly, the 1956 version starring José Ferrer focused on the life of artist Toulouse-Lautrec and his obsessions of art, absinthe, and amour.)

So, while the story is not a new one, the décor, the costumes, the energy and the dancing were certainly fresh and worthy of the ‘Gay Paris’ they were supposed to conjure in our minds, the audience bought it: lock, stock and barrel, awarding a standing ovation to the troupe and to the point of booing poor Oleksii Potomkin (despite his brilliant portrayal of the murderous Zidler) on opening night.

The cast of Moulin Rouge® showed St. Louis why they are one of the world’s best-known ballet companies with the beautiful performance that weekend in January. We sincerely hope they do not wait another year to come back or that they need to wait another year to be invited back! When they do, you need to be sure to come experience these wonderfully talented performers. Kudos to Canada and DANCEstl for bringing Paris to the Midwest!

 *** **  ***  **  ***  ** ***

Moulin Rouge--the Ballet
by Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Sponsored by DANCEstl

Touhill Performing Arts Center

January 25 & 26, 2013

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, founded in 1939, is one of the oldest ballet companies in North America. In 1953, it received its royal title and has gone on to begin a school and to become one of the top international ballet companies.


The tragic story of Moulin Rouge has plenty of fun before the twisted ending. The title means “Red Mill” conveying a cabaret in Paris where dance known as the Cancan is revered. A young artist falls for a launderette who has also captured the eye of the cabaret boss, Zidler who becomes very jealous and tries to steal Nathalie for himself. Although she does her best to shun his advances and profess her true love for the artist, Matthew, ultimately Zidler pulls out a gun to shoot Matthew but accidentally fatally wounds his beloved Nathalie. Toulouse-Lautrec tries to run interference for his artist buddy, Matthew, but does not succeed.


The skill and grace of the dancers was a joy. Jo-Ann Sundermeier (Nathalie) was practically weightless as she floated through the choreography. She portrayed both the excitement of young love and the vulnerabilities of having to follow her bosses commands to save her true love. Although it was hard to take your eyes off of Ms. Sundermeier, Dmitri Dovgoselets (Matthew) was also wonderful and had some great dance scenes rolling about on his easel while dueling artists with Yosuke Mino (Toulouse-Latrec). There were plenty of high kicks from the Cancan chorus as they knocked off the derby hats worn by the young men.


The choreography of Jorden Morris blended ballet, Cancan and tango. Have you ever seen the Cancan danced en Pointe? With a mix of various composers from Debussy to Ravel, the music and choreography kept the storyline moving.  A very romantic pas de deux to Claire de Lune was danced by the two young lovers across a foot bridge that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The stage design was remarkable in it’s ability to morph into different shapes with the Red Mill, Eiffel Tower, the elevated tower dressing room and basement of the cabaret. The lighting was also stellar casting foreboding shadows of the Red Windmill on the back wall. 


The performance was well received and given a justified standing ovation.


It was fantastic. That’s all I have to say.


***  **  ***  **  ***  **  ***  **  ***
November 2012

Pilobolus

Dance StL and the Touhill Performing Arts Center

St. Louis

Reviewed by Isabelle Heidbreder and David Mount

As viewed by Nov 9, 2012, show runs Nov 9-10, 2012

Have you ever been mesmerized by the movements of a delicate mechanical assembly, with gears meshing, pendulum swinging, wheels turning, levers doing whatever they do? Or by a cluster of microscopic creatures interacting with one another in pond water or as in Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who? Perhaps you’ve had this experience macroscopically, such as when an immense, numberless gathering of critters, perhaps a flock of starlings or school of sardines, move in concert with one another, swooping and swirling, shifting en masse to unseen stimuli as though hardwired to a single, unidentified individual or a collective conscience? We felt this way last night although we had excitedly told our envious friends that we were to review a dance performance of the renowned Pilobolus Dance Theatre at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

A very much-anticipated performance by the athlete dancers of Pilobolus lived up to expectations on Friday night’s staging and took it to a level we'd not anticipated. Surprisingly ahead of the contemporary dance artistry curve despite being established more than 40 years ago, the creatively-inventive, physiologically- endowed and technology-rich dance company stunned, and delighted, the audience with each of the five pieces it presented. While audio and video technology played a key role in the evening’s staging, it was the performers who actually thrilled us. And, true to their stated daily goal, they had fun and gave us reason to smile and laugh, collectively gasp and hold our breaths as they astounded us with athletic prowess, physical strength, balance and synergistic collaboration.

Most of the time we think about a dance troupe as the dancers alone, but it is made strikingly obvious from the program that the behind-the-scenes artists (who are three times more numerous than the actual dancers on-stage) are also an integral part of this performance! From choreography to lighting to costumes and even videography and animation, this is a cutting-edge organization that strives for more than simple visual appeal and artistry in its impact on the audience.

It is inappropriate to try to satisfy your curiosity through a description of the five individual performances as the composite sense we had throughout the performance was quite different from all other dance presentations we’ve ever seen. It is undeniable that dance worth seeing relies on the intimate, sensual physical and emotional interplay between dancers. Pilobolus’ artists created the most intense mechanical-organismic sensation of intimate interactions in every on-stage movement. Between each of the five pieces in the 90-minute evening, while the stage is re-set by the crew, the audience is stimulated by AV presentation that creates a sensory anticipation of the piece to follow. The musical and visual score of this magical presentation is essential to the message conveyed to the audience.

Five stunning pieces are presented and the audience’s reactions were some of the most enthusiastic we’ve experienced. If you have the opportunity, there are two presentations today: at 2 pm and again at 8 pm. If not, keep your eyes open as it is pretty likely they’ll be back; this is the eighth visit of Pilobolus to St. Louis at DanceStL’s request.

If you can’t make it, DanceStL’s 2012-13 schedule includes the following exciting performances:

Jan 11-13, 2013: Stomp (in partnership with the Fox Theatre at The Fabulous Fox)

Jan 25-26, 2013: Moulin Rouge® - The Ballet by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Feb 21-24, 2013: Carmina Burana by the Nashville Ballet

Mar 9-10, 2013: MOVES by the New York City Ballet Goes (in partnership with the Fox Theatre at The Fabulous Fox)

May 23-25, 2013: 6th Annual Emerson Spring-to-Dance Festival

May 28-Jun 9, 2013: Anything Goes (in partnership with the Fox Theatre at The Fabulous Fox)

Contact DanceStL at 314.534.6622 for more details or visit dancestlouis.org

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May 2012

Spring to Dance Festival 2012: Night 3

Touhill Performing Arts Center
at UMSL

Presented by DANCEstl

Reviewed by Isabelle Heidbreder and David Mount

May 26, 2012

This was our first time at Spring to Dance and we were suitably impressed. We don’t understand how anyone who has lived in St. Louis for more than a year hasn’t heard of this awesome brainchild of Michael Uthoff, Artistic and Executive Director of Dance St. Louis! Even if there were just ONE night, instead of three, this dance spectacular would be an incredible event, worthy of the reputation it has garnered in just five short years of existence.

While each of the ten presentations on Saturday night was excellent in many ways, certain of the performances soared above the rest. Both of us had different “favorites” as did our two friends who attended with us, so we’re confident that “there’s something for everyone” in this program. Hopefully we can convey to you the “why” you should make plans for all three nights of next year’s lineup, but if you can’t commit to the “whole nine yards” certainly promise you’ll treat yourself to at least one! After all, for ten bucks, you can see ten professional dance troupes show St. Louis their best! We’re pretty certain that if you go to the first night, you’ll buy tickets for nights two and three before you leave!

Lucky Plush, Cinderbox 2.0 (World Premier): This company of two women and three men opened the evening with a dance to no music. An inspiring performance, it engaged the performers in a contemporary conversational interaction that seemed very spontaneous with a “cute” factor as well as wittiness. It was interesting on several levels, with some of the dancers as much an audience to their companions performing solo or as duets.

Neos Dance Theatre, Lickety-Split: The lyrical quality of this work was accentuated by the smooth, fluid choreography that oozed elegance due to the effortless appearance of the dancers’ movements.

Hedwig Dances, Por Dentro: Without a doubt, this was the most sensual of the presentations in the smaller Lee Theater, giving the audience the sense of being party to an intimate interaction between the pairs of dancers. The strength and momentum of the performers was accentuated by a skillful blend of dynamic and static choreo-graphy. There were segments that reminded us of the Brazilian martial arts form, capoeira, that blends dance and musical elements.

Buckets and Tap Shoes, Back in the Lou’ (Two Zero One Two) [World Premier]: The Brothers Ausland must have been hell on their parents’ nerves as kids! Nothing was off-limits as a percussive object including the stage floor and railings of the Lee Auditorium. Clever and witty, the performance engaged the audience’s participation and never let up in terms of energy but swelled to a near frenzy of physical activity that included a lot of incredibly sophisticated tap dance, executed with apparent flawlessness.

Saint Louis Ballet, Le Reve: Our hometown favorite staged the largest troupe of the evening with two leads and seventeen additional dancers. A lone performer takes the stage, apparently a practice studio in a city setting. As she begins to practice her routine, other dancers materialize around her and a sophisticated choreography evolves. At the finale of the work, she is again alone and realizes that this was just a dream, un rêve. A beautiful one, indeed.

Koresh Dance Company, Through the Skin (excerpt): Costumed in all black against a dark background, the dancers appeared and disappeared through skillful coordination of choreography and lighting. Powerful, athletic and blending fluid dance with contrasting hard-movement martial arts, sometimes in slow motion, the troupe members created a series of sensual duets with the feeling of passionate lovemaking. This was one of our favorite offerings of the evening.

River North Dance Chicago, Sentir em Nos: We’d loved when River North came to St. Louis on their own over a year ago and we were further enthralled with this performance. The duet of just two dancers was so precise it demonstrated the professionalism and commitment to excellence while paradoxically conveying a passion and intimacy that would not be easily described, but there was no doubt when one watched them.

Q Dance, In Tandem (excerpt): One of the characteristics that seemed apparent in nearly all of the troupes we watched this evening should be noted by aspiring dancers: the surprising result of precision and athleticism can convey the choreographer’s intent more effectively than otherwise. The modern balletic nature of this work was enhanced by the powerful energetic performance of the six dancers.

The Dancing Wheels Company, Above: This was one of the most heart-grabbing dance performances we’ve ever seen. Mary Verdi-Fletcher is a “freed” wheelchair occupant when she dances. Assisted by three other dancers, Ms. Verdi-Fletcher is lifted from her chair and symbolically liberated from her corporeal limitations.

Ballet Memphis, Water of the Flowery Mill: Probably the most sumptuous staging of the evening in terms of costuming, lighting and choreography, Ballet Memphis “painted” on stage an interpretation of a work by artist Arshile Gorky, a landscape painter whose studies of nature allowed him to reminisce about his native Armenia. The fluidity of the dancers, blending in arcs of color was perfect for conveying the imagery of a garden living in the mistiness of reminiscence. As the last performance of the evening, it seemed that the spectacle was over altogether too soon and one was wishing there’d be another still to come…

We ARE fortunate in St. Louis in many ways, but one thing that we need to remember is that while we have a lot of FREE stuff in St. Louis, and who doesn’t love free, an event like this is awesomely affordable at $10 a night. This wouldn’t be possible without corporate and foundation sponsorship and those organizations need to be recognized, not just by us but by you as well, encouraging them to continue funding Spring to Dance. Let ‘em know how much you enjoyed it!

Those sponsors are:

Ameren

Caleb C. and Julia W. Dula Educational and Charitable Foundation

Emerson

Edward Jones

Missouri Arts Council

National Endowment for the Arts

Regional Arts Commission

Trio Foundation of St. Louis

Whitaker Foundation


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Spring to Dance Festival 2012: Nights 1 & 2

Presented by DANCEstl
Touhill Performing Arts Center

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

May 24 and 25, 2012

This was the fifth year of Dance St. Louis presenting Spring to Dance, three nights with 30 different dance companies for just $10 a night. This is another example of why St. Louis is rated in the top ten cities for “cheapskates” in a recent survey in Kiplinger’s magazine. Such a deal… thanks to sponsors the Dula Foundation, Emerson, Edward Jones, Missouri Arts Council, the National Foundation for the Arts, The Regional Arts Commission, the Trio Foundation of St. Louis, and the Whitaker Foundation.

Describing so many different dance companies can be a challenge but I’ll try to mention most of them.

The first night started off with Chicago Dance Crash in an unusual mix of soundtracks with cartoon blips that were choreographed with aspects of ballet, breakdancing, hip-hop and contemporary in an organized chaotic manner. It had a sense of humor and was very enjoyable. Next, Take Dance performed an excerpt from Salaryman depicting the life of a Japanese business man in the daily grind of working. A relentless drum soundtrack (music by Aun) kept three men in business suits running into each other until a woman in a business suit knocks them all over. More drums in the next performance, this time they were live and on the stage brought us the next company of Owen/Cox Dance Group highlighting the syncopated nature of the music. Next, The Flying Foot Forum gave us an Appalachian-style percussive dance.

Then, in the big theatre, Eisenhower Dance Ensemble performed Love, Love, Love, a dance about the complexities of relationships and partner switching—a sort of “any body will do.” Next, Kansas City Ballet gave us a very short parody called An Upstairs Bedroom featuring an amusing and stylized duo of a vamp and gigolo. This was followed by Buglisi Dance Theatre in a surrealistic dance called Threshold in which a cocoon-like shape is revealed in low amber-hued lighting. A woman begins to move inside. She pops out an arm and then a leg. After a struggle, a dancer emerges with long red blood-like ribbons streaming from her chest that she tugs on in angst. A male dancer, perhaps an angel, enters the scene and after much intertwined, balancing interaction, the woman disappears back into the cocoon. Next, Nashville Ballet performed She Ain’t Goin Nowhere and Shattered Cross choreographed by Sarah Slipper that matched up very well with the music. Pilobolus, always a crowd pleaser and one of my favorites, gave us Symbiosis (which means interaction between different species--male and female?). The amazingly strong dancers performed with Mark Fucik frequently raising Renee Jaworski above his head. Their balance and strength are truly mind-boggling. Next, Kansas City Ballet featured a short ballet from Carmen danced by St. Louis-native Kimberly Cowen who retiring after 20 years of ballet. The last performance of the evening was Chicago Human Rhythm Project tap dancing to Bach in a world premiere called Reflections.

Returning for a second night of more dance! Danceworks Chicago performed Nocturnal Sense with good choreography by James Gregg, strong dancers to Vivaldi. Next, BalletX danced Bare... in their undies lit by a bare lightbulb in a compelling dance that could be seen as foreplay. He removes her undershirt at the end as the lights fade. MADCO, from St. Louis, burst on the stage with their energy and intensity of movement but not much emotion in Fuse. It builds in intensity and then finally blows... a fuse. I wasn’t too fond of their costumes. Following that, BalletX gave us a second performance called It’s Not A Cry described in the program as “achingly beautiful” that was powerfully moving. Dancer William Cannon was a joy to watch and the music of Hallelujah written by Leonard Cohen brings almost everyone to tears.

Jennifer Muller/The Works performed Tangle to some great oldies by Joni Mitchell. An announcement informed us that the duo would be performed by two dancers other than those listed in the program. I loved the music but the dancers seemed a bit off and not quite connected to each other in a dance about relationships. Following that was the highlight of the night: the Richmond Ballet portrayed Adam (Fernando Sabino) and Eve (Maggie Small) in After Eden. Eve seemingly emerges from Adam’s rib. Their arms and legs frequently darted about in snake-like movements. The dancers were beautifully balanced and in sync. The final performance was from Lula Washington Dance Theatre in We Wore the Mask celebrating that African-Americans are free to remove the masks that were once needed to survive in America.

There was so much great dance. Like a buffet, you can sample so many different exquisite tastes, styles, choreography and music. This program continues to inspire, amaze and expose more people to the joys of dance. We are very lucky to have this opportunity in our community. 


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Riverdance

Fox Theatre, St. Louis

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

May 18-20, 2012

This was a great show that captured the Celtic mystique of Ireland. Spiral-covered backdrops and a large screen portrays some of the natural elements of Ireland--the rugged coast, cliffs, stars, the moon, and fog--created a surreal experience while poetry was narrated by John Kavanagh. Then there’s the dance--the dancers’ legs moving almost impossibly fast while their upper bodies are stationary. There’s something absolutely thrilling about a row of dancers in synchronized step-dancing with the rhythms of their crashing feet at they hit the floor. I loved the choreography of the opening number Reel Around the Sun as the dancers are interwoven in circular formations. There’s something about the excitement of Riverdance that leaves your heart racing and tears in your eyes. The heart-felt angelic voice of the Irish singers enhanced the lovely harmonies in The Heart’s Cry.

The masculine strength of Thunderstorm featured all male dancers in black leather costumes descending the steps. Principal male dancer James Greenan entered the stage with thunderous strength dancing harder and faster with intricate dance steps. Principal female dancer Alana Mallon was a pleasure to watch. She seemed almost fairy-like with her leaps and delicate dance steps clothed in various gorgeous green costumes. She flowed through her movements like a delicate dragonfly. While immensely enjoying Irish music and step-dancing, suddenly we were plunged into Spain with an incredible flamenco soloist, Marita Martinez-Rey. Flamenco is so much upper body movement unlike the stationary Irish dancers emphasizing all legs. The stomping rhythms of flamenco are similar to Irish dancing. The first act flew by. It was a thrill a moment. I was surprised it was already intermission.

The second act was slower paced with more historic content geared towards Irish immigration to America. A beautiful baritone, Benjamin Mapp, sang a heartfelt Trading Taps. Mr. Mapp and another tapper, Jason Bernard, had a competition with the Irish dancers between traditional black tap dancing and Irish step-dancing. I’m not sure who won. It was interesting to see the differences and similarities between both styles. TheRiverdance band is small but carries quite a punch with pipes, whistles, the almighty fiddle, concertina (like an accordion), keyboards, saxophone, and drums.

The grand finale brings out the whole row of synchronized dancers again thrilling the audience. What strength they must have to keep that going. Most of these fantastic professional dancers start dancing when they are very young. Although this is the Irish Dance Troupe, musicians and singers, they also have international soloists from Spain, Australia and Great Britain.

My friend and I loved the show. After the ovations and callbacks, we danced right out of the theatre. This is a show you can watch again and again.


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April 2012

An Evening with Yanni

Fox Theatre, St. Louis

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman
April 29, 2012 

Thirteen musicians quietly entered the stage. Then Yanni made his appearance to an excited and welcoming crowd. Switching back and forth between playing two synthesizers and then jogging over to the grand piano, Yanni delivered the passion characteristic of his music. All the attention is not just for him. He shares it with the other musicians as he casts the spotlight on several of the other band members. Some are from other parts of the world, a Cuban percussionist, a harpist from Paraguay, an Asian keyboard player and two solo violinists. The large drum set was surrounded by Lucite walls that kept the sound contained and not overpowering the orchestra but still with the driving rhythm of Yanni’s music. Strings and brass complete the orchestra.

The drummer, Charlie Adams, provided comic relief as he ducked down behind the drum set and reappeared wearing a Cardinal’s uniform. He donned a Blues shirt as well pulling one up over the other showing his support for St. Louis sports teams. Although Yanni is originally from Greece, he came to America to attend the University of Minnesota where he and Charlie Adams met. They have been together since the beginning.

The sound was spectacular, just like the recorded versions and not piercingly loud. It filled the Fox Theatre and transported us to another realm. Yanni’s music is sometimes classified as New Age but the driving rhythms are not so mellow and have more of a Greek or Latin influence. It could be considered moving music, both as something that gets you moving as well as music that moves you emotionally. It makes you happy when you listen to it. His famous song, “Nightingale” featured a soprano that had an incredibly high range. Two attractive young women held our interest with beautiful voices and harmonies, the sound of angels.

Yanni seems a little shy when he addresses the audience. He spoke of his recent tour to China where he was gifted a panda bear. Although he didn’t mention this during the show, he is an advocate for the World Wildlife Fund and has guaranteed $50,000 in donations for the pandas. I don’t think he literally adopted the panda but he was dressed sort of like a panda in a black t-shirt and white pants. His characteristic mane was freely tossed about as it danced around his head. He’s wearing it a little shorter now. During the question and answer section, an audience member called out, “What happened to your hair?” To which Yanni replied, “I’m 57 years old, I’m lucky to still have hair.”

He played for two hours and received three standing ovations. Yanni’s music can make you feel interconnected to all things, nature, other countries, different ways of being. His final message was the story of an astronaut who spoke of his view of earth from space. There are no lines or boundaries of the countries like we see on maps. We are all truly one world. Yanni’s music inspires and unites us.

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March 2012

The Five Browns
Powell Hall, St. Louis

Reviewed by Verna Kerans

March 10, 2012

After many years of hearing about The Five Browns and occasionally seeing a clip on TV but never seeing them in person, I finally managed to see The Five Browns at Powell Hall on March 10. The first piece was played with all five Browns, a Mozart Ronda alla Turcafollowed by a Scriabin by Gregory Brown. What was really great was that each Brown had a solo and explained the story behind each piece which made listening quite exciting for the audience.

Evidently a favorite for the Browns is Rhapsody in Blue and as far as I can determine this piece is always asked to be on the program. Amazingly, it was as if an entire orchestra was playing. The Browns do not just play ensemble but each take an instrument of the orchestra and play its part which makes for the most amazing, rousing, complete, sound.

After the Rhapsody, Ryan Brown played an etude by McDowell. Then the group played The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. As that was announced, we learned the group had always loved this rather unusual piece. This number was followed by an Intermission.

When we returned, an ensemble piece of Over the Rainbow was played. Desirae and Deondra Brown played the Mephisto waltz followed by Marianelli's Atonement and Melody Brown played Kapustin Concert Etudes followed by the Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens.

Quite a few of these numbers were arranged by Jeffrey Shumway and all I could think about was – “What a challenge” – every piece was wonderful - well done!!

The audience was not to be denied with saying good night and insisted on an encore, the Hall of the Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite.

In the lobby these Five signed their CD's after the concert sending the adoring audience, especially the younger members, home most happily.


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The Joffrey Ballet
Touhill Performing Arts Center

presented by DANCEstl

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

March 9-10, 2012

The Joffrey Ballet from Chicago features exceptional classically-trained, athletic dancers. This dance company, founded by Robert Joffrey in 1956, is well-known and respected within the dance community. This performance of three different dances was more modern dance than classical ballet.

The curtain opened to a grinding, metallic, electronic soundtrack by Thom Willems that really couldn’t be called “music” although it did have a certain rhythm. In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated is described as “shifting the alignment and emphasis of essentially vertical transitions… an unexpected force that makes them appear foreign to their own origins.” If you understand that statement, you will have a sense of this performance. The dancers were rigid in their upper bodies while forming angular shapes. I enjoyed the intensity of the music for the first ten minutes but later felt as though the needle was stuck in the groove with the soundtrack. I’m still wondering about the significance of the golden fruit hanging mid-stage.

The second number, After the Rain, began with dancers in steel-gray costumes reminiscent of raindrops as they storm about the stage; upon leaving the stage, a couple appears, the woman in soft pink, seeming vulnerable, and draped over her partner’s bare-chested body. They balance back and forth in a hypnotic movement of power struggle, at times close in tenderness, at other times seemingly searching for each other.

Age of Innocence, with music by Philip Glass, inspired by the novels of Jane Austen, is set in the Victorian era. This number was more ballet-like and less modern with still plenty of interesting choreography and talented, precise dancers. The Joffrey Ballet is always inspirational.

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The Joffrey Ballet

DANCEstl
at The Touhill Performing Arts Center

Reviewed by Isabelle Heidbreder and David Mount

March 9-10, 2012

The Joffrey Ballet’s reputation is well-deserved from our perspective. The three pieces presented on this visit to St. Louis and the Touhill were visually stunning, emotion-laden, and physically challenging (to the dancers, not the audience who just had to accept that the feats observed were truly within the realm of the human body).

The principle male dancer, Fabrice Calmels, is hard to miss on stage; at 6’6”, he towers over the petite female dancers as well as the balance of the male cadre of the troupe. Indeed, in a recent published article, he says he is often mistaken for a basketball player. But on stage, as he lifts his partners off the floor, his graceful power coupled with his height create the illusion of flight. It must be an exhilarating experience for them.

The first piece, In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated, is a long electronic piece of repeated rhythmic percussion behind a terse, sparse melody, but the choreography by William Forsythe is incredibly light and strong. The atheticism of the dancers is unmistakable in this blend of classical ballet and modern dance.

Following the first of two intermissions, the second presentation, After The Rain, was powerfully emotional and evocative of human interactions. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, the complex series of lifts and turns demonstrate the incredible skills of the dancers and the ability of dance to reflect emotional complexities. While the three dance pairs were beautiful in this piece, it would have been interesting to have seen Victoria Jaiani dance it given that Wheeldon originally chose her to dance his creation the first time it was presented by the Joffrey. While this is not to say that the ballerina who interchanges with Jaiani didn't excel, our curiosity was peaked by what might have been possible given the lauditory press on Jaiani.

Set to the music of Philip Glass and Thomas Newman and inspired by Jane Austin’s novels,Age of Innocence also was powerfully evocative. Evolving over four segments, choreographer Edwaard Liang incorporates 16 dancers in an impressive piece that conveys the resilience of the human spirit despite the repression of the Victorian era. Hard to miss the emotional strength of this dance and the audience responded in kind.

It is evident that founder Robert Joffrey’s 1956 vision continues to thrive under the capable guidance of artistic director, Ashley Wheater. The next time The Joffrey is in St. Louis, you might want to make sure you have tickets. We believe everyone in the audience last Saturday night will be reserving their seats early for their return.

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November 2011


Tony Bennett

The Fox Theatre, St. Louis


Reviewed by Verna Kerans


For those of you who missed Tony Bennett let me try to bring you up to date. The Fox was almost sold out and YOU should have been there!! First off, it was such a different experience. No big microphones and huge speakers. Just nice music that everyone seemed to know. There was a little time needed to get used to the really huge stage and the small combo but it was great. Since it was rather like a cabaret people were coming and going to buy drinks all the time which was really new to me in a theatre setting. I’m used to NOT having drinks during the show and was a little put-off with all the coming and going up and down the aisle to get drinks but I guess that’s what you do during a music show – who knew!!


Tony Bennett’s daughter, Antonia, came out for the first 30 minutes to warm us all up. Among other favorites she sang Embraceable You, which is beautiful. She also touched on Cole Porter, Michel LeGrand, and Noel Coward. The four-piece combo was wonderful with each member taking his turn. The piano player was fantastic as were the drums, guitar and bass. They got a lot of applause and when Tony arrived he was not shy about letting them each take their turn.


We were expecting an intermission but Tony sang for an hour and a half straight. His voice was great all the way through. He has learned what he is capable of doing and he does it well. He opened with Maybe This Time. He sangCold, Cold Heart and told a joke about Hank Williams. Actually he kept a patter going all the way through and told a lot of facts about his many years in show business. He remembered being here in St. Louis with Rosemary Clooney when they were both just starting out.


He sang Steppin’ Out With My Baby, and The Way You Look TonightBecause of You brought the house down as well as Just in TimeGood LifeFor Once in My Life, and The Shadow of Your Smile. He told us he will be singing for the Queen soon and has chosen one of my favorites by Michel LeGrand, The Music Never Ends.


I know there were a lot more tunes; so many in fact, that I cannot read my own notes from the show. No one in the audience was neglected. And they were very appreciative, bringing him back for encores several times. There had to be a least one of your favorites during the evening. I know I had several I truly love. It was really a great evening.


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Billy Elliot The Musical

Fox Theatre and DANCEstl


Reviewed by Verna Kerans

Runs through November 13, 2011


Billy Elliot has been a long-awaited musical and proves to be worth the wait. With music by Elton John and a HUGE cast it lives up to expectations. Billy (there are four boys  in rotation playing Billy: Ty Forhan, Kylend Hetherington, Lex Ishimoto and J.P. Viernes.) is the son of a miner in Durham, England where the most anyone can hope for is to follow in his parents’ footsteps and make a hard scrabble living down in the mines. Billy is part of this culture and furthermore part of a general strike that puts the miner out of work for at least a year in 1984. (Eventually all mines were shut down and coal is now imported. A special kind of coal was even burned in fireplaces in addition to wood.)

 

As the musical begins we see miners and policemen clashing in dance moves and simulated fighting and then we go to the local meeting house where a boxing class is being taught for boys so they will grow up big and strong and follow in Dad’s footsteps. Billy stays behind after the boxing class and finds himself watching the girl’s ballet class. The class is taught by the loud, cigarette smoking Mrs. Wilkinson (Leah Hocking) and you wonder if she herself can dance. Billy becomes interested in what the girls are doing and soon finds himself a part of the class – a bit reluctantly at first – then very interestedly and finally becoming a good enough dancer to audition for the Royal Ballet. A dream sequence shows Billy's future in a lovely ballet with Maximilien A. Baud. (Here, I would like to mention the red curtain that was hung especially for this show is brilliant especially when the logo of the Royal Ballet is displayed across the top of it.)

 

For a miner to have a son who takes part in a dance class is unthinkable. The father (Rich Hebert) has a difficult time coming to grips with this and since Billy’s mom is dead, there is no one to stand up for Billy as he realizes he enjoys dancing more than boxing. Billy’s Gram (Patti Perkins) is his ally and can see what is happening. Later we see her cutting loose and throughout the show she is a hoot. Billy’s dead Mum, Kat Hennessey, speaks lovingly several times to Billy in his mind.

 

This show is doubly fascinating if you have spent time in England and know the vocabulary. A lot of purely British slang is part of the dialogue. The Christmas Pantomime with huge puppets and silliness is doubly appreciated when you know it is a British tradition. You don’t have to have lived there to “get” it all but it surely helps.

 

Unfortunately this show is only playing until November 13. The next show will be Christmas Carol for only the first week in December and will be followed by Christmas with the Rat Pack – Live at the Sands, December 6-18, 2011.


Please enjoy the Fabulous Fox Theatre for all your Christmas Entertainment.


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Billy Elliot The Musical

Fox Theatre

and

DANCEstl


Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Runs November 1-13, 2011

 

Have you heard about the young lad, Billy Elliot? Grew up in the coalfields of northern England in the 80’s. Poor kid, his mum died early and his father barely noticed him. One day in boxing class, he accidentally wandered into a ballet class. Well, he was resistant at first but darned if he didn’t take to it! Turned out the boy can dance! Even in the midst of all that strife and turmoil going on with coal miners being on strike for a whole year. Poor kid. His dad can’t afford to send him to the Royal Ballet Academy for lessons since he’s not working. He gets some emotional support from his old grandmum (Patti Perkins). She’s a hoot as she sings We’d go dancing. His best friend Michael (Jacob Zelonky) is a bit off color but certainly sparks Billy’s creative side in Expressing Yourself.

 

Anyway, if you want to see the lad dance, you can catch him at the Fox Theatre ‘til November 13th. You will be touched by his story. I was especially moved by Electricity when Billy (J.P. Viernes) finally unleashes his passion for dance while his admiring father looks on. In the dream dance sequence young Billy soars across the stage with an older version of his future self. Also, noteworthy is his dad, played by Rich Hebert. You can feel his internal struggle with wanting to support the union coal miners and his son’s dream. Mrs. Wilkinson (Leah Hocking), the dance instructor, is no-nonsense and as the first to recognize Billy’s talent, it is she who gets him onto the right path. Elton John composed the rousing score that is performed by a live orchestra. He relates to Billy Elliot and felt it was his own life story in trying to get approval from his militarist dad but knowing his future was in creativity and music.

 

The choreography by Peter Darling weaves together the police, coal miners and kids’ ballet class into a compelling dance experience. Although parts of the show are little slow, the final dance number Company Celebrationallowed all the dancers to finally “get down” as Billy donned his silver tap shoes and really made them sing. Hopefully things will improve for him as he reaches for stardom. I think he’ll make it. Anyway, go see the show.

 

The show, Billy Elliot, runs through November 13. Visit the Fox Box Office (527 North Grand Boulevard; hours are Monday through Friday 10am to 6pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm) or visit the MetroTix website before it's too late! (http://www.metrotix.com/r.php?action=event&eventId=4538


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October 2011

Martha Graham Dance Company

Touhill Performing Arts Center, St. Louis

October 14 &15, 2011

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

 

Born in 1894, Martha Graham was way ahead of her time. She was one of the pioneers of modern dance. Who knows what dance would be today if it hadn’t been for the influence of Martha Graham. I’ve always thought of her choreography as dramatic and gut-wrenchingly theatrical. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this enjoyable performance that was not so heavy and technically creative. The dancers, choreography, and lighting were excellent.


Before each performance was a brief narration and, in come cases, some multimedia that helped to fill in more of the historical context and impact of the dance. This was a nice touch. The evening started off with three short theatrical dances called Montage of Three Densishawn-Style Solos representative of Graham's early influence resulting from her performance alongside Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn while in attendance at the Denishawn School.


In the next dance, Lamentation, a dancer is seated in a stretchy costume covering her head with only her face peering out. Although there aren’t any grand leaps, the dance is much stronger than just the wringing of hands in conveying grief. ‘The garment that is worn is just a tube of material but it’s as though you were stretching inside your own skin,’ says Martha Graham of this number.


Next, Steps in the Street is about war, devastation, and exile. Militaristic dancers exploded across the stage with strong upright arms and sideways leaps as though they were soldiers astride horses. I loved the very dynamic movements that convey and illicit strong emotions.


The final performance, Appalachian Spring danced to music by Aaron Copeland, was much lighter with a sunnier approach than any of the other dances. It’s a story about springtime in the wilderness being celebrated by a man and woman building a house, a strong, stoic preacher with this band of followers and a pioneering woman who could be seen to represent Martha Graham.


Overall, Martha Graham was a very impressive show that was moving, technically perfect and not one moment of boredom.

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April 2011


The Aluminum Show

Edison Theatre

St. Louis


Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

April 30, 2011


The Aluminum Show personifies slinkies and large round tubes of ductwork by enclosing dancers inside large aluminum tubes. This is a world of dancing ducts and amazing lighting effects in florescent colors reflected on the mylar surface. The curtain is not opened but sucked up into a tube revealing a stage littered with long silver tubes that are squirming around like earthworms. They wiggle, squiggle and slowly rise up and disappear into the ceiling leaving behind a heap of interconnected tubes that eventually become a couple.

 

The couple (differentiated by an internal blue or pink light) rolls around and encloses each other and after some gyrations and vibrations, a baby slinky/duct appears. The baby moves across the floor like a caterpillar and is surprisingly cute for an inanimate object. After some chaos and confusion, the baby is separated from the parents. Most of the plot is based on the lost baby slinky trying to get home. It is helped by a crazy character in goggles and a jumpsuit that takes care of the slinky and leads it through the adventures of life. With plenty of audience interaction, some of the adventures involve the adept and athletic dancers throwing huge air-filled aluminum pillows into the audience that are batted about like balloons. At another point, we were overcome with long snakelike tubes that assaulted the front rows to be passed back and engulf the audience.

 

There are many creative uses of dance and aluminum throughout the show, but the recurring theme is the baby slinky and finally after a rousing musical number of singing slinkies and getting all the “ducts in a row”, the slinky is finally reunited with its parent duct/machines. This reunion was a bit anti-climatic. Although, the parent tubes express joy and delight at finding their baby, pink tube sucks him up and the quick exit seemed abrupt. But overall, this is a dynamic and exciting show with super lighting effects by Roy Milo and original techno music by Ivri Lider.

 

The Aluminum Show is “green” in that they use recovered materials from industrial factories to dress the cast, build the set and interact with audience. This show came from the creative mind of Ilan Azriel, the Creator and Artistic Director who is from Israel. After years of dancing in the Inbal Dance Theatre, Mr. Azriel decided to combine, dance, choreography and puppetry. So how does that little slinky move on its own? Remote control (like a toy) is revealed at the end of the show.

 

I may never look at ductwork the same again.

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MOMIX in Botanica

Presented by DANCEstl

at the

Touhill Performing Arts Center


Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Performed April 8 & 9, 2011

Momix is a company of dancer-illusionists under the very creative direction of Moses Pendleton. Momix is an offspring of Pilobolus. What’s a Pilobolus? It is a fungus that grows on horse manure. Moses Pendleton says Momix is sprinkled on Pilobolus to make it grow faster. That concept is the catalyst for choreography inBotanica, an incredible show based loosely on the Four Seasons with interludes from all sorts of talented dancers, plant-like creatures, and magical illusions.

 

The show begins with winter. A billowing cloth on the floor begins to show signs of life as bumps and twitches appear, than heads pop out and disappear. As movements slither beneath the flowing white cloth, eventually half-bodies are revealed, dancers stand and the cloth slowly blows away. Women in long gowns mimic trees. This is a magical show. Dancers appear as half man-half horse. Each vignette becomes something else; each dance intertwines into another flowing performance.

 

A dancer rides out on a skeleton minotaur/ mastodon when she notices a handsome young man sleeping in the woods. She takes an interest in him, which the skeleton creature does not appreciate. She dances with the creature (if there’s a dancer inside it, he can’t be seen) until the skeleton creature engulfs her. The young man wakes up to be engulfed in his pillow that becomes a dark blob that wraps itself around his head and shoulders. He is a man carrying the burdens of life. Is that a dancer on his back? Other boulders come to life and begin moving about.

 

Dancers wearing fiber optics move in shapes to create tendrils, geese and many other creatures although against the black background, they resemble disjointed limbs. You’re not sure they are dancers. A swarm of bee-like dancers become wild East Indian dancers. A woman enters the stage wearing what looks like a cage but as she turns and twirls like a whirling dervish, the cage opens and changes shapes that are captured beautifully in the special lighting to the chanting music of Deva Premal. This was absolutely spell-binding.

 

All of this is out of the imagination of Moses Pendleton, one of the founding members of the innovative dance company Pilobolus, which was birthed with Alison Chase at Dartmouth College in 1971 while experimenting with movement during dance classes. The group performed on Broadway and toured internationally. They were also featured on PBS’s Dance in America. In 1981, Mr. Pendleton branched out into new territory and birthed Momix. He refers to himself as an “avante gardener” who wants to get back to the farm (symbolically, as he was born and raised on a dairy farm in Vermont). Or in the words of Joni Mitchell, “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” Moses, being a child of the 60’s, seems to enjoy the concept of gardens using props, lighting and very diverse music to make contact with humans and non-humans. This show is about connection, entertainment, and magic. Each vignette has its own life.

 

This was my favorite show of the dance season. The dancers were all incredible. The lighting and music was absolutely top-notch but since the show creates such a fantastic world, it’s hard to even notice the technical expertise required to pull off the magic. The best way to enjoy this amazing performance is to sit back, relax, and let the show wash over you.


DanceStL is bringing us another exciting Memorial Day weekend with Spring to Dance 2011 from May 26 to 28 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. There will be three days of 30 different dance companies that costs only $10 each day. This is one of the best entertainment deals in St. Louis! Some of the dance companies are local while many of them are from as far away as New York. I've attended it every year and am always delighted with the diverse talent this show offers. Check it out at:


http://www.dancestlouis.org/1011_s2d


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March 2011

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

Presented by DANCEstl

Fox Theatre, St. Louis


Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

March 11 & 12, 2011


In the spirit of Dance Theatre, the first dance, Uptown began not with a dancer but an announcer who guided us through a historical perspective of Harlem in the 1920’s and 1930’s. There was plenty of dance though, as each chapter conveyed a snapshot of life in Harlem; the art, the poetry of Langston Hughes and others conveyed through dance. Also, represented were the Cotton Club, Visual Art, Divas, and lots of jazz and blues. The announcer bridged each section to the next. Rent Party was the most memorable (“when you need rent money, throw a party”) when the policeman who came to break up the party joined in with wild abandon and jitterbug style. Although Uptown was informative, it lacked the variety and impact of other Alvin Ailey performances.


Next, we were treated to The Evolution of a Secured Feminine danced by Briana Reed in an unusual costume, a pantsuit cut in half to reveal a jacket on one side and just the bra on the other conveying strength and the inner female. This was a heart-wrenching interpretation of the song Guess Who I Saw Today, about a wife who saw her husband with another woman.


From the feminine to the ultra-masculine, The Hunt was choreographed by Robert Battle, who will become the Artistic Director of the company in a few months replacing Judith Jamison who has had the position since 1989. The Hunt was danced by six men in long flowing skirt-like trousers to the hard-driving music of Les Tambours du Bronx. These macho guys battle, bludgeon and bond with each other—a very strong number.


The final performance was Revelations, the most famous and loved of Alvin Ailey dances. A short movie gave us the history of Celebrating Revelations at 50 with interviews with Alvin Ailey and Judith Jamison. Revelations is danced to traditional gospel music conveying the old southern churches with Take Me to the Water as long swatches of fabric become water. I was impressed with the beautiful balance and control of Akua Noni Parker in Fix Me, Jesus. Also, by a great solo performance by St. Louis’ own Antonio Douthit in I Wanna Be Ready, and finally, the church ladies come out with their fans in hand to Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham which brought the audience to their feet. They give us another little bit after the encores and we danced in the aisles to “rocka our souls” as well.


Although this dance company is one of my favorites, I found this show less energized than previous ones I have seen. Maybe the dancers were tired, it was their third performance in two days or perhaps they are just tired of dancing Revelations for the umpteenth time. Also, the audio was uncomfortably loud to the point of being painful and I feel this detracted from the show. But still, the spirit of Alvin Ailey lives on and these are minor things to the overall enjoyment of an otherwise great dance performance.

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January 2011

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

Touhill Performing Arts Center

Presented by DANCEstl

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

January 28 & 29, 2011


Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet was founded in 2003 and is based in New York with a strong bent towards Europe and commissioning new works by some international and innovative choreo-graphers. The artistic director, Benoit-Swan Pouffer, and ballet master, Alexandra Damiani are both natives of France, lending a more worldly approach to the ballet company.

The performance featured three dances all done by different choreographers. The first, titled Excerpts from Decadance 2007, was choreographed by Ohad Naharin, a citizen of both Israel and the United States. It began with all dancers standing stone-still until you are thinking surely something has gone wrong, then the movement begins, frenetic, shaking, almost convulsing as they form a line across the front of the stage, staring blankly at the audience. Within moments, one dancer breaks the line of confine-ment with wild dancing and just as suddenly stops, then there is stillness. Another dancer breaks into wild abandon within the line, until each one has a turn and you are guessing which one might be next. Then the row of dancers backs up slowly as they fade into the background becoming almost invisible with the dynamic lighting. In another section, a duet begins that is almost violent in nature, the male beating his head against the female’s chest, audible enough to the audience to produce a gasp. Then three men come out to dance a bonding ritual, serious and intense when suddenly as woman in purple struts diagonally across the stage on stilts. She later reappears and breaks into a song like an exaggerated nightclub singer on stilts convincingly until the end when she becomes disgusted with the lip sync and stops singing--a nice humorous release and totally unexpected.

Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue, looked like ten cases of various folks trying to connect with each other. This one was choreographed by Crystal Pite, a Canadian. A man runs as fast as he can in place while the woman in front of him extends one hand reaching out behind her as he tries desperately to catch it. Every so often he reaches her hand, only to lose it, run again, and catch it again. Backlit lighting gave the dancers soft lines like a poem, creating a feeling but you’re not sure exactly what it is.

Frame of View, with choreography by Dutch Didy Veldman, was very creative featuring three doorframes that served as many uses of props for the dancers. Sometimes they were apartment doors with parties occurring on the other side while a lone dancer listened through the door. Other times, the doors became alive and not solid with arms pushing through a flexible surface or a lone hand coming out of the mail slot caressing a female dancer until she climbs up the door and disappears down the other side. The lone dancer left out of the party finds a couple that seem to be beating each other up in slow motion. He keeps throwing little bits of confetti at them, which they mostly ignore, but after many attempts, they finally stop the pounding. It can be tricky explaining these dances but each one contained the theme of doors or doorframes except one. A woman drags a desk and chair through the doorway and dances all around the desk and the chair as though she was both in love and hate with it and I thought, “That’s what writer’s block feels like.”

Over all, it was a very enjoyable and innovative performance with wonderfully athletic dancers and creative choreographers. DANCEstl continues to surprise us with dance companies we haven’t seen before and still brings us our favorites such as Alvin Ailey coming March 11 & 12 to the Fox Theatre.

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October 2010

Houston Ballet

Touhill Performing Arts Center

Presented by DANCEstl

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

October 8 & 9, 2010

The Houston Ballet started off our new fall season for DANCEstl with vigor and flourish. Although there were only three dances, each one was dynamic and technically skilled. Apollo, the first performance, depicts the young god of the sun, unwrapped from swaddling clothes by three muses as though he is first born. The muses represent mime, whose symbol is a mask; the muse of poetry danced with a tablet and the muse of dance and song whose symbol is a lyre. At times, the muses become a chariot of horses and pull Apollo along. I loved the ending as Apollo followed by the three muses slowly ascends the staircase towards the sun but I felt the mood was broken by the short entrance of three small nymphs dressed in blue at the very end of the piece. George Balanchine choreographed this work at a young age with music by Stravinsky and achieved international recognition.

Falling, danced to five movements by Mozart, was more classical ballet without a particular story. The mood was light and bright. Dancers would burst forth from the black curtain at the back of the stage or slowly fade out and disappear into it. The lighting was warm, the choreography a good interpretation of the music. Creating a spell, it felt as though you were a part of the dancers being lifted, twirled, and moving about the stage with them.

The final number, Hush, with music by Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma was my favorite of the three. Choreographed by Christopher Bruce, this was more contemporary and had a definite story about a family of circus performers. The title is taken from “Hush, little baby don’t you cry” conveying the forlorn life, yet the closeness and caring of a family of circus performers. The costumes were beige but each one had a bright red hat or buttons like a clown suit. The dancers were all wearing the white face. The stage had a rope ladder and circus props in the background. In the words of Christopher Bruce, “Hush is a musical celebration of life—from youth to old age… I hope that I have managed to develop universal themes in a highly personal way that the audience can identify with.” I think he definitely succeeded by the standing ovation at the end.

As usual, the two intermissions were a little long, but it does give everyone a chance to schmooze (and the rest of us to snooze). Overall, it was a very good performance with top-notch dancers.

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May 2010

Spring to Dance Festival

Touhill Performing Arts Center

Presented by DANCEstl

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

May 27 - 29, 2010

This is the third year of amazing accomplishments to pull off this many dance performances over a period of three days. There were 30 different dance companies from various parts of the U.S. and Canada with 10 performances each night for just $10. Yes, that’s right... just 10 bucks will give you that much entertainment and dance at the beautiful Touhill Theatre on the campus of UMSL.

The performances were all amazing—almost too numerous to mention so I’ll single out a few. On Friday and Saturday night, there was everything from belly dancers, ballet dancers, guys who beat on buckets and tap dance, storyteller dancers, contemporary, and modern to wheelchair dancers. I like surprises so I especially enjoyed The Flying Foot Forum from Minneapolis, a trio of peculiar people reciting children’s rhymes sometimes using flashlights to highlight their faces. The Spanish Dance Theatre (Chicago) dazzled us with passion, energy and flamenco dancers. Koresh Dance Company (Philadelphia) performed Theatre of Public Secrets by giving us a view inside people’s homes and into their inner feelings while examining the complexity of relation-ships. Margie Gillis’s (Canada) solo performances of Frozen and the study on grief seemed a little lost on the big stage. Although she’s very popular in Canada, I’m not sure St. Louis audiences knew what to do with the performance.

On Saturday night, I was delighted with the silliness of Buckets and Tap Shoes (Minneapolis), two regular guys who look lost, perform a few silly magic acts, suddenly sit down and pound out perfect rhythms on bucket bottoms and then get up and tap dance… even to a classical sonata. Really, every single performance was incredible on Saturday night.

MADCO (St. Louis) danced their little hearts out with plenty of hair tossing in Untied. Richmond Ballet danced a lovely duo with beautiful graceful lines.  Kate Weare Company (New York) had dancers hitting each other… in a good way. Kansas City Ballet offered another wonderfully talented duo, a long flowing skirt keeping the lovers apart as they try to connect through it. BalletMet (Columbus) gave us a medley of Sammy Davis, Jr. songs with very clever choreography and perfection in their technique like a well-oiled machine. Richmond Ballet performed a second time with an excerpt from Vestiges about longing and surrender. The evening concluded with Battleworks Dance Company (New York) choreographed by Robert Battle who has recently been named as artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre  — an incredible dance company. If you don’t know who they are, they’re coming to St. Louis next season in March 2011 to the fabulous Fox Theatre. Battleworks did an intense, primal performance of four men to relentless drumming called The Hunt.

Each performance is only about 15 minutes or less in length so you can see all 10 companies starting at 6 pm and be out before 10 pm. Also very impressive, is the amount of organization for lighting for each dance number and stage management in getting each company on and off the stage in about a minute. Wonderful! The sponsors such as Edward Jones, Fox 2, Monsanto and many more deserve a big hand because without them, we couldn’t see all this for just $10.

Really St. Louis, if you’ve never been to a dance performance and you’re not even sure what one is, mark this on your calendar for next year Memorial Day weekend, spend the $10 and check this out. You’ll be impressed. Actually, don’t wait that long because Dance St. Louis has a remarkable season starting in October 2010. Look at this line-up. Don’t miss out.

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February 2010

River North Chicago Dance Company

Touhill Performing Arts Center

Presented by DANCEstl

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

February 26 & 27, 2010

In his talk before the performance, Artistic Director Frank Chaves spoke of the emotional bliss of dance and how the dozen dancers used all the space on the stage without walls or props in dancing beyond themselves. The theme of boundaries or lack of boundaries was also expressed in Forbidden Boundaries, dancers being held back by other dancers clasping their shirt tails, like a sailboat in the wind as the dancers would twist and turn in trying to get away. At one point, a woman is caught between two men leaving her arms and legs spindly like puppets but from this position she is also free to flip up and over even though she is being held back by her long shirt. It looks to me like others are holding us back but as the dance ends, the dancers all become free of their constrictions and the final words in the program read, “The only thing holding you back is you.” So, if we are to interpret what a dance means (which is always a slippery slope, i.e., “what does art mean?”) We could say the other dancers represent parts of ourselves that are holding us back. Anyway, it created an interesting dance within the confines of being caught in a very stretchy garment--creativity within boundaries.

The show opened with Evolution of a Dream with a slow dreamy beginning but the dancers launched into a very intense dance to Sweet Dreams (are made of this) by the Eurythmics, conveying looking towards dreams that have yet to be made real. It was very exciting and dynamic choreography by Sherry Zucker.

Beat was a solo dancer (Monique Haley) with mostly upper body movements. The lighting was such that her very fast moving hands looked like fluttering birds. Followed by Three, three men in unusual costumes of shorts and belts who confronted each other to the music of Art of Noise.

The evening ended with delightful Habaneras, the Music of Cuba, a bright colorful swirling dance with many turns and high energy choreographed by Frank Chaves.

River North Chicago was founded in 1989 and for the past 20 years has become one of Chicago’s leading dance companies receiving critical acclaim both here and abroad. Under the direction of Frank Chaves, this contemporary dance company offers many great performances. After watching the Winter Olympics, I am struck by how incredible the human body is and how even though I have seen hundreds of dance performances, I still see new moves and new choreography. I see the emotional bliss of dance whether it’s athletes on skis, skates, or in a theatre dancing in bare feet, whether or not they are injured or feeling sick with the flu, they continue to dance beyond themselves and bring amazing works of art or athletics for the passive audience to feel and enjoy.

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January 2010


Ballet Folklórico de México
Presented by DANCEstl

at the Fox Theatre

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

January 29 & 30, 2010

Ballet Folklórico de México is a colorful dance ensemble from Mexico City founded by Amalia Hernandez in 1952. Considered a pioneer in the art of folk revival, she created a new style by combining classical dance techniques with traditional and regional choreography. This type of dance originated in local festivities. For five decades, it has brought to the stage dance performances in brilliantly colored costumes that reflect the traditional culture of various regions of Mexico. Beginning with eight dancers, the company now tours with as many as 60 dancers and 16 musicians.

The dancers filled the stage with dazzling colors of many beautiful costumes. Women in full skirts twirled round and round. Men in bright green socks and oversized sombreros entertained us. The first dance called The Gods had a group of men dancing in little wooden sandals in long elaborate line dances. Some of the dance was similar to tap or flamenco or the more American version of clogging. Many of the dance numbers told stories about Mexican history such as Revolution, a dance dedicated to the women who supported their men by bearing arms in Mexico’s fight for liberty. There were spectacle dances with strange characters of festivals such as the Angel, the Moor, the Crier, and the Devil, who was quite humorous. Dancers sporting large paper maché heads danced into the audience.

Most of the dance numbers were performed on one level and at one pace with couples or in lines. For example, there are no lifts or dances done on the floor with the exception of Deer Dance. This dance portrayed the Yaqui people who are known for being excellent hunters. A solo dancer plays the deer, is shot with arrows by hunters and struggles in his last few minutes of life. It was quite touching and sad.

In the Rope Dance, a cowboy twirls a long lasso around he and his sweetheart for several minutes switching the lasso back and forth from arm to arm while the ensemble danced around it. Another interesting use of rope: a male throws down a sash that he and a female tie with their feet. Then they lift it up to reveal a large bow. I think this may be where the phrase “tied the knot” (marriage) comes from, at least in Mexican culture. Many of the dance numbers reflect a passion for life such as The Charros of Jalisco being known for “their high spirits and joyous grasping of life.”

I appreciate DANCEstl bringing different cultures to St. Louis to observe and enjoy. It’s an enriching experience to see the local Latin population able to view something of their own. They understood much more about the dances than I, but I enjoyed watching their excitement as some sat perched on the edge of their seat smiling and clapping throughout the performance. Several standing ovations were offered to Ballet Folklórico de México.

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Joffrey Ballet in The Nutcracker

Presented by DANCEstl

The Fabulous Fox Theatre

December 3-6, 2009

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

What would Christmas be without The Nutcracker ballet? I started wondering how this tradition started and why a nutcracker? According to German folklore, nutcrackers were given as keepsakes to protect your home and bring good luck to your family. According to legend, the nutcracker represents power and strength. In the 1800's, E.T. Amadeus Hoffmann wrote The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. This novel became the basis for Tchaikovsky's magnificent Nutcracker Suite, which debuted as a ballet in St. Petersburg in 1892 and still lives on as a holiday tradition throughout the world.

For the two people who don't know the story, it starts with a grand party at the Mayor's home on Christmas Eve. Guests keep arriving and gifts are passed out. Clara, the daughter, is given a special gift, a nutcracker, by her Godfather Drosselmeyer. Her brother, Fritz tries to snatch it away and accidentally breaks it. Clara's godfather ties a bandage around it and comforts an upset Clara. The guests leave and the family retires to bed. At midnight, Clara comes back downstairs and enters the strange world of the Mouse King, toy soldiers come to life, a battle ensues, and Clara kisses the nutcracker who becomes a prince. The enchantment continues with well-known music and dances such as The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies and Waltz of the Flowers which Clara enjoys watching with her godfather. Eventually, they leave the dream by hot-air balloon just like Dorothy returning home in The Wizard of Oz.

This was a beautiful production of soft-rounded pastel scenery especially when the parlor scenes float up and disappear as the Christmas tree grows much larger. The lovely costumes in pinks and purples were festive along with a creatively designed nutcracker and mice. This production also featured dancers from the St. Louis area, the Cambiata Singers of the Kirkwood Children's Chorale and the Ballet Orchestra of St. Louis.

Joffrey Ballet seemed a little rusty on opening night and didn't quite reach the level at which I've seen them perform before. At times, the story seems more prevalent than the ballet because so much of the first part is story-telling and not dance-almost more like a musical. The opening parlor scene is confusing with so many people and events happening at once. Every so often some parlor dancing would break out but so much of it was just too busy with children running around and guests entering.

In the second act, there is more ballet as the mechanical dolls from under the Christmas tree come to life and dance. Also beautiful was The Land of Snow where snow continues to fall throughout the six dances making it a little slippery for some of the dancers. I especially enjoyed the duo who danced Coffee of Arabia with sinewy, almost snake-like movements.

Overall, it was an enjoyable traditional production and a good way to get in the Christmas spirit. With the Joffrey Ballet's skill, it would be fun to see an updated version of The Nutcracker. We are lucky to have DANCEstl bring productions like this for our education and enhancement.

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Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Presented by DANCEstl

Touhill Performing Arts Center

November 6 & 7, 2009

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Complexions Contemporary Dance from New York was founded by Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden, two former members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Company. Complexion's philosophy is that dance should be about removing boundaries and transcending them to create an evolving, open form of dance that reflects diverse cultures as a whole. To this end, they are adept at creating choreography using music from U2 to Bach. They have won many honors for their work. They also choreographed a duet for the television hit, So You Think You Can Dance.

The first performance called Hissy Fits, was a modern dance of high energy and staccato movements like you might do if you were having a "hissy fit." This was an interesting although bit long performance to the music of Bach. After intermission, we were treated to several short numbers and privileged to witness the world premiere of Mirror Me--a dance with two women mirroring each other's movements while a male seems caught between them. I thought it was a love triangle but it is described as humanity in our current state of uncertainty searching for hope. We need others to mirror back ourselves and we choose which reflection we will mirror. Or perhaps we just need others to mirror back different aspects of ourselves in the human condition.

I especially enjoyed the solo performance aptly called Solo and danced by Desmond Richardson (one of the founders) to the music of Prince. This was poignant piece with the dancer holding a single flower. Desmond Richardson is such a powerful dancer with beautiful form. This was one of the strongest dances of the show.

But the icing on the cake that blew out all the other performances was the final dance of the evening called Rise to a medley of songs by the Irish rock band U2. I have to say I love their music and would probably love anything choreographed to this music. However, I also loved the opening sequence of red costumes, red lights and a single dancer jogging in place, slowly at first and then building and building with the music until it doesn't seem possible a human can jog in place that fast. The company joins in and the entire number was a joy from start to finish. The message conveyed could be interpreted as the songs of U2 are anthems of a generation dealing with challenges and triumphs. The highly energized movements invite the audience to believe in the transcendent quality of love. This was a very uplifting ending for the evening.

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GrooveLily: Sleeping Beauty Wakes

Edison Theatre

October 2 & 3, 2009

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Since the description listed this show as "an award-winning musical theatre piece that is Broadway-bound..."  I was expecting more theatre and less music.  However, GrooveLily (don't know why it's called that) is mostly music, a group of three talented musicians who write and perform their own songs while they occasionally express (notice I didn't say "act") themselves as characters  loosely... and I mean very loosely based on the myth of Sleeping Beauty.  They are possibly more storyteller than actor.

The trio, from New York, features the extremely talented and vivacious Valerie Vigoda who victoriously conquers an instrument known as a viper violin. It's very futuristic looking: V-shaped with six strings and is strapped on under her arm.  It sits on her shoulder throughout the perform-ance like a pirate's parrot while she sings and coaxes sweet sounds from it with her bow.

Next is Brendan Milburn on vocals and keyboards who does a lot of the arranging for the group and is also Valerie's husband. He is also an accomplished record producer. His music and lyrics have been featured in a number of off- and on-Broadway shows. The third member is Gene Lewin who drums with intensity and gusto and sings... well enough.

Sleeping Beauty Wakes takes place (theoretically) in a sleep clinic where various people come with weird problems such as restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy that result in songs like "The Wheel Goes 'Round", "Out of Harm's Way", and "Can You Cure Me?" These stories are interwoven with characters from Sleeping Beauty: the princess, the king, and the evil fairy who causes the princess to prick her finger on the spinning wheel and fall into a deep sleep until her prince arrives to deliver the kiss. The lyrics are clever. The performance was amusing, professional and enjoyable but, for me, not extremely memorable.  

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underground

David Dorfman Dance

Edison Theatre

September 25-26, 2009

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

A middle-aged man is on the stage. He flings his body about and dances on a diagonal, running to the upper stage, dropping down as if to do a push-up, raising a fist, running backwards, falling down and flipping. He repeats this movement over and over again. It’s especially strange because the show hasn’t started yet. The audience is still slowly filing in. The house lights are up. People are conversing. Smoke fills the stage every so often, and once or twice, other performers come out to point and stare at the solo performer. Houselights come down, announce-ments are made, and still the man repeats the same movements over and over again. The announcer leaves, it’s silent except for the performer. We all watch wondering how long he can keep this up. It’s been at least twenty minutes. He must be exhausted. Finally, the tension breaks with a loud crash of music and other dancers attacking the stage.

The solo performer was David Dorfman, Washington University alumni with a BS in Business Administration. He also has an MFA in Dance from Connecticut College and is currently a professor of dance. He founded David Dorfman Dance in 1985 and has performed in New York City, Europe, Russia, and throughout North and South America. The production of “underground” was inspired by a leftist group in the 60’s called Weather Underground. Dorfman spoke of the Democratic Convention in 1968 when he was 13 years old and being moved by the Vietnam war, the protest marches and activism. This dance performance is about activism to the point of terrorism versus apathy. Questions are shouted out, “Can we make a difference?”

The multi-media performance is enhanced by a brick wall on which is projected images of revolution and protest marches while the dancers fling themselves around the stage. There are lots of action and chaos with occasional breaks as the dancers all work together as supportive balancing tabletops. The soundtrack includes loud crashes and bombs exploding, wild techno music and a few verses of “Call out the instigator because there’s something in the air. We’ve got to get it together sooner or later cause the revolution’s here,” by Thunderclap Newman. If you are a child of the 60’s, that song should bring back memories for you. “underground” reminded me of marching in moratoriums against the Vietnam war. I remember the passion and feeling of being united and making a difference in the world. It was a different time. Now, we have the internet where we can stay connected and make our opinions known.

About a dozen dancers make up the company but were joined by twice as many local extras who took part in the dance. Dorfman is a fan of collaboration and the collective process. Towards the end, a “statue” protestor is seemingly frozen in time. He is reactivated by the other dancers who pulse with passion, commitment and strength. They gather him up and throw him back into the flow of revolution. He begins the dance again and we end with the same movements as the beginning. Overall, it was a strong performance that makes you think about how much you might do to make a difference in the world.

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Remember Me

Edison Theatre, NYC

Parsons Dance with East Village Opera Company 

November 14 & 15, 2009

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Wow! What a great show! Remember Me was a multi-leveled contemporary dance production based on a classic tragic love-triangle story. Two brothers fall in love with the same woman, Maria (Abby Silva), but when she picks one instead of the other, the rejected one steals her away to a place with gothic archways in the background where the lighting creates a “cage” on the floor. (Think Phantom of the Opera). She dances her despair of confinement while the other dancers reflect the feeling of entrapment. The background dancers become a unit with arms form a chain as Maria, the lead dancer, struggles within her prison. Freed somewhat from the symbolic “cage,” she squeezes back and forth through the legs of her lost lover while he looks wistfully into the distance. He can feel her near but can’t quite make contact. Later, when the two lovers reunite, the chosen brother kills the unchosen as the production winds up in a grande finale of passionate dance.

The excellent dancers and choreo-graphy alone would have been compelling enough to make this a show to “remember” but adding the story-line, the amazingly talented opera singers who occasionally act out what the dancers are conveying, the highly-energized rock music, plus the amazing technical lighting and the background screen made it a very exciting and multi-leveled perform-ance. There were also levels among the dancers themselves. They don’t just dance on the floor: the lead female dancer, Maria, walks up the shoulders of the male dancers and is lifted by invisible hands at the end of her solo. Very powerful.

The use of props was very creative. I loved the long cloth draped across the stage that reveals the two lovers underneath as they dance their love-making, rolling over and over each other as the cloth wraps them together. Then, the cloth is slowly and smoothly pulled off stage as Maria stands on it with her lover at her feet. Later, as she twirls, the cloth becomes wrapped around and around her foot. The costumes were a wonderful splash of shades of pinks, purples and fuchsias as they represented each of the characters.

This was splendid dance theatre complete with well-known arias from various operas such as Carmen by Bizet and Puccini's Madame Butterfly redone in an exciting rock score sung by two top-notch singers of the East Village Opera, Tyley Ross and AnnMarie Millazzo. Parsons Dance and the East Village Opera companies are from New York City. David Parsons is the artistic director and co-founder of the company. They have also been featured on Bravo, A&E Network, the Discovery Channel and PBS.

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Flight of the Conchords

The Fabulous Fox Theatre

Reviewed by Chris Gibson

April 30, 2009

I may never have stumbled across Flight of the Conchords if we hadn't had some problems with our satellite service, and been given HBO free for three months as some sort of recompense. But, I guess these things must happen for a reason, because I've become a fan of these two musicians from New Zealand ever since. And, I immediately rented the first season of their cable show and downloaded their music from iTunes soon afterward. So, the chance to see them actually perform live seemed too good to be true. Thankfully, I was able to get tickets for this sold-out show, and I'm happy to report that my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the inspired antics of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement; the duo known as Flight of the Conchords.

Eugene Mirman, who plays their landlord on the show, opened with a short set of stand up that featured some cutting remarks about his experience trying to find a place to window shop in downtown St. Louis (Tell us something we don't know. I guess he wasn't looking to cash a check or get a tattoo.). He also took a jab at our own Union Station, remarking how it's historical significance is being overshadowed by a proliferation of hat and candy shops. Of course, it was much funnier than any description I can write, and painfully true.

Bret and Jemaine took the stage next, standing in their robot suits (from an episode of the show where their manager, Murray, shot a cheap music video on his cell phone) amidst a collection of keyboards and guitars that were collected on stage. They opened with a rousing version of “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor” that immediately had the crowd engaged. And, it's their combination of wit and catchy melodies that lifts them above being just a novelty act. In fact, their between songs patter is of equal importance to the music itself, and provides the fellas with the chance to offer up their own unique brand of deadpan humor.

Over the course of the next two hours, they ran through a large portion of their catalog, pulling off lovely stripped-down versions of: “Carol Brown”, “Hurt Feelings”, “I Told You I Was Freekie”, “We're Both in Love with a Sexy Lady”, “Foux du Fafa”, “Bowie”, “Robots”, “Au Revoir”, “Demon Woman”, “Mutha' uckas” and “Think About It”. But, the highlight for me was a request from the audience for “Business Time” which found Jemaine sexily crooning an amusing ode to “sweet weekly love making".

What really distinguishes these guys is their talent. They're not just a couple of funny New Zealanders, these guys can actually play. A cellist named Nigel, representing the entirety of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, added immensely to the groove with his bowed and plucked contributions. And, the boys themselves swapped around instruments playing acoustic guitars, electric piano, drums, and a forgotten electronic relic known as the Omnichord.

Lengthy encores brought the night to a close in fine fashion, with the only regret being the omission of “Boom”, which is a personal favorite. If you haven't heard of these guys, you need to check them out. The capacity crowd at the Fox was certainly hip to them, so they're obviously not as far underground as it would seem.

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The Pirates of Penzance

March 13, 2009

Touhill Performing Arts center

By Lucy Moorman

This absolutely delightful operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan was performed by the "New York Gilbert and Sullivan players"—a wonderful traveling troop of actors and musicians. This was Gilbert and Sullivan’s fifth collaboration that premiered in New York in 1879 and was a great success. It’s still very popular today due to its humor and catchy music. The title "Penzance" was taken from a quiet seaside resort where you would not expect to find pirates. The title was also a jab at the practice of "pirating" unlicensed productions in America.

The story is a little complicated. When Frederic was a little boy, his nurse was told to apprentice him to become a pilot. She misunderstood and thought he was to become a pirate which she laments in "When Frederic was a Little Lad." Due to Frederic’s all-- encompassing sense of duty, he is obligated to be a pirate until his 21st birthday which is just occurring. Until the Pirate King and Frederic’s nurse, Ruth discover the paradox of Frederic having been born on Leap Year, February 29 and therefore he has only had five and half birthdays. In the meantime, Frederic has discovered true love with Mabel and asks her to wait for him until he can officially leave the pirate’s duty which would put them in their 80’s. She agrees but then the crazy police come to timidly combat the pirates, the pirates storm the chapel, seize the Major General and are easily beating the policemen until they are asked to yield in the name of Queen Victoria. After they surrender, they are forgiven because they are all "noblemen who have gone wrong" probably due to a difficult childhood as orphans. They are pardoned and allowed to marry Major-General’s many daughters.

All the performances were terrific. I especially enjoyed the Sergeant of Police (David Auxier) with his dead-pan expressions and the slapstick (literally) humor and clever, klutzy choreography of the policemen. I also loved the police march to "Tarantara". Who knew an operetta could be so catchy and toe-tapping? Mabel (Michele McConnell) also was a strong lead and had a beautiful voice that did justice to all the tra-laas. Her song "Poor Wandering One" stays with you long after the performance. The Pirate King (David Wannen) was also wonderfully handsome as a swash- buckling scoundrel with a great speaking and singing voice. Major General (Stephen Quint) sang the song with so many words, "I am the very model of a modern major General" in great form. He got a good laugh in the second act when he’s awakened by all the carrying-on between the police and the pirates and he appears in his nightgown and a huge pair of puppy slippers. Great stuff!

There were serious moments too. Well, at least one. Mabel and Frederic’s (Colm Fitzmaurice) duet "Stay, Frederic, Stay!" was touching and heartfelt. The cast was top-notch. The music was provided by a live orchestra that also got involved in some of the antics. This production of "Pirates" was enthusiastically received by a large audience. This is one you should not miss.

Kansas City Ballet Dances

Twyla Tharp

Fox Theatre

February 27 & 28, 2009

By Lucy Moorman

Kansas City ballet performed three dances by the innovative choreographer Twyla Tharp. Miss Tharp began her dance career during the 1960’s in New York during a time when many young artists were stretching the boundaries of dance (and everything else). Tharp’s work combines classical ballet with natural movements like running, walking, or skipping. Sometimes the dances are reminiscent of improvisational jazz music with all the instruments seemingly playing their own version of the song yet to some people, all come together in a cohesive whole. Tharp’s dances seem to be "doing their own thing."

She has created over 135 dances and has choreographed for Broadway, film, and television as well as for other major dance companies.

The first dance called "Brahms Paganini" was a crisp but fluid flowing of "yuppies" dancing in shorts designed by Ralph Lauren. I kept expecting them to bring out the tennis rackets but that’s just me. For the male solo performance, Tharp drew from previous ideas she had developed for Mikhail Baryshnikov and a British skating champion with dazzling results danced well and vigorously by the male solo.

But the biggest number of the evening was "Nine Sinatra Songs" Sinatra Songsthat left us wanting to dance in the aisles! Featuring songs sung by Frank Sinatra, this elegant and sometimes humorous piece is ballroom style popularized by the television show "Dancing with the Stars." Oscar de la Renta collaborated with Tharp to design the beautifully flowing dresses that were by far the most colorful of the evening’s performance. Tharp’s choreography is unpredictable and dynamic with dancers moving separately from each other and not interacting with the other 7 couples. Personally, I could have used a little more variation on this number and just once, I would have enjoyed seeing all the dancers come together in the same movement. The last song, "I’d do my way" certainly seemed appropriate with Tharp’s creative choreography; she certainly was "doing it her way."

Kansas City Ballet was founded in 1957 and today has 26 professional dancers. William Whitener, currently the artistic director, previously danced with Joffrey Ballet (1969-77) and later joined Twyla Tharp Dance (1978-89). Kansas City Ballet continues to enhance the reputation of dance in the Midwest . They are close enough to seek out a performance in Kansas City . They will be back in St. Louis for the wonderful "Spring to Dance" festival May 21-23, 2009 at Touhill Performing Arts Center. This is an amazing show of dance from many different dance companies that runs for 3 nights at only $10 per night. It is not to be missed!



Cirque du Soleil

Saltimbanco

Family Arena

February 4-8, 2009

By Lucy Moorman

This was an amazing show filled with wonder and delight. "Saltimbanco" is an Italian word that literally means "to jump on a bench." Although there was plenty of jumping, hanging, leaping, bouncing, and balancing, I didn’t see anyone jump on a bench. No matter, there is much entertainment to be seen.

The show started with several clown-like performers pulling people out of the audience and making fun with them. Two clowns stood on either side of a woman and as she followed along with their gestures, they picked her up and flipped her all the way back to her feet before you could blink. The colorful stage was shaped sort of like a butterfly with a canopy of metal rings that are interconnected over an elevated stage with five musicians. The theme of Saltimbanco is supposed to be based on an urban experience of life with hustle and bustle of various colorful characters and how they interact with each other. But I didn’t see that in the show. What I did see was the breath-taking performances that were truly amazing.

The first act featured the "Chinese Poles". Several tall poles stood at the front of the stage with performers in rainbow-colored leotards leaping from pole to pole like tree frogs and hanging on with their arms as they straightened out their body side-ways. This act was inspired by a Chinese discipline and has 26 acrobats performing over 25 feet above the stage. It was mind boggling.

Also in the first act was a solo juggler who created forms and shapes with the moving balls while also bouncing them through his feet. In another solo act, an extraordinary balancing bicycle rider turned and rode the bike in every imaginable way possible with the bike still moving. He would swing from the seat to beyond the handlebars without moving his legs from the pedals or turn the bike upright and ride it like a unicycle.

The second act was even more sensational. The "Russian Swing" was a huge pendulum-type swing that catapults performers up to 30 feet in the air…where they are supposed to land on a small cushion. Fortunately, all of them did. One act was especially tense. It involved a very strong man on the bottom with another man standing on a small pole device on the first man’s head, and then a smaller person is tossed into the air via the swing and supposed to land on the second man’s shoulders. She missed the first time but was wearing a harness so no blood was shed. She tried again and missed. She tried a third time and missed again. After that, the audience was praying she would stop and she did. After those hair-raising acts, the clowns would come out and mock the previous performance or pull someone out of the audience and do clever mime and sound tricks. The comic relief let our heart rates return to normal.

I especially enjoyed the "Duo Trapeze" and the "Bungees". In the "Duo Trapeze," two petite graceful girls looked like you could blow them over with a feather but had extremely strong ankles and feet that they dangle from, leap and catch each other with. Their act was a graceful ballet in the air on a moving swing.

The "Bungees" are four performers tied to bungee cords as they swing, drop and fly as though they are angels soaring through the air. The timing created very nice patterns as the jumpers moved through each other and ending with a group hand clasp to the floor like parachutists.

There’s so much to say about this show. It’s typical Cirque du Soliel in the brightly- colored, amazingly creative costumes, the crazy characters, and the music and singing that seems to be made up of numerous cultures and languages. The arena seemed a little too large for the show. This is the third performance of Cirque du Soliel I’ve seen and I think it’s more effective in a smaller venue.

There’s something for everyone in this show and mere words cannot do it justice. My friend, who is a drummer, especially liked the "Boleadoras." He enjoyed the percussive quality of the spinning weights that bounce off the ground. Invented in Argentina , this act also had some smooth foot work similar to Flamenco dancing. I was impressed that they never hit themselves or each other in the head with those rapidly swinging weights.

Cirque du Soliel states their mission as "to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world." They definitely accomplished this. Expect to be impressed when you see this show.

COCAdance Alumni Winter Concert

Jan. 9 & 10, 2009

On the Brink

By Lucy Moorman

"On the Brink" was a very enjoyable show with dancers of many ages and stages of dance professionalism. Some were little tiny dancers that kept up with the steps amazingly well. Some could be "on the brink" of becoming professionals. And some were well advanced in the world of professional dance specifically Antonio Douthit who is a member of the world famous Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Leah Morrison who is with Trisha Brown Dance Company as well as Alicia Graf (Second Company Artistic Director) who recently left Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre due to a knee injury. Douthit and Morrison both hail from St. Louis and were students at COCA.

It must be very inspirational for the young "wannabees" to see that it’s possible to make it in the world of dance and it’s a testament to the quality of training at COCA that it can and does produce professional dancers. Although I enjoyed all of the dances, I will mention a few.

"Sweet in the Morning" to the music of Bobby McFerrin was nicely choreographed by Alicia Graf. I was impressed with the kids of all sizes who all kept up with the movements. It looked like there were at least 50 on the small stage and they all performed in a limited space without running into each other. I was impressed!

"If you couldn’t see me" danced by Leah Morrison and choreographed by Trisha Brown was certainly unique. The entire dance was done with her back to the audience. She did an excellent job of keeping her face from the audience but I thought this number was way too long and I quickly grew tired of the limited movements and the annoying dissonant music that seemed to stop and start with no plan. "Metropolis" was quite entertaining with hip-hop/techno music, modern punk girls and a seeming cast of thousands on that small stage--again, quite impressive and enjoyable.

The second half included five short dances by Isadora Duncan. All well-performed but Isadora is pale in comparison with many other dance styles, in my opinion. "Release" was a solo performance by Chris Page who has some beautiful lines and reminds me of an Alvin Ailey dancer. However, I wanted a little more variation in some of the movements of this number.

They saved the best for almost last and that was to see Antonio Douthit dance "Ready" from Alvin Ailey’s "Revelations" which is my very favorite dance number of all time. Mr. Douthit is a delight to watch and even thought this dance is very short, it would have made the entire evening worth it even if I hadn’t liked the rest of the concert (which I did.) I would have preferred to see more of Mr. Douthit in this show but I guess the show is more about the up and coming dancers than the ones who have already "made it."

The grand conclusion was "Groove Therapy" choreographed by Chris Page and performed by the full company—a thoroughly enjoyable, spirited dance with such promise for the future of all these young dancers. Thank you COCA.

 



Luna Negra Dance Theatre

Edison Theatre

November 7 & 8, 2008

By Lucy Moorman

Luna Negra Dance Theatre gave a bold, fresh performance full of bright swirling colors coupled with the technical expertise of athletic and passionate dancers. They hail from nearby Chicago and this is their 10th anniversary tour. Luna Negra Dance Theatres combines ballet and contemporary dance with Latino and Afro-Caribbean dance styles.

They’re approach is crisply energizing.

The first dance called “Deshar Alhat (Leave Sunday)” was about Sephardic Jews who were forced to settle in Latin America. This dance dealt with themes of loss and disappearance. I loved the use of a large, soft -tone drapery that hung above the back of the stage and was subtly raised or lowered depending on the mood of each dance sequence.

The second dance was more low-key. It was inspired by the biblical verse in Ecclesiastes “There Is a Time.” The dancers were dressed in muted earth tones with no back lighting. The dance conveys many themes from the verse such as a group would dance planting the earth; another would deal with healing or with death. “A time to love…a time for peace.” Each sequence was danced and acted out but always returning to the whole group moving together in a gentle swaying circle of life.

The third dance was very high energy and featured brightly colored circles of light in different positions in each sequence. This music was all steel drums, whistles and other Brazilian instruments. This dance captured the explosive energy of Brazil’s Carnival. The dancers gave 100% plus more in this dazzling performance. Because I was enjoying it so much, I didn’t want it to end.

Overall, this is another exceptional dance company with a wonderful, creative style of combining Latino cultures. If you go to Chicago, you should definitely catch one of their performances or see them on tour.

Dracula

BalletMet Columbus

October 23-26, 2008

Touhill Performing Arts Center

By Lucy Moorman 

Did you know that vampires can dance? Yes, the entire cast of BalletMet Columbus vampires and vampire-vanquishers danced beautifully. In the opening scene, a huge painted curtain reveals an upside-down female head and hair in the hangman pose surrendering to the inevitable seduction of Dracula as we see the coffin open and a nude Dracula emerge.

The choreography was stunning and spell-binding as poor Lucy becomes Dracula’s first victim while she is sleepwalking. She later returns to her own engagement party on Dracula’s arm while she dances hypnotically and seductively with wild abandon. Dracula later comes back for more as she writhes and twists on her bed while her fiancée and helpers try to figure out what’s wrong with her. Later, Dracula draws the last drops of blood from Lucy. The men try to give her blood transfusions as depicted brilliantly in stop-motion dance with strobe lighting. But Lucy dies and is later staked and beheaded in her tomb. Dracula drains Lucy but he lusts for another.

The next victim, Mina, is wooed and seduced by a weary Dracula even as they both try to go against their passions, his for her blood and her for him to take her blood. She succumbs to the entrancement as Dracula creepily crawls up the wall and disappears from the would-be captors. His cape falls empty to the floor. Where did he go? Mina grabs a dagger and takes her own life. I was puzzled by the ending because it seemed that Dracula got away as he disappeared into the night. That means he would come back later for Mina, which is what she wanted and if she was a vampiress already, the dagger wouldn’t have killed her. However, it was a surprising and fascinating depiction for an ending.

Overall, the Ballet’s execution of creepiness with the sets of flowing draperies or backdrops floating on and off the stage as well as floating vampires in well-utilized capes was most entertaining. The lighting was also dark, mysterious and superb. Costumes were excellent in the symbolic depiction of characters such as the engagement party sequence of all the women wearing white dresses except Lucy in a dark, blood red and black dress with wild flowing hair. The dissonant and disturbing music also helped to create a dramatic, startling and excellent performance.

Flying Karamazov Brothers

October 25, 2008

Sheldon Concert Hall

By Lucy Moorman

The name of this show is "4 Play" although you quickly learn that the names mean nothing with the crazy antics of this foursome. First of all they don’t fly and they’re not brothers. They dress in kilts and combat boots but there’s no reason why. Sometimes they are reminiscent of the Marx Brothers. Sometimes they are chaotic all talking at once. I didn’t get all the jokes. There is lots of improvisation. Zany, crazy, silly and goofy would be words that describe them.

They do juggle. Sometimes they juggle amazingly well and sometimes they do drop things but they make it seem like its all part of the act. Their contention is that "errors make us human but by working together we approach the divine. For us, juggling is dropping." At one point, one of the brothers juggles while another holds a drum behind him that he manages to play with the juggling pen. All the while the drum keeps changing position but the timing is on the mark.

They make up various skits combining music, juggling, comedy and even some dancing.

They perform a mock ballet wearing tutus. Three of the "brothers" come on stage wearing glasses with a fake moustache and nose. The fourth one comes out and although he looks like the other three, his moustache and nose isn’t fake. They pull on it and it doesn’t come off. This is especially funny because Dmitri bears a resemblance to Groucho Marx. During another skit, they each play an instrument with one hand and with arms intertwined play on the instrument of the next guy with the brothers on the end continuing to juggle. This is really hard to describe. Go see it. You’ll understand.

Each of the performers has his own area of expertise. Rod Kimball (Pavel) is the master juggler. Mark Ettinger (Alexei) is the main musician, composer and conductor. Paul Magid (Dmitri) is the writer, director, and founder. Stephen Bent (Zossima) is a musician and exceptionally tall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The "brothers" picked the name of their group from the Fyodor Dostoevsky novel The Brothers Karamazov because they see similarities between themselves and the characters of the novel. Although I have no idea what the similarites are. Was anyone wearing kilts?

Spring to Dance Festival

Dancestl

Touhill Performing Arts Center

May 22-24, 2008

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Dancestl undertook and accomplished the impossible. Thirty different dance companies from various Midwestern states kept us enthralled in our seats for many different performances on 2 different stages. The talent was remarkable, the organization was flawless—just a few minutes wait in between each performance—and all this for only $10 a night??? Incredible!

I couldn’t attend the Thursday performances but was fortunate to see both Friday and Saturday. I was very impressed. Because there were so many, I’ll just mention a few. In the Lee Theatre, Dance Kaleidoscope was excellent with their use of shapes, patterns, and lighting to the music of Philip Glass. Eisenhower Dance Ensemble featured 6 people sleeping on a loveseat with bodies draped in various positions over each other. They did the entire "dance" with their eyes closed. It was very clever.

On the Anheuser-Busch stage we were treated to the St. Louis Ballet in an elegant, flowing choreography of graceful dancers. "The Dancing Wheels Company" featured stand-up and two sit-down dancers in wheelchairs. They incorporated physically challenged people into the dance. This brought a standing ovation from the audience. Also amazing was "River North Chicago Dance Company" with a high energy, beautiful Cuban style of dance with smooth, flowing colors to wonderful Cuban music. Although I liked the short clips of each dance (most were under 20 minutes long), I could have watched "River North Chicago" longer. So good! And that was all just on Friday night.

Saturday, I wasn’t able to come to the earlier performance in Lee Theatre which is unfortunate because I really enjoyed it the night before. On the bigger stage, we enjoyed

Madco with a dance that reminded me of speeded up cartoon characters. Then the "Cincinnati Ballet" showed us a very graceful Romeo and Juliet in classical style. "Luna Negra Dance Theatre" performed contemporary dance by Latino and Afro-Caribbean influences. "Ballet Memphis" dazzled us with creative choreography to Roy Orbison’s music. Then we had a little taste (pun intended) of "Dracula" from "BalletMet Columbus" of the Count partaking of the beautiful damsels’ neck. I was enthralled by "Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet" and their first dance in a half circle of folding chairs. How many times did that last dancer fling himself onto the floor at the end of the exceptionally well-timed leaps from the chairs as the dancers disrobed?

I can’t say enough good things about this program. Every single dance was wonderful. The program was flawless getting all those dancers and companies on and off the right stages. How could anyone keep track of all the different lighting needs for each company? Kudos to all the technical support and everyone who pulled this off. Let’s have more of this in St. Louis. A round of applause….please!

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

Fox Theatre

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

The Alvin Ailey Company danced for a mostly packed Fox Theatre on April 11 & 12, 2008 and was received with enormous enthusiasm. And rightly so because this company always delivers very high energy, powerful beautiful and meaningful performances. Incredible strength, stamina and passion are words that hardly describe the impact of the choreography and performances.

The night started off with a short video of how much Alvin Ailey has done for the world of dance with education, camps, and opportunities for young dancers. Then the dance began with "The Winter in Lisbon", a bright, fast moving very colorful dance to Dizzy Gillespie’s music. The energy builds and builds and keeps going even higher. It reminded me of the classic dance scene in "West Side Story" when the Jets and Sharks go toe to toe and the Sharks out-dance the Jets. It was like being invited to a wonderful, vibrant dance party.

Two more dances were equally wonderful—"Solo" was reminiscent of a relay race as one dancer handed off his dance to the next soloist. This dance featured St. Louis native, Antonio Douthit (there was much applause and excitement from the audience every time he was on the stage), followed by "Vespers" an intense dance with powerful women interacting with each other and chairs.

This was all pretty wonderful but the highest point was Ailey’s classic dance "Revelations," a dance I have seen so many times I can practically dance it myself and still I love it each time. The audience applauded from the opening moves of a group of dancers clustered together with their hands in the air. In the "I Wanna Be Ready" sequence is where Antonio Douthit really showed off his talent with incredible abs and control.

We loved every moment of it. The show ended with standing ovations and many, many curtain bows. Alvin Ailey delivers the best every time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloudless

Susan Marshall & Company

Edison Theatre

March 28 & 29, 2008

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

Eighteen clever and thought-provoking vignettes compose "Cloudless."  Each could stand on its own but ultimately are woven together with repeated gestures and movements.  Marshall’s choreography is creative and compelling. 

"Cloudless," oddly enough, begins with a cloud that is projected onto a small square screen, a lone white cloud that looks like soft spun cotton. The lone cloud shows up in some other dances as well.   Projected images onto screens are interspersed in different dances.    

The first dance begins with a female dancer with jittery hands. Many of the motions are everyday gestures of nervousness and vulnerability such as shaking her long curly hair or biting the edge of her t-shirt with her teeth.  The dancer’s fingers are doing a lively dance of their own as her hands flip over and over each other.

Each dance offers a surprise.   In "Frame Dance," a group of dancers curl up together in a large frame, like a litter of kittens. As one dancer rearranges, they all move together in a cohesive manner.  At the same time, on a video screen on stage, a female gets striped of her clothes but is partially covered by bottoms, feet, and falling autumn leaves. All eyes are on the video screen at this point and soon you realize the actual dancers have mysteriously disappeared and you are left watching a video. It was seamlessly put together from live action to taped. The theme of losing ones’ clothing is repeated in other dances when the same dancer keeps getting "pants" by the other dancers.

In "The Sound," a man cups his hand over a woman’s mouth to the music of "Crimson and Clover." She seems to be fighting him at first but soon it becomes a dance of his saving her from the scream that spews forth when her mouth isn’t covered. This whole dance becomes a game of his hand on her mouth. But by the end, they have made a connection and are screaming in unison.   In "Book," a quartet of dancers raptly observes the pages of a book, which flutter in the breeze of an electric fan.   Two dancers never leave their chairs but do the entire dance with their arms and upper body.  

One dance brought unexpected laughter.   In "Solo," a single dancer attempts to perform his solo, yet he is continuously interrupted by banging sounds off stage.    Several times the dancer collapses, then restarts his dance, at times staring directly at the audience, seemingly begging for help.  Soon a single body scoots across the stage on his back. The solo dancer tries to push him back to off stage but he just comes back. Suddenly there are more dancers scooting and some of them are riding carts or pushing video screens all in lines across the stage. It made for a very humorous and unpredictable performance.    

"Cloudless" was full of surprises and easily held your interest. Many of the familiar gestures are repeated in the final dance pulling the whole theme together although I’m not sure why it’s called "Cloudless"

Knots

CoisCein Dance Theatre

By Lucy Moorman

Edison Theatre on Feb. 29 and March 1, 2008

"Knots" is based on the popular book by R.d. Laing called Knots about the complexities of relationships. "We spend our lives looking for the perfect partner with whom we can tie the knot and when we think we’ve found them, we spend the rest of our lives examining the frayed ends".

"Knots" is a very intense and dramatic dance by an Irish company called CoisCéim (pronounced Kush Came) which is the Irish word for "footstep."

You enter the theatre to the sound of the Eurythmics blaring:

"Sweet dreams are made of this. Who am to disgree? You travel the world and the seven seas. Everybody’s looking for something,"

The stage is set with two examining-type tables in the foreground and six consecutive dressing rooms with curtains drawn in the background. The stage is enveloped in fog and mystery. The lighting is modern and techno.

The dancers enter the stage with three brides in full white dresses dragging the grooms on their trains. Parts of the dance are spoken in the poetic way that "Knots" was written. This dance was choreographed and directed by Liam Steel who was inspired to put a painful break-up from his own life into a dance to convey "the ways in which our minds interfere with our personal relationships". The result is a powerful dance that has the dancers bouncing off the walls (literally) of the dressing room stalls. The walls separate each of them, as in life our thoughts and ideas keep us separate from each other.

The dancers remain in their white costumes throughout the dance but do change dress lengths and shoes. Sometimes they wear cowboy boots, other times the women sport bright, red high heels. The shoes and costume variations represent different elements of the dance. As the dance builds in intensity, a male dancer pulls out his heart to hand to a female dancer who casts it aside. (Yes, there is some blood in this production.)

The dressing rooms are equipped with Exit signs and cleverly have walls that are ultimately pulled out to open the spaces between the dancers. The dressing stalls are pulled together and four of the dancers end up on top of stalls while two do end up actually getting married (tying the knot.)

Overall, "Knots" was fascinating and clever but I did end up feeling exhausted from the drama and intensity. If relationships take that much work, no wonder so many of us are single.


Armitage Gone! Dance

Touhill Performing Arts Center

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

April 30 and May 1, 2009

This was a very intense, modern dance based on balletability (yes, I made that word up) and musicality. Although the movements are ballet-based and the dancers very technically skilled, this was what I would call avant-garde dance that is big on dissonant music.

Choreographer Karole Armitage began her career in 1973 as a member of a ballet company in Switzerland that exclusively performed Balanchine choreography.  She later was a member of Merce Cunningham Dance Company and has also created dances for numerous other dance companies.  Armitage Gone! Dance was launched in 2005 when she returned to the U.S. after dancing abroad for 15 years.

 

The first dance titled Legeti Essays begins with a stark landscape, a lone silver tree, and a stage within a stage of a Mylar floor enclosed in florescent light tubes creating a smaller stage.   The choreography was based on the concept of essays with different themes that correspond to the tone or mood of the music.  Some of the essays were heavy, some light, and some child-like with dancers moving in a “crack the whip” fashion. It could be seen as poetry to the composer’s music or like a haiku.    After an intense dance, the dancers would casually wander off the stage. It leaves you feeling emotionally perplexed.  What is this about?  What are they conveying?  What am I getting from this? It’s like taking a trip into the choreographer’s world of music. Each dance conveys a different mood based on the music.


The second dance was “Time Is the Echo of an Axe with a Wood” to music by Bela Bartok. Again there was a stage within the stage, this time with silver beaded curtains on three sides that the dancers parted and slowly walked through in the entrances and exits. At one point, a dancer ran across the back beaded curtain pulling his hand along it. This created a beautiful swirling shape in the curtain.  The audience gasped in delight.


I enjoyed the creative use of curtains and extra stages in both dances.  But I grew weary of the dissonant music and the heavy intensity of the dancers. I think more variety of movement and music would have enhanced the performance.   Both dances displayed the talents of very powerful female dancers.  All of the dancers were technically skilled and greatly muscled but not what I’d call graceful.  I guess if you have a reputation as a “punk” ballerina (as Armitage does), your work is bound to be edgy or perhaps it was just over my head.  It was a good performance that creates a pondering mind.


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Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy

Fox Theatre

March 17—29, 2009

By Lucy Moorman

The stage is set with giant mushrooms and soft padded trees in hues of speckled green and blue with large leaves hanging from the rafters. A human turtle slowly makes his way across the stage. Two clown-like performers appear and pull "volunteers" from the audience. They make them do silly things. One of the "volunteers" turns out to be the "Adventurer" who becomes part of show and the dream scenes to follow. He also turns out to be a top-notch gymnast himself.

Thus starts "Cirque Dreams" presenting us with an evening of eye-popping excitement. There are four tiny ladies from Mongolia who are called the "Contorting Lizards" who do things with their spines and balancing on each other that shouldn’t be humanly possible. In fact, it’s easy to forget they are human as they quickly blend into all arms and legs, almost snake-like in appearance.

There are spinning squares that are spun by hunky guys at dizzying speeds creating geometric shapes. There are several acts of acrobatic sash dancers that spring and balance from long flowing sashes of sailing butterfly wings. A very impressive muscled, tall and statuesque presence of "Soultree Violinist" adds an extra dimension to the music with his talented violin. But overall, I found the music could have been more varied and "Mother Nature" the female singer, tended to be a bit shrill for my ears.

Created and directed by Neil Goldberg, highlights include a jumping rope sequence that has people and creatures jumping ropes within ropes in every possible way imaginable. The show contains a Bulgarian "Blackbird Hairialist" who performs (briefly) while being suspended from her hair, impressive Ukrainian gymnasts, and nicely synchronized trapeze owls.

The second half takes place in the jungle at night and uses black light which really pops the colors out. We have "Lion Men" who are incredibly strong as they balance three in a row lying out like a table on top of one man’s head while he did a back bend. Ouch! There are emus, vine creatures, and dancing frogs with a frog percussionist who played electric drums with juggling balls instead of drum sticks. A bit hair-raising and a very impressive were the balancing giraffes act (two men in giraffe-like costumes) that stacked and stood on several round and square cylinders while they balanced on a board.

Overall, it’s an amazing show of great feats and performances but lacks real punch. Sometimes there’s so many "critters" on the stage, it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on. Admittedly, the Fox Theatre’s two dimensional stage has its limitations for shows such as this as opposed to "theatre in the round" but this show is well worth seeing especially if you have some little ones in your family to bring along. On Wednesday, March 25, you can get a child’s ticket free with the purchase of an adult ticket. Contact the Fox Theatre Box office for more information. 314-534-1678. 



Pilobolus Dance Theatre

 

January 23 & 24, 2009

Touhill Performing Arts Center

By Lucy Moorman

Great gobs of gargantuan muscles and tossed about tumbling, tumblers rolled and moved across the stage in various creative ways. It’s beyond dance, beyond ballet, beyond modern dance--it is performance art by Pilobolus (named after a sun-loving fungus). Founded in 1971 at Dartmouth College by Moses Pendleton and Jonathan Wolken, a few dancers were just playing around with balance and movement and Pilobolus was born. A lot of the dance still is about "creative play and improvisation" using a great deal of leverage. Can you imagine dancer 1 standing on the quads of dancer 2 while dancer 2 does a back-bend to the floor? How is that possible? Are they making boneless humans these days?

The first dance called "Lanterna Magica" started out with frogs croaking amid gathering fog creating a mood of mystery. Fireflies light up the night and become the light inside the lantern. Two female dancers are seen in seemingly childlike movements carrying a lantern that is revered upon in every possible way. Dancers stand on things like each other’s shoulders, legs, or wooden rods suspended between them. The dance has a circus-like quality and dreamlike tones conveying a magical story that is danced mostly off the floor.

One of the dances "Darkness and Light" was unusual because it didn’t show the dancers except briefly at the beginning and end. The dancers are standing on the stage holding various lights, a screen is lowered and then we see all kinds of shapes projected onto the screen from behind in shadowy, dreamlike figures. There’s an aquarium with floating jellyfish-like creatures, large scary faces that morph into shapes and bear down on the cowering figure below, amoebas that drop down over smaller versions and become bigger and bigger. And finally a version of "oneness with all that is" with a figure sitting in a meditation posture while swirling lights encompass him. Although this was spell-binding, it seemed a little heavy on technique and not enough dance.

"Ocellus" was very up close and personal with four men changing shapes by rolling over each other in ways that makes it hard to tell whose arms or legs you are seeing. You’d have to not have any hang-ups about your body or anyone else’s to dance with Pilobolus.

"Megawatt," the grand finale was aptly named because of the ample "wattage" or high energy. The dancers enter the stage on their backs like inch-worms. They tumble and jiggle over and around each other doing somersaults repeatedly. I was glad they were wearing knee braces. The music was by Primus, Radiohead and Squarepusher, a driving punk-rock rhythm and the energy was incredible. It left the audience breathless. This was more light-hearted then the other dances and a great high-note to end the evening.

Pilobolus is famous from TV commercials and from being on the Academy Awards where they made shapes of cars or shoes or elephants or Oprah’s cocker spaniel. The audience was expecting these sorts of antics from the show but the show was more serious in tone. I heard comments expressing disappointment about that. I have seen Pilobolus and Momix (an offspring) perform many times and I found this show a little darker and lacking in humor but still an amazing and entertaining performance.

Thanks to DANCEstl and Emerson for bringing St. Louis another great show.

Spring to Dance Festival


Touhill Performing Arts Center
Presented by DANCEstl

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

May 12-23, 2009

DANCEstl accomplished the im-possible once again. They organized and orchestrated 30 different dance companies from the Midwest area to perform 3 solid nights of dance for just $10 a night. Each dance company is selected by a jury. All are professional and most are downright amazing. This reviewer was delighted to be there for all three nights of this huge variety of dance—everything from tap, modern, jazz, ballet, and much more, so I saw most of the performances. Since I can’t mention all 30 different dance companies, I’ll point out a few that stood out.

On Thursday, Dance Kaleidoscope from Indianapolis performed Rhapsody in Blue in a scintillating portrayal of Gershwin’s music. It seemed as though every chord was emphasized with the dance. Also some unbelievable strength as a male dancer balanced a female dancer on his arm and shoulder as he moved across the stage. Some performances brought theatre into the mix such as Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theatre of Minneapolis. This group incorporated a spoken-word artist who periodically appeared on stage as a poet to narrate "Ways to Be Hold (Excerpt)" with a very interesting use of overcoats and plastic wear about holding on and safety. Next, we had Buglisi Dance Theatre performing Requiem, a somber piece beautifully performed by five female dancers on pedestals looking like statues in long flowing skirts that later became cloaks. Next, was the Milwaukee Ballet Company performing Don’t Touch, a dance with a very strong female dancer in a hot red dress that puts two men confined to chairs in their place. The final dance on Thursday was Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago performing A Ritual Dynamic, a high-energy number with dynamic choreography that had all the dancers in one section beautifully synchronized. It was a joy to watch and a high note to end the first night on.

Friday’s performances were just as good. Eisenhower Dance Ensemble of Detroit performed Tom’s Songs (Excerpts) with music by some old favorites such as Neil Young and Cyndi Lauper. They interwove a story of isolation and then "Come on and join in the fun" with very upbeat music by Van Morrison’s Bright Side of the Road. Hedwig Dances from Chicago created an interesting dance with a soundtrack of whispers and an unusual use of tables as props for the dancers in Rein, Bellow. Also on Friday night, Natya Dance Theatre from Chicago performed an Indian dance based on Hindu philosophy called Shakti Chakra. Then, the Kansas City Ballet performed a beautiful and moving duet called End of Time. Later, a solo dance inspired by the myth of the Phoenix rising from the ashes was danced by Nejla Y. Yatkin/NY2Dance in a beautiful dance that begins with ashes falling from above that became her dress. Friday concluded with River North Chicago Dance Company in Train, a frenetic dance that moved like the steel pistons of a train engine.

Saturday’s performances began with BAM! of Chicago, extraordinary tap dancers that incorporate jazz and other styles into complex rhythms of tap creating an interesting show for the ears as well as the eyes. The Slaughter Project from St. Louis gets my award for the most people on a small stage without running into each other in a dance called Grid. Then Wylliams/ Henry Contemporary Dance Company from Kansas City had six dancers sliding across and slipping under three benches in a very clever choreography called To Have and To Hold. Later on, the audience was surprised to have the curtain open to reveal two dancers with white hair. After seeing young, muscular, agile bodies for three nights, this was a surprise and brought immediate applause. They were Paradigm from New York who performed It All to train-like music by Bjork. When they started to dance I thought for sure someone had made them up to look like dancers in their 80’s but surely they were not because they were dancing with the same skill and agility of much younger dancers. Actually, they were seniors and were recognized with flowers and awards for their many years of dance at the end of their performance. Dancing Wheels from Cleveland, Ohio, who also performed last year, gave us a great show of three very skilled female dancers and two other dancers confined to wheelchairs. Sometimes the movements of the dance were so well synchronized, you forgot that two of the dancers were rolling in chairs. BalletMet Columbus had a short and humorous duet, that featured two dancers combining speech with dance as one tells their story while the other dancer reacts to what they’re saying to the song, "Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off." Saturday night ended with Hubbard Street 2 from Chicago in a high energy athletic dance that reminded me of Carnival!

All the performances were by professional dance companies with incredibly talented dancers. When there are so many to take in, some of the performances seemed a little too long. Some of the shorter ones had more impact. After each dance company took their bows and the curtain fell, it reopened on the next act in short order. Hats off to DANCEstl and the organizers for pulling all of it together. My accolade, also, to the persons in charge of lighting and music. Although there were a few audio problems on Thursday night, they seem to have been resolved on the remaining shows. Keeping track of all the different lighting requirements from each company must be quite a feat that was admirably accomplished. This amazing dance festival would not be possible without generous support from Emerson, Monsanto, The Whitaker Foundation, Edward Jones, The Fox Foundation, Ken Kranzberg, Missouri Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts—also the tireless work of DANCEstl. Thanks so much for bringing this to St. Louis.


Chicago

April 14, 2009

The Fox Theatre

Reviewed by Chris Gibson


With a catalog and history that stretches back 42 years, Chicago continues to perform to enthusiastic audiences, and their appearance at the Fox Theatre was no exception. Though they've lost key personnel over the years to tragic circumstances and personal ambitions, they've managed to plug in some fine young talent that brings a vibrant energy to these familiar tunes. I'd seen the band a couple of years ago when they toured with Earth,Wind and Fire, with the interaction between the two pop heavyweights being the main attraction. So, I was curious as to whether I'd enjoy them on their own.

Opening with selections from their debut, the band immediately displayed the original appeal that brought them to prominence in the first place- a progressive rock attack that swings with touch of jazz and pop. But, right away I noticed that something was different. This was a more thunderous sounding Chicago that I was accustomed to. It wasn't until much later in the evening, with the introduction of Drew Hester on drums (a veteran performer who's also played with Foo Fighters), that I realized why.

But, it's this infusion of musicians over the years that's kept the band going, with husky voiced singer/keyboardist Robert Lamm remaining the only constant. Bassist Jason Scheff tackles the Peter Cetera role with aplomb, but his overly clipped delivery can be a bit much at times. Keith Howland's hotshot lead guitar work sparkles, and really adds a level of excitement to the proceedings, but his rhythm playing and fine vocals were buried in the mix. Without a program I couldn't tell you who was actually playing horns and woodwinds on this particular evening, but the three gentlemen on stage were in fine form, delivering the smooth and punchy riffs that you've come to expect and appreciate.

Vocalist/keyboardist Bill Champlin joined up in the early 80's, providing the band with some of their biggest ballads, but it's really this period in their history that interests me the least. What has always distinguished the band from any other rock/pop band, is the arrangements they created utilizing their horn section. Unfortunately, they left the stage during these numbers.

The lighting and staging were simplistic but effective. The absence of any amps or monitors on stage is a nod to modern technology, and it really opens up the space, allowing the musicians complete freedom to roam.

Overall, the show was tightly structured, covering material from the width and breadth of their catalog, including the recent release of the long-delayed Stone of Sisyphus album, in two hours. Though some of their music may be almost too familiar by now, these are still wonderfully constructed songs that conjure up great memories.





Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles

The Fabulous Fox Theatre

February 4 - 5, 2009

Reviewed by Chris Gibson

Started back in the 1970's, the group known as Rain gained it's initial fame by recording the song selections utilized in the Dick Clark TV movie, The Birth of the Beatles. Over the years they've become better known as a touring group bringing the music of the four lads from Liverpool to the stage for a theatrical event that takes it's cast and audience on a chronological trip through their music, and the culture of the time. It's a thoroughly enjoyable ride, with a group of highly talented musicians expertly recreating the famed "Beatles sound".

After a short video sets the mood for the early 1960's, complete with an actor portraying Ed Sullivan, the prefab four take the stage for a whirl through "I Wanna' Hold Your Hand", "All My Loving", "This Boy" and "I Saw Her Standing There". Rain gives this material an authentic feel, with the Hofner bass, Gretsch and Epiphone guitars pouring out sound through vintage looking Vox amps. The vocals are spot on, but this is familiar material that every Beatles cover band presents.

Another bit of film covered a quick costume change, and the group was plowing through more gems from the Lennon-McCartney catalog, with the standout being a singalong version of "Yesterday" and the guitar-driven numbers "I Feel Fine" and "Day Tripper". A rousing take on "Twist and Shout" closed this section in fine fashion.

The best video follows, with a hilarious Prell commercial featuring a shampoo "hair helmet", and Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble shilling for a cigarette company. This leads directly into the adventurous music of Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour. All these numbers sparkle, with careful attention paid to each sonic detail, and unexpectedly sharp musicianship. At this time, the Beatles were testing the limits of even the recording studio. They produced music that they could no longer replicate on stage, and it's this stuff that always intrigues fans like myself the most. Though note-perfect renditions of cuts from Sgt. Pepper were showcased, a stunning take on "Strawberry Fields Forever", complete with Mellotron flute sounds, and a keyboard and guitar synthesizer supported "Eleanor Rigby", proved most interesting.

The second half of the show followed suit with tunes from The White Album, Let it Be and Abbey Road. But, this time they ran a more eclectic course, with a lovely stripped down "Girl"(actually out of place, coming off the Rubber Soul album) and "Mother Nature's Son" standing out. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" became the highlight of the night, with the audience enthralled by the note for note recreation of Eric Clapton's scorching solo. After ending, fittingly, with "The End", the boys came back for encores of "Imagine", "Let it Be", and another audience participation number; "Hey Jude".

Steve Landes impresses as Lennon, capturing his unique nasally vocal tone with uncanny accuracy. His keyboard work is also accomplished, and his spirited lead guitar playing during "Get Back" displayed his enthusiasm for the role. Joey Curatolo is a perfect complement as McCartney. Whether he's plucking his trusty Hofner or Richenbacher bass, he's always flashing the "thumb's up" sign his counterpart is famous for. Curatolo's vocals are eerily similar to McCartney's, and he blends especially well with Landes.

Joe Bithorn is terrific as George Harrison, even though he doesn't really look or sound much like him. What sets Bithorn apart from others I've seen tackle this role, is his stunning work on the fretboard. Comfortably switching between Gretsch, Fender Statocaster, Les Paul, and classical guitar, Bithorn deciphers every lick with precision. Using a guitar synthesizer enables him to do things I've never seen another "George" do before, like playing the clarinet parts during "When I'm 64", or cello during "Eleanor Rigby". During "The End", he totally shreds the solo section, delivering the parts originally recorded separately by John, Paul and George, one on top of the other, but making them sound individualized.

Ralph Castelli is also very good as Ringo, laying down a solid backbeat while amiably tossing his head from side to side. He doesn't get many opportunities to bring his character to the fore, but he more than compensates for that omission by pounding the skins with abandon. Mark Lewis, who's also the longtime manager of the band (and resident "fifth Beatle"), provides additional keyboard and percussion support. His electric piano solo during "Get Back" is a sweet and bluesy evocation of Billy Preston's original work.

Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles
is a well mounted show with cool lighting and amusing and thought-provoking videos (incorporating the actual members of the band into the historical footage is a clever touch). The mix is also solid, providing a nice blend of retro sounds with the modern "kick" you've come to expect from a concert.

There's no guarantee that Paul or Ringo will ever undertake another series of tours like they have in the past; they're not getting any younger, after all. So, if you need to get your Beatles fix, I suggest a strong dose of Rain the next time they're in town at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. They're at the top of the class where tribute bands are concerned.

Review of RAIN BEATLES TRIBUTE BAND
by Mary J. Schirmer
 
I remember when I first heard of the Beatles.  After school in the auditorium of St. Mark's High School for girls, the younger sister of a friend squealed that she just loved those boys from England, those singers with the long hair.  Our boyfriends had crew cuts and flat tops.
 
So extremely infatuated was my friend Connie that she even ditched school to go see the Beatles concert in Kansas City.  Her mother drove her there and wrote a bogus absence excuse note.  Connie had the cool mom.
 
It was 1964.  We had no way to know that soon we'd all be letting our hair grow, pinning flowers in it, and leaving many of the nuns' tenets of lady-like conduct far behind.   I won't say it was a simpler time, because those of us who came of age in the 1960s felt enormous societal burdens to change the established system.
 
The Beatles sang to us when we learned to drive, went to college or took jobs, rabble-roused at the Democratic Convention in 1968, and figured out that women should be paid the same salary as men for the same work. 
 
While we decorated our rooms with tie-dyed bedspreads, created a religious experience of ironing our hair, and wished our name was "Michelle," the Beatles rocked about "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." 
 
As we extended our youth beyond the age when our mothers had already become wives and mothers, we sang along with "Imagine," "Yesterday," and "Let It Be."  All we needed was love to change the world.  We actually believed that.
 
All of us had a favorite Beatle.  I was in love with Paul, but my sister liked George.  When the Beatles appeared on screen in the movie theater, we thought we'd died and gone to heaven.
 
Rain, the Beatles tribute band, played at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis in February 2009.  The predominantly over-50 crowd was politely subdued, in sharp contrast to the youth in the flashbacks and multimedia presentations onstage and on side screens. 
 
However, we jumped to our feet to "Twist and Shout," and we had our moments of teary-eyed remembrances of young love and politicians and war. 
 
The fine musicians of Rain who take great pains to duplicate the exact music of the Beatles are:  Joey Curatolo (Paul), Steve Landes (John), Joe Bithorn (George), and Ralph Castelli (Ringo).  They are accompanied by percussionist Mark Lewis and audio technician Randy Kuehn.
 
If an audience member took off the bifocals, they even looked like the Beatles.
 
All former (and lingering) flower children should take the opportunity to see their show.  Check the schedule at www.raintribute.com.


Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Concert

Dec. 5 & 6, 2008

Fox Theatre, St. Louis

By Lucy Moorman

 

A cold blustery night could not keep the Christmas cheer from the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Concert. Light, fresh, bright, rhythmic mixes of classical and pop arrangements of many of the old favorites delighted my ears. Chip Davis is the creator and arranger of this engaging music although he wasn’t traveling with the group due to recent neck surgery. But this traveling troupe sounded every bit as good as the recordings.

Who can resist Mannheim’s version of "Deck the Halls" with its bold toe- tapping melody? Some of our old favorites were such a joy to hear such as "We Three Kings", "Good King Wenceslas" which even had a tiny bit of singing in it, "I Saw Three Ships" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman."

There were cool smoke effects and scattered lights in bold, bright colors that occasionally showered the upper level of the Fox Theatre with patterns of fluttering golden lights. The performers were cloaked in long red robes. Movies were projected onto the back wall that mostly enhanced the performance but occasionally were baffling. There was a long sequence of a medieval meal and ceremony complete with performers, jesters, fire-breathers, and belly dancers that showed what life must have been like during medieval times but with the still camera and very few close-ups, it lacked luster and seemed to drag on. Also, there was a sequence with a rider on a horse that matched well with the music but went nowhere and what were those old wooden toys about on the video? Did Chip Davis play with them as a boy? As danceable as Mannheim’s music is, the videos could show more dancers such as the one towards the end with the kaleidoscopes effect of a single dancer--much more effective.

Still the music is what we come for and it lived up to Mannheim’s reputation of being one of the top selling bands of all time. Now, tell me you don’t have one of their C.D.s in your collection and even if you don’t, you will hear this Christmas music everywhere at Christmas time. In case you were wondering, the name "Mannheim Steamroller" comes from an 18th Century German musical technique known today as the crescendo and there’s plenty of that in the music.

The final song "Carol of the Bells" featured many swirling angels projected onto a large screen in front of the band. It was lovely being surrounded by angels and the music of Mannheim Steamroller melting away my "Scrooge" attitude and leaving me ready to take on the Christmas holidays.

 


Australian Pink Floyd

Fox Theater

November 7 & 8, 2008

By Lucy Moorman

It was a great show from an Australian tribute band complete with lasers, inflatable pigs, and occasional kangaroos. The show began with a mellow flute solo of the Aussie favorite "Waltzing Matilda". Then the band began to play "The Wall" and although they don’t look like Pink Floyd, they certainly do sound like them.

Pink Floyd’s "The Wall" was an epic rock opera written in 1979. The themes of alienation, isolation and oppression are symbolized by marching hammers shown throughout the film on the back screen. Also, a decided kick in the ass of The establishment as indicated in the lyrics to "Another Brick in the Wall" Part 2 (Waters)

We don't need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

The lighting was phenomenal with green lasers shooting out in multi-layered directions into the cavernous Fox Theater. Bright, blinding rows of spotlights were aimed at the audience and perfectly synchronized to the music. The screen behind the musicians showed animation clips of a lone figure trapped as a wall is being built brick by brick. Is the figure imprisoned in the wall or is he shutting the world out?

What shall we use
To fill the empty spaces
Where we used to talk?
How shall I fill
The final places?
How should I complete the wall

After the band completed "The Wall", they continued with about six more well-known songs. This phenomenal show was received enthusiastically by a mostly male, age 40’s crowd. The show was tightly contained by a number of bouncers who kept everyone from dancing in the aisles and thwarted any attempts at taking pictures. Really, lighten up guys, these aren’t the real rock stars and the theme is anti-establishment.  The only suggestion I would have to improve the show is to put the lyrics on the screen like subtitles. Maybe diehard fans know all the lyrics but I found the singing a bit muffled (even when I removed my earplugs.) Go see it. You’ll love it.

 

Rain:The Beatles Experience

Fox Theatre March 6-9, 2008

Reviewed by Lucy Moorman

The Fox Theatre was rocking out on March 6. Most of us, children of the 60’s with a few actual young people there, could sing along to every Beatles’ lyric that the "pretend Beatles" sang.

Rain is a group of five musicians who portray the Beatles from the days of Ed Sullivan up to Abbey Road. The fifth Beatle who plays keyboards and other instrumentation is not dressed up as a Beatle but hidden away in the background. There are four different sequences and costume changes. The main "Fab Four" look, sound, and play enough like the real thing that if you are sitting back a little ways from the stage, you can actually time travel back to the days of the real Beatles.

There are 3 large video screens that show historic footage of screaming, fainting fans from the early days to the turbulent 60’s to flower power. This is cleverly interspersed with live video of the "pretend Beatles" playing and shots of our audience although I could never figure out where the video cameras were. There was some great montage footage of psychedelia before the Sgt. Pepper sequence. Yes, we were rocking and rolling and tripping down memory lane mixed in with a bittersweet sadness of having lost two of these amazing musicians so early in life. This was keenly felt by this previous flower child especially during "A Day in the Life". What an impact the music had on our culture and it still lives on!

 

The first half of the show had the bass overpowering the other guitars and voices in some songs. It was distracting. However, it’s a hard act to follow from the real thing since most of us know every nuance of the Beatles’ music. Plus everything was tweaked and fixed in the studio since the Beatles quit touring in 1966. Also the strings were overpowering on some songs in the second half. But most of the songs were right on. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" brought tears to my eyes and a standing ovation from the audience. However, instead of holding up our lighters to show our enthusiasm, now we hold up lighted cell phones! Ah, times change. Another great sequence was the acoustic section with pretend George, Paul, and John doing "Mother Natures Son" rendering a very pure sound. It was like listening to a dear old friend.

The lighting and production value were top notch. We got up and danced. It was lots of fun to remember what era most of us baby-boomers in the audience came from. The emotional impact of the memory triggers of all my hopes and dreams as a teenager when I would play the Beatles music over and over is what makes the "pretend-Beatles" a great show. It was such a special time in the grand scheme of things. To quote Joni Mitchell, "Songs to aging children come. I am one."

Radio Rich & the 4th Row

The Sheldon

By Lucy Moorman

The Sheldon Theatre has a great program called “Notes from Home.” This allows us to enjoy some of St. Louis’ own talent. On March 22, 2008, we got a chance to rock and roll with Radio Rich Dalton from K-hits (96.3) and the 4th row.

This is a band of guys from various Catholic high schools in North St. Louis that originally started playing together in 1965. They call themselves a garage band because that’s where rehearsals happened. They started out playing in teen clubs, for private parties and fraternity houses. In 1968, some band members went off to college and some into the army. Therefore, the band…disbanded (pun intended) ….for 28 long years, they didn’t play together.

Then in 1996, they regrouped with a 4th row reunion that was very well received. Now they play once or twice a year (about as often as they go to church or bathe—just kidding). They get together for 6 Sundays to rehearse before a performance.

I asked the drummer Ray Marklin why they call themselves the “4th Row.” He can’t remember. They’ve picked up a couple of new members to round out their sound but all guys are local St. Louis guys, all are in their 50’s and they all still have a full head of hair. Truly remarkable. They sound darn good too.

I attended with 4 other fabulous foxy women also in our 50’s. We walked into the Sheldon Ballroom (on the 4th floor) to the sound of Moody Blues “Tuesday Afternoon.” They sounded almost good enough to be the original band. “4th Row” does mostly music from the 60’s British Invasion, the Beatles, the Who, the Stones, the Cream, Jethro Tull. Keep in mind, I saw all of these bands live in my youth but who’s counting.

We couldn’t sit in the 4th row because there were tables so we picked one in the corner. No one was dancing. We wondered if we should start it when one brave young man cut loose on the dance floor and leaped and jumped like a gazelle. The audience woke up and applauded him. That broke the ice. Soon everyone was dancing especially during the Rolling Stones Medley. Sweat poured off the musicians and the dancers. We were all sore the next day but oh well, we had fun!

To all you younger folks, we wear ear plugs now at concerts like this…even some of the musicians. Yes, we do have hearing loss from all those years of rock concerts. Beware.

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