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This article by Barbara Figge Fox was prepared for the September 15, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Dance: Lots of Latin & an Irish Double Whammy
Whether it’s because of the Latin craze that has taken over the ballroom dance scene, or because more people are discovering the drama of flamenco, the various kinds of Spanish and Latin dance are becoming ever more popular. The performing groups are proliferating, and they are coming from many countries, incuding Brazil, Spain, Argentina, and Mexico.
It used to be that colleges and other theater venues, attempting to achieve political correc ess, would schedule an ethnic company — such as a folklore troupe from Mexico — every second year. Now these venues are booking at least two performances per year. Even when McCarter performances by prestigious ballet and modern companies had empty seats last year, a flamenco company sold out the house.
This year McCarter Theater offers Bale Folclorico Da Bahia on Thursday, November 4. This folk dance troupe from Brazil celebrates carnival, which means there will be some nudity. Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras in Suenos, an evening of traditional dances, is Tuesday, February 1.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark celebrates the Halloween weekend with two companies, a contemporary dance troupe from Brazil, the Grupo Corpo Dance Company at the Victoria Theater, from Friday through Sunday, October 29 to 31, and the Carnivale troupe celebrates in Prudential Hall on Saturday night, October 30. Then Prudential Hall pairs Andres Marin’s flamenco company on Sunday, January 30, at 3 p.m., and the flamenco troupe of Sara Baras the same day at 7 p.m.
The State Theater presents an all-new tango production by Tango Pasion Dance Company, complete with Latin orchestra, on Friday, March 4. The Community Theater in Morristown presents Ballet Folklorico in a Cinco de Mayo concert on Sunday, May 1, at 3 p.m. The Count Basie Theater in Red Bank has Dance Brazil on Friday, February 18. On Sunday, May 1, it has Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli, with traditional dances from the state of Veracruz, Mexico, birthplace of “La Bamba.”
Thanks to dancers like Eva Lucena, people are beginning to understand that there is more to Spanish dance than flamenco. Lucena, the director of New Jersey-based Alborada Spanish Dance Theater, has been doing her part to tell about the fascinating varieties. Alborada, which means “coming of the dawn,” starts the dance season on Sunday, September 19, at 3 p.m. at 1629 Perrineville Road in Monroe. Entitled “A Celtic Connection; Spain and Ireland,” it features the Brian Sexton Irish Dancers, the Irish music ensemble Coolmagort, and musicians from Galicia in northern Spain. Cost $12. Call 732-255-4071.
Alborada’s next engagement is at New Brunswick’s Crossroads Theater on Saturday and Sunday, November 6, and 7, in “Fuego,” a program combining traditional and new flamenco forms, and featuring Nellie Tirado of Noche Flamenco.
Lisa Botalico, resident guest artist with the company, is formerly executive director and principal dancer at Ballet de Puerto Rico. She teaches at the Arts Council of Princeton. Also among the company dancers is Claudia Campbell, who teaches Spanish dance at the Princeton Ballet School. In Spain she studied wtih Carmen Segura, and in this country her teachers include Alma Concepci¢n, Jorge Navarro, Lillian Morales.
In a telephone interview, Lucena, Alborada’s director, tells about the cross cultural dance concerts that she produces annually, thanks to a grant from Middlesex County. “We have done concerts with Philippine and Arabic dance, and last year it was the Argentine tango. I try to show how closely we are connected throughout the world. This year, because of the love for the Riverdance, I am bringing Irish step dancing.”
The Celts came out of the steppes of Russia through Germany, she explains, and they went north, to Brittany and the north of France and then to parts of England, Wales, and Ireland, places where the mountain terrain reminded them of their homeland. They also went south, to northern Spain, and everywhere they took their leaping dances and their instruments — bagpipe, flute, and harp. That was in 1000 BC, yet many of their musical and dance traditions remain. When you hear the melancholy strain of bagpipes, you will think you are in the British Isles. When you see the footwork for the some of the jumping dances of northern Spain, such as the Jota, you will think you are watching Irish step dancing. Even some parts of the costumes are similar.
Lucena’s own heritage is equally divided, part in the British Isles (her mother, a former professional dancer, is Welsh) and part in Spain (her father, who worked for the government, is from Granada) and she spent part of her childhood “among the caves of Sacromonte and the gypsy quarters of Albaicin” according to her professional bio.
Among her many prestigious teachers is Sebastian, who taught Antonio Gades and Cristina Hoyos, known to American audiences as the stars of the Carlos Saura film, “Carmen.” Lucena headlined with Sammy Davis, toured with the Count Basie Orchestra, played back-up castanets for Lionel Hampton, had numerous solo performances, and came to this country in the 1970s. She founded Alborada with one of her chief mentors, the late Maria Alba. New Jersey Network has completed the first part of its documentary on the troupe.
“We try to draw the audience in by telling them the history of the dance, translating the texts and showing them what to look for. And we hope to take this Celtic program on the road,” says Lucena. “The excitement of Spanish dance, the costumes, the energy, the drama behind it, the singing — it is a very exciting dance form. The audience picks up on the castanets, the costumes, and the footwork. With the Irish dancers, we hope to give them a double whammy.”
In addition to the Spanish dance, there are nearly 100 more chances to see dance this season. The season begins with a concert by Doug Varone and Dancers at Rutgers on Tuesday, September 21 (see below).
One of Doug Varone’s biggest influences was, as a child, watching the MGM musicals on television. “You could watch Gene Kelly doing amazing things and then stop and walk down the street,” says Varone. “The blur between amazing dance and being a human being was what I found so fascinating. That, in many ways, was my starting point about what a dance could be.”
Varone has had his own company for 14 years, and this year he has a guest artist slot at Rutgers/Mason Gross School of the Arts. He opens the contemporary dance season with a concert on Tuesday, September 21, at the New Theater at 33 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick. This semester Varone will set one of his early works, “Bench Quartet,” set to a Bach Cantata, on the student dancers, and it will be performed on a concert set for Friday to Sunday, December 3 to 5.
Varone grew up on Long Island, where his father was a physical education teacher, started tap dance lessons at age six, and danced his way through high school musicals, enrolling at State University of New York at Purchase. After graduating, he danced with the Limon company for a year, then spent 1978 to 1986 with the Lars Lubovitch Dance Company, some of that company’s best years. Then he began to produce his own concerts, and now, with a $750,000 budget and a healthy list of funding agencies, he can employ his eight dancers for 30 to 40 weeks per year — an enviable record, in this economy.
“I feel really fortunate that I have many different interests that can support my habits,” says Varone, referring to the gigs that his company gets when he choreographs for operas — two productions at the Metropolitan Opera last year, including “Rite of Spring,” and one at Opera Colorado. The troupe toured in Italy in July.
During Varone’s time with Lubovitch, he helped to create many of that choreographer’s benchmark dances — “North Star,” “Brahms Symphony,” “Concerto 622,” for instance. When he began to do his own work, it was important to start over and find his own voice. “It was hard to translate my personal vocabulary to others and to a larger vision of what my world was,” Varone says. “The first thing I needed to do was not move, to figure out how to embrace the human, pedestrian aspects of the way that I work, walk, and talk.”
Out of that period came a work to be performed at the Mason Gross concert, “Home,” a theater piece with hardly any movement.
His newest work, “Castles,” premiered at the Joyce Theater in Manhattan last February. Set for two couples to Sergei Prokofiev’s “Waltz Suites,” it combines a bit of romance and wistful fairytale, and is described as a “playful, lush work with twists.”
Also programmed for September 21 is “Rise,” set to music by John Adams. It features dancers hurtling through the air and being caught by other dancers, yet Varone says it “speaks more about community than anything else.” As described by a critic for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, it “rises almost to the ecstatic. Dancers leap through the air and are snatched out of it by other dancers, keeping them, we suspect, from flying. The excitement keeps building until it’s almost too much, then dissolves into an ending so quiet that it virtually pulls you out of your seat.”
Mason Gross Presents, :New Theater, Mason Gross School of the Arts, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-932-7591. Doug Varone and dancers with music by Prokofiev and John Adams. $10 to $20. Tuesday, September 21, 8 p.m.
Last year American Repertory Ballet pulled out all the stops with 50th anniversary celebrations and performances at McCarter and the George Street Playhouse. Operating on a more economical budget this year, the company has a limited performance schedule.
Nancy Becker, board chairman emeritus, acknowledges that this is a transition year. ARB’s executive director, David Gray, left at the end of last year and a new person, whose name has not been announced, will start work in October. “We haven’t stopped creating new works, we have our full complement of dancers, and we would expect our new executive director to take the lead in building relationships with presenters,” says Becker, detailing the company’s strategic plan. Last year the company had a two-week season at the George Street Playhouse, but good dates for this season were not available.
Instead, the company is emphasizing studio performances — full programs of dance that take place in the large practice studios in Princeton and New Brunswick. What these locations lack in glamour they more make up in excitement. It’s exciting to see these dances “up close and personal.”
The season begins with the traditional Nutcracker at the major venues (Patriots Theater, the State Theater, and McCarter). The first studio performances are in February. The next big production, “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” is slated for just a March matinee at the Patriots Theater in Trenton. In April artistic director Graham Lustig will premiere new work at Ramapo College in April. The last and fourth studio showing is in early April.
“We have some very positive things on the horizon,” says Becker. “We are working with New Brunswick to develop the cultural center and create ties with all the performing companies over the next three to five years. We are also working to develop our education outreach to the schools and with the schools.”
The Nutcracker, McCarter Theater, 91 University Place, 609-258-2787. Graham Lustig’s “The Nutcracker,” the Tchaikovsky holiday classic with choreography by artistic director Lustig and sets and costumes by Zack Brown. Saturday, November 20, 1 and 4:30 p.m. Show travels to Patriots Theater in Trenton December 5; State Theater, New Brunswick, December 18 and 19.
Studio Concerts, Princeton Ballet School, 300 North Harrison Street, Princeton, 732-259-1254. Mixed repertory. Sunday, February 13 and 26 at 6 p.m., also April 9. In New Brunswick, the concert is Saturday, March 19.
Patriot’s Theater, Trenton, 609-984-8400. Graham Lustig’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and another repertory piece. Sunday, March 13, 4 p.m.
Berrie Center, Ramapo College, Mahwah, 201-684-7844. Premiere of Graham Lustig work set to “Della Cose Belle” by Pat Rasile. Saturday, April 2, 6 p.m.
91 University Place, 609-258-2787, www.mccarter.org.
Peter Boal & Company, Classical and contemporary works including three by George Balanchine, and a solo for Boal created by Mikhail Baryshnikov. Sunday, October 3, 3 p.m.
Virsky Ukrainian National Dance Company. Monday, November 15.
Martha Graham Dance Company, Friday, January 28, 7:30 p.m.
Moiseyev Dance Company, Thursday, February 10.
Shen Wei Dance Arts, A hybrid performance of western and eastern cultures featuring dance, theater, Chinese opera, painting and sculpture, and performance art. Friday, February 25.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Works by Balanchine, David Parsons, Paul Taylor, and Moses Pendleton. Wednesday, March 2.
Pilobolus, a synthesis of dance, gymnastics, theater and mime. Wednesday, April 13.
Paul Taylor Dance Company, 50th anniversary season. Tuesday, May 3.
Newark, 888-466-5722. Many of the evening performances are at 7:30 p.m., some are at 8 p.m.
Nutcracker on Ice, Prudential Hall, St. Petersburg State Ballet performs the beloved story about the wonders of childhood dreams and fantasies. $12 to $50. Tuesday and Wednesday, December 28 and 29.
Moiseyev Dance Company, Prudential Hall. This athletic, larger-than life ensemble of 100 transforms Russian folklore and its songs, dances, customs, and traditions into a theatrical spectacle. $17 to $70. Friday, February 11.
Ralph Lemon, Victoria Theater. The dancer and choreographer performs his newest work, “Come Home, Charley Patton,” turning for inspiration to his own identity as an African-American artist while examining the complicated folk culture of the American South. $32. Saturday, February 26.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Victoria Theater, Contemporary ballet with a distinctly European twist. $38. Friday to Sunday, March 4 to 6.
Martha Graham Dance Company, Victoria Theater, Newark, 888-466-5722. Brings new life to the staggering scope and beauty of a creative genius. $42. Friday through Sunday, April 29 to May 1.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Victoria Theater, Newark, 888-466-5722. The Rolls Royce of American Dance rolls into NJPAC for its annual engagement. $17 to $70. Friday to Sunday, May 6 to 8.
An Evening with Rennie Harris, The Chase Room, An intimate performance by dancer and choreographer Rennie Harris, one of the leading ambassadors of hip-hop dance culture. $20. Saturday, March 5.
New Theater, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick. 732-932-7591.
Doug Varone and Dancers,, $10 to $20. Tuesday, September 21.
Dance Plus, “Bench Quartet” by Doug Varone, “With Alligators in the Bayou” by Randy James with music by Buckwheat Zydeco, “Gamecocks” by James with music by Eric Satie, and a new work by Kimani Fowlin, a fusion of African dance with hip hop and modern dance. Friday through Sunday, December 3 to 5.
Student Dance Concert, Loree Theater, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-932-7591. BFA Senior dance concert, $5 to $10. Friday and Saturday, November 19 and 20.
Tamburitzans, 609-586-9446. The popular folk dance group from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, home of many Eastern European nationalities. $20. Saturday, November 13, 8 p.m., and Sunday, November 14, 2 p.m.
MDE Exposed!, 1200 Old Trenton Road, 609-584-9444. Mercer Dance Ensemble production. $12. Saturday, May 21, 8 p.m., and Sunday, May 22, 2 p.m.
Route 28, North Branch, 908-725-3420.
Great Russian Nutcracker, Moscow Ballet. Friday, December 17, 4 p.m.
Esmeralda, New Jersey Ballet. Saturday, April 2, 7 p.m.
Randy James Dance Works, Saturday, April 30.
Most performances at the Villa Victoria Theater, Route 29, West Trenton. 609-397-7616, ext. 807.
Dracula, Children’s version of the classic. Costume contest. Friday, October 22, 10 a.m.
Dracula, A classic piece of Gothic literature is brought to life in Mark Roxey’s dramatic ballet in two acts, performed by a professional cast of 12. $15.50 to $28.50. Saturday, October 23, 7 p.m.
The Nutcracker, $15.50 to $28.50. Friday, November 26, 7 p.m. and Saturday, November 27, 3 p.m.
The Nutty Nutcracker, Spoof of the classic production. $15.50 to $28.50. Sunday, November 28, 3 p.m.
The Nutcracker, Children’s version, Monday, November 29, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
An Evening of Romantic Dance, Canal Studios, 243 North Union Street, Lambertville, 609-397-7616, ext. 807. Romantic highlights from the ballets “Cinderella,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Sleeping Beauty,” with a new work by Mark Roxey, performed by the professional company. Ticket includes a champagne and Viennese dessert reception after the show. $50. Monday, February 14, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m..
Cinderella, Full length production with the music of Sergei Prokofiev. $15.50 to $28.50. Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8, 3 p.m.
15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 877-782-8311. Most performances at 8 p.m.
Virsky Ukranian National Dance Company, The Ukraine’s premier dance company performs. $20 to $32. Sunday, November 14.
Momix: Opus Cactus, Moses Pendleton’s Southwest desert dance creation, complete with tumbling tumbleweeds, leaping lizards, slithering rattlesnakes, performed by the dancer-illusionists. $18-$38. Wednesday, January 26.
Trinity Irish Dance Company, A blend of Irish culture and innovative rhythm and dance. $20 to $34. Friday, March 4.
Urban Bush Women, Artistic director Jawole Willa Jo Zollar leads the troupe in a program based on the experiences of African-American women. $18-$32. Thursday, March 31.
Russian National Ballet Theater, The classic “Sleeping Beauty.” $18-$45. Saturday, April 2.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Long-awaited return to the State. $18-$55. Tuesday and Wednesday, May 3 and 4.
CAPPS Light Sundays, Mount-Burke Theater, Peddie School, Hightstown, 609-490-7550. Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats in a multi cultural and multi-faceted production featuring Kung Fu, balance, brilliant costumes, and Chinese comedy. $16. Sunday, November 14, 2 p.m.
Middlesex County Vocational School. 112 Rues Lane, East Brunswick, 732-745-3030. The Tetralogy of Alone. An evening of dance theater features four related dramatic works exploring the concept of “alone” in collaboration with composers Phil Kline, Dan Martin, and Bradford Reed (formerly of the Blue Man Group). Julia Ritter. Friday, October 15.
Zimmerli Art Museum. George and Hamilton streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. The Art of Dance: Hommage of Loie Fuller. Two new solos by dancer choreographer Jody Sperling, Time Lapse Dance, and live piano by Jeffrey Middleton. Free. Sunday, November 14, 2 p.m.
Community Theater, 100 South Street, Morristown, 973-539-8008. Koresh Dance Company, ballet, modern and jazz dance. Thursday, October 28. Virsky Ukrainian National Dance Company, Saturday, November 13. National Acrobats of Taiwan, Thursday, March 24. St. Petersburg State Ballet Theater, Saturday, March 26. Gus Giordano Dance Chicago, Saturday, April 16.
Count Basie Theater, 99 Monmouth Street, Red Bank, 732-842-9000. Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk, Friday, February 4.
Keswick Theater, Easton Road and Keswick Avenue, Glenside, Pa., 215-572-7650. Peking Acrobats, Friday, March 11.
For the complete calendar events in central New Jersey, go to www.princetoninfo.com/us1evts.htm
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