Archive for September, 2011

Michael Serrecchia (left) touring with Chita Rivera/Photo courtesy Dance Council of North Texas

The Dance Council of North Texas hands out its annual awards Sunday afternoon at the Arts District studios of Dallas Black Dance Theatre. Among the honorees is Michael Serrecchia, an original cast member of A Chorus Line now ploughing his trade as an actor and choreographer for Theatre Three and other local companies. Serrecchia will receive the Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence.

The ceremony also features performances by DBDT, Bruce Wood Dance Project and eight Dance Council scholarship students. The scholarship program is the beneficiary of the Dance Council Honors. Tickets to the 2:30 p.m. event are $35 and available at the Dance Council website or by calling 214-219-2290. Discounts are available for Dance Council members and students. Press release after the jump.

The other honorees are:

Revathi Satyu, Mary McLarry Bywaters Award for Lifetime Contribution to Dance

Danny Curry, Mary Warner Award for Service to Dance

Dorothy "Dottie" Williams Hunt Kleeb, Larry White Dance Educator Award

Gene Pflug, Texas Tap Legend

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New York City Ballet dancers in scene from "NY Export: Opus Jazz"/Photo courtesy Bar/Suozzi Productions

From musicals like Chicago to TV programs such as Great Performances, dance has enjoyed a place on the big and small screen for decades. In more recent years, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have drawn sizable audiences for a commercialized version of the art form. But that increasing interest doesn’t seem to have helped put many butts in the seats at live concert-dance performances. The reason may be as simple as our long-running, ongoing economic downturn making it hard for the average fan to afford tickets.

One answer to dance’s difficulties may be Screendance, a growing movement the treats filmed choreography as an end unto itself. One of the best recent examples is NY Export: Opus Jazz (2010), a quasi-narrative that coolly and cleverly re-imagines Jerome Robbins‘ 1958 ballet of the same name. The 41-minute film screens at 9:45 p.m. this Thursday, Sept. 22, on the patio of the Angelika as part of the Dallas VideoFest. (I’ll be introducing it.)

Populated by a street-styled cast of limber youngsters from New York City Ballet – where the idea to adapt Opus Jazz originated with dancers Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi – the hard surfaces and dessicated locales of urban abandonment become the setting for Robbins’ athletic and expressive group numbers. Coming off of West Side Story, he had decided to tell another teen-jungle story for a State Department world tour, but one that left impressions rather than used a spelled-out plot.

Directors Jody Lee Lipes and Henry Joost handle the skeletal narrative with no dialogue per se, only barely audible overheard conversation as if the audience were eavesdropping.

ASFB in "Red Sweet" by Jorma Elo/Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is a relatively young company, but its stature in the dance world has grown quickly. As one of the country’s premiere commissioning organizations for new work, ASFB has established ongoing relationships with a number of choreographers. They include Nicolo Fonte and Jorma Elo, whose latest pieces frame the troupe’s upcoming performance Saturday night at Winspear Opera House. It’s the third time in seven years that ASFB has been part of the dance season put on by presenting organization TITAS.

I recently talked to artistic director Tom Mossbrucker about his group’s approach to dance, the way they select the choreographers they want to work with, their business model and their focus on beauty. My review of the show ran Sunday in The Dallas Morning News. Here’s Margaret Putnam’s take for Theater Jones.

Tom Mossbrucker

Mossbrucker, a former Joffrey Ballet dancer, and executive director Jean-Philippe Malaty were recruited in 1996 by Aspen Ballet School founder Bebe Schweppe to start a company. In 2000, they expanded to a second home base in Santa Fe. The group puts on seasons in both cities and tours about 12 weeks a year, performing work by some of the best dance-makers in history, among them George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe, Paul Taylor, Martha Clarke, Lar Lubovitch, David Parsons, Laura Dean and Karole Armitage.

ASFB in "Chameleon" by Itzik Galili/Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

DFW Dance Blog: How would you describe the style of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet?

Mossbrucker: We’re a contemporary ballet company. The dancers are all classically trained. And the repertoire is contemporary based, so a little different from a modern company or a classical ballet company. I would describe it as contemporary dance.

The women are able to dance on pointe and many of our dances are performed on pointe, though we’re not doing any pointe work in Dallas. The choreographers we choose use a broad vocabulary, modern and ballet vocabulary.

 DFWDB: The company is successful both artistically and financially, even in this down economy. Is it that you’re based in these two affluent communities that support the arts or is it something else?

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Aspen Santa Fe Ballet/Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

Nearly a dozen promising dance performances – half of them imported – dot the North Texas arts calendar this fall, from Savion Glover at Bass Hall to Garth Fagan at TWU to local heroes Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Texas Ballet Theater to shows mixing students and professionals by the dance programs at SMU, UTD and TCU.

The 2011-12 season unofficially opens with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet this Saturday, Sept. 10, at Winspear Opera House, sponsored by TITAS, and one of my five top picks for fall. Check out my curated calendar here and look for my interview with ASFB artistic director Tom Mossbrucker coming soon to this space and The Dallas Morning News Guide section on Friday.