Archive for January, 2011

COMING SOON: REVIEW OF AMY SEIWERT/IM’IJ-RE IN CINCINNATI JANUARY 28 & 29, 2011

January 31, 2011

I attended both of these performances. A detailed review will appear right here at Valinkat very soon!

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AMY SEIWERT’S “IM’IJ-RE” A WINNER!

January 29, 2011
Post-performance snap of Amy Seiwert and Jim Sofranko (center) at Aronoff’s Center Stage Room

For me, it doesn’t get much better than seeing a wonderful dance performance, and that’s exactly what happened Friday night.

Though I counted only eight, here’s a list from the playbill of the outstanding dancers who performed Amy Seiwert’s choreography at the Jarson Kaplan Theater. Andrea Basile. Sarah Bukowsky. Joseph Copley. Jamielyn Duggan. Brendon Freeman. Rachel Speidel Little.  Jenna McClintock. James Sofranko. Gabriel Williams. Software artist Frieder Weiss* was also in attendance at the reception. *Update: I have been told the gentleman at the reception who was answering technical questions about the software was Matthias Haertig, not Mr. Weiss, who could not make the trip.
I will be writing more on this performance soon . . .

SOMETHING IN THE WAY HE MOVES HER: REVIEW OF AMY SEIWERT / IM’IJ-RE IN CINCINNATI*

February 1, 2011 by valinkat 
. . . but need I say more than get a ticket right away? This is one show you don’t want to miss, and I imagine by tomorrow it will be a sell-out.

BUSY DANCER MAKES CONTINENTAL LEAP TO GUEST IN CINCINNATI

January 27, 2011

January 26, 2011 – Cincinnati, OH – San Francisco Ballet is a top-ranked ballet company, offering its dancers a solid 42 weeks employment each year, including a home season of eight productions, touring, and three-dozen Nutcracker performances.

As I write, the company is presenting a Gala performance at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco to open its 2011 repertory season.

But, the story gets more interesting. After the Gala wraps, soloist James Sofranko will grab his bag and catch the red-eye to Cincinnati, Ohio. He’ll go straight from the airport to the Aronoff Center for rehearsal.

Point being, this dancer already has a lot on his plate – it’s not like he exactly needs to jet to Cincinnati for a guest gig with Im’ij-re, Cincinnati native Amy Seiwert’s well-regarded modern ballet company (also based in San Francisco), which is being presented by Contemporary Dance Theater Friday and Saturday at The Aronoff Center.

Sofranko is set to dance in Seiwert’s “White Noise,” and also in a new solo work called “Divergence,” created especially for him.

The unlikely link between the two San Francisco artists is that they both attended Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts!
The twist is that it was in a San Francisco bar, socializing with other dancers, where they each figured it all out.

“It was pretty funny,” remembers Sofranko, speaking by phone Monday night from San Francisco. “The ballet world really is kind of small. I was hanging out with friends, and Amy was there. We ended up sitting on adjacent bar stools.

“I’d seen her on and off at performances. I followed her company.

“We asked each other questions – where did you go to school? who were your teachers? When we started giving the same answers it was like Wait? Where did you say? Wait a minute? Who did you say?”

After they reconnected by means of their common roots, Sofranko says he always told her he’d love to be in one of her pieces – but, because of his tight work schedule, he was never available.

But, when she needed another guy for her tour to Cincinnati, it happened at just the right moment. SFB would be doing Giselle, and he would have the rare time off. His wife, Cynthia Shephard, a dancer with Ballet San Jose, remains at home this time around.

“Amy was happy to have me, and I’d love to come home to Cincinnati,” he says of the trip.

Born in Marion, Indiana, Sofranko started dancing in a small studio when he was about six years old. “I was one of the only boys,” he says. “It is kind of amusing that one of the others was Andy Blankenbuehler, who is now a well-known dancer, choreographer and director and won a Tony for In the Heights.”

The young dancer took jazz, tap and ballet. In the fourth grade, he transferred to the School for Creative and Performing Arts, in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine. His teachers included Sheila Cohen, Mark Diamond, Pat Rozow and Elaine Eckstein. He took dance, piano, choir, acting, and musical theater.

“SCPA kind of forced me, in terms of loving art,” he says “and got me on the path to ballet. But, I also got to be in Oliver (Artful Dodger), The Wiz, Pinocchio – I got to do ‘em all, which was great. The whole performing thing was just driven into me there.”

Sofranko also looked up to student dancers like Jay Goodlett and Darius Crenshaw, who were older. “There were lots of boys I looked up to, they were makin’ it happen. I wanted to emulate them.”

Though he left Cincinnati after his freshman year in school, he ended up at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Oleg Sabline and others and began a regimen of summer programs. After he received his BFA from Juilliard one May, he went straight into the ranks of San Franciso Ballet that July, where he’s been ever since. In addition to a variety of featured roles in that company, he’s also been seen as “Eddie” in Twyla Tharp’s Broadway production Movin’ Out.

“Yes, it was kind of rare,” he acknowledges. “It was lucky for me and I’m very grateful.”

I was curious to know what drives him as an artist, to the point that during his “time off’ he was jetting off to perform here! I’ll let him speak for himself:

“A lot of it is the fact that I believe in dance as an art form. In order for it for it to be continually evolving, the thing is that you experiment and support artists who are creating new work, not just recycling old work.

“Doing old works is great too. I mean there are lots of wonderful established ballets you do over and over again, because they are breathtaking, and we need to know where we come from, too.

“I am happy to be in a ballet company like SFB where we do go into classics but we also do ballets like Wayne MacGregor’s Chroma, which is probably one of the most modern . . . I don’t know what you want to call it, but it’s really cutting edge choreography for ballet dancers.

“So, I’m proud to be able to be a dance company that can do both of those things, and also the fact that I can join Amy and her vision and with her small ballet company to do new work.

“It’s hard to be in artist in today’s world. It’s hard to raise money, and hard to go on tour . . . and pay people to work for you. I’m really glad of it, and I want to be part of it, somehow.

“Being a part of SFB is one thing, you know we are like the big fish in the pond and Amy Seiwert is the small fish and, you know, I think we need them both. Everyone has to start somewhere. Who knows where the next greatest thing in dance – where it is going to be . . . .

“And, I think there should also be a number of dance options out there for people. Ballet can be many things, it can appeal to a different group of people, people that might not like watching The Nutcracker or Swan Lake but who might enjoy the modern piece.

“So, I think that’s what drives me. I really have fallen in love with dance and music and art, and the whole deal.  The fact that I can do it for a living, and the fact that I have some sort of small part to play in keeping it alive . . . that’s what motivates me.”

SNAPS

January 24, 2011

http://www.nalis.gov.tt/Biography/VSNaipaul_lecture.htm

SNAPS

January 23, 2011

Kathy poses with the scooter she’s using instead of crutches after foot surgery. Neat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNAPS

January 18, 2011

REVIEW OF JANUARY 15, 2010 “DIALOGUES IN DANCE”

January 17, 2011

Last night with my two friends Frank and Julie, I attended “Dialogues in Dance” at the College Hill Town Hall (home of Cincinnati’s Contemporary Dance Theater). The evening was produced by MamLuft&Co. Dance (Cincinnati) and Demetrius Klein Dance Company (Hamilton, OH), which each presented a work, along with Foreground Dance (of Columbus, OH), Susan Honer (Dayton, OH), and McKenzie Baird (Muncie, IN).

The works ranged in size from a solo (Honer) to the fifteen dancers in Klein’s work, which closed the program.

Also a part of this performance was a short interval after each piece during which either Klein or MamLuft solicited input from the audience about the work they had just seen.

Probably the most polished work of the four (the show was billed as a combination of premieres and previews of upcoming work) was a charming duet from Foreground Dance, choreographed and performed by Noelle Chun and Yu Xiao. A playbill blurb noted that “’In Other Words’ is based on the experience of written and spoken reflections about the mishaps, confusion, humor and revelations that come with the new territory of learning another language.”

Exactly. Featuring a couple of versions of silly ”knock-knock” jokes plus other text and dance moves for the two, the piece was a whimsical, well-crafted look at the subject that blossomed in unexpected ways, and drew admiring commentary.

A review of the entire concert appears below . . .

Last night’s “Dialogues in Dance,” with four different dance works on the bill, was, as billed, fresh. Though each was very different from the others, they were all examples of modern dance as practiced in our geographic area, by choreographers who clearly are following their hearts and their imaginations to good effect.

And though each was different, they shared two things – they all seemed to revolve around issues of communication between human beings in different situations, and they all featured dancers, who, though they had different skill levels, had the poise and commitment to honor the creations they were part of.

An excerpt from Jeanne Mam-Luft’s “Homecoming” opened the program. Because the house was nearly sold out when I arrived, I was given the option of sitting on the floor in front of the seated audience. I guess it should mentioned that from my low viewpoint (also the fact that one bright light designed to illuminate the stage was shining in my eyes during most of the show) I probably did not see everything as most people did – yet, I coped, with the occasional shade of my upheld playbill and the fact that what I was watching was interesting enough to distract me!

A note let us know that what we were to see was an excerpt from the upcoming full version, to be presented in March, designed to be about the choreographer’s pilgrimage from one foreign home to another, and specifically in this case about a group of nine (eight women and one man) which establishes and separates itself from an outsider, vividly played by Ashley Powell.

The group first entered in darkness except for one small lantern-like light displayed behind a white backdrop, and loud percussion. If it were I running the sound, it would have been a tad less loud, although perhaps that was the effect wanted.

Throughout the work, in a series of formations and crossings, they carved space with their arms, reaching and often whipping them sharply as they spiraled. They dived into the floor, or dipped their torsos while one leg was flung straight up, they squatted and undulated, they jumped like rag dolls, fell into and pushed out of the floor. They paired, shared weight in contact improv-flavored moves and at one point tumbled one of their number along over all their heads. I couldn’t say what they were doing, except that they were obviously doing it as a group.

Powell, who was dressed in white against the rest, in black, did not fit, and darted here and there with what I read as both bewilderment and fear. The technique exhibited by all was impressive, and it will be interesting to see how this segment fits into the whole. I am also curious to see how it views on a larger stage.

“In Other Words,” choreographed and performed by Noelle Chun and Yu Xiao was, as mentioned, whimsical and well-crafted, a combination of comic and slightly surreal – who were these two people, telling each other knock-knock jokes that we laughed at while they were fairly clueless? Hearing them sing “Frere Jacques” in French, and Mandarin, and careening each other around the stage and off a wooden bench, we ended up caring about them (and their daft persistence?) even though we couldn’t quite figure it all out, either. The timing in this piece was impeccable, and the interaction between the two priceless.

Susan Homer’s “Again, just nothing,” was an entrancing solo. Against a backdrop of bare, snow-covered trees, to the sounds of a guitar strummed over ambient noise, Honer, in a short maroon dress and white socks heel-toes her way across the stage as her arms flow around her, and begins a series of moves which culminate in her taking a big slip and falling flat.

No sooner has this happened, when she repeats the whole sequence, this time faster. Finally, another repetition, in which she recites what seem to be random words “frightened – purple cotton dress – fall is wind – muddy dress slips – she’s sinking – water rushes,” as she moves. She walks slowly in place, through releve, as though she is treading through water.

By this time, I was trying hard to figure out what the story she seemed to be telling was – it seemed to be so traumatic that she could not fully express it. I ended by thinking this was meant to be a mystery without a real solution–though we experience story in a number of different ways, it resists our effort to untangle it from the telling.

Choreographer McKenzie Baird’s “Falling,” was a well-danced, lyrical performance for four women, who sometimes seemed to be looking for cues from their fellow dancers. It’s a recent work and could benefit from some careful editing.

I loved the part of the score that was the sound of a rainstorm with thunder. Said to be an exploration of the human body, falling through space to the sounds of water falling from the sky, the piece’s movements did convey that, with unrestrained loose hair. There were lots of athletic, almost gymnastic,  knee twirls, swings, reaches, falls, windmill arms, jumps and kicks. In a post-performance note, we learned that the choreographer also meant to honor her friends, who have “been there” for her. Notable was a single physical moment, in which one  dancer  leaped and kicked her head from behind in an especially triumphant concluding moment.

Demetrius Klein’s “Five Points Memories/Part Two ‘workin on a building’” incorporated a cast of fifteen young men and women. Perhaps the most intriguing but most unfinished work on the program, this one was fascinating for the commitment and focus of the performers, who fearlessly set themselves to accomplish their roles in a variety of styles.  Set to music by Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys and 7 White Cats, the stylistic contrasts set the cast off into a variety of experiential vignettes that evolved from their root connection to a church and a community, to which they all returned at the work’s close. Klein is an accomplished performer with a strong resume, and I am eager to see what becomes of his work as it evolves in the Cincinnati area.

COMING SOON: VALINKAT REVIEW OF LAST NIGHT’S “DIALOGUES IN DANCE” PERFORMANCE

January 16, 2011

Last night with my two friends Frank and Julie, I attended “Dialogues in Dance” at the College Hill Town Hall (home of Cincinnati’s Contemporary Dance Theater). The production was produced by MamLuft&Co. Dance (Cincinnati) and Demetrius Klein Dance Company (Hamilton, OH), who each presented a work, along with Foreground Dance (of Columbus, OH), Susan Honer (Dayton, OH), and McKenzie Baird (Muncie, IN).

The works ranged in size from a solo (Honer) to the fifteen dancers in Klein’s work, which closed the program.

Also a part of this performance was a short interval after each piece during which either Klein or MamLuft solicited input from the audience about the work they had just seen.

Probably the most polished work of the four (the show was billed as a combination of premieres and previews of upcoming work) was a charming duet from Foreground Dance, choreographed and performed by Noelle Chun and Yu Xiao. A playbill blurb noted that “In Other Words is based on the experience of written and spoken reflections about the mishaps, confusion, humor and revelations that come with the new territory of learning another language.”

Exactly. Featuring a couple of versions of silly “knock-knock” jokes plus other text and dance moves for the two, the piece was a whimsical, well-crafted look at the subject that blossomed in unexpected ways, and drew admiring commentary.  

A review of the entire concert will appear right here at Valinkat very soon.

VEGAS: SAME AS IT EVER WAS

January 16, 2011

CHECK IN AT THE VENETIAN

VENETIAN BATHROOM

VENETIAN BED

BEST HOTEL CAFE

YES, IT'S VEGAS

LUXE STAFF WORKING HARD

WOW IT'S STILL LIGHT HERE

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

“DIALOGUES IN DANCE” THIS SATURDAY

January 13, 2011

Saturday, January 15 at 8 pm, at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Dance Theater (1805 Larch Avenue in College Hill) you can experience fresh and daring contemporary dance in a performance that solicits your feedback – presented are five premieres/previews “in one engaging evening. My invitation does note, however, that audience input is “by no means compulsory.”

Participating are MamLuft& Co. and Demetrius Klein Dance Company (both based in the Cincinnati area); Foreground Dance of Columbus, OH; McKenzie Baird of Muncie, Indiana; and Susan Honer of Dayton, OH.

Tickets are $10 at the door, or at mamluftcodance.com/tickets or at 513-494-6526.

I plan to attend this show – maybe I’ll see you there!