Archive for February, 2013


February 22, 2013

If you like Modern Dance as much as I do, watch the video below. It’s a preview of MamLuft&Co. Dance’s performance this Saturday at Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center. In addition to what’s described, the program also includes a Cincinnati gem: the re-setting of local luminary Jefferson James’ “Epitaphs.” James, who founded Cincinnati’s chief modern dance presenter (Contemporary Dance Theater, now celebrating its 40th year), was formerly a dancer with and director of  Contemporary Dance Theater (a modern dance company which was also her creation), for whom she originally choreographed this work in the 70’s.

<p><a href=”″>MamLuft&Co. Dance Speak Preview (1 of 2)</a> from <a href=””>MamLuft&amp;Co. Dance</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>



February 22, 2013

I’ll just say again, if you like Modern Dance as much as I do, watch the video below. It’s a preview of MamLuft&Co. Dance’s performance this Saturday at Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center. In addition to what’s described, the program also includes a Cincinnati gem: the re-setting of luminary Jefferson James’ “Epitaphs.” James, who founded Cincinnati’s chief modern dance presenter (Contemporary Dance Theater, now celebrating its 40th year), was formerly a dancer with and director of  Contemporary Dance Theater (a modern dance company which was also her creation), for whom she originally choreographed this work in the 70’s.


February 20, 2013



Yesterday, I cleaned out my mother’s closet.

She died in June, but for various reasons, this job had not been done.

Born in 1918, she had accumulated an amazing number of outfits and styles, on what I know was a very small budget. I remembered most of them.

Later, when I was home, as I was reading a dance preview, I looked in the freezer, found something Danish and cold, and poured myself a glass.

It seemed as if some special note should be made. Though we had not always been best of friends, I know my mother loved me and I her.

So,  I toasted both of us. I know she would have approved.


February 16, 2013



Exhale Dance Tribe’s newest offering as a resident company at the Aronoff Center spotlights this Cincinnati-based company’s fourteen lithe dancers with choreography skewed towards modern dance from diverse choreographers, hailing from New Zealand to New York City. Challenged to celebrate the romantic and sensual nature of spring (think Valentine’s Day), expect to see dances inspired by an actual love story or love letter from dance makers including Emily Silber, Liz Schmidt, Lea Lachey, Dan Baughn, Lauren Adams, Jennifer Rutherford and co-artistic directors Missy Lay Zimmer and Andrew Hubbard. The program concludes with “Whai Atu” (pronounced phye ar-too) from Taiaroa Royal, who says her work is inspired by “influential women who have featured in our lives either past or present; and myths and legends from my Maori cultural heritage. As Maori, we have a saying: ‘Wherever you stand, your ancestors stand with you.’” $27.25. 8 p.m. Saturday, February 16,  Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut Street, Downtown. 513-621-2787,

– Kathy Valin


February 15, 2013


What can I say? At least for me, this ballet, defined by the Prokofiev score, was full of performers dancing their hearts out (Rodrigo Almarales was a standout) in a full-out Shakespearean world. It was staged at The Aronoff Center with all the  costuming and live music (a huge triumph for the CSO and Cincinnati Ballet music director Carmon DeLeone) one might hope for.

But it was Janessa Touchet and Cervilio Miguel Amador, bringing total immersion and conviction to their roles as star-crossed lovers, and Victoria Morgan’s choreography, with attention to both detail and narrative, that anchored this wonderful ballet, which should not be missed!


February 12, 2013


Scroll down to the previous post for part one of this interview. Part two follows:

VK: How do you sustain the emotional development in a scene like the Balcony pas, when it’s just one ecstatic lift after another?

SH: It comes from the partnership. I think you really have to feed off each other. With a ballet like this, you can’t just throw any two dancers into it, you really have to be smart about your decision, and put people together who are going to be able to find that chemistry between the characters.

And they have to be able to figure that chemistry out, if they don’t have it. But with Patric, you know, it’s been . . . he’s a young guy and he’s a cutie. When he smiles at me and flirts with me during the Balcony pas, then it makes me want to smile back and flirt back . . . if we weren’t friendly with each other and didn’t get along in real life, probably it would be different. But we do, and we have fun. It’s fine.

People that see me in a ballet always say to me “you look like you are having so much fun!” And, I am! This is why I do it. I love story ballets and ballets that have huge acting aspects. To go out and do a balcony scene, or to do a bedroom scene, it’s just a ton of fun.

With the Balcony scene, I’m having a blast. Even though it’s hard to do and there are technical moments that are very scary – the point is not “did I make that toss?” or “did I make that turn?” The point is that it’s two young people out in their courtyard playing around and having a blast.

I think about what that would feel like and it just comes out in my dancing. And Patric helps – he smiles, and we play . . . I don’t know, it just kinda happens. But for sure you have to feed off your partner, you have to be with somebody that is gonna give you that.

VK: Victoria usually makes changes in her ballets if she does them more than once. How has that worked in this case?

SH: I do have a good sense of it. I’ve seen it twice prior to this one – well, I mean I’ve danced in it twice, although not as Juliet. But I do remember some of the choreography. But I was also studying a video since December throughout our Nutcracker when I found out I was cast in “Romeo & Juliet.” dancing Juliet. And then when we started to work in the studio I realized “Wow, a lot of this is different!”

It’s not changed a huge amount, but there are a lot of sections that are different. I think it makes the ballet fresh, and part of the reason is changing it for the dancers who are doing it – maybe things worked better for a previous cast than for us.

And, honestly, I like all the changes, I think she’s made some good decisions.

VK: When I watch Victoria’s choreography, he seems like she does pack steps in there! There aren’t so many transitions where the dancers just run to back of the stage and set up for another diagonal sequence. How does that work for you?

SH: When I first joined this company, it was hard, just being in the corps here. Everyone says you don’t ever stop! look how much everyone is dancing! when you dance a Victoria Morgan ballet.

But then when you really look at the scene, or what she has done –  really . . . it’s fascinating when you watch it. When it comes to partnering, I think she never just wants to see one position and then another position, especially with a ballet like this. She wants the movement to be so circular. When she is in the studio, I always say to myself, “she’s like a painter!” and “she sees things that I don’t see.” I think to myself – how did she come up with that? It’s so fascinating because I would never have thought to put in that position or that step at a particular moment, but she does.

She likes everything to connect. That’s one challenging aspect with her choreography – that you don’t ever stop, you don’t have a moment to find your way – she wants you off your balance, she doesn’t want you on your weight. She always tells me “You cannot be on your leg. Get off your leg. Fall off your leg.” And you know as dancers we work so hard to be [have our weight] on our leg. It’s very challenging to do that.

But once you get it, it does start to be very natural. And, again, you have to be with a partner that you can trust, that’s gonna catch you if your are not able to control that moment . . . where she’s asking you to fall, you want to trust that he’s really gonna be there to catch you!

At this point in the interview Patric comes back with a sandwich. I offer to call him later in the evening if he wants, but he says “no problem.” I review what we’ve said so far, and the three of us continue talking while he eats.

VK: Sarah and I talked about her getting this role, and the stamina that it takes to do it. We’ve talked about how when she first wanted to do it, she knew she did have the maturity as a dancer.

How is the role feeling to you?

Patric Palkens: I understand the maturity needed for the character of Juliet, even though in the play she is the younger of the two. But, actually, Romeo is the opposite, in the sense that though he is “older” of the two, I feel as a character he is the one that is not as mature. He the one whose head is a little more in the clouds.

I know that for a dancer maturity is kind of an asset – useful for almost any part, but honestly, as for experience, I can’t talk about that, because I don’t have it!

SH: He’s still a baby!

PP: Yeah – for instance (he asks Sarah) what were you doing in 2006?

SH: Gosh, I don’t remember. I think that was the year I was promoted to soloist.

PP: Yeah! Well the year she got promoted to soloist was the year I took my first serious ballet class.

I had danced with my mom’s studio [in Lewistown, Montana] as a jazz dancer [his mom and his whole family except for one sibling dance]. I was doing competition jazz, and something like a story ballet was the farthest thing I was doing.

SH: He started so late in ballet, it is incredible – that at 22, performing a lead role in a full-length ballet – is what is he doing . . . it is pretty incredible.

PP: Yes, but the downside is that I have none of the maturity of experience that should come with this part, even though Romeo is the less mature of the two characters. At least, that’s how I feel [re: Romeo’s maturity]. [to Sarah] – at least that’s how I feel. I don’t know if that’s what comes across from you – that Romeo is definitely not the one who has the answers. Even though in his day he would have been considered an adult.

VK: So you would say he’s more impetuous and less mindful of complications?

PP: Yeah, not looking to the future. He’s looking at what is right in front of him. For instance, in the quick transition between Rosalind and Juliet – he is madly in love with one girl one second and two scenes later he has completely moved on to a different girl. I mean, for a whole chunk of the first act he is moping and he’s sad about Rosalind, that she kind of rejected him. And then he switches to Juliet.

So, with that kind of behavior, I don’t think he’s the more level-headed of the two. You can see with the quick transition between Rosalind and Juliet. He is madly in love with one girl one second and two scenes later, he has completely moved to a different girl. I mean, during a whole chunk of the first act he is moping and he’s sad about Rosalind that she kind of said no, and then switches to Juliet. So I don’t think he’s the level-headed one of the two.

But, since I don’t have Sarah’s experience, from a dancer’s perspective I can’t find out maturity just by speculating.

SH: As for stamina, the other day when we were running the Balcony pas, he’d just started learning it. When I first started doing ballets like this, you can run a segment at rehearsal and you are just – [she breathes hard, gasping] – you don’t know where to breathe, you don’t know to breathe. You don’t know from experience when to take those moments that are not as important and catch your breath.

And do I know, from doing characters like Aurora or Marie. As a woman dancer, I do find those landmarks where I have to be aware that I need to find a spot to get my energy back. I’ll think, okay, this is a hard moment, but I’ll have ten seconds here where I can catch my breath.

So, when we ran Balcony during some of those moments, I looked at him. When he was able to be just standing on the floor for a second I would go “breathe! You need to breathe!” just to remind him of those kinds of things.

But he’ll do the same thing for me – cause sometimes I’ll do the wrong arm and he’ll say “arm!” And I’ll tell him, yes, I’m probably gonna forget, so just tell me right before.

VK: What else can you say about your backround?

PP: In my mom’s studio in Lewistown, which is in the center of Montana and has maybe six thousand people, it was my mom’s career for years. She was a single mom with four kids, so we didn’t go home from school, we went to the studio. She wanted to be as far from LA as she could get.

I barely managed to survive boys in tights. I was not interested in ballet, in a pseudo-ballet class, on carpet. I found it boring. It’s the typical boyhood response to ballet. “I just have to stand at the barre and listen.” And I just . . . blah, it was boring.

As for experience, though, maybe I am prepared to learn a part at the last minute like I am doing here, because when I finally went to a ballet school and learned a little more I got so used to being behind in everything, I’m just comfortable with that. Which is why this wasn’t actually that bad.

Then Fu got hurt (Liang Fu, the dancer he’s replacing). You know that one Tuesday, Sarah just walked in after class and said “It’s Romeo time!” I was already studying two other parts harder, and being the lead was the last thing I had focused on. So, I was behind, but the good thing for me is that being behind is normal!

VK: So have you been coming in a little for work by yourselves?

SH: A little, but not really at all for a week and a half. And honestly after Friday, it was like we needed Saturday and Sunday, for it all to sink in. We are getting great rehearsal. By the time we go on stage we’ll be fine. I’ve gone out with less preparation. I trust Patric. I’m not worried. I think people are excited to see him out there for the first time doing something like this, and to see us together. It’s a big deal for me, too!

And think of all the times he’ll get to do it after this. And he’ll remember “when I went on stage with that girl who was ten years older than me? Two weeks before the show?”

PP: It’s going to be fine. It’s the process that’s tough. And time – time is a valuable asset that we no longer have.

VK: And the Prokofiev score?

SH: Even if I wasn’t a dancer, I feel like I could turn this on in my bedroom, you would know the story. As I said earlier, I used to sit and watch other girls dance this role. The story is so beautiful. It’s like a dream come true, playing it this time around.

PP: This is one of the best things about full-length ballets, almost as a constant they have a little more range to them, than when you do a mixed bill. But the nice part about this music is the dynamic and emotional range. It is astounding.


February 11, 2013


Cincinnati Ballet’s “Romeo & Juliet,” with live music by Prokofiev from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Carmen DeLeone’s baton and choreography from CEO & Artistic Director Victoria Morgan, opens Valentine’s Day (February 14) at The Aronoff Center. February first, I was at the ballet center to watch a rehearsal of the ballet. As I watched Victoria Morgan rehearse dancers Sarah Hairston (Juliet) and Patric Palkens (Romeo) I was struck by how communicative and considerate they were towards each other as they honed the details of Morgan’s choreography. I could see their partnership was going to be special.


Five days later I talked to the two during their lunch hour. I discovered that Sarah, who is now a principal dancer and Patric, a younger soloist understudy performing this plum role because of an injury, seemed not only physically matched for their onstage characterization, but also in their thoughtful determination as professionals to craft their performances.


Not only that, they knew how to have a good time with each other. Following is part one of a transcription of our conversation, slightly edited.

After I met them in the lobby of the Ballet Center, Patric said he was starving, so as he rushed off to get some food, promising to return soon, I talked with Sarah.

VALINKAT: How many different couples are there performing in the run of this ballet?

Sarah Hairston: There were three couples learning it and only two are performing it. Originally, three couples were learning it. Patric was learning it third cast.

VK: When do you two dance?

SH: The Friday morning school show and the Saturday matinee.

VK: You’ve been with Cincinnati Ballet since 2001, and by 2010 you’d moved up to principal, the top rank! The company has done “Romeo & Juliet” twice during that time. What roles did you play previously?

SH: I’ve been a Harlot every single time. So this was definitely a big change. A move up in the world!

VK: Have you partnered with Patric before?

SH: I have. I danced Carmen last year with him. But that’s it, that’s all that we’ve done.

VK: It’s said that sometimes corps dancers have to work harder than leads. But in this ballet, I doubt that is true!

SH: I think that one of the biggest challenges in this ballet is the partnering, for sure. There is a ton of partnering. Juliet really doesn’t dance by herself very much. She has one variation or two, but mostly, she is being partnered.

But maybe even a bigger challenge is the acting. I think Juliet is one of those roles in which as a dancer you are playing such a young girl, but emotionally [because of the dramatic range of the character], it is difficult find a dancer who is a good match for the role.

That’s because it takes such an element of maturity to be able to tap into that kind of emotion, that kind of acting. I know because ten years ago watching Kristi Capps and Tricia Sundbeck do this role, I remember thinking “wow, I would love to do that one day, but I know I’m not ready now.”

In 2008, last time we did the ballet, I was only a little older, but that was when I said to myself . . .  I really want to do this role. And I was so excited when it was put into the rep this year.

But I feel like now, with the position that I’m in and the age that I’m at, there is a maturity that has developed in my dancing and acting. It’s been over the past couple of years, especially after being promoted to principal dancer that now I’m ready for it. Whereas maybe just five years ago, when I wanted it so badly, I wasn’t.

So, for me, it takes a mature dancer to play this immature girl.

VK: Does Juliet transform in the ballet? Does she mature in unexpected ways? Do you chart that or do you just play it as it comes along?

SH: You know, especially in roles like this, I really try to in the beginning when I start learning, I think a lot about it. “Here’s a landmark where I should do this. Here’s a landmark where I should do that.” But then once it gets closer to performance, I really try not to play out what I am going to do. I want it just to happen.

I think to myself, I’ve already done the planning. It is all “in there.” So, when we run the ballet, I just try to let the emotions I feel at the moment happen.

But I’m also the kind of person – my personality is really – I have high emotions, you know? I’m kind of all over the place. That’s just who I am!

So it’s easy for me to take myself on that journey. For some dancers, it might not be that easy, maybe they really have to think what they have to do at a certain moment, or they are supposed to feel at a certain moment. And then they set themselves up for it.

I don’t feel like I have to do that as much. It’s very easy for me to put myself into a story. So, right now I am at that point since we are so close to production week.

The hardest thing right now is that we are running scenes out of context. But when you don’t have a buildup for a scene, I still really try to make myself go there. I say to myself “okay, this is the scene, this is the moment –“ I don’t think about what I’m gonna do, I just try to go with what I feel.

VK: That’s so interesting. As far as stamina, how does this role compare to other principal roles you have done?

SH: You know, I thought that this one was gonna be so – such a killer.

But if I hadn’t had ballets like “The Sleeping Beauty” under my belt or – or even our old Nutcracker, Val Caniparoli’s “The Nutcracker,” because the character of Marie danced the entire ballet, rather than a child and a grown up dancer – if I didn’t have things like that under my belt, this probably would be a very hard ballet, stamina-wise.

But, so far, I think it’s even harder for the guy because is doing all the partnering [read “lifting”]. The longest scene in Romeo & Juliet is the Balcony pas de Deux. It’s about six or seven minutes long. For me, not as bad as I thought.

But poor Patric, he’s lifting me and heaving me all over the place, so it’s definitely harder for him [she giggles].

But, I told him I know is it hard for him, but luckily I’m not really that tired, so I can help you. [she giggles again]. But he’s like . . . [she makes a little growl].

VK: I love Prokofiev’s Balcony music. It sweeps and swoops all over the place with just wonderful themes. I love when it gets to a certain spot and seems to be winding down . . . but then . . . it keeps going!

SH: I know! And at that point, you are really only halfway through!



February 9, 2013



Coming soon! Interview with Cincinnati Ballet’s Sarah Hairston and Patric Palkens about their roles in “Romeo & Juliet,” opening at the Aronoff Center February 14.


February 5, 2013


Yum, do you like leftovers as much as I do? A cup of coffee, walk the dog, and open that refrigerator door to find a nice helping of these North African Meatballs to nosh while reading a fascinating newspaper article. Crunchy leftover roll. Pour a glass of buttermilk. Throw on some pomegranate arils. The best! I’ll be posting the recipe, with snaps, later on this afternoon.

[Yikes I seem to have done something to my download function  on my new computer. I will have to try and figure it out, so no new snaps at the moment.]

At any rate, here is a link to the recipe I used:


February 1, 2013


In a twist, company director Zvi Gotheiner invites you to bring your cell phone and leave it turned on! Pictures snapped by audience members and texted or emailed to the company will appear during the performance as projections.  Cool.