I’m loving all of the character-derivative, dance-theater pieces on Fox’s
“So You Think You Can Dance” this season.  What these pieces remind audiences is that, not only is dance an art, but also a form of entertainment. 

I think so many professional companies, whether ballet or modern, seem to forget that, at the heart of it, dance can be so fun and entertaining, even while conveying a message or feeling. 

I have seen so many lackluster modern dance performances lately:  overly conceptual pieces with no real structure, musicality, and completely devoid of technique and grace.  While I can appreciate what they may be trying to accomplish, I find myself completely underwhelmed and maybe even a little bored. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  the kinds of things this television accomplishes for the dance industry is amazing– but if that kind of entertainment is going to be transferred to the stage (and to non-profit dance companies) these companies need to learn how to put the characters and entertainment value into their repertoire. 

Check out these killer, character-derivitave pieces to see what I’m talking about!

And, below is one of my favorite Wade Robson pieces of all time:  the movement quality and characters are so strong and real here…THIS is what dance companies can accomplish on stage, by working with character and story, as opposed to just concept or technique.

Dance Flix

June 17, 2009

It’s a great time to be a dancer– the dance industry is exploding in more mainstream outlets, placing a greater value in the average American home on dance as a form of entertainment.

What perhaps started with the film Center Stage” in 2000, has turned into aCenterStageBigPic series of more and more opportunities for dancers in finding commercial work- and more opportunities for the average Amercian to see dance as entertainment. 

Since then, several dance hits (and a few misses) have been released, among them:  “Save the Last Dance”, the “Step Up” series (including soon-to-be-released “Step Up 3D”,  “Honey”, and “Billy Elliot” (among many others). 

In addition to Billy Elliot’s success as a feature film, it’s Broadway counterpart swept the Tony’s this year and hDance%20Flickas been drawing crowds in the theater. 

With this new upswing in dance entertainment, it has prompted the release of new spoof-comedy “Dance Flick”  (now playing in theaters),  poking fun at the dance film phenomenon. 

Also, rumor has it that a new Darren Aronofsky film starring Natalie Portman, a thriller called “Black Swan” set in the New York City Ballet, is in the works. 

And, of course, there’s the success of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” , now renewed for a new Fall season line-up.

Regardless of whether you are more of a fan of the campy parody or the real deal- one this is certain:  it will be hard to escape the music this summer and fall. 

I for one, think this is exciting and encouraging- especially for the dance community!

HSDC logoHSDC named a new Artistic Director, promoting Glenn Edgerton from within to replace Jim Vincent.  Vincent will  leave on August 3.

Learn more about Glenn Edgerton!

June 12, 2009

As a person trying to get back into performing, I can attest to how difficult first steps can be.  What seems like “not-so-long-ago”, has suddenly turned into years away from your passion.  You have a job, which you go to every day and complete effortless tasks to bring home a paycheck.  You come home, relax, have dinner, work out– but something is missing from that routine.  As an adult, how should you approach your goals in performance?

I’m lucky to live in such a great city that offers a variety of classes in theater and dance.  Here is a list of some of the programs going on in Chicago.  If you want to get back into performing, here is a great place to start!

tragedy_and_comedy_masksActing

Act One Studios offer a variety of adult acting classes on beginner, intermediate/advanced, and professional levels.  Class rates range from $275- $475 for a 9 week course. These guys have the widest selection of classes, and have the best reputation in the midwest.  They also have a conservatory program and offer discounted rates for early registration, SAG/EQUITY/AFTRA membership, and for continuing students.  theatre3_1Visit their website for a full class schedule and registration information.

Acting Studio Chicago offers classes in Shurtleff and Meisner methods, as well as some classes in voice over and improv, and audition improvement. They are offering a FREE CLASS on Sunday, June 28th from 2-5 p.m.  A great way to check out their program!  Click for more information!

Chicago Actors Studio Visit this studio for reasonably priced workshops, including “Acting as a Craft”, “Audition Power”, and “Directing”.  They offer private coaching for $50/hour.

And for a smaller selection, visit Redtwist Theatre and The Artistic Home.

dancer3_mDance

Lou Conte Dance Studio affiliated with Hubbard Street Dance Company, LCDS has been voted “#1 dance class for adults”. They’ve got TONS of classes to choose from, including:  Ballet, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Tap and more for Basic- Advanced levels.  With tons of options– you’re sure to find a class that’s right for you.  Class rates are very reasonable, ranging from  $14/class, to $420 for a 40 class card- with additional packages available for 10, 20 and 30 class cards. 202.x600.dance.joelhall.open

Joel Hall Dance Center this North-side gem has been around for years and has just moved into a new space.  They offer a wide range of classes for beginner through advanced students in such disciplines as Jazz, Ballet, Modern, Hip-Hop, and include other classes in African Dance, Egyptian Bellydance; Lyrical, and the get-in-shape “Push Your Tush” class.  Class rates start at $15/class, a $220 montly unlimited card, among other packages.

The Joffrey Academy of Dance is better than ever with their brand new facility on State Street.  If you are really looking to challenge yourself with a ballet class, or brush up on those old skills in a beginner class, the Joffrey School has something for a wider variety of levels.  They also offer classes in Jazz, Contemporary, Hip-Hop, and Pilates.

Chicago Dance for Ballroom, Latin, Salsa, and social dance classes– this is the source for Chicago’s Ballroom community.

There are more classes available throughout the city at such places as:  Link’s Hall; Giordano Dance Center in Evanston, Chicago
Tap Theatre
;
“All About Dance” and “The Old Town School of Folk Music”.

Now, the hardest part is choosing from that list and building the confidence to get back into it.

I’ll leave you with one of favorite quotes:  “It’s never too late to be what you could have been. “

Wade Robson’s piece on SYTYCD last night was absolutely amazing.  At first, I was a little unsure about the whole “Crash Test Dummy” character piece, but I found myself completely swept up and mesmerized by what I was watching.

While there were some really nice numbers last night– this one really stuck out for me.   What I love most about it, is that it transports the audience into a completely different world, while at the same time staying true the artistry of dance– not just the athletcism and technique.

Props to dancers Kupono and and Ashley for their dedication to character and the organic quality of movemement that the choreography required.  They truly mastered the look and feel of the piece, and made a strange and compelling peice of dance theater all the more enjoyable to watch.

I’m, of course, not surprised by the quality here– Robson has proven his genius time and time again, but each time I watch one of his character-driven pieces I am swept away once again!

The music, “Felt Mountain” by Goldfrapp was an amazing choice!

Despite how much I loved this piece, I have a sneaking suspicion that it might land these two dancers in tonight’s bottom three couples.  I know that all too often, Americans like their dance entertainment a little more “watered down” and “typical”. 

But, this piece is the living proof that it doesn’t matter if the dancers win this competition- what matters (as Adam Shankman said)  is that the average American household had the opportunity to experience this.

tonyawardslogoI hate to admit it, but I did not watch the Tony Awards this year.  I just…forgot they were on.  I had read several articles and had even picked this year’s award sweepers:  Billy Elliot and   God of Carnage.

I meant to watch.  But, what’s bad for the Tony’s is that I wasn’t reminded to watch.  Which might explain some of the ratings problems the awards show has seen in the past.  Or, perhaps it’s just the fact that the Tony’s just don’t draw the same media appeal as the big Oscar ceremony does every year.

However, I must have missed out on something, because this year’s Tony Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, had the best ratings since 2006.  

An average of 7.4 million total viewers tuned in to the three-hbillytonyour Tony telecast, up 17% compared with last year and the best figure since 2006, according to early data from Nielsen Media Research.

 

 

But, what really plagues me is why was I more interested in watching the Oscars?  Why doesn’t stage acting have the same commercial appeal as film?

The answer I’ve come up with is this:  I’m not in New York, so it’s virtually impossible for me to see every (or even any) of the shows nominated.  So, even as a performing arts professional, I have less interest in the award ceremony than I care to admit.  How can I be excited when I haven’t seen the show? 

Maybe Broadway needs to do a better job of offering video streaming of the nominated productions- that way we can ALL take place in this event. 

It can’t hurt, especially when, according the the New York Times— the Tony awards aren’t estimated to provide a big surge in Broadway box-office sales.  Especially in this economy, many of the Tony productions are closing– and soon!  But, the good news is, they’re making room for next year’s winners.

Top 20 Notes: SYTYCD

June 9, 2009

So, I know I said this wasn’t going to be a SYTYCD blog.  Whatever.  Here are MY notes on this season’s top 20 picks!

To be honest, I’m a little disappointed by the Top 20– and I still miss Natalie Ried!

My # 1 Pick??? Kayla Radomski:  Jazz/ContemporaryKayla

– Gorgeous Dancer with EXTRAORDINARY LINES

– She’s had to WORK for this!  And, I’m confident she won’t disappoint.

Evan KasprzakMy # 2: Evan Kasprzak:  Broadway Dancer

This guy is AMAZING!  Sweet jumps, great personalty AND he’s cute as a button! (Mad props to his brother too!)

Brandon BryantMy # 3:  Brandon Bryant:  Contemporary

This dude is phenominal.  The only reason he isn’t my # 1:  He should be dancing for Ailey

Plus, Mia hates him and I can’t stand the way they’ve been treating him

Caitlin Kinney#4:  Caitlin Kinney: Contemporary

Love this girl– beautiful technique, feet, and body.  But, I worry about her injury.  Sometimes, it seems by the look on her face that she doesn’t really want to be there.  Take this as coming from an injured dancer:  I wouldn’t want to put my body through the show.  But, regardless, I think she’s fabulous.

Honorable Mentions:

Tony Bellissimo:  Hip Hop— Hey….he tries really hard and it seems important to him to improve.

Melissa Sandvig:  Ballet— I’m digging that they chose another ballerina…and she’s older, more mature of an artist.  I think she may move up to my top list– I just need to actually see her dance– because I haven’t yet.

Kupono Aweau:   Lyrical/Contemporary– he’s unique– a true artist.

The rest–to me– are a forgettable tossup of dancers.  BUT– keep your eye on this one. She may very well take the prize this year:

Asuka Kondoh: Latin Ballroom.  Asuka Kondoh

At the risk of sounding prejudiced, I’ve seen how this show works, and let’s face it:  she’s hot, she’s Asian, and Nigel seems to love her.  I bet she’s in it for the long haul…

artistichome2I visited “The Artistic Home” in Chicago for the first time this weekend to see their 8th annual “Cut to The Chase” one act festival.  I always consider it a pleasure to take part in Chicago’s small, neighborhood theatre companies, as I think the heart of Chicago’s theatrical community lies to these types of organizations.  That being said, I was impressed with the overall quality of this small, storefront theatre.  However, I would have like to see a bit more done with the stage area.  It’s definitely an intimate space, and the actors handled that impressively, but I still felt as if they could have done more to clean up the staging area.

That being said, I found the three one-acts to be entertaining, though the 11 o’clock start time was a bit daunting. The standout of the evening was a piece by local actor and playwright Matt Welton.  The other pieces, despite being well-acted, were not as memorable as Welton’s engaging work. Waitin1

I do, however, think the Artistic Home is a great venue, especially because they are both an ensemble company AND an acting studio.  They offer Meisner technique classes at a rate slightly below the standard for some of the larger Chicago acting programs.  I will definitely be back to take part in some classes!

Check out the Artistic Home at 3914 N Clark St (near Clark and Irving Park) in Chicago.

You can see the Cut To the Chase Festival thru June 13th @ 11:00 p.m.  Tickets are $10 at the door.

For more information, visit their website!!!!CTTC8a

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cmclogoThe Chicago Moving Company will be present “Dance Shelter” : Thursday’s and Fridays June-4th through June 12th at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse.
Performances will include works by CMC Artistic Director Nana Shineflug, Breakbone DanceCo, the Humans, and Cindy Brandle Dance Company.
I had the pleasure of seeing one of CMC’s pieces by Shineflug, The Women, at an “Around the Coyote” festival a couple of years ago.  This contemporary/modern work featured dancers doing the same solo, but with a slightly different style or level of intensity.  Of all of the modern works I have seen performedin Chicago, this has been one of my favorites.
THE WOMEN
CMC is celebrating its 36th season of presenting modern dance works that are innovate and powerful.  Nana Shineflug has been the recipient of four Choreographic Fellowships from NEA, the Chiccago Dance Coalition’s Lifetime Service to the Field Award, and a 2008 Fullbright.  CMC is also a national leader in services for artists, education, and community arts.  They have been an Arts-Partner-in-Residence at the Hamlin Park Theater in Roscoe Village.

For a Chicago modern company, CMC manages to incorporate strong dance technique into modern choreography, creating a softer, more contemporary approach.  I have been very disappointed in the past by other Chicago-based modern companies– but CMC was no disappointment! dance1

To learn more about the company and upcoming performances, visit the CMC website.

WHAT:  Dance Shelter

WHEN: Thu-Fri, 6/4 – 6/12 @ 7:30 PM

WHERE: Hamlin Park Fieldhouse:  3035 N. Hoyne

PHONE: 773.880.5402

PRICE: $12-$15

so_you_think_you_can_dance This isn’t a SYTYCD blog– I’m not going to update re-caps after every show or even pick up a phone to vote.  BUT, I have to say that I am REALLY disappointed with what I’ve been watching.   They’ve really got to cut it with the “overly-produced television drama”     You’d think Executive Producer, Nigel Lythgoe would step it up with the show this season, given his last foray into dance-themed television programming, “Superstars Of Dance” was such a huge failure.   Based on what I’ve watched thus far, they seem to be taking some of the artistry out of dance, and presenting some pop-culture, mass-produced garbage.

First of all, cutting Natalie Reid from the competition was huge mistake.  Audiences remember Natalie from last season, when she got cut just shy of the top 20, the judges in favor of her roommate, Katee Shean.  She could have brought in big numbers.  But, after performing strongly in Sonya Tayeh’s jazz piece in rehearsal, she didn’t “bring it” (God, I hate that expression), in her audition.  They cut her straight away, and later gave comebacks to weaker dancers. Which was very discouraging, especially considering that few of this year’s dancer’s have been stand-outs.

She may not be the strongest dancer they’ve had– she’s a bit lanky, but she really has a fierce and unique quality to her movement.  It’s a shame to not have the chance to see more.

It just makes me wonder if there were genuine reasons for her abrupt cut:  contractual issues, personal reasons, etc. rather than just superficial TV crap.  Who knows? This could be some ploy to get audiences to watch the new Fall Season.  But, if things don’t get better for season 5, I might just skip fall program altogether.  Pull it together, Mr. Lythgoe.