As 2007 closes, dance is venturing into places where it has seldom been seen. At this year´s Academy Awards, the acrobatic-inspired troupe Pilobolus tumbled their way into a new symbolic representation of films: a series of shapes comprised of the dancers´ collective silhouetted bodies. (Pilobolus comes to the Aronoff Center Feb. 20-21, presented by Contemporary Dance Theater.) I saw an iPhone TV ad where New York City Ballet dancer Kristin Sloan talks about thewinger.com, a community-oriented dance Web site she founded. I noticed celebrated choreographer Twyla Tharp appearing in a magazine ad series for The Gap. (Incidentally, Cincinnati Ballet performed their first-ever Twyla Tharp piece in May, the classic Baker´s Dozen.) And, for better or for worse, there are the TV hits So You Think You Can Dance? and Dancing with the Stars.
Locally, we saw Exhale Dance Tribe team up with Know Theatre, starting with last year´s hip retelling of Dickens´ A Christmas Carol incorporating dance.
In March, Know produced and hosted Exhale´s show in their space, but before embarking on their second Christmas production together, the collaboration collapsed. Exhale became a nonprofit organization with their own space on Harrison Avenue and a performance at the Carnegie in Covington, and Know´s reworked Christmas.To.Come show went on. Exhale seems to be faring well standing on their own two feet: The contemporary jazz troupe has just received a nod as one of Dance Magazine´s ¨Twenty-five to Watch in 2008¯ in a blurb from local dance writer Kathy Valin.
New venues were afoot in 2007 for other local dance organizations. Ballet Tech Cincinnati moved into new digs on Montgomery Road in Kennedy Heights. Cincinnati Ballet shifted their annual Nutcracker production from Music Hall to the Aronoff Center for the first time. The year was a memorable one for the Ballet. It was Artistic Director Victoria Morgan´s 10th year with the company, and to celebrate she choreographed to Ravel´s Bolero with contemporary flair: a large-scale, powerhouse romp in red and black that maximized what the dancers do best. In that same month of March, Cincinnati Ballet received a coveted New York Times review of their performances of new works from Luca Veggetti at the Guggenheim´s ¨Works in Process¯ series. In September, the Ballet continued displaying impressive modern chops in their annual New Works program featuring pieces from diverse contemporary choreographers. It´s exciting to see their ever-expanding range, but they don´t neglect the classics. In October, legendary ballerina and Balanchine´s main muse Suzanne Farrell (pictured) returned to her hometown of Cincinnati to set the seldom-seen neo-classical Chaconne on the Ballet´s dancers. Local audiences delighted in the ethereal yet deceptively difficult piece as performed by a combined cast of Cincinnati Ballet´s and Farrell´s own Washington, D.C.-based company´s dancers. Farrell danced in Balanchine´s Chaconne debut in 1976 with New York City Ballet. She was honored locally with a reception on Oct. 28 in Music Hall´s Corbett Tower.
Dance often addresses political issues, but this is seldom seen locally. Presented as part of Contemporary Dance Theater´s Guest Artist Series, Miami-based Teo Castellanos D-Projects rocked the audience in January with Scratch & Burn´s bold modern, African, hip hop and break-dance moves against a backdrop of searing commentary -- spoken and unspoken -- on religion, racism and the current political climate.
There´s a new modern company on the block: Mam-Luft&Co. Dance. As part of my dance cover story (¨Staying on Their Toes,¯ issue of Oct. 17), I interviewed Founder/Director Jeanne Mam-Luft who moved here from Dallas with her husband in July. She considers her work post-modern, adores German choreographer Pina Bausch and is discovering a collaborative spirit within the local arts scene. (Full disclosure: I´m now a member of this company, but I´d be remiss if I didn´t mention their existence.) There´s also a fledgling Cincinnati Choreographers Collective of local modern choreographers and dancers taking shape with first performances slated for mid-April. Watch this space.
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