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By Alice Bloch
Pairing companies with choreographers
Michael Uthoff, artistic director of Dance St. Louis, is not only an innovative presenter—he’s a matchmaker, too. For performances this month at the Touhill Performing Arts Center and nearby universities, he has paired four St. Louis dance companies with four nationally known choreographers. In Dance St. Louis’ inaugural “New Dance Horizons” program, Uthoff wanted to challenge local dancers as well as local audiences.
The Saint Louis Ballet, directed by Gen Horiuchi, enters new territory with choreographer Pam Tanowitz, who explores classical vocabulary in a contemporary setting. For her first full work on pointe, Tanowitz commissioned an electronic score based on the famous song “St. Louis Blues.”
Uthoff had commissioned a restaging of Victoria Marks’ spare, poetic quartet Dancing to Music while artistic director of Hartford Ballet. “I thought it would be a terrific addition to their repertoire,” he says of Leverage Dance Theater, headed by Diana Barrios. Marks loves setting her work on new dancers: “It’s like online dating. I look forward to what I can learn from [them].”
A new, community-minded group, Jennifer Medina’s Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company, will be working with prolific choreographer Jessica Lang. Stalwart repertory troupe Modern American Dance Company (MADCO), resident company at the Touhill Center, is paired with choreographer Gina Patterson. MADCO director Stacy West asserts that Uthoff’s desire to help multiple dance troupes in St. Louis benefits companies and audiences alike. “It’s art. It’s not competition.”
Uthoff, along with many in the St. Louis dance community, hopes this innovative initiative has a future.
Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company. Photo courtesy CTCDC.