Vital Signs

September 30, 2009





Retrospective or Rip-off?

Is borrowing choreography stealing or a springboard for original, transformative work? The talented Julia Rhoads, artistic director of Lucky Plush Productions, often explores this question with sly humor, and the premiere of Punk Yankees at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago is no exception. The piece reappropriates previous Lucky Plush movement and images in a remix for the company’s 10th anniversary. ­Oct. 22–31. See



Mrozewski & Monte-Carlo

The Ballets Russes centennial continues worldwide through 2009. Last July, Canadian choreographer Matjash Mrozewski (a 2004 “25 to Watch”) presented his own version of Fokine’s Le Pavillon d’Armide during Les Nuits de la Danse 2009, part of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s season. Adding his own contem­p­orary flair, the former BMC dancer chose to reconstruct this 1909 work, which historians say is the piece that inspired Diaghilev to start a ballet company. See



The Red Shoes Repaired

Not only a director of Oscar-winning gangster films, Martin Scorsese is also a ballet fan. His Film Foundation has restored The Red Shoes, the haunting 1948 picture starring the beautiful Moira Shearer as a dancer with a Ballets Russes–like company. The artistic director famously asks her, “Why do you want to dance?” The two-and-a-half-year project ensures that Shearer’s classic answer, “Why do you want to live?”, will breathe beautifully on film for generations to come.



Washington Dance

How much dance can you fit into two short days? Our nation’s capitol finds out with its fast-paced, gala-style VelocityDC Dance Festival. Dance companies, including Ron K. Brown’s Evidence and the local Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, collaborate at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall. The Washington Ballet pairs ballet with Latin rhythms in Septime Webre’s Juanita y Alicia, and Patrick Corbin stages Paul Taylor’s Last Look for CityDance Ensemble. Oct 2-3. See



Heaven on Earth

Ascend with improvisational choreographer Morgan Thorson as her new piece Heaven begins its U.S. tour. Thorson’s ensemble of eight dancers shares the stage with the ethereal LOW, a slow-core indie rock group known for minimalist arrangements. The piece explores various manifestations of “perfection” and the achievement of a religious state through dance. Catch them in Houston at DiverseWorks (Oct. 15–17) or at P.S. 122 in NYC (Oct. 25, 28–30). Thorson continues with performances in Middletown, CT; Seattle, WA; and her hometown, Minneapolis, MN, in 2010.



Carlos Comes Home

Cuban ballet lovers packed the houses and surrounded the theaters last July, clambering to get a glimpse of The Royal Ballet. With tickets going for under a dollar apiece, it took just hours for the company’s five Havana shows to sell out. Those who couldn’t get a seat joined crowds outside to watch three of the performances on a large screen. The company’s historic trip was the dream of Carlos Acosta, Royal Ballet star and Alicia Alonso’s former student, who helped negotiate the company’s first visit to Cuba. The Royal Ballet dancers performed works by McGregor and Ashton and were even joined onstage by the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, with mixed-company couples performing pas de deux from Swan Lake, Theme and Variations, Don Quixote, and, in a tribute to one of Alonso’s most famous roles, Giselle. See



London’s Killer Takes On Grand Rapids

Forget scary movies this Halloween. The world premiere of Gordon Pierce Schmidt’s Jack “The Ripper” takes audiences into the depths of the famous murder mystery. The Grand Rapids Ballet Company’s dancers become the “canonical five,” the women who lost their lives to this notorious villain of the 19th century. Audiences beware: This gruesome story of unsolved crime might leave you shaking in your seat! Oct. 30–Nov. 1. See



Oliver’s Travels

With a title like Rigidigidim De Bamba De: Ruptured Calypso, it’s no surprise that Cynthia Oliver’s new piece is complex. After the world premiere at Philadelphia’s Painted Bride Art Center the second weekend of October, the international cast travels to NYC for a week at Danspace. They will also tour the West Coast and Washington, DC, in the spring. Oliver’s evening-length work layers myth, history, and spoken word to explore the nature of calypso dancing as an agent of Afro-Anglo Caribbean identity. “Calypso is hip-initiated,” Oliver explains. “It can range from a vigorous, highly athletic, and sexualized articulation of the hips to a subtle ‘hip swirl’ where the feet shuffle and the hips whirl in a languid figure eight.” See



Photo: Julia Rhoads packs a punch. Karen Wade, Courtesy the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago.