Vital Signs

September 21, 2010




Historical Hula

Hawaiian Island tradition meets West Coast theatricality when Na­– Lei Hulu I Ka We–kiu performs “25 Years of Hula” at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco, Oct. 16–24. Led by Patrick Makuaka­–ne, the troupe celebrates its 25th anniversary, showcasing works both old and new. The program includes a newly commissioned piece inspired by Native Hawaiian chant, as well as a disco-themed tribute to Honolulu’s most famous gay bar. See


Cultural ID

Two choreographers come to the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago this month, each reflecting her own cultural heritage. Minneapolis-based Emily Johnson brings the Chicago premiere of The Thank-You Bar, a collaboration with composers/musicians Blackfish, who perform live. Johnson, whose passion for environmental issues stems from her Native American upbringing in Alaska, explores feelings of displacement. Then Yasuko Yokoshi makes her Chicago debut with Tyler Tyler, which draws inspiration from a Japanese epic of warring clans. Yokoshi, a 2001 “25 to Watch” who has studied Kabuki, alternates between the bizarre and the delightful. Oct. 7–9; Oct. 28–30. See


Star Descends on St. Louis

The St. Louis Tap Festival welcomed special guest Dr. Jeni LeGon to its annual week of workshops last July. LeGon was one of the first African American women to have a solo career in tap. She counts Fayard Nicholas among her many admirers—he narrated the documentary about her, Living in a Great Big Way, named for a number she did with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (pictured with LeGon above in the 1935 film Hooray for Love). Joining her on the faculty were Max Pollack, Omar Edwards, and Germaine Salsberg. See


A Royal Retrospective

Irish-born Edris Stannus set out for England at a young age, adopted the name Ninette de Valois, and began her dance career by impersonating Anna Pavlova. She went on to found The Royal Ballet school and com­pany. The company’s storied history, from 1920s to present day, is told in the exhibition “Invitation to the Ballet: Ninette de Valois and the story of The Royal Ballet.” Through Mar. 6 at The Lowry Gallery in Greater Manchester, UK.


Yes We Can-Can

Atlanta Ballet kicks off its 81st season in 1880s Paris. Canadian choreographer Jorden Morris’ Moulin Rouge—The Ballet uses ballet, tango, and (of course) can-can to tell the story of two men vying for the affections of a can-can dancer. The full-evening work, which was made last year for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, is brought to life with elaborate sets and costumes, plus an onstage quartet who play street musicians. Oct. 22–31. See


Mortality & Mozart

Man dances with Death in BalletMet Columbus’ Requiem!! Mozart’s “Mass for the Dead” provides a dramatic backdrop for Birgit Scherzer’s contemporary choreography. Scherzer, then director of Saarbrücken Staatstheater Ballet in Germany, created the work in 1991 for the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. The protagonist “M” is reincarnated for each of the three acts, meant to represent aspects of the composer at different stages of his life. Oct. 1–9. See


New? Now. Wow!

Under the direction of Sarah Slipper, Northwest Dance Project takes pride in its commissions (the small company has premiered over 85 new works in seven years). This year’s fall program, “New Now Wow,” gives four emerging choreographers a chance to create original work for NWDP. While PNB principal Olivier Wevers might be a familiar face, Loni Landon, a former dancer with Tanz Theater Munich; André Mesquita from Portugal; and London-born Ihsan Rustem all bring international experience to Portland. Sept. 30–Oct. 2. See


Two Women’s Works

The National Ballet of Canada takes a double bill by two of Canada’s fiercest female choreographers on tour. Marie Chouinard’s 24 Preludes by Chopin uses the NBC dancers in decidedly unclassical ways. In Crystal Pite’s dark and eerie , swaths of dancers move menacingly in unison. Québec City, Oct. 13; Montréal, Oct. 15–16; Ottawa, Oct. 21–23. See



Photo of Na Lei Hula/Ka Wekiu by Lin Cariffe, Courtesy Na Lei Hula.