Tag Archives: contemporary dance

S.W.A.T. Lake

Terpsicore Dance Company performs this weekend at Mesa Arts Center

I’ve seen police officers in all sorts of settings — from patrolling on horseback near “ground zero” in Lower Manhattan to poising radar guns at cars speeding through serene Scottsdale suburbs. But I’ve never, ever seen one dancing in the line of duty. That’s a good thing.

Still, they deserve to have some fun in their everyday lives — so I’m delighted that several accepted the invitation extended by Terpsicore Dance Company to participate in its season finale at Mesa Arts Center this weekend. Seems a part of their “Kinetic Elements” is set aside for a little something called “S.W.A.T. Lake,” featuring police officers from Mesa and Phoenix.

A Terpsicore Dance Company gathering at Mesa Arts Center

Kinetic Elements” is designed to showcase choreography from local and national artists. Expect new works choreographed by Angelina Lin and Joe Nugent. Also Danna Parker, the company’s artistic director. Seems a signature piece titled “Fandago” will be back “by popular demand” to close out the show.

Special guests include musician Grant Ferguson, plus dancers from a professional jazz dance company called MarioCo. Dance and a newly formed organization in the West Valley called Ballet Forme. Also officers brave enough to both protect our streets and take to our stages.

“S.W.A.T. Lake” is a Terpsicore Dance Company partnership with the 100 Club of Arizona, which works to enhance the safety and welfare of public safety officers and firefighters — and to provide immediate financial assistance to the families of those who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.

Parker says the idea of including police officers and firefighters was a joint brainchild with her boyfriend — and credits a member of the 100 Club with coining the term “S.W.A.T. Lake.” Next year Terpsicore will feature firefighters in a performance dubbed “Cinder-fellas.”

Only a dancing police officer could make this scene more delightful

Parker notes that Terpsicore Dance Company has been bringing contemporary ballet to audiences in the Phoenix metro area for eight seasons, adding that they recently moved to a new studio in downtown Phoenix. Parker describes it as “one of Phoenix’s last standing warehouse buildings” — sharing that the building will “turn 100 years old next year.”

Terpsicore Dance Company, and officers joining them to benefit the 100 Club, perform Sat, June 9 at 7:30pm. Also Sun, June 10 at 2pm. The “Swan Lake” parody blends comedy with choreography by Nicole Olson. Both performances take place inside MAC’s Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse — and folks can click here for ticket information.

— Lynn

Coming up: Art camp with a multicultural vibe


Gaga for dance

Batsheva Dance of Israel performs March 22 in Scottsdale

Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, founded in 1964 by Martha Graham and Baroness Batsheva De Rothschild, uses a little something called “Gaga” — the movement vocabulary of choreographer Ohad Naharin — to explore and perform “new movement possibilities.” Folks who go “gaga for dance” can enjoy their work Thurs, March 22 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Come April, the center will present two companies from Australia — “Chunky Move: Connected” Fri, April 6 and Sat, April 7 and “Marrugeku: Buru” Sat, April 14. The latter features “stories of the indigenous people of Western Australia told through hip-hop music and stilt dancing.” They’ll present “Dance Brazil,” featuring “dazzling Afro-Brazilian music and dance” Thurs, April 26 and Fri, April 27 and Movement Source Dance Company brings their “Inspiration” to the venue Thurs, May 10 and Fri, May 11.

SambAZ performs March 24 at the MIM in Phoenix

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix presents “Experience Brazil” Sat, March 24 — which includes SambAZ dancers performing works inspired by “Brazilian and Carnaval culture” with Grupo Liberdade from 11am to 12:30pm. The event also features live music, drum workshops and more.

If you’re truly “gaga for dance,” a couple of dance performances will never do. Hence, I’m happy to share a diverse assortment of additional offerings headed our way in coming weeks and months, including several taking place this month. Let other folks go “gaga” for shoes or chocolate or basketball. You know that dance is where it’s at.

Katey Koderik performs "I Believe" for American Voices 2011 (Photo: Tim Fuller)

Center Dance Ensemble performs “Dance AZ/100,” which honors the Arizona Centennial with the premiere of “Western Suite” to music by Aaron Copeland and “Concierto Madigral” music by Joaquin Rodrigo March 22-25 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. Come April they’ll perform “American Voices” featuring new choreography to the words of America’s great poets.

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, which blends “African American cultural expression and the American modern dance tradition,” performs Sat, March 24 and Sun, March 25 at Mesa Arts Center. “Dancing with the Queen Creek Stars” hits the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center Sat, March 24 — featuring six “respected community leaders” partnered with the Utah Ballroom Dance Company for waltz, samba and such. MarioCo. Dance brings jazz dance to the Herberger Theater Center Thurs, March 15, with a performance dubbed “Propulsion.”

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater performs March 24 & 25 in Mesa

Ballet Arizona presents “Director’s Choice” March 29-April 1, a new Ib Andersen work titled “Topia” May 2-26 (in  collaboration with the Desert Botanical Garden) and “All Balanchine” May 31-June 3.

State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara performs “Jungle Book” — an original production by Rodney Gustafson set in the fabled jungles of Rudyard Kipling’s Africa — Fri, March 30 at the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts in Wickenburg. A lovely option for those of you who go “gaga” for both dance and exploring other parts of our fair state.

Scorpius Dance Theatre performs May 3-5 in Phoenix

Scorpius Dance Theatre presents “The Kick-A Dance Showcase” featuring the work of Arizona choreographers plus those from other fab places May 3-5 at the Phoenix Theatre Little Theatre. Let your little ones think the “A” stands for “arabesque.”

Finally, I leave you with a trio of dance events coming to Tempe Center for the Arts. Flamenco and belly dance artists Yumi LaRosa and Ava Fleming present “cultural music and dance” Sat, March 31 at TCA. CONDER/dance presents “inextricably linked” — “a performance inspired by flight and costumed entirely in vintage clothing” — Sat, April 14. The CONDER/dance performance also includes dance films from Belgium and NYC.

A Ludwig Dance Theatre performs April 19-22 in Tempe

A Ludwig Dance Theatre presents “Project 2012: Looking Back; Moving Forward” April 19-22 at Tempe Center for the Arts — which continues the company’s collaboration with choreographers Babs Case, Mary Fitzgerald, Kelly Roth, Karen Schupp. Look for a reprise of past works, an examination of issues facing contemporary society, audience involvement via text messaging and a little something that’ll have Valley theater buffs going “gaga” — the performance of a Daniel Nagrin improvisational piece titled “Someone” by actor, fight choreographer and ASU professor David Barker. That, my friends, will be a “gaga” moment in all its glory.

— Lynn

Note: I’m working on a roundup of spring recitals and performances being presented by youth dance companies and dance schools in the Valley. If your group is presenting a spring recital or performance, please send details (and photos if you like) to rakstagemom@gmail.com.

Coming up: Dance meets dirt?, From Brooklyn to Japan

Student choreographer soars

Rehearsal for Violet Flight: Pursuit of Significance choreographed by Britta Joy Peterson (Photo: Hayley Brunetto)

Britta Joy Peterson, one of several student choreographers whose work will be featured during this weekend’s Breaking Ground student showcase at Tempe Center for the Arts, started tap and ballet classes in Minnesota when she was just seven years old. She moved to Arizona after earning an undergraduate degree in dance, and is now enrolled in ASU’s M.F.A. in dance program.

Peterson credits her parents with launching her love of the arts. Seems her mother enjoyed painting “natural things” in watercolor, and her father was a musician. Peterson is the youngest of three siblings, and all were expected growing up to be active in one arts activity and athletic activity. Dance, she says, counted for both.

Still, she chose to try lots of other things, including choir, softball, soccer and flag football — and spent ten years playing violin. “All those things,” reflects Peterson, “are a huge part of the artist I am now.” Peterson says she “fell in love with being creative” while participating in community theater.

Violet Flight: Pursuit of Significance rehearsal at ASU (Photo: Hayley Brunetto)

Performing in shows like “The Prince and the Pauper” and “Cabaret” was more fun, she recalls, than simply “regurgitating” routines she was learning in dance classes. So was scuba diving with her family in Mexico and New Zealand, and the skiing that fueled her love of jumping and flying through the air.

“My parents worked hard to expose us to the outdoors,” says Peterson. “My dad is an avid bird watcher.” Hence Peterson’s use of elements like feathers and sunsets in her choreography. Tonight Peterson and other dancers are rehearsing at ASU — readying for the 2pm Breaking Ground student showcase on Sat, Jan. 28.

“Recurring Reverie,” which is being performed on TCA’s north patio, was choreographed by Peterson in collaboration with Juan Rodriguez. They also perform the piece — which was inspired by each artist’s recurring dreams. Peterson calls it “an exploration of the human capacity for creativity,” adding that gender roles are a “minimum undertone.”

Peterson's Violet Flight: Pursuit of Significance (Photo: Hayley Brunetto)

The Breaking Ground student showcase concludes with eight dancers performing Peterson’s “Violet Flight: Pursuit of Significance.” Peterson describes the two works as “very different” and says she’s grateful to Carley Conder and CONDER/dance for giving students the opportunity to showcase  and share their work. “It’s important,” says Peterson, “for students across the Valley to exchange ideas.”

“I’m always synthesizing material in my head,” says Peterson, who thinks of herself as an “imaginative laboratory.” She’s a “big advocate of arts education” who says the arts have taught her to “think in many different ways.” Peterson is convinced that creativity and problem solving learned through the arts translate to science and a host of other fields.

“I’m lucky to have parents, and a community of people around me, who support my art endeavors,” reflects Peterson.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for 2012 Breaking Ground (which includes a 2pm student showcase and an 8pm professional showcase) details and ticket information

Coming up: Sneak peek at other 2012 Breaking Ground fare

Dance your Ph.D.?

Truth be told, some of my best material actually comes from my husband James, the family “stage dad,” who often shares little oddities from the worlds of art, history and science.

Recently he sent me an article about a competition titled “Dance Your Ph.D.,” which recognizes “the best dance interpretations of scientific doctoral work.” Science magazine just crowned this year’s grand prize winner and winners in three other categories — chemistry, biology and social sciences.

Valley teachers looking for ways to integrate the arts into other academic subjects should take note. I wish something like this had been around while I was researching the “problem of good” during my own doctoral studies in the philosophy of religion. Dance inspired by the theological “problem of evil” could get a whole lot messier.

Judges for this, the fourth annual contest, included scientists from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University. Also the entire dance cast of “Shadowland” and choreographers from Pilobolus — a dance company scheduled to perform in Scottsdale this Friday and Saturday night, Oct. 21 and 22, at 8pm.

Pilobolus performs this Friday and Saturday in Scottsdale

“Named after a sun-loving fungus that grows in barnyards and pastures, Pilobolus began in 1971 as an outsider dance company and quickly became renowned the world over for its imaginative and athletic exploration of creative collaboration,” according to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The Center describes Pilobolus offerings as “gravity-defying works of extreme balance, contortion and illusion.” Sounds a bit like middle schoolers trying to explain an incomplete homework assignment or high schoolers hoping to outsmart parents who suspect they’ve violated weekend curfew times.

The company’s Scottsdale performance will feature both classic and recent works, including Particle Zoo (1990), a quartet for men with an odd-man-out theme; The Transformation (2009), a shadow piece in which a young woman is transformed; Duet (1992), an exploration of themes of intimacy, misunderstanding and union; Rushes (2007), a surrealist animated dream sequence; and Korokoro (2011), one of its newest works.

Pity they won’t be performing the work of contest winner Joel Miller, a physics student in Australia, whose winning work shows him appearing to “fly over the ground wearing silver spandex and a cape as he danced with women representing titanium’s alpha and beta crystalline forms.”

I’ll bet Miller is the life of all those doctoral student parties, where simply getting a bit tipsy and dancing on a tabletop must feel so last generation.

— Lynn

Note: The Pilobolus performance many include partial nudity. Click here for show/ticket information and here to see the dancing scientists in action.

Coming up: It’s a pajama party!

A summer camp tale

Valley mom and dancer Kriti Agarwal has enjoyed summers in India, Dubai and America

Chandler mom Kriti Agarwal says she eagerly seeks local summer camps that will help her two young children “develop their social and mental skills.”

Agarwal recalls spending her childhood in India and her “formative years” in Dubai before coming to America to earn an undergraduate degree in business management and economics — and an M.B.A. with an emphasis in technology management.

“Growing up internationally in the Gulf,” she says, “I used to look forward to summer camps.”

Seems the appeal was threefold. Summer camp meant no more school for a while, gave Agarwal a chance to enjoy diverse activities and beat the heck out of “just droning to sleep in books!”

Her summer camp experiences included arts and crafts, sports and “personality development” (think public speaking, drama, elocution and dance).

The dance stuck with her big time. After training from the age of six in contemporary, folk and modern dance styles — and enjoying formal training in two traditional Indian dance styles (Kathak and Bharatnatyam) — Agarwal went on to start her own dance studio called “Kriti Dance.”

Enjoy Bollywood style dance during the Phoenix Suns half-time on Fri, March 18

Agarwal’s studio offers all sorts of dance classes for children, teens and adults — and her dancers have performed during several Phoenix Suns half-times.

Your next opportunity to enjoy a bit of Bollywood during a Suns half-time will be Fri, March 18. The game starts at 7pm at the US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix.

It just so happens that basketball was part of her many summer camp adventures — along with soccer, horseback riding and swimming.

You get the feeling while watching her dance (check her website for video) that she has the energy and flexibility to kick, dribble, back stroke and ride a horse all in one fell swoop.

While most of us are whining about Arizona summers, Agarwal recalls summers spent in the Gulf region — noting that “the only place hotter is the earth’s core, or perhaps sitting on erupting lava.”

Seems her many summer camp activities took place indoors, where fans and air conditioning were plentiful — thanks to the “scorching heat” she says the Gulf and Arizona have in common.

Still, it isn’t the heat that Agarwal most often recalls of her summer camp days. Instead, she reflects on the “positive impact” summer camps have had on her life.

The next adult/teen workshop at Kriti Dance begins March 6

Agarwal credits her own summer camp dance experiences with fueling a lifelong passion for dance — and hopes the summer programs offered by Kriti Dance will “instill confidence” in children and adults who’ll go on to explore plenty of new activities.

But what I admire most of all, truth be told, is her admission that ice cream was another summer camp lure.

It’s certainly at the top of my checklist.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about Raising Arizona Kids’ 2011 Camp Fair

Coming up: More Valley dance delights

Photos courtesy of Kriti Dance

A special Saturday in Scottsdale

Members of the Martha Graham Dance Company

Update: This post refers to dance performances that took place Friday and Saturday evening. Alas–you won’t have another opportunity to see the Martha Graham Dance Company in the Valley this weekend. To learn more about the Valley’s own modern dance company, visit www.centerdance.com.  –Lynn 3/21/10

Tonight something truly special takes place in Scottsdale. I can say this with certainty because the same event took place last night, and I was in the audience.

The Martha Graham Dance Company is giving the second of two performances at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts tonight, March 20, at 8pm.

I felt, during Friday night’s performance, that I was experiencing work more powerful, important and enlightening than anything I’ve seen before.

You don’t want to miss it.

Graham (1894-1991) revolutionized not only dance, but many elements of theater as well—including costumes and lighting—according to the company’s artistic director, Janet Eilber.

Eilber guided patrons through Friday night’s performance with what felt like an intimate  behind-the-scenes tour of the last 100 years of American—and even world—history.

Founded in 1926, the Martha Graham Dance Company is America’s oldest contemporary dance company. Think about it. That’s the same year that NBC was created, that George Burns married Gracie Allen, that Walt Disney studio was formed.

I felt a part of history witnessing the work of Graham’s company Friday evening—especially at a venue so rich and grand, yet warm and welcoming, in design.

I learned from the company’s website that Graham’s ballets were “inspired by a wide variety of sources.” These include “modern painting, the American frontier, religious ceremonies of Native Americans, and Greek mythology.”

I also discovered that Graham collaborated with a long list of the truly talented—from fashion designers like Halston to composers like Aaron Copeland. “Her company,” it notes, “was the training ground for…Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp.”

Graham “created roles for classical ballet stars such as Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.” I was thrilled many years ago to attend a Baryshnikov performance at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts with my now 16-year-old daughter.

Lizabeth has ten years classical ballet training and many years of additional experience with diverse forms of dance, but had to miss last night’s performance because she was flying home from her first trip to Washington, D.C. and NYC.

We’ll be swapping stories today of my evening with the Martha Graham Dance Company and her first evening on Broadway, attending a production of “Next to Normal” at the Booth Theatre while most of her schoolmates did the “Phantom” thing.

I’m eager to tell Lizabeth that Graham taught many a gifted actor while “in charge of movement and dance” at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City—“where the Meisner Technique was born.”

Imagine yourself teaching Bette Davis, Liza Minnelli or Joanne Woodward—or maybe Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck or Tony Randall. Now imagine seeing the work of the woman who did so, and remember that tonight offers you this rare opportunity.

You can visit the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance website to learn more about Graham’s many accolades, honors and awards. You can even read her inspiring piece titled “I am a Dancer.”

But if you want to witness the fruits of her labor, you’ll need to make your way to Scottsdale this evening. Perhaps knowing that Graham’s influence rivals that of Picasso, Einstein, Frank Lloyd Wright and Stravinsky, will move you to attend.

The evening’s program, titled “Prelude and Revolt: Denishawn to Graham,” includes works by Graham and others which premiered between 1906 and 2007. It spans 100 years of dance in a little less than two hours time.

You’ll see the work of choreographer Ruth St. Denis. Eilber notes that it was seeing St. Denis dance while a teenager living in California that inspired Graham’s decision to dance.

You’ll see “Lamentation,” a 1930 piece featuring original choreography, costume and lighting by Graham. And you’ll see “Lamentation Variations,” three pieces by different choreographers—all developed to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11—that premiered at the Joyce Theatre in New York City on September 11, 2007.

You’ll see a work titled “Steps in the Street,” choreographed by Graham after she refused Joseph Goebbels’ invitation to perform in Berlin during 1936—feeling she couldn’t possibly dance in Germany with all that was occurring under Hitler’s Nazi party.

And you’ll see Graham’s “Diversion of Angels,” a piece depicting thee forms of love—adolescent, erotic and mature—that premiered in 1948. According to Eilber, Graham said that the work might be about three different women or about one woman during three different times in her life.

Graham choreographed for 70 years, producing works that reflected both her personal life and the times in which she lived. This year marks the company’s 84th season.

If you’re a lover of history, of strong women, of theater, of the physical human form, of dance, of beauty—you simply must seize this opportunity to experience your own life and times through the performance art of the Martha Graham Dance Company.


Note: You can learn more about Martha Graham before tonight’s performance by attending a 7:10pm-7:40pm round-table discussion with Frances Cohen in the Mezzanine Conference Room of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Cohen, regional director of Wolf Trap, studied with Graham, danced professionally with Graham dancers and continues to teach the Graham technique to Valley dancers. Many of us have known Cohen as dance teacher to our children and director of Center Dance Ensemble, resident modern dance company of the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

A trio of dance delights

“What haven’t you done?” My 16-year-old daughter Lizabeth asks this question whenever she learns about an activity I tried during my youth. There was horseback riding, karate, track, gymnastics, cross-country skiing, fencing, sailing, debate, student government, theater, painting, poetry, guitar, clarinet and dance.

My memories of dance are particularly strong, for better or worse. Some of my best times in college were spent choreographing, learning and performing dance pieces—but there was also that one audition that went horribly wrong. The one that earned a petite redhead named Erin, not me, a scholarship to study with the renowned Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York.

I still can’t get enough of Martha Graham’s artistry, and I’m literally counting the days until The Martha Graham Dance Company performs March 19th & 20th at the new Virginia G. Piper Theater at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The Martha Graham Dance Company, founded in 1926, is the oldest contemporary dance company in the country. They’ll present “Essential Graham: Classics of the Martha Graham Dance Company” featuring “Prelude and Revolt,” described as “a multi-media theatrical event.”

The work includes narration, projections and performances of Graham’s “seminal work spanning the years 1906-1936.” I’ll have to chat with my 18-year-old daughter Jennifer, our resident ASU history major, for a refresher course on the first third of the last century. It’ll help me put Graham’s work in context, though it’d be no less thrilling were I to simply show up without doing my self-imposed homework.

I’m also looking forward to “The Dance Annual,” described as a presentation of “the best works created in” and “the diverse creative practices supported by” the ASU Herberger Institute School of Dance.

The Dance Annual” takes place this weekend—March 5th to March 7th—on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe. It’ll showcase the work of faculty, alumni, graduate, undergraduate and visiting artists “on a variety of platforms.”

The ASU website reveals enticing details, but I offer these snippets to pique your interest: lingering stereotypes of women in the media, a near-death experience, the cycle of monotonous everyday life, the power of the individual, and society’s love of animals and its lust for eating them.

The Valley is full of accomplished artists who’ve studied, trained, taught and/or performed at Arizona State University—whether in dance, theater, music, literature or the visual arts. Next time you find yourself wishing you lived in San Francisco or NYC, consider the wealth of talent right here in our own back yard.

Our local dance treasures include Center Dance Ensemble, resident modern dance company of the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, Ballet Arizona and many others. Ballet Arizona presents “Classic Innovations” at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix March 26th through 28th.

“Classic Innovations” will feature three pieces, including the Phoenix premiere of an original work by Ib Andersen which will be performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in June. The work is set to a score by Benjamin Britten with original costumes by Fabio Toblini.

The performance will also include excerpts from a classic 19th century piece titled “Raymonda,” as well as the first Jerome Robbins ballet to be performed by Ballet Arizona. Robbins’ “In the Night” will be performed with live piano accompaniment of its Chopin score.

Robbins (1918-1998) is world-renowned for choreographing not only great ballets, but also for choreographing and directing both plays and musicals (including “West Side Story,” “Gypsy,” and “Fiddler on the Roof”).

If you’re already a dance aficionado, your heart is no doubt racing by now (as is mine). If not, trust me when I tell you that this is the month you want to get out there and experience dance. Graham. Robbins. Andersen. These are significant names in the world of choreography and dance. Don’t miss these opportunities to relish their work.


Note: The list of things I haven’t done is plenty long–chorus, golf, cheerleading, chess…