Tag Archives: new dance works

Sinews, saguaro and starlight

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The sun was just beginning to set as I arrived for Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal of “Topia,” a world-premiere by Ib Andersen being performed by Ballet Arizona through May 26 at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. After strolling a path lined with luminaria and topiaries, I arrived at the site of the 80 foot stage, set in front of the lush desert landscape that’s an intregral part of the production.

I plopped down at one of the bistro tables closest to the stage and watched final preparations like meticulously mopping a thin layer of desert dust from the stage. The rehearsal got underway just as strips of pink laced through a blue horizon transformed into a smoky gray sky layered with billowing clouds — creating a beautiful backdrop for the women’s creamy costumes and the men’s toned torsos, which mirrored the strong lines of two saguaro cactus towering over the stage.

As male dancers opened the performance, clad only in dance shorts matching the tones of their flesh, I felt a new appreciation for man as machine. These dancers have muscles that’ll give a swift kick to naysayers who think ballet is for sissies. Their athleticism is astounding, and they have the artistry to match. A machine without a muse is merely a lonely vessel, but Ballet Arizona marries them well.

The symphony of sinew feels transformed as female dancers enter the stage with poise and precision. “Topia” features every dancer in the company, in various couplings and combinations. Often Andersen’s choreography seems intended to frame or play off various elements of the desert surroundings. During one dance solo, a dainty white moth flit about for a spell before alighting near the front of the stage, perhaps relenting to its more graceful counterpart.

The work has five movements, and runs an hour or so in length. It features Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, op. 68 — also called “The Pastoral.” Costume design is by Ib Andersen and Tenor Texidor, and scenery design is by Ib Andersen and Wrara Pleslow. Lighting design is by Michael Korsch.

Doors open at 5:30pm for folks who want to enjoy a bit of al fresco dining before tasting “Topia” for the first time. Choose a table seat closer to the stage if marveling at the majesty of individual dancers is your thing. Sit in rows of general seating if you’re more into appreciating the overall artistry of the thing.

“Topia” is a sort of master class in coupling visual and performance art. The lone prop is a large strip of white fabric a tad taller than the eight dancers who seem to manipulate it from behind by grasping a cord that runs through the center of the frame formed by 15 triangles. It’s a stand alone work of art, but also serves as backdrop for dances by three male/female duos — and the canvas for creations painted with movement and light.

Saguaro in bloom, and surrounding desert plants growing behind the stage, make for a stunning natural set piece. They soak up the lights that illuminate them like water, reflecting the colors beamed from five towers on each side of the stage — looking like plump mangos shaded with green, yellow and orange. Watching the landscape awash in color called to mind lava lamps, scoops of rainbow sherbet, Moses’ burning bush and all those cactus suckers sold to Arizona tourists.

When the rehearsal ended, dancers took a ten minute break before gathering for notes from Andersen and several run-throughs of various sections of the dance. With each correction, Andersen seemed to be finely pruning a topiary already beautifully crafted but needing just that extra little bit of attention to round out a stray leaf or two. They quit work for the evening at around 10:30pm.

“Topia” opens this evening, May 2, with the first of 17 performances. There’s a special Mother’s Day performance on Sun, May 13 featuring a sweet treat and flower for each mom who attends. They’ll even have chocolates and truffles available for purchase. Click here to learn more about the show, seating/tickets and dining options. Then sit back and let someone else work in the garden for a change.

— Lynn

Note: Ticket holders who arrive early can watch Ballet Arizona dancers take a company class on stage from 6:15-7pm. Doors open at 5:30pm and folks who show their “Topia” ticket can tour the garden before the performance begins at 7:30pm.

Coming up: Art awakenings, Once upon a diary, More Mother’s Day offerings


Diving into dance

My favorite dance dad snapped this baby several years ago

Seems the dance teacher duo of “Dance Moms Miami” has decided to delve into the psyches of its charges — coupling choreography sessions with pseudo-therapeutic meanderings into the minds of young dancers. But taking fifth place with an homage to letting go of insecurities seems to have refocused their resolve to destroy all imperfections.

I can’t help wishing, as I watch young Lucas dance each week, that some benevolent ballet teacher would snatch him up — crisply pointed toes and all — and take him away from all that Bieberesque behavior. There’s more to dance than bright lights and bootie shaking — and it appears we’ll soon get a glimpse of it thanks to The CW Network’s new “Breaking Pointe,” which promises a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of competitive dance.

I learned of the show from a dancer and ballet teacher who once called Utah home. Turns out Ballet West in Utah, led by artistic director Adam Sklute, will be featured in the new BBC production — conceived as a sort of antidote to the 201o film “Black Swan.”

We’ve been working on a book inspired by burgeoning interest in the dance world, eager to offer dance parents a resource for guiding their own family’s journey with dance. The next step in our own journey will be securing a publisher and getting that baby into bookstores.

We know there’s plenty of interest. Posts I’ve written on the “Dance Moms” phenomenon continue to get a high number of hits, and she’s often approached by dance parents hungry for information and guidance. I was a dance mom for more than a decade, and know there’s more to dance education than schlepping from one two-bit competition to another.

We’re all plenty entertained by shows like “Dance Moms” — but our own children, who don’t live inside a little box ruled by remote control, need more. They need parents appreciative of the true art and athleticism of dance. And families who support their creative journeys with more than sequins and spandex.

— Lynn

Coming up: Ballet Arizona premieres Ib Andersen’s “Topia” at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

Note: We’d love to hear from parents with dance-related questions, dance professionals with pearls to share and folks with publishing connections. You can share comments below or reach us at poisedpen@cox.net until our new website takes wings.

Dancing with the students

Enjoy dance at Scottsdale Community College on Dec 2 & 3

As a new “Dancing with the Stars” champion enjoys that shiny disco ball trophy, dancers closer to home will be working just as hard for a less visible reward — readying for upcoming performances featuring “dancing with the students.”

Lest all you DWTS viewers suffer in coming weeks from the absence of opportunities to watch live dance performance, I’ve put together a roundup of Valley dance productions featuring local dance students, faculty and alumni.

Scottsdale Community College presents “Grace, Power and Force” Dec. 2 & 3 at 8pm. The production is a collaboration of the three resident dance companies at SCC. Instinct Dancecorps will perform works by SCC faculty member Angela Rosenkrans and guest choreographers Mike Esperanza, Chad Michael Hall and Keith Johnson. The SCC Moving Company will perform works by faculty members Angela Rosenkrans and Lisa Thorngren, and guest artist Ann Reinking. Scottsdale Arizona Jazz Ensemble will perform works by faculty member Jennifer McKusick and guest choreographer Annie Kim. Tickets are not sold prior to the night of the show. However, reservations can be made by calling (480) 423-6600 or emailing karryn.allen@sccmail.maricopa.edu. Tickets are $5-$10.

Enjoy student, faculty and guest artist dance at Paradise Valley Community College Dec 2 & 3

Paradise Valley Community College presents their “2011 Fall Dance Showcase” Dec. 2 & 3 at 7:30pm. The production features choreography and performance by PVCC students, faculty and guest artists. Tickets are $6-12.

The School of Dance at Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts presents “Emerging Artists II” Dec. 2-4 at the ASU Dance Lab. The performance features new works by MFA candidates Ashlee Ramsey and Whitney Waugh “based on original research into audience interaction, social perception, and how we engage with the moving body and the stories it tells.” Tickets are $8-$16.

Chandler-Gilbert Community College presents a “Student Dance Showcase” Dec. 9 & 10 at 8pm. It features dance students performing dances choreographed by current students. Tickets are $5.

Mesa Community College presents a “2011 Dance Classes Showcase” Dec. 9 at 7pm. Tickets are $3 (scholarship donation).

Glendale Community College presents its “Faculty/Alumni Dance Performance 2011” Dec. 9-11 (times vary). Must be age 5 + to attend. Tickets are free.

Enjoy dance at Glendale Community College Dec. 9-11

I know it’s just not the same without all those tasteful outfits, classy judges, sophisticated tunes and original dance moves, but you’ll be okay. And local dancers will feel like champions thanks for your enthusiasm and applause. Disco ball be damned.

— Lynn

Note: If your college or university is presenting a dance performance this month or next, feel free to comment below to let our readers know. Always check details before attending.

Coming up: Creating holiday dance memories, “Parade tales,” Thanksgiving week in NYC, Giving thanks for…

Weekend of new beginnings

Center Dance Ensemble performs "The Snow Queen" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

I’ve been enjoying Center Dance Ensemble works for more than a decade. If dance companies were shoes, they’d be a cross between my favorite well-worn pair and my shiniest new pair. Both make me smile.

For years they’ve treated Valley audiences to Frances Cohen Smith’s “The Snow Queen” at the Herberger Theater Center. It’s based on a delightful Hans Christian Andersen tale and has terrific appeal to both children and adults.

But this weekend, you can enjoy a performance titled “New Beginnings.” It features the premiere of a new work by Center Dance Ensemble as well as new performances by several guest artists.

It’s being held through Sat, Oct 16 at the newly-renovated Herberger Theater Center, so those of you who’ve been waiting for an excuse to check it out now have one (actually, there are several).

Center Dance Ensemble performs New Beginnings this weekend (Photo: Tim Fuller)

Other weekend happenings in the Valley (and yes, weekends start on Friday for stage moms) include the following:

Goof & Giggle. Fri, Oct 15 at 10am. Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Features a fun class for 1-3 year olds with parents/caregivers. Activities include dance, song, exploring musical instruments and movement.

Tot Art. Fri, Oct 15 at 10:30am. Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa. Features artmaking for 2-5 year olds with parents/caregivers. Activities include painting, sculpture and collage.

Artful Tales. Fri, Oct 15 at 11am. Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa. Features an interactive storytime followed by art activities based on the theme of the featured book.

Comprised Voices. Sun, Oct 17 at 4pm. Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Features symphonic music by Musica Nova.

International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival. Madcap Theaters in Tempe. Through Sun, Oct 17. Features indie, retro and other horror and science fiction titles in this 6th annual event. (It’s not for the kiddos, but parents enjoy the arts too.)

ASU presents 26 Miles this weekend

26 Miles. Lyceum Theatre at ASU in Tempe. Through Sun, Oct 17. Features a coming-of-age “dramedy” about a Cuban American teen who explores her identity while on a road trip with her estranged mother. Playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes wrote the book for the Broadway musical “In The Heights.” (One for parents to enjoy with their older teens, perhaps?)

Cars and Guitars. Through Sat, Oct 16. Tempe Center for the Arts. Features exhibit of some mighty fancy guitars, cars and cool retro finds (including old storybook art). I had a great time exploring this one the day I saw Childsplay’s “A Year With Frog and Toad” at the same venue. (The cars/guitars exhibit makes a cool father/son outing.)

This weekend is your last chance to see this new work by James E. Garcia

The Eagle & The Serpent: A History of Mexico Abridged. Through Sun, Oct 17. Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center in Phoenix. Features New Carpa Theater Company presenting seven actors in 50 roles recreating the history of Mexico from 30,000 B.C. to the present “in 90 minutes or less.”

Romantic Fools. Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Through Sun, Oct 17. Features vaudeville-style comedy “examining love, lust, dating, and romance.” (Also for grown-ups only due to mature content.)

Watch for a second post Friday featuring weekend (and upcoming) theater by youth and for youth.

Ridiculous rulers. Bumbling bears. Colorful cupcakes. They’ve got it all.


Note: Please check details for all events before attending since prices vary, tickets may have limited availability and such.

Coming up: Making art in Mesa, Stage moms changing the world, Playwriting perspectives

Weekend whimsy

There’s a little something for everyone when it comes to family arts and entertainment this weekend. Here’s a roundup by category–featuring everything from concerts and musicals to nature walks and museum exhibits–with a bit of whimsy thrown in just for fun…

From sweeping beauties to singing mermaids

Theater performances include “Cinderella: A Ragtime Musical” at Desert Stages in Scottsdale, “Grease” at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix, “The Little Mermaid” at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa, “Two Bad Mice” by Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix, “Into the Woods” at Theater Works in Peoria (featuring a fabulous raffle)

From choral auditions to singing with Elmo

Music events include “Phoenix Boys Choir auditions” at the Phoenix Boys Choir in Phoenix, “Andreas Klein” (piano) and “Rahim Alhaj” (Iraqi oud) at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, “Breakfast with Elmo” (including song and dance) at Family Time in Gilbert

From movies in the park to movies at the museum

Community movie events include “Movie Night at the Park” (“Hoot” plus lessons on burrowing owls) at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear, “Dinner and a Movie” (“G-Force”) at Eddie’s House in Scottsdale, “Movies in the Ballpark” (“Cars”) at Goodyear Ballpark, “Kid’s Night Out Movie Night” (“Spirited Away”) at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa

From art walks to hands-on art projects

Art activities include “Downtown Chandler Art Walk” (art/entertainment), “Free Art Friday” (art projects/games) in Tempe, “Great Expectations and Dreams: Arizona Teens Speak Up” at ASU Downtown (to benefit PCH cancer/blood disorder patients)

From baseballs to carved dolls

Museum exhibits include “Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear” and “Solarville” at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience” and “Jump to Japan: Discovering Culture Through Popular Art” at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa, “Therizinosaur: Mystery of the Sickle-Claw Dinosaur” at the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa (adjacent to the Arizona Museum for Youth), “What Moves Us: Art of Transportation from the Permanent Collection” at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe, “Visions: Text Messages” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, “Hopi Katsina Dolls: 100 Years of Carving” and “More Than Child’s Play: American Indian Dolls” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix

From flashlight tour to wildflower walk

Nature activities include “Wildflower Walk” at The Arboretum at Flagstaff, “Hummingbird Banding” (professionals band, onlookers watch) at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, “Summer Saturday Evenings” at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, “Silent Sunday” at South Mountain Park in Phoenix, “Flashlight Tours” at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

For additional details–including dates/times, fees/reservations, recommended ages and such–check with hosting venues. Additional information on many of these events/activities is also available through the online calendar for Raising Arizona Kids magazine.


Note: If you’re on the prowl for art-related books, music or movies, try your luck at the free “Bargain Book Sale” from 9am-4pm today at the North Valley Regional Library in Anthem.

Coming up: From lemons to lemonade, Multicultural performance art, Season openers from Valley theaters, ASU Libraries’ Child Drama Collection, All about art walks, More movie reviews

Graphics from Cafe Press. Click here to see their extensive selection of gift items in black, white and beyond.

Update: Thanks to Carley Conder for sharing the news that renowned choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen, freelance choreographer/teacher/dancer originally from Denmark, is in Arizona for a six day residency. To enjoy a free showing of Boye-Christensen’s new work set for CONDER/dance, attend a Sat, Aug 21, performance at ASU FAC122 (11:45am-noon).