Gainesville dancers lauded for reaching high points


Published: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 12:54 a.m.
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Choreographer Lauri Stallings is one of Dance Magazine's "25 to watch in 2007."

CHARLIE MCCULLER/Special to The Sun
Gainesville's contributions to the greater dance realm have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the country. Over this past month in particular, some of the nation's foremost dance publications have set their gaze on three Gainesville artists and their increasing accomplishments in the field. A UF filmmaker, a native choreographer in demand and a gifted ingenue are capturing the eye of important press. Locals should take a peek, too: In its 18th year, Dance Magazine is the gold standard of dance periodicals, with the February edition noting UF dance professor Joan Frosch. Frosch's film directorial debut, "Movement (R)evolution Africa," premiered at Lincoln Center in January at the 35th annual Dance On Camera festival.
"Movement (R)evolution Africa" has morphed into a conference, a festival and now a film, all the while under the direction of Frosch, who co-heads the Center for World Arts at UF and is a founding member of the national Africa Contemporary Arts Consortium.
Frosch's aim has been to promote global attention to the driven artists of Africa's contemporary dance, nine of whom are featured in the film.
I was exposed to the riveting work of these choreographers via the 2004 "Movement (R)evolution" conference hosted by UF. Their dances, and Frosch's documentary on them, defy stereotypes of Africa and limiting notions of what "African dance" denotes.
The film, a nominee for the "Dance on Camera" juried prize, was praised by The Village Voice, which wrote, "For shattering, deeply conscientious dancing alone, this film is a knockout."
Dance Magazine's January issue featured a Gainesville native for its cover story. Listed among the magazine's "25 to Watch in 2007," dancer-turned-choreographer Lauri Stallings has previously received a 2006 Choreographic Fellowship and the 2004 title of Chicagoan of the Year.
Stallings was born and bred in southeast Gainesville, where she attended Eastside High and trained at Pofahl Studio. The 38-year-old has since created works for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Joffrey Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet.
Currently she is serving a three-year stint as Choreographer in Residence with Atlanta Ballet. There, she is co-choreographing a ballet version of "The Great Gatsby," which premieres next month.
"I'm also creating my own one-act for the company," Stallings says. "It's titled 'Bekken' (which is Dutch for "pelvis") and it's a fusion of the classical and contemporary worlds. You couldn't classify it; it's where dance is right now - the in-between."
Stallings has further commissions in the coming months, including works for MG360, American Ballet Theatre's studio company and SUNY/Purchase.
Stallings will also return to Gainesville to create a work for Dance Alive National Ballet in 2008.
"Recognizing my roots is very important to me," says Stallings in reference to her parents (who still in the house she was raised in), and her early instructors.
"Growing up, my ballet teacher was (the late) Mary Ellen Pofahl, and she was an enormous influence on me as a youngster . . . I also started in tap, under her daughter Judy (Skinner). I thought the rhythms of tap were incredible - rhythm is what life is, and what dance is."
Another Pofahl-trained dancer is 17-year-old Beth Ann Maslinoff, who was commended in the January edition of Pointe, a popular magazine devoted to ballet.
Beth Ann (who's family still lives in Gainesville) is in her fourth year at Boca Raton's elite Harid Conservatory, an audition-only high school focused on dance. She was recently named one of two recipients of the 2006 Rudolph Nureyev Education Fellowship. "The Fellowship is a very prestigious award funded by the Nureyev Foundation, based in Chicago," says Harid director Gordon Wright. As it is of course in Nureyev's name and memory, receiving it is a tremendous opportunity."
After Beth Ann's graduation this spring, the Japanese consulate is paying her to dance for three weeks in Japan as a guest artist. Beth Ann has also successfully auditioned for Mississippi's Ballet Magnificat, which she will join in the coming season.
Sarah Ingley can be reached at Scene@gvillesun.com.

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