Dance companies offer modern and classic works


The groundbreaking British dance company Motionhouse performs the U.S. premiere of “Scattered” on Jan. 19 at the Phillips Center. (COURTESY OF MOTIONHOUSE)

Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 11:17 a.m.

This season, get off the couch and turn off those so-called “reality” shows. Head to a real theater and see for yourself what real dancers in real companies really do.

Here in Gainesville, local companies are not to be missed.

Dance Alive National Ballet, Gainesville's professional dance company, presents two new productions this season.

“Phantom — A Tale of Obsession,” is Dance Alive's new full-length ballet, based on Gaston Leroux's “The Phantom of the Opera.” The dramatic ballet, featuring a high-tech soft LED screen set design, premieres Oct. 19.

“Rite of Spring,” featuring the University of Florida Symphony Orchestra, marks the 2013 centennial of Stravinsky's ballet on March 16.

After a one-year hiatus, Gainesville Ballet Theatre's “The Little Match Girl” notably returns. Under the direction of new GBT co-artistic director Rasika Marletto, the family holiday ballet runs Dec. 21-22.

And this year, as with every year, University of Florida Performing Arts — Gainesville's largest presenter of professional arts performances — will deliver major dance works.

UFPA dance bookings, in keeping with this year's 20th anniversary of the Phillips Center, mainly feature troupes that have performed here before.

The notable regulars are: Trey McIntyre Project (Dec. 5), MOMIX (Jan. 24), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Feb. 19) and Mark Morris Dance Group (March 22).

These companies comprise part of what UFPA has dubbed its “20th Anniversary Artists,” or roster of favorite performers over the past two decades.

MOMIX will reprise “Botanica.” The plans in store for Gainesville from the Ailey, Trey McIntyre and Mark Morris companies have not yet been announced.

Frequent patrons who've already enjoyed their fill may be hungrier for a taste of some less-familiar fare.

The Seán Curran Company, performing Feb. 8, should satisfy. The New York City-based modern dance troupe will be accompanied by the Grammy-winning British male vocal ensemble, The King's Singers.

Before launching his own company in 1997, Curran won a “Bessie” Award as a lead dancer with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. An Irish step dancer in his youth, the NYU graduate was in the original cast of “STOMP.” His company performs at and is commissioned by The Joyce Theatre, Danspace Project, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and Dance Theatre Workshop.

Curran choreographs on Broadway, for ABT II (American Ballet Theatre's studio company), The Shakespeare Theatre and for Trinity Irish Dance Company of Chicago.

The company RIOULT — not new to Gainesville, but not an old warhorse, either — is another contemporary dance troupe that arrives Oct. 25.

Founding director Pascal Rioult, a French former track and field star, made a new life for himself in the United States as a principal dancer with Martha Graham Dance Company. He performed with Baryshnikov and at the Paris Opera's Palais Garnier before creating his company in 1994.

Audiences wanting to step outside of today's contemporary/modern mainstream should get tickets to Ragamala's “Sacred Earth.”

Ragamala, a Minnesota-based company of classical Indian dancers, performs Oct. 2. Founder Ranee Ramaswamy was recently nominated by President Barack Obama to the National Council on the Arts.

The British dance company Motionhouse, known for its groundbreaking use of film imagery and live performance, marks a U.S. premiere when it performs “Scattered,” about the force of water in human life, on Jan. 19.

Treat yourself and someone you love to that triumph of American song and dance, “West Side Story.” The 1957 Bernstein/Sondheim/Robbins masterpiece runs Nov. 27 and 28. Has there been a better musical since?

From national tours to local troupes, there is plenty to inspire. Performances of live art uplift and energize the human experience in ways a screen image cannot.

If you think you know dance, think again. If you've been spending your free time in front of the television, turn your attention to the real deal for a change.

Sarah Maze can be reached at sarahi@ufl.edu.

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