Dance season offers variety and unexpected performances


The Scottish Ballet performs a new take on Tennessee Williams' “A Streetcar Named Desire” on Oct. 10 at the Phillips Center.

Courtesy of Scottish Ballet
Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.

It seems these days that concert dance almost always falls under one of three categories: contemporary ballet, traditional ethnic dance and the rough-and-tumble display of what could be called “extreme” dance.

The 2013-2014 season of dance offerings in Gainesville — touring acts as well as local productions — will mostly adhere to the above formula.

Though the categories may be predictable, however, within each are some real knockouts, not to mention some unexpected newcomers to enjoy checking out.

The contemporary ballet genre preserves classical ballet training and technique, while providing the Old World art form with a context and execution more relevant and relatable to modern life.

Consider the season's contemporary ballet highlights:

University of Florida Performing Arts, Gainesville's largest presenter of professional work, opens its dance card with Scottish Ballet's “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Artistic director Christopher Hampson trained at London's Royal Ballet School, performed with English National Ballet and has choreographed works for major companies worldwide.

Scottish Ballet, which is Scotland's national dance company, created its “Streetcar” last year to mark the 65th anniversary of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The legendary drama between characters Stella and Stanley plays out onstage through a new medium.

“Streetcar” brakes for the Phillips Center on Oct. 10. The performance marks Scottish Ballet's first local appearance.

Returning to the Phillips Center on Feb. 1 is the marvelous Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

The New York-based company, which is directed by two former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater principals, has been a major force in American dance for nearly 20 years and will perform a program of repertory works that will be announced later.

Also well worth mentioning is Dance Alive National Ballet's “Bolero.”

Set for March 15 at the Phillips Center, this is a mixed-bill evening that fills the slot of Dance Alive's annual spring repertory showcase.

Dance Alive is Gainesville's only professional dance company.

Collaborating for the production is UF Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Raymond Chobaz.

Additional guest artists are Brazilian guitarist Welson Tremura as well as pianist Kevin Sharpe.

“Bolero” will, of course, include staging of the Ravel orchestral work for which the program is named.

The dance interpretation, choreographed by Dance Alive director Kim Tuttle, has been a company staple over several decades.

Other pieces include Manuel de Falla's “Night in the Gardens of Spain,” choreographed by Judy Skinner, as well as a new work by guest choreographer Ani Collier.

Productions like these that manage to utilize live music are often the most satisfying.

And that brings us to the traditional — what we used to call “folk” — dance performances ahead:

UF Performing Arts encores “Tango Fire” on Nov. 20, and then presents “Stars of Flamenco” on Feb. 26.

While tango and flamenco have been represented in past UF Performing Arts seasons as well, the Krasnoyarsk National Dance Company of Siberia is the unexpected new kid on the block, and a welcome one.

Appearing at the Phillips for the first time on Feb. 8, the 50-year-old troupe has toured more than 60 countries and provides its own orchestra.

And now we're at our final category in the current concert-dance triumvirate: those popular dance shows with buzz words like “sport,” “multimedia,” “special effects” and “gravity-defying”.

First up, the Los Angeles-based Diavolo Dance Theatre returns to the Phillips on Oct. 16.

Diavolo is known for merging dance with architectural, large-scale sets and for its use of actors, gymnasts and other athletes.

Then, for the first time here in town, Brooklyn's STREB Extreme Action performs its new work, “FORCES”, on March 25 and 26.

The Brooklyn-based company, founded in 1985, has toured the U.S. extensively and made multiple appearances on national television.

That completes the trilogy. If something seems missing, however, there are still some scattered sprinkles to enjoy: the tried-and-true-to-its-vision modern dance of the world-renowned, wondrous Pilobolus (Feb. 18 at the Phillips), student and faculty craftsmanship of UF and Santa Fe dance programs, and then the holiday season of area classical ballets.

That leaves us wondering when and how something new will take the stage, or what will be revived, in the future. That day will come, replacing the status quo of what's selling tickets today. So I, for one, will buy mine, sit back and take the year in.

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

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