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Dance Theatre of Harlem and Richard Alston Dance Company to appear at Virginia Arts Festival

by Amanda S. Coleman
May 14, 2014
The Virginia Arts Festival presents Dance Theatre of Harlem on May 17 and 18 in Norfolk and Richard Alston Dance Company on May 21 and 23 in Norfolk and Williamsburg in this year's Dance Series. The 2014 Festival features two world-class companies who have rewritten the rules for these art forms.

Dance Theatre of Harlem with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Virginia Chorale will present Robert Garland's new work Gloria with Choreography by Robert Garland, Music by Francis Poulenc; Far But Close, Choreography by John Alleyne, Music by Daniel Bernard Roumainand ; Return with Choreography by Robert Garland and Music by Aretha Franklin and James Brown on MAY 17 and Gloria , Glinka Pas de Trois, Choreography: by George Balanchine and Music by Mikhail Glinka; The Lark Ascending ,Choreography by Alvin Ailey and Return on MAY 18.

Richard Alston Dance Company on May 21 & 23 will present The Devil in the Detail, with Choreography: Richard Alston, Music: Scott Joplin Maple Leaf Rag, Stoptime Rag, Cascades, The Ragtime Dance, The Entertainer, A Strenuous Life, Original Rag; Shimmer with Choreography: Richard Alston and Music: Maurice Ravel Sonatine , Oiseax Tristes, une Barque sur l'Ocean, La Vallee des Cloches from Miroirs and Les Illuminations with Choreography: Richard Alston and Music: Benjamin Britten.

Alston's acclaimed company will perform works that contrast two very different composers. Alston's Shimmer is danced to the sun-drenched music of Ravel, and the jewel-encrusted cobweb costumes illuminate dazzling streaks of limpid choreography in a ravishingly beautiful piece of theatre. In The Devil in the Detail, the irresistible ragtime music of Scott Joplin springs to life as barefoot dancers reveal every note in superbly finessed syncopation.

Dance Theatre of Harlem

The Festival will present two performances of the Dance Theatre of Harlem at Chrysler Hall, May 17 and 18. At the centerpiece of this jubilant engagement is the company's critically acclaimed staging of choreographer Robert Garland's new work, Gloria, which will be performed for the first time with live music by the Virginia Symphony and the Virginia Chorale. Prior to each performance, there will be a panel discussion featuring area arts leaders and performers.
In 1955, when the great choreographer George Balanchine brought a black dancer—Arthur Mitchell—into America's most prestigious company, American Ballet Theatre, it was the beginning of a new era. And in 1969, when Arthur Mitchell created the Dance Theatre of Harlem, ballet was changed forever. Nurtured by the optimism and idealism of the civil rights era, the company began with classes taught in a garage on 152nd Street in Harlem, where Arthur Mitchell grew up. Within just a few years, Dance Theatre of Harlem had won international acclaim, and over the next decades would perform across America and around the world, including historic performances in Russia—the first American ballet company ever to perform there, and in South Africa during the height of the movement to end apartheid.

"The Virginia Arts Festival has had a long relationship with Dance Theatre of Harlem," said Festival Director Robert
Cross. "We are delighted to be a part of this great company's re-emergence, and look forward to sharing their many gifts with the communities of Norfolk and the region during our three-year residency." With support from the City of Norfolk and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Festival's Dance Theatre of Harlem residency program will feature public performances and community engagement including student matinees, master classes, panel discussions, and mentoring with local student dancers of all ages and abilities. Master classes will be held for students residing in the Young Terrace Housing Development, the largest public housing community in Norfolk, and for students of the Governor's School for the Arts.

Dance Theatre of Harlem repertoire
www.dancetheatreofharlem.org/company/repertoire

Gloria (5/17,18)
Choreography: Robert Garland
Music: Francis Poulenc
Costume Design and Execution: Pamela Allen-Cummings
Lighting: Roma Flowers
Première: October 20, 2012
Number of Dancers: 14
Running time: 25 minutes

The choreographer dedicates this work to the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and its current Pastor, the Reverend Calvin Otis Butts III. Gloria was developed in part at Vineyard Arts Project: Ashley Melone, Founder and Artistic Director.

Far But Close (5/17)
Choreography: John Alleyne
Text: Daniel Beaty
Music: Daniel Bernard Roumain
Costumes: Emilio Sosa
Lighting: Gerald King
Assistant to the Choreographer: Kellye A. Saunders
Première: November 16, 2012
Number of dancers: 4
Running time: 28 minutes

Far But Close is a new way of looking at how the language of ballet can be used to tell a story. Playwright and spoken word artist Daniel Beaty created the frame with a powerful tale that explores the healing power of romantic love. John Alleyne's choreography reveals the people inside the story, defining character and relationship as bodies move through space. Holding it altogether and propelling the story forward, is the soulful rhythm of Daniel Bernard Roumain's music. A contemporary love story takes the viewer on a sublime journey filled with passion and ultimately understanding.

Far But Close was commissioned by Dance Theatre of Harlem as part of Harlem Dance Works 2.0, an initiative made possible through a Rockefeller Foundation 2010 NYC Cultural Innovation Grant. All music was performed and recorded by Daniel Bernard Roumain. Text was performed by Daniel Beaty and Harriet D. Foy.

This ballet was developed in part at Vineyard Arts Project: Ashley Melone, Founder and Artistic Director.

Return (5/17,18)
Choreography: Robert Garland
Music: Aretha Franklin and James Brown
Costumes: Pamela Allen-Cummings
Lighting: Roma Flowers
Première: 1999, City Center, NY
Number of dancers: 12
Running time: 25 minutes

A rousing blend of the elegance of classical ballet and the gritty drive of soul music, Return is a quintessential DTH ballet. To songs of Aretha Franklin and James Brown, Garland pushes the boundaries of ballet technique and form, incorporating and blending vernacular movement from the African American experience. From Pas de Bouree to the Cabbage Patch, Ballone to the bump, the ballet fulfills Dance Theatre of Harlem's idea of what it means to be "Classically American".

Glinka Pas de Trois (5/18)
Choreography: George Balanchine
Music: Mikhail Glinka, Russlan and Ludmilla, Opus 5: Act III, No. 15. Dances
Lighting: Peter D. Leonard
Première: 1955, New York City Ballet
DTH première: January 17, 2012, Huntsville AL
Number of Dancers: 3
Running time: 13 minutes

Created in 1955 as a vehicle for New York City Ballet luminaries Melissa Hayden, Patricia Wilde, and André Eglevsky, Glinka Pas de Trois is quintessential Balanchine in which the choreographer calls upon the resources of three dancers to perform with great speed and split-second timing as they execute a wide variety of technical feats all within the classical idiom.

The Lark Ascending (5/18)
Choreography: Alvin Ailey
Music: Ralph Vaughn Williams
Première: 1972, the Ailey Company
DTH première: October 20, 2012
Staging: Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish
Costumes: Bea Feitler
Lighting: Chenault Spence
Number of dancers: 12
Running Time: 15 minutes

To Vaughan Williams, with his intense love of the English countryside that he knew in his youth, the lark represented the heart's rapture and the soul's aspiration. A miniature violin concerto in all but name, the composer called it a "Romance" when he completed it in 1920, after beginning it before war broke out in 1914. The violin rises and soars aloft above a delicate orchestral accompaniment, followed by a short folksong-like middle section, and then the soloist again takes wing. Some lines from a poem by George Meredith are inscribed on the score and aptly define the music's rhapsodic character:

Singing till his heaven fills
Tis love of earth that he instils
And ever winging up and up
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
To lift us with him as he goes.

(from "Poems and Lyrics of the Joys of Earth" Noel Goodwin)

The re-staging and performance of The Lark Ascending has been made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius. Special Thanks to the Alvin Ailey Theater Foundation for the permission to perform this piece.

Richard Alston Dance Company

In two Festival performances—in Norfolk on May 21 and Williamsburg on May 23—Alston's acclaimed company will perform works that contrast two very different composers. Alston's Shimmer is danced to the sun-drenched music of Ravel, and the jewel-encrusted cobweb costumes illuminate dazzling streaks of limpid choreography in a ravishingly beautiful piece of theatre. In The Devil in the Detail, the irresistible ragtime music of Scott Joplin springs to life as barefoot dancers reveal every note in superbly finessed syncopation.

Richard Alston is "a choreographer for whom every dance is a love affair with his chosen music" (The Times, London). In 45 years of dance making, this virtuosic and much-honored British dance maker has distilled the essence of music in movement. A recipient of France's Chevalier dans' l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Britain's CBE (Commander of the British Empire), Alston creates dances of "amazing speed…explosive power…and linear grace [that] change your breathing while you watch," according to The New York Times.

Richard Alston Dance Company repertoire
This is all found on www.richardalstondance.com/repertoire

The Devil in the Detail
Choreography: Richard Alston
Music: Scott Joplin Maple Leaf Rag, Stoptime Rag, Cascades, The Ragtime Dance, The Entertainer, A Strenuous Life, Original Rag
Pianist: Jason Ridgway
Lighting: Charles Balfour
Costumes: Peter Todd

Alston's effervescent The Devil in the Detail is inspired by the music of 'King of Ragtime' Scott Joplin played live onstage by RADC's long time collaborator, the pianist Jason Ridgway. Music of such utterly irresistible pleasure as the Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer are infectiously joyous and uplifting. The Devil in the Detail is infused with lightness and finesse, brimming with elegant detail and stylish swagger.

First performed at Sadler's Wells on 29 March 2006. This revival first performed at G Live in Guildford on 9 October 2012.

Shimmer
Choreography: Richard Alston
Music: Maurice Ravel Sonatine (1903-05), Oiseax Tristes, une Barque sur l'Ocean, La Vallee des Cloches from Miroirs (1904-05)
Pianist: Jason Ridgway
Lighting: Charles Balfour
Costumes: Julien Macdonald

Shimmer is danced to the exquisite music of Ravel. His Sonatine initially sounds so pretty but though the surface is sunny enough, deeper there lie strange and resonant chords. The pieces from Miroirs are even more haunting. In Oiseaux Tristes melancholy undertones create an atmosphere that is almost bleak. In contrast, Une Barque sur l'Océan is pure sun-drenched seascape, shimmering with a dazzling light and surging repeatedly in great waves. The last piece, La Vallée de Cloches, spins a delicate web of sound suspended between bell-like repeated single notes. When I made Shimmer in 2004, I only choreographed the first two movements of Sonatine - I have taken advantage of coming back to the piece to finally include the last movement.

Shimmer was made in memory of the art critic Bryan Robertson, whose generous friendship and lively enthusiasm were an inspiration that still lasts.

Julien Macdonald's fabulous, jewel-encrusted cobweb costumes have a ravishingly beautiful sense of theatre, adding a wonderful magic to Shimmer. Like costumes from some lost Ballets Russes production, they are glistening and exotic. Julien was nominated for the 2005 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance for these costume designs and for our revival this season, they are glistening even more, thanks to extra Swarovski crystals added.

First performed at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury on 20 February 2004.

Les Illuminations
Choreography: Richard Alston
Music: Benjamin Britten Les Illuminations
Original Lighting: Peter Mumford
Relit: Charles Balfour
Costumes: Fotini Dimou

The fantastic imagery of Rimbaud's poetry is a reflection of his short but turbulent creative life. As a young boy he saw himself as a visionary, beyond the logic and conventions of society. 'I alone' he cried, 'hold the key to this barbarous parade.' He ran away from home at only sixteen to join the older poet Paul Verlaine in Paris and the sometimes brutal intensity of their love affair fuelled the wild visions and strange dreams of Rimbaud's writing. Eventually though, Rimbaud's persistent quest to 'disorder the senses' turned these visions sour, the dreams nightmarish. By the age of nineteen Rimbaud had violently rejected both his lover and his writing and set sail for Africa, seeking a new life.

'Enough seen… enough learned… Leave for new attachments, new sounds.'

Britten was introduced to the poetry of Rimbaud by WH Auden in the 1930s. He recognised the figure of a young artist arriving in a large and intimidating metropolis and more importantly he identified with Rimbaud and Verlaine, two artists obsessively in love. Britten himself had recently met the young singer Peter Pears, the beginning of a lifelong partnership, and it was not long after they had left together for America that Les Illuminations was composed. From the first notes of the opening fanfare the music has the intensity and clarity of a supremely confident young man, and this intensity develops into the heady sensuality of early love . Both music and text go on to portray the drug-induced hallucinations which sent Rimbaud's world spiralling downwards until he finally broke himself free. Depart, the last section, is the calm after a storm, the departure for a new world (Africa in Rimbaud's case, America for Britten) and the voice movingly expresses both the opportunism of a fresh start and the exhaustion of such an emotional upheaval.

Formally titled Rumours, Visions and first performed by London Contemporary Dance Theatre at the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts on 11 June 1994. First performed by Richard Alston Dance Company at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry on 6 November 1996.

VIRGINIA ARTS FESTIVAL

Since 1997, Virginia Arts Festival has transformed the cultural scene in southeastern Virginia, presenting great performers from around the world to local audiences and making this historic, recreation‐rich region a cultural destination for visitors from across the United States and around the world. The Festival has presented numerous U.S. and regional premieres, and regularly commissions' new works of music, dance, and theater from some of today's most influential composers, choreographers and playwrights. The Festival's arts education programs reach tens of thousands of area schoolchildren each year through student matinees, in‐school performances, artists' residencies, master classes and demonstrations.

TICKET INFORMATION

Dance Theatre of Harlem
with Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Virginia Chorale | Chrysler Hall, Norfolk
Friday, May 17, 8 pm; Saturday, May 18, 2:30 pm
Tickets $60 Gold Circle, $45, $35, $20

Richard Alston Dance Company
Wednesday, May 21, 7:30 pm | TCC Roper Performing Arts Center, Norfolk
Friday, May 23, 8 pm | Phi Beta Kappa Hall, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg
Tickets $45, $25

Tickets are available online at vafest.org, by phone at 877-741-2787, or at the Virginia Arts Festival Box Office, 440 Bank Street, Norfolk. Group tickets (groups of 15 or more) are available, call 757-282-2819.
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