REVIEW: Currently on tour, Ice Dance International’s ‘In Flight: Live’ delivered a stylish farewell to the Skating Club of Boston

The memories certainly flow after a century.

Ice Dance International’s Executive Artistic Director and choreographer Douglas Webster reflected wistfully as he introduced what was likely Ice Dance International’s final performance on The Skating Club of Boston’s ice rink on Saturday, February 29.  With a 100-year reputation of bringing everything from amateur to Olympic skaters to the ice, The Skating Club of Boston has been sold and will move to a much larger facility in Norwood, Massachusetts.  During the week of Ice Dance International’s historic performance in Boston,  WGBH’s Open Studios’ star Jared Bowen interviewed Ice Dance International’s exemplary ice dancers at WGBH and took to the ice with them for a stunt or two.

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ICE DANCE INTERNATIONAL “IN FLIGHT: LIVE” TOUR 2020 FULL Cast Front Row: Laura Seal, Klabera Komini, Lara Shelton, Douglas Webster, Alissa Czisny, Kseniya Ponomaryova; Back Row: Ian Lorello, Neill Shelton, Rohene Ward, Collin Brubaker Not pictured: Adam Kaplan Photo credit to David J. Murray, ClearEyePhoto.com

Ranging from searing romance to lighthearted fun to big band to catching the wind, Ice Dance International’s ‘In Flight:  Live’ gave The Skating Club of Boston a proper send off with a sold out show at 1240 Soldiers Field Road in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Ice Dance International, who holds residence at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, Massachusetts, is currently on a national tour through April 4.    Click here for more information and tickets.

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Neill Shelton and Kseniya Ponomaryova in ‘Till the End’ Choreographed by Douglas Webster

Ice Dancing is not competitive skating, but a unique artistic journey on ice.  Not only did ‘In Flight’ feature captivating and extraordinary ice dancers that delivered more than their share of eye-popping stunts, but what was most impressive was how different each dance was from the other.  Featuring dynamic choreography from Douglas Webster, Trey McIntyre, Stephanee Grosscup, and Benoit Richaud, Ice Dance International delivered a wide range of music from classical to contemporary including pop, hip hop, and ballads evoking stories of heartache, excitement, humor, and passion.

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Just a few of the highlights included a stirring couples skate from Collin Brubaker and Kseniya Ponomaryova called ‘Till the End’ to the haunting ballad, Kissing You by Des’ree.  A passionate and bittersweet performance, the pair seemed to float upon the ice as Collin dipped, spun, and lifted Kseniya. They joined together as one before he must let go.  Another elegant performance was delivered by Klabera Komini and Neill Shelton called ‘In Space’ choreographed by Douglas Webster with music by Tom Yorke called Suspirium.   To a luminous, piano-infused melody with a deeper meaning, the dancers skillfully glided together connected only by a sheer purple scarf.

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Alissa Czisny and Rohene Ward delivered beautiful solo performances.  Rohene was charming and humorous in a beard and suspenders in ‘Wind Dancer’ choreographed by Stephanee Grosscup while Alissa was a vision in blue skillfully keeping a precise, quick pace to Yo-Yo Ma’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major in ‘Primavera.’

Some lighter moments included a group skate with Collin Brubaker, Adam Kaplan, Ian Lorello, Laura Seal, and Lara Shelton to Ben Kweller and Parsonfield’s  How It Should Be.  In a dance appropriately called ‘A Blade of Sunshine,’ what looked like a freestyle, fun loving group skate in bright, rich colors culminated into a jaw dropping moment as one dancer dove underneath and through the group of moving dancers and landed on his feet.  It’s only one example of the sensational stunts witnessed throughout the evening from daring lifts to high speed spins to impossible twists and turns.

Ice Dance International’s ‘In Flight:  Live’ continues its 2020 national tour through Saturday, April 4, concluding in Aspen, Colorado.  Click here for more information and tickets.  For upcoming events and more, follow Ice Dance International on Facebook.

Acclaimed choreographer Tony Williams talks innovative rock ballad, ‘Life: In Color’

David Bowie, Prince, and the Rolling Stones are just a few of the innovative artists that made a profound impact on rock and roll.  Paying tribute to some of the biggest rock and roll talent through ballet, Tony Williams Ballet Company presents rock ballad, Life: In Color, which explores memorable music over the past 60 years on Thursday, May 25 and Thursday, May 26.  Performances will be held at the Oberon Theatre, conveniently located in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Tony Williams, acclaimed choreographer and creator of the Tony Williams Ballet Company, talks about his love for dance, nearly meeting David Bowie, and how Life: In Color was born.

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Tony Williams Photo courtesy of the Tony Williams Dance Center

Sleeplesscritic:  You are behind the annual Urban Nutcracker, now in its 17th year.  What do you think it is about the Urban Nutcracker that has appealed to audiences for so long?

Tony Williams:  It’s a show about Boston for an audience that wants to see themselves represented onstage.  Our mission is diversity through dance, and there aren’t many shows where an 8 year-old African-American boy can see himself reflected onstage amongst a cast that truly reflects Boston’s multi-cultural community.  While it’s a take on the modern tale of the Nutcracker, it has heart, soul, and a more modern driving force.  We add something new each year.  Whether it’s our LGBT celebration show, a sensory-friendly show for those with autism, or even a selfie stick for our onstage party photo, there is always something fun and unique.  This year we have exciting plans and I can’t wait to share the growth of our Urban Nutcracker show, but we have to keep some elements of surprise.

SC:  What inspired you to become a dancer?  Was there a particular moment where you realized that dance is what you were meant for?

TW:  I was a real jock playing baseball and doing gymnastics.  I never thought about dancing until I was 16 and was always fascinated with classical music. One day I saw a ballet performance at the gym where I worked out and was totally mesmerized by the purple color in the costumes.  Around the same time at the gym, some of the gymnasts said how Russian gymnasts took ballet to improve their skill. I went with one of the gymnasts to the Boston Ballet School and watched him in class. I soon took a class and was hooked, but I stopped after one class because someone said ballet is not for boys. Then, by good fortune, I bumped into one of the dancers that had performed at the gym. I mentioned I saw him dance and tried to become a dancer, but stopped. He encouraged me to continue and here I am more than 50 years later.

SC:  Please tell me about the Tony Williams Dance Center and the Tony Williams Ballet and why you decided to start a dance school.

TW:  I started the Tony Williams Dance Center in 2000. I had been freelancing as a ballet teacher and was traveling all around New England. In order to cut down on travel, I decided to settle down in Boston neighborhood and my hometown, Jamaica Plain.  Things got off to a good start and now the Tony Williams Dance Center is in its 17th year.  My first professional ballet company actually dates back to 1985 when I co-founded Ballet Theatre of Boston with Jose Mateo. From there, I founded the American Concert Ballet (ACB) in 1991. ACB morphed into BalletRox in 1996.  I finally founded my professional dance company, the Tony Williams Ballet, in 2014.

SC:  I was struck by the innovative concept of Tony Williams Ballet’s Life: In Color.  The show infuses 60s rock and jazz into contemporary dance.  Some influences include David Bowie, Prince, and the Rolling Stones.  You’ve said that you felt with the recent deaths of a few of these music legends, now is the time to pay tribute to them.   How did this performance come about from there?

TW:  I was buying a coffee at the City Feed ‘hippie store’ near my studio when I heard Lady Jane by the Rolling Stones.  I hadn’t heard it in quite some time and it brought me back to 60s. I loved that song and was inspired to choreograph to it.

One time, while on a tour with Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, we were staying at a hotel in Norfolk, VA.  After we performed one evening, some of my fellow dancers and I had a drink in the hotel lounge. Afterwards, I went up to my room to go to sleep.  The next morning, one of the dancers excitedly told me David Bowie entered the hotel lounge with his band after I went to bed.  He was very friendly and drank with my fellow dancers. Yikes, I really missed out on meeting Bowie!

SC:  What do you think makes this upcoming performance particularly unique?

TW:  These performances will be our first in a 3 – D setting at the Oberon Theatre. It is a night club setting with patrons sitting at tables around an open dance floor with a stage. The dancers perform on the dance floor, stage, bar, the catwalk, and in and amongst the seated patrons!

SC:  What makes you particularly excited about Life:  in Color?  You’ve said this performance is particularly meaningful, an emotional journey.

TW:  The 60s was such an incredible decade. I lived through the Vietnam War as well as the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and Robert Kennedy. I lived in New York City and was swept up in that ‘Flower Power & Love’ decade that arose as a counter balance to so much tragedy. Creating Life:  in Color allows me to reflect nostalgically on those times by using certain rock songs that I love from the 60s and 70s.  Witty and entertaining, the show is anchored around the fabulous poetry of Ken Nordine’s 1966 poetry album called Colors.  The playful poems are accompanied with beautiful jazz music. The poetry spans the myriad personality traits of human beings.

SC:  Life:  in Color features Venezuelan dancer Gianni Di Marco, Stoneham native Janelle Gilchrist, veteran dancer Meghan Gaucher, and Hawaiian native Rick Vigo.  Please tell me about how these choreographers got involved.

TW:  I have been working with these talented artists for a number of years and had planned to choreograph Life:  in Color myself, but realized that I did not have sufficient time to create the 30 plus mini- dances in the performance.  So I allotted approximately six dances to each choreographer.  Our costume designer, Dustin Rennells, assisted me with fleshing out a scenario based on my ideas and has created wild and colorful costumes.

SC:  What do you think is the best reason people should attend Life: in Color?

TW:  It will be lots of fun!  You’ll appreciate the fabulous dancers and the wide variety of types and styles of dance, from classical ballet en pointe to circus art, hip hop, and campy jazz.  We aim to entertain with an original artistic approach that will appeal to everyone, not just balletomanes.

Tony Williams Ballet Company presents rock ballad Life:  In Color Thursday, May 25 and Friday, May 26 at the Oberon Theatre, 2 Arrow Street, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets and further information.

One of Tony Williams’s future projects is a new production of the Jungle Book in partnership with the Aparna Sindhoor Navarasa Dance Theater. Follow Tony Williams Dance Center on Facebook for updates and more.

Lexus Broadway in Boston boasts sizzling season including ‘Hamilton,’ ‘Waitress,’ Disney’s ‘Aladdin,’ and more

 

As the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical The King and I hits the Boston Opera House stage, Lexus Broadway in Boston recently offered a peek into its upcoming 2017-18 season.  From Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece and its stirring sequel to arguably the most sought after show in the world right now, Lexus Broadway in Boston has a phenomenal season ahead full of magic, family connections, unstoppable dance, and topping it off a serving of delicious pie.  All productions take place at the Boston Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts.  Subscriptions for the upcoming season are available now.  Click here for tickets and more information.

The magic begins this summer with the return to Oz and Neverland.  Get an inside look of how Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West became two of the most iconic characters in literary history.  Visually-stunning with a rich, inventive story line that integrates some of Oz’s most memorable characters, see the spectacular musical, Wicked from June 7 through July 23.  Behold the extraordinary story behind J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and the family that inspired that magical vision.  Integrating Peter Pan’s beloved characters in a unique way, seek Finding Neverland for a limited time from August 7 through 20.

A promising talent, a veteran singer, a ghost dwelling in an opera house, and two bewildered businessmen are part of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s haunting and phenomenally-successful musical, Phantom of the Opera, returns from September 13 through October 1.  Also arriving in Boston is Andrew Lloyd’s Webber’s Love Never Dies, the highly-anticipated sequel to Phantom of the Opera from January 30 through February 11.

A number of productions are making their debut in Boston.  Topping off the list is arguably the most sought after tickets in the world right now.  Hamilton is a contemporary retelling of America’s history arriving at the Boston Opera House September 18 through November 18, 2018.

Take a look inside Fun Home, 2015’s Tony award-winning Best Picture musical.  Fun Home is an auto-biographical tale about the joy and challenges of growing up.  Not recommended for children under 13, Fun Home debuts in Boston from October 17 through October 29.

Also making its Boston debut is On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, a meaningful and uplifting musical about the extraordinary life of Emilio and Gloria EstefanOn Your Feet is filled with lively music which includes an array of hits songs from the title track, Get On Your Feet to Coming Out of the Dark.  On Your Feet! debuts on April 17, 2018 to Sunday, April 29, 2018.

Waitress is saving the best for last.  Currently on Broadway starring Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles who also wrote Waitress’s music and lyrics, Waitress is a romantic comedy musical about a waitress gifted at baking pies.  She is unhappy in her small town existence until a surprise helps her to put her life into perspective.  Waitress serves up its own delights from February 20 through March 4.

All musicals take place at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for the full list and for tickets.  Follow Lexus Broadway in Boston on Facebook and Twitter.

Queen Latifah, Ben Folds, ‘Jaws,’ and ‘E.T.’ part of the Boston Pops ‘Celebrating John Williams’ season

Sometimes the most tremendous talent is located right in the backyard.  Responsible for a wealth of critically-acclaimed and celebrated music scores over a career that spans six decades and beyond, Boston Pops Laureate conductor John Williams has been nominated for 50 Academy Awards, winning five.  Legendary film scores for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Jaws as well as the Olympic Fanfare and theme and NBC Sunday Night Football are just a glimpse of the spectacular works by the incomparable John Williams.

In honor of John’s 85th birthday and his incredible accomplishments over the years, The Boston Pops dedicate their season to Celebrating John Williams from Wednesday, May 10 through Saturday, June 17 at Boston Symphony Hall.  The season will kick off with multi-talented actress and singer Queen Latifah from Wednesday, May 10 to Thursday, May 11 and finishing off with the 25th anniversary of Gospel Night on Saturday, June 17.

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Queen Latifah opens the Boston Pops season Photo courtesy of Boston Pops

The Boston Pops also offers a pre-season concert series hosted by Indiana Jones star, Karen Allen and the live recording of Boston Pops CD release on Friday, April 7.  Click here for Boston Pops tickets and here for more information on upcoming BSO concerts.

Led by accomplished conductor Keith Lockhart, a compelling roster of renowned artists and celebrity appearances enliven this spring’s Boston Pops season.  The stage and screen have never been brighter with iconic artists such as musicians Ben Folds, Leslie Odom, Jr, and the Party with the B-52s.  Other highlights include The Beatles & Beyond, Jaws in Concert, Mamma Mia, E.T. in Concert, Cirque De la Symphonie,  Lights, Camera, Music, The Music of John Williams, and more.

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Ben Folds Photo courtesy of the Boston Pops

The Boston Pops presents the always phenomenal and wildly-popular Gospel Night once again led by Charles Floyd and the return of Film Night with John Williams.  Click here for a full list of performances.

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Leslie Odom, Jr from Hamilton will perform with the Boston Pops Photo courtesy of the Boston Pops

Click here for tickets, call SymphonyCharge at 1-888-266-1200, or visit the Symphony Hall box office during business hours at 301 Massachusetts Ave in Boston, Massachusetts.  Follow The Boston Pops on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

 

REVIEW: Boston Ballet presents William Forsythe’s brilliantly compelling ‘Artifact’

World-renowned choreographer William Forsythe, dressed in a baseball cap and modest attire, addressed an eager, mesmerized audience in a post-show talk with Boston Ballet’s acclaimed Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen after the evening performance of William Forsythe’s Artifact on Saturday, March 25.  Mikko Nissinen introduced Forsythe with enthusiasm and said that working with him has been a lifelong dream fulfilled.  William Forsythe and Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen have a five-year partnership, working together to establish each season’s performances, highlighting one of Forsythe’s exceptional works each year.

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The Boston Ballet Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet

Friendly and unassuming, Forsythe spoke about his beautifully-unconventional production, Artifact, a piece he created over 30 years ago and a work that audiences and critics alike have embraced ever since.  Veiled on the Boston Opera House stage and enhanced with minimal props, lies a complex, timeless, and thought-provoking masterpiece which makes a powerful statement on the essence of the art of ballet.  Shown in its full length, Forsythe revised Artifact’s finale specifically for the Boston Ballet, which is a thrilling, compelling spectacle that blends classical and contemporary dance in a unique way.

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Boston Ballet presents ‘Artifact’ Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet presents William Forsythe’s Artifact through Sunday, March 5 at the Boston Opera House.  Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Take a closer look at William Forsythe’s Artifact here.

Blending humor, philosophy, drama, and a wide range of traditional and contemporary ballet, William Forsythe’s Artifact, since the show was introduced, set a significant precedent in the inspiring works that followed.  A production packed with a wide range of welcome surprises, each distinct character offers their own insight into this mysterious tale.  Featuring a shimmering backdrop that matched the majestic, glittering black gown worn by Dana Caspersen, a statuesque woman in grey portrayed by Caralin Curcio, and a dapper, yet frustrated older man with megaphone portrayed by Nicholas Champion, Artifact is an intensely fascinating work from its start.

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Raina Sawai as Woman in Gray and Nicholas Champion as Man with Megaphone

Caspersen’s performance is  full of jubilance and inquisitiveness from the moment she welcomed the audience with a peerless smile.  Curcio delivers a haunting, athletic, and captivating non-verbal performance, her movements sharp, poised, and vigorous while she appears in unexpected places.  Dignified and authoritative, Champion’s dynamic performance boasts comedic moments, especially in his interaction with Caspersen.  While Champion’s musings are incomprehensible and muffled, Caspersen’s seem philosophical and poetic.

Artifact, divided into four parts like a symphony, features piano by Margot Kazimirska and delves into a full range of emotions as the piano seems to have a mind of its own, often breaking convention.  The music, featuring J.S. Boch: Chaconne from Partita Nr. 2 BWV 1004 in D-Minor by Nathan Milstein, Sound Collage by William Forsythe, and music from composer and pianist Eva Crossman-Hecht, progresses from playful to somber then frantic to rhythmic.

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Sao Hye Han and Paul Craig in William Forsythe’s ‘Artifact’ Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

Dressed in rich, vibrant color and launching into choreography ranging from romantic and sweeping to freestyle to stiff and regimented, the Boston Ballet often break convention under the direction of Curcio.  A few of the highlights are ballet dancers breaking away into romantic, sweeping duets as they spin, sway, and soar.  With a verbal countdown, they perform intrinsic dance combinations such as a row of dancers drop to the floor in unison, embracing.  Another thrilling highlight is the ballet directs the curtain to lift and close, creating snapshots of various, choreographed scenes.  As Artifact culminates into an unpredictable, uplifting, and magnificent finale, unified dancers are as mesmerizing as the dancers breaking away into frantic, dynamic arrangements, performing pirouettes to a wild rhythm, blossoming into a new entity.

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Seo Hye Han and the Boston Ballet in ‘Artifact’ Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet

Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Subscriptions and group rates are also available. Follow the Boston Ballet on Twitter.

The Boston Ballet’s 2017-18 season boasts masterful works such as Kylian/Wings of Wax from March 23 through April 2, Robbins/The Concert from May 5 through May 27, Obsidian Tear from November 3 through November 12, and the return of Tchaikovsky’s beloved holiday classic, Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker from November 24 through December 31, 2017.  Click here for a closer look at all of Boston Ballet’s 2017-18 season highlights.

South Shore Conservatory offers spring classes for young students in March

From learning music instruments to singing, dancing, exercise, theatrical play and more, South Shore Conservatory has a stellar reputation of immersing students of all ages in a wide spectrum of exciting activities as the spring warmth approaches.  Ranging from basic to more advanced skill levels, spring registration is now open for young children with Music Together and Music Sprouts programs starting on March 13. South Shore Conservatory is located at convenient locations on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Click here for a list of classes available.

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Young students enjoying Music Together class at South Shore Conservatory, image by Michelle McGrath PR

A few of the classes offered for children ages 0 through 9 are Time TrainMusic SproutsDrum and SingCreative DanceHip HopTot YogaBallet, Move and Groove Music Therapy Group, Piano FUNdamentals, Curtain Going UpPrimo Voice Class, and Let’s Put on a Show.  South Shore Conservatory also offers classes for ages 10 through 18 such as Rock BandFiddle ClassSaturday Stage ClubPop Rock Vocal Tech, and Let’s Put on a Show.  Take part in adult classes such as Adult Rock Band, Golden VoicesSSC Community VoicesAdult Jazz Workshop, and Shake Your Soul. Classes are also available for dance and musical instruments at beginner levels.

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Drum class at South Shore Conservatory Photo courtesy of Michelle McGrath and South Shore Conservatory

South Shore Conservatory has created a comfortable, inspiring, and exciting learning environment for students at all levels at their Duxbury and Hingham campuses.  Satellite classes are offered at the South Shore Community Center in Cohasset, Massachusetts. South Shore Conservatory also offers financial aid. For further details and to register, call Early Childhood Program Coordinator Jana Kahn at 781-749-7565 ext. 33 or online at sscmusic.org.

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South Shore Conservatory partners with the American Ballet Theatre. Photo Courtesy of Michelle McGrath and South Shore Conservatory

Click here to learn about all of South Shore Conservatory’s upcoming events.  Follow South Shore Conservatory on Facebook and Twitter.