Sunday, December 26, 1999

'99 Dance: Comings and goings




BY CAROL NORRIS
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The local dance scene in 1999 was marked by new arrivals and fond farewells.

        Behind-the-scenes training got a big boost by the hiring of Daniel Simmons to develop Cincinnati Ballet's dance academy and Michael Tevlin at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music to drive its Preparatory Department.

        Shawn Womack left a void in the modern dance community with her move to California.

        On the performance side:

        • Take notice: Victoria Morgan's “Beyond Innocence” for Cincinnati Ballet in February. With lighting and set design ideas on loan from Cincinnati Opera's Nicholas Muni and coordinated by Jay Depenbrock, Ms. Morgan's robust, up-to-date view of the sexes brought people to their feet. The buzz after was what to expect as a follow-up.

        • Most glorious dancing: Dayton Contemporary Dance Company's February premiere of “Children of the Passage,” co-choreographed by Donald McKayle and Ronald K. Brown. To the New Orleans sounds of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the piece showcased the best qualities of this amazingly talented company.

        • Most outstanding performance by an older dancer: Baba Ishangi, who performed with the Ishangi Dancers at the Aronoff in March. At 64 and still finely muscled, he did cartwheels, head spins and flips while the five women in his group danced about the quieter moments of life in the African country of Ghana.

        • Best new/old ballet: Dennis Poole's trimmed and reshaped version of Sleeping Beauty. The Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who cut his teeth on the famed Kirov version of this old classic, once said of it “. . . It is very long and very lush, and there is nothing you can really cut . . .” We beg to differ. Especially for a small company like Cincinnati Ballet, a trimmed version works. Otherwise, how else would we ever see one?

        • Most original look at Irish dancing: Sean Curran's “Folk Dance for the Future,” presented during his company's March stop at the Aronoff. It was a modern choreographer's approach, fresh, funny and engaging from a guy who grew up doing the real thing.

        • Ballet to cry for: David Nixon's Butterfly for Cincinnati Ballet. The first ballet to make this hardened watcher weep in a long time, this beautiful work told an unforgettable story of a broken heart. It was delicately danced on opening night by Leah Elzner, and later by Anna Reznik.

        • Best return visit: Riverdance, which played at the Aronoff in May. When it first appeared at Riverbend in 1998, everyone loved it. No thrills were lost in its move indoors; dancing, cast and music were as exciting as ever.

        • Best visit by an old friend: Marc Morozumi in October. The Joe Goode Performance Group gave a wonderful performance of Mr. Goode's musical-theater piece Deeply There (stories of a neighborhood). Mr. Morozumi, a School for Creative and Performing Arts and University of Cincinnati graduate, performed locally with Children's Theatre and Contemporary Dance Theater early in his career. He's all grown up and dancing beautifully with this San Francisco company.

        • Best new looking choreography: Robert Battle's for the Parsons Dance Company in November. In three short, intriguing works — “Takademe”, “Strange Humors” and “Rush Hour” — this newcomer nearly upstaged his mentor, David Parsons.

        • Our fondest farewell: The biggest loss was the death of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company's founder and artistic director Jeraldyne Blunden in November. That anyone would attempt to create a world-class modern dance group with a vast repertory that would employ some of the best dancers in the country and have it operate from Dayton is a marvel. That Mrs. Blunden actually succeeded in doing this is a miracle. The Dayton community, and modern dance lovers everywhere mourn the loss of this miracle worker.

       



'99 Year in Review: Recalling the century's last gasp
'99 Sports: Color the year Red
'99 Local News: Prosperous year punctuated by hard times
'99 Business: Consumers hang on as economy and technology take rocket ride
'99 Nation/World: A fitting finale to the century
'99 Films: Embarrassment of riches
'99 Pop music: Cincy back on the charts
'99 Television: A million reasons to watch
'99 Classical music: Life imitates opera
- '99 Dance: Comings and goings
'99 Theater: A year to remember
'99 Visual art: All eyes on Vontz Center