Sunday, January 12, 2003

Dance Notes

Year of bravos, anniversaries

By Carol Norris
Enquirer contributor

Before we move on to pressing business facing the local dance community this year, here are a few bravos to shout.

Cincinnati Ballet celebrated its 40th anniversary, a stupendous landmark in the dance world. Money is always tight and audiences - in a culture ruled by sports - are difficult to gauge. At 40, the company is still on its toes - looking refreshingly young and full of vigor. We lift our glass to 40 more.

Another anniversary - this one at Contemporary Dance Theater, where Jefferson James has been presenting modern dance for 30 years. Although always operating on a shoestring budget, Ms. James and company have managed to present the newest of the new in contemporary dance year after year - tirelessly and fearlessly.

Long before there was a Cincinnati Ballet, there was a glam group of ballet wunderkinds called Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Beginning in 1938 and continuing into the early '60s, this group of 100 or so dancers toured the country, with frequent stops in Cincinnati.

Ballet Russe's young principal dancer, Freddie Franklin, never dreamed that a Cincinnati ballet company would one day name him its artistic director emeritus.

But ever since he staged the snow scene for the company's first Nutcracker in 1974, it's been a love-love relationship. The company thanked him this year with a Ballet Russe replay, staging excerpts from some of the ballets he knew.

National press flocked to the Aronoff Center to relish the once in a lifetime moment. (No other American company has attempted to restage some of these ballets.) Press accolades continue into the New Year with the latest in the New York Times, where Jack Anderson listed it as one of his top 10 dance events of the year.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the ballet tech ohio four - Claud-

ia Rudolf Barrett, Alexei Kremnev, Anna Reznik and Marvel Gentry Davis - Cincinnati experienced its first ever ballet "all-star" gala. Sixteen of this country's most fabulous dancers gathered at the Aronoff Center in steamy August for one of the hottest shows ever.

Contemporary Dance Theater experienced a sell-out - twice - with the Pilobolus Dance Theatre in November. It may not sound like much - the Aronoff''s Jarson-Kaplan seats 437 - but in the niche of local modern dance it is huge.

It was one year ago that Cincinnati Ballet's exciting new imports from Cuba - Lorna Feijoo and husband Nelson Madrigal - quietly made their debuts during a Home Cities Tour when they performed an ebullient "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" on a bare bones stage. They've continued to dance their way into our hearts ever since.

Kristi Capps and Dmitri Trubchanov were named Cincinnati Ballet principals. It had become evident that these one-time corps de ballet members had each entered a new artistic realm.

Hats off to Carmon DeLeone, the ballet orchestra's longtime conductor (34 years and counting), who has just completed his 28th year of continuous Nutcrackers - with the same exuberance and good-heartedness as his first one.

We salute the life of Anneliese von Oettingen, who died at age 85 in December. A Cincinnati dance figure for 55 years - as teacher, choreographer, dancer and role model for many area dancers, her memory lives on in the hearts of those who knew her as tough love balanced with limitless compassion.

January dates: Today is the last day to catch the Cincinnati Art Museum exhibition: The Golden Age of Costume and Set Design for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, 1938 to 1944. A handsome archive of the entire exhibit - and a thorough Ballet Russe history - is in catalog form in the Museum Shop for $39.95.

Jan. 24 and 25 - Always a little out there, the Performance & Time Arts Series presents Lana Kay Rosenberg and her Dance Theatre, Dance Repertory Group of Miami University and C. Spencer Yeh, a violinist who experiments with electronic sound. College Hill Town Hall, 1805 Larch Ave., 8 p.m., $10.

Jan. 26 - Anneliese von Oettingen tribute and memorial is set for 2 p.m. at Carnegie Center of Columbia Tusculum, 3738 Eastern Ave.


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