Sunday, December 20, 2009

Nutcracker Burlesque-Vivid Motion

Imagine Gypsy Rose Lee as the Snow Queen, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in a see-through nightie with garters and stiletto shoes. Yes its a very different version of the holiday classic. One meaning of Burlesque is "performing in an upside down style" and Vivid Motion aptly portrayed that with their bawdy rendition of The Nutcracker. And another definition of Burlesque states that it "often mocked established entertainment forms." This makes spoofing Ballet's most beloved December show a natural idea. So what would the audience think?

Before the curtain went up the audience was encouraged to show signs of approval with catcalls and whistles. The program notes warned this this is a very naughty show. And looking around there seemed to be more blue collar type guys in the audience too. These people seemed to know what lay in store for them.

The opening Christmas party scene was not for kids, it was an adult swingers party where Clara drank from a magical bottle of liquor that inspired her to dream a more X-rated version of Mouse Kings and Snow Flakes. The Mice battled the nutcracker with Michael Jackson's Thriller choreography. There were plenty of strip teasing in the corp de snow ballet which turned the whole idea of what a back up ensemble is truly meant for.

The dancers technically abilities were varied. But, what was really great were the variety of body sizes. There were skinny dancers as well as well-endowed full breasted dancers. And they all delighted in shimming, shaking, and finding the sex appeal in one heck of a dream.

Performed by a large cast and four live onstage musicians the show was total fun. But, caution, if you're a traditional Nutcracker fan you're going to have to really loosen up your thinking and allow your inner kink to come out.

Nutcracker Burlesque by Vivid Motion at the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center, Portland, Maine. December 18, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Casco Bay Movers- Holiday Studio Show

At the recent in-house show where students performed for their friends and family, I started thinking about the bigger picture of what goes into training dancers. Seeing the excited kids up close dancing in the studios where they spend a lot of time taking classes and rehearsing, brought to mind all the effort involved in pursuing this art form. Casco Bay Movers is a training ground for kids and adults in Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap, and Modern Dance. The school's philosophy state's they are not interested in competition but rather "in conditioning the body and enhancing creative thinking." This may be a unique outlook compared to ballet students who are all trying to become the top ballerina. Or network TV dance shows that are all about competition where dancers get eliminated and viewers vote for their favorites.

So what does studying dance at the Casco Bay Movers look like and how does it influence the dancers expereince?

The dancers were of all different technical levels and yet they were very good performers. It really stood out that no matter how advanced or beginner a person was, they looked very strong on stage. This is a very difficult task. Making the less expereinced, weaker dancers look good is not easy. I applaud the teachers and choreographers for knowing their students well enough and finding the right movement to showcase each dancers ability. All of the ten pieces highlighted the dancers in the best possible way. This meant the choreography sometimes lacked in order to provide moves that looked good. The choreography was not the star nor the focus.

The first dance featured level 1 dancers which were the youngest. They must be grade school age and they performed a hip hop dance that the audience (mom, dad, and grandparents) loved. Now, when the level 3 dancers had their turn at hip hop, the applause came because they were really talented. These teenagers are training at a very high level and their technique showed. They juxtaposed classic street funk hip and shoulder swivels with classy jazz turns with wide leaps. These kids were seriously hot! Also featured were level 2 dancers of middle school age. Then there were adult dancers. The adults were part of a Modern or Jazz Repertory class and Indiedanceworks. There were some seasoned professionals in these pieces. It was wonderful to be sitting in the studio watching all ages and abilities perform close-up. Seeing the performers exude confidence and skill made me think that all the days and years that go into dance training was paying off.

Holiday Studio Show, Casco Bay Movers,
December 11, 2009 in Portland top photo by Lisa Elizabeth