Sunday, January 06, 2002

Former ballet star plans summer job

By Carol Norris
Enquirer contributor

        Rene Micheo is eager to get going on new plans for Uptown Dance Company. He and companion Daryl Bjoza are throwing around ideas for summer concerts while they vacation in sunny California.

Rene Micheo rehearses with Chandra Moss
        “Daryl and I are putting our efforts together to revive Uptown ... usually (a group of) 10 professional dancers ...,” he said last week between visits to the beach. He made a decision recently to trade princely ballet leading roles with Cincinnati Ballet for tangos and jigs of a mixed rep all his own.

        When Mr. Micheo returned to Cincinnati Ballet as a soloist in 1999, it was clear he had developed a compelling stage presence. He was a fine enough dancer when he left in the early '90s, but a new artistry had taken hold, evident in bravura solos and sensitive partnering. Critics and choreographers took notice; principal status was sure to follow.

        It did, with the choicest of princely roles, such as Giselle's Albrecht (2000) and Romeo to Meridith Benson's Juliet (2001) coming his way. The coveted rank of principal — the highest level at Cincinnati Ballet that only three or four dancers reach in any season — was awarded him in 2000.

        Today, with injuries mounting and midway through a dancer's dreaded 30s, Mr. Micheo has decided on a new direction. He will still perform with the company, but in relinquishing the title of principal, he'll take on the less technically demanding character roles. Think Herr Drosselmeier and Dr. Stahlbaum in the Nutcracker, two roles he alternated in this year's production.

        Something of a computer whiz, he'll also keep the wires uncrossed so the company can continue to find its way through cyberspace. He'll keep the Web site updated and, with his new digital camera at the ready, will also act as a company archivist.

        But it's the summer venture that he wants to talk about.

Dead air time

        Uptown Dance Company has been an on-again, off-again project through the years, an attempt to fill the dead-air dance space that occurs most summers in Cincinnati.

        Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Micheo and Mr. Bjoza (a former Cincinnati Ballet dancer), local professionals who stick around get a few weeks of work.

        “We also like to give the opportunity to some students to participate with the pros in a new experience,” Mr. Micheo said.

        Repertoire for this summer's concerts is in the planning stages; past years have included a tango to Astor Piazzola, a contemporary piece to Tony Bennett and Carole King and the one-act ballet “Pineapple Poll” (a Gilbert and Sullivan ballet, very British, very Royal Navy themed). They'll make use of alternative performing spaces, heading outdoors and to the School for Creative and Performing Arts' theater.         Walking off stage after last month's final Nutcracker performance at Music Hall was Mr. Micheo's last exit as principal.

        One of the backstage moms reported “...a flood of tears.”

        But the sunny beaches in California and new ideas in the works appear to have wiped away any feelings of regret, with Mr. Micheo refusing to talk in past terms.

        “The story is hopefully about dancing and not ending my career,” he said. “(This summer) we'll have all sorts of pieces for everyone to enjoy.”


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