Sunday, January 13, 2002

Dance had busy year onstage and off

2001 saw lots of changes; '02 looks promising

By Carol Norris
Enquirer contributor

        The 2001 dance season was crowded with unexpected developments: dancers coming and going, choreographers spreading their wings, injuries altering careers, retirements, closing, new hires and occasional fireworks. Here are the highlights, in no particular order:

        • Cincinnati Ballet artistic director Victoria Morgan's patience and mettle were tested when superstars and box office favorites Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev left in a huff in October.

        After four years of onstage brilliance and offstage testiness, both sides had had enough.

        The winner of this round could be the Russians, who landed a dance program, new studio and carte blanche creative license at Northern Kentucky University. Ms. Morgan was left with a season built around two people and thus far, if Don Quixote and Nutcracker are any indication, no one to fill their shoes.

        • On the other hand, Ms. Morgan could come out the winner with recent hires Lorna Feijoo and Nelson Madrigal, Cuban sensations who've set stages on fire with their sizzling dancing both in Cuba and on U.S. tours.

        There's a boatload of anticipation surrounding their Feb. 1-2 debuts in a mixed rep program.

        Maybe everyone comes out a winner: More dance excitement on both sides of the river.

        • Jay Goodlett set a precedent at Cincinnati Ballet with his “Graceland” in March — the first company member to choreograph for the main stage.

        • Cincinnati Ballet took Peter Pan to Lisbon, Portugal, in November — something the company hopes to make a habit of.

        • School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) students Precious Gilbert, Cira Robinson and Gerald Haynes got a chance to attend summer dance workshops, thanks to the help of some generous Tristaters.

        • The sumptuous looking new Nutcracker,thanks to Alain Vaes' designs and better choreography by Val Caniparoli than the last two versions.

        • Out the door: Retirements from CB principal Meridith Benson, SCPA department head Sheila Cohen, University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music dance department head Carol Iwasaki and ballet teacher Oleg Sabline; resignations from CB executive director John Zurick and dancer Chandra Moss.

        • In the door: Ms, Benson as teacher at SCPA, Patricia Rozow as new SCPA dance department head, Alan Hills as CB's new executive director.

        • Letting go: Anneliese Von Oettingen of her Eagle Bay, N.Y., ballet camp, a destination for hundreds of local ballet hopefuls since 1973; Rene Micheo of his principal status with CB (he'll still be seen in lesser roles).

        • Returns to the stage: CB artistic director emeritus Freddie Franklin, 83, in a number of ballets for New York's American Ballet Theatre; local modern favorite Shawn Womack (now a re-committed Californian) in two October performances at Contemporary Dance Theater's Dance Hall.

        • Disappointing but still hopeful: The April riots caused the cancellation of Pilobolus, the engaging company known for its athletic entanglements. There's a possibility they'll be booked for 2003.

Coming this year

        Looking to 2002, the stories to watch:

        • BalletMet Columbus, who last year lost artistic director David Nixon (local audiences know him through his Butterfly and Beauty and the Beast for CB), to Northern Ballet Theatre in Leeds, England, has managed a major coup with two hires: Gerard Charles as artistic director and the hotshot Australian choreographer Stanton Welch (“Fingerprints” for CB) as artistic associate.

        Mr. Charles, 46, has been with BalletMet since 1996, first as ballet master, then associate artistic director and finally as acting artistic director before taking over. He was initially not interested in running the company because he's not a choreographer.

        Mr. Welch, 32, is interested in choreographing, not running a company, so it's the best scenario for both men. They've signed three-year contracts with Mr. Welch creating three ballets a year.

        • Contemporary Dance Theater will host OhioDance Festival in Cincinnati. (A meeting about this is set for Saturday; call 591-2557 for details.)

        This festival never fails to stir up a lot of excitement for a community, focusing attention on the area's talented dance folks and bringing in some new faces. Nick Vehr, now that you've finished trying to bring the Olympics to town, why not help get this festival going?

        • In the immediate future: Swing may not be as trendy as it was a couple of years ago, but there are classes and events locally:

        Greg Underwood hosts Sunday “Swing Nights” beginning next Sunday at Covington's newly renovated Madison Theater. They'll be held every other Sunday after that; $5 cover, first half hour is a class and the rest of the evening is open dance.

        Contemporary Dance Theater is hosting its own version of “open swing” at the Town Hall in College Hill one Saturday a month; for details.

        Contact Carol Norris by fax: (812) 537-5693; e-mail:


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