This fall's dance lineup is as varied as can be, from birds and Bach to ballroom and belly dance. And all of those are found in Newport in Island Moving Co.'s Open for Dancing (Interlude). This event features several choreographers and new companies just coming into their own in the Rhode Island dance scene. In addition, over the next three months dance fans can harvest a veritable cornucopia of performance, including four college-based companies, two professional companies, and more than a half-dozen national companies who will touch down in Providence and in Bristol.
In 2002, Newport's IMC began an impressive biennial tradition of commissioning site-specific dances from guest choreographers, which are then presented at several locations around Newport. Open for Dancing was truly a moveable feast of dance performance in '02 and '04. Now IMC has come up with an off-year "Interlude" to satisfy dance fans who can't wait till 2006.
On Friday, September 23 at 6 pm, cellist Audrey Cienniwa and violinist Ilana Ringwald will play on the meadow in Ballard Park, and choreographer/dancer Christina Tsoules will do a dance improvisation with the music. On Saturday, September 24, Open for Dancing (Interlude) will continue with free open-air yoga and tai chi classes at Queen Anne Square and a "Shake Your Soul" class at Easton's Beach.
On Saturday afternoon, various downtown Newport sites will host dance performance events. Dante del Giudice will lead the Rhode Island College Dancers in a reprise of last year's popular Phantom Limb, a continuous improvisation through the wharves, sidewalks and streets. Tsoules will bring her theatre arts class from Salve Regina University to do movement improvisations at Bowen's Wharf.
At Queen Anne Square, the Robin's Egg, a modern dance group led by Tovah Bodner, will give two performances of The Magdalenes, about the women of the infamous Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, which she debuted at the Carriage House in June.
Nathan Andary will bring his Andary Dance troupe to Bowen's Wharf, presenting Blue, a solo danced by Alicia DiMasi with a live text reading by poet Michael Tod Edgerton, and a duet (DiMasi and Nikki Carrara) inspired by the wharf location and specifically the seagulls who hang out there. Set to Bach's Cello Suite #1 in G Major, the yet untitled piece incorporates the choreographer's and dancers' observations of the gulls' soaring flights, their dramatic dives and their interactions with one another.
Andary has his dancers in gray and white with black flecks to suggest the coloration of the gulls, and the crescendos and decrescendos of the music echo the swells and swoops of the seagulls. The dancers themselves, in Andary's words, "have had to carve their torso so that it appears that they're catching the wind and have a slight bend in the elbow as if they're cupping the air." The gulls circling overhead will form a dramatic backdrop.
Choreographer Nikki Carrara will perform a piece based on Jack Kerouac's work at the Newport Bay Club plaza behind the Wave sculpture. Carol Buckley's hula workshop will present two workshop/performances. Middle Eastern dancers Neylan and the Daughters of Neylan will perform at the Brick Market, and Barbara Derecktor Donahue will also offer Middle Eastern dance at Storer Park, next to the Goat Island Causeway.
This day of dancing throughout downtown Newport concludes with a sunset waltz led by ballroom dancers (open to anyone to join) and on Bowen's Wharf, Market Square, Brick Market, and Long Wharf, twirling to waltzes broadcast by Newport's WXHQ. (Raindate for all activities is Sunday, September 25.) For more information about Open for Dancing (Interlude) call Island Moving Co. at 401.847.4470 or visit www.islandmovingco.org. And don't forget IMC's annual Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff (November 25-27 and November 29-December 2).
Festival Ballet Providence's season opens in a romantic rush, with the world premiere of Yves de Bouteiller's Romeo & Juliet at the VMA Arts & Cultural Center (October 21-23). In its third season of the Up CLOSE, on HOPE series, Festival will present a reprise of last year's Halloween piece, The Widow's Broom (October 29-31), choreographed by Boston's Viktor Plotnikov and adapted from Chris Van Allsburg's book of the same name, at the Leach Grand Studio Theater at the company's headquarters (825 Hope Street, Providence). The second Up CLOSE, on HOPE program (November 12, 19, and 20) will feature contemporary work by choreographers such as Festival's artistic director Misha Djuric, company members Piotr Ostaltsov and Mark Harootian and guest artist Colleen Cavanaugh. Festival's perennial favorite The Nutcracker returns to the Providence Performing Arts Center for five performances (December 16-18).
Fusionworks Dance Company's annual fall concert at Rhode Island College will take place November 17-19 in Sapinsley Hall. With artistic director Deb Meunier at the helm, Fusionworks dancers will sail through "Old Forms/New Works": new dances inspired by older works of art in music, painting, and pop culture comics. Meunier's Te Deum, with a score based on the music of Arvo Pärt and on ancient Christian texts, premiered last spring in collaboration with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale. In a contemporary direction, Meunier has created a dance suite to the music of the punk/jazz band the Bad Plus, also drawing on comic book superheroes of the '30s, '40s. and '50s. Two guest companies will join Fusionworks: the RIC Dance Company doing a dance Meunier made for them this summer, based on figures in Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and set to an original score by Ron Schmitt; and Fusionworks II dancing a modern-meets-Latin piece by Meunier, based on the music of Carlos Santana.
Also at RIC this fall is Brown University's Michelle Bach-Coulibaly, with her New Works/World Traditions ensemble, performing Melting Into Glass in Sapinsley Hall (October 27 and 28). This cultural/performing arts company works with contemporary and traditional artists from around the world, incorporating polyrhythms, chants, spoken word and movement and touching on cultural memory, inverted reflections and love letters from some imaginary "front."
Two guest residencies with the RIC dancers will result in performances: Rhode Island native Adam Miller made a new work for the RICDance Company this summer, and he will return with his Hartford-based company, the Adam Miller Dance Project, for a shared performance titled "Movement Capture" (October 14). The second fall residency and performance project at RIC will feature the New York-based Alexandra Beller/Dances. Beller will complete her third choreographic commission for the RIC Dance Company in November, and two Beller works for the RIC dancers, plus dances by her own company, will be performed on December 2.
Rhode Island College will also present its acclaimed Performing Arts Series, with a return visit by the Paul Taylor Dance Company (October 7) and a performance by Tango Flamenco (October 17). Paul Taylor's company will celebrate 50 years of dance this year by visiting 50 states, beginning with Rhode Island, performing their captivating blend of modern, ballet, and jazz. Tango Flamenco fuses classical Spanish dance with Argentine tango, bringing their company of 24 artists to convey the music and dance of those traditions.
Roger Williams University will host the New York-based Ellis Wood Dance on September 26. Sharing the stage will be members of the RWU Dance Theatre in an Ellis Wood-created piece titled Lila Goes Fast.
And the second annual FirstWorksProv Festival will feature two of the country's most eye-popping dance companies: Rennie Harris Puremovement (October 1 at the VMA Arts & Cultural Center) and Momix (October 8 at the Providence Performing Arts Center).
Debra Cash is dance critic for WBUR Online Arts.