Optimism and innovation mark the 2014-15 dance season with original, visionary work.
The artists of the region, as well as internationally recognized visitors, are intent on extending the demands of human movement and expression.
The calendar is crowded with performances of stunning drama, imaginative visual elements and an abundance of styles and emotions.
The season begins Sept. 6 with the 16th Dance in the Park, presented by City in Motion Dance Theater at Roanoke Park. This community event involves an array of local dance companies that exhibit styles ranging from Native American to tap, modern to hip-hop, with an open dance class for the audience starting at 6:30 p.m. The concert begins at 7 p.m.
Also on Sept. 6, the Folly Theater offers American Fusion Project’s “Into the Sun.” This collaborative project combines music, dance and drama, created by a cohort of artists from the Juilliard School.
Initiated by pianist Kristen Doering, originally from Garden City, Kan., they will present a variety of artistic interpretations to Frank O’Hara’s poem “A True Account of Talking to the Sun on Fire Island.”
The production will make a weeklong tour of Kansas, bringing along the diversity and energy inherent to New York City, with additional performances Sept. 2 in Garden City and Sept. 4 at the Lawrence Arts Center.
Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company celebrates women in dance with “Uncommon Voices,” Sept. 12 and 13 in White Recital Hall at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Johnson County Community College Performing Arts Series presents its second New Dance Partners, a project to create dance works, pairing three national choreographers with three local dance companies: Amy Seiwert with Kansas City Ballet, Robert Moses with Wylliams/Henry and Penny Saunders with Owen/Cox Dance Group. These world premiere performances are Sept. 26 and 27 in Yardley Hall.
Emily Behrmann, general manager of the series, worked with artistic adviser Michael Uthoff of Dance St. Louis to match choreographers with companies.
“We talk with the companies to get a feel for what they want to accomplish,” Behrmann said, “and how a choreographer can … help them grow artistically.
“It seemed like a really good idea to invest in our local arts community and our local dance companies, and contribute to that artistic growth they are working so hard to do on their own all the time.”
The series makes few stipulations on the creative elements other than length, thus the choreographers have the full range of their imagination to investigate. For instance, Saunders said in an email that her vision examines “what happens in the theater after the audience has left. The ‘ghosts’ of former performers explore their mischievous, haunting and passionate natures while also revealing melancholy and nostalgia.”
The New Dance Partners programs will involve the community, too. In support of the event, a panel discussion including Saunders and Seiwert is scheduled Sept. 10 at the InterUrban ArtHouse in downtown Overland Park; dance performances will be Sept. 13 at the Overland Park Farmers Market; and a dance-centric Local Life 3rd Friday will be offered Sept. 19 by Overland Park merchants. Additionally, a documentary about the project will premiere Dec. 7 at the Rio Theater.
Owen/Cox Dance Group closely follows the JCCC performance with the world premiere, “A Body Of Work,” Oct. 3-5 at La Esquina. Choreography by Jennifer Owen and original music by Brad Cox are melded with visual design and video projections from Nate Fors. Cox’s score features soprano Victoria Botero, live percussion and pre-recorded elements, created from the sounds dancers’ bodies make while performing.
Kansas City Ballet opens its season with the Kansas City premiere Oct. 10-19 of Septime Webre’s “Alice (in Wonderland),” in Muriel Kauffman Theatre. Premiered in 2012 by The Washington Ballet, this retelling mixes the real-life characters of Alice Liddell’s family with the whimsical storybook personalities.
The bizarre charm of the work is enhanced by the fantastical concept design and costuming from Liz Vandal of Cirque de Soleil and an original score by Matthew Pierce, performed by the Kansas City Symphony.
A First Friday dance preview of the work will be Sept. 5 at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, hosted by artistic director Devon Carney.
Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, celebrating its 30th anniversary, brings the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to the Muriel Kauffman Theatre stage Oct 22-25. Wednesday and Thursday performances include Ailey’s “Memoria,” Ulysses Dove’s “Bad Blood,” and the Kansas City premiere of Aszure Barton’s “Lift.” Friday evening and Saturday matinee shows offer Ailey’s culturally resonant masterpiece “Revelations,” as well as the local premieres of Matthew Rushing’s “Odetta” and Ronald K. Brown’s “Four Corners.” A gala performance is scheduled Saturday evening.
JCCC’s Polsky Theatre is the setting Oct. 24 and 25 for the Olathe-based Storling Dance Theater, featuring “Parables & Prayers.” This was the first work choreographed for the company by Mona Storling-Enna in 1998, and the group has continued to build a repertoire of highly acclaimed, spiritually inspired work.
Also presented by the Performing Arts Series is Thodos Dance Chicago. The company will perform on Nov. 8 the evocative and inspiring “A Light in the Dark: The Story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan,” along with season repertoire.
Rennie Harris Puremovement, a hip-hop troupe from Philadelphia, performs Nov. 14 at the Lied Center in Lawrence.
The end of the year offers perennial favorites.
A tradition for generations of dance fans, Kansas City Ballet’s sweetly joy-affirming “The Nutcracker” runs Dec. 6-24 in Muriel Kauffman Theatre. This annual adventure through fairyland counters the stress of the holiday season with magical effects, adorable pint-sized dancers and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s incomparable score.
Owen/Cox Dance Group’s jazz-based “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” will be performed Dec. 13 and 14 at the Polsky Theatre. With reworkings of the Tchaikovsky score performed by the People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City, this production follows the original E.T.A. Hoffmann story in a sardonic, sexually charged version of the classic tale with circus-like flair.