Performing Arts

Owen/Cox points to the sounds of dance in ‘A Body of Work’

In dance the human body is living clay, which the choreographer uses to create his or her art.

Flesh and bone are transformed into an idealized body that can leap into the air and land without a sound. It can engage in the most vigorous movement without huffing and puffing.

Choreographer Jennifer Owen and her husband, composer Brad Cox, aim to turn this paradigm on its head with their latest collaboration, “A Body of Work.” The Owen/Cox Dance Group will offer three performances beginning Thursday at the La Esquina gallery.

“A Body of Work” is a celebration of the human body, and as such, does not seek to obscure its very natural sounds and exertions when dancing. In fact, Cox’s score, which will be performed by soprano Victoria Botero with Cox manipulating various looped recordings, draws attention to those very sounds.

“I wanted to use sounds that would normally be hidden in a dance performance, like breathing hard or landings that are not so silent,” Cox said. “Victoria Botero is singing and engaging in sounds that are not singing, just vocalizations. And the dancers are part of the sound as well.

“There are certain areas under the stage that have microphones that amplify certain rhythmic aspects of what they do. During the performance I will record those sounds and then loop them and use them percussively to create rhythmic textures.”

Owen says that the 50-minute work, which will be performed without intermission, is without a plot but not without meaning.

“There’s definitely a theme to it and a progression, and people can take away whatever arc they want,” she said, “but it’s just a work about the human body. The choreography is very much inspired by how the body develops movement from the very basic to very intricate and complex ways of moving.

“Nate Fors is creating video art that will be projected throughout the performance which highlights images of the human body.”

If this all sounds like a head trip best appreciated by advanced dance connoisseurs, Cox begs to disagree.

“There’s a lot of beautiful dancing and beautiful music, as well as some very lighthearted and quirky humor,” he said. “It’s a very accessible piece. Even though it’s unusual in approach, there’s nothing that should frighten anyone off.

“That’s something Jennifer and I try to do, create pieces that will give people plenty to think about, but at the same time won’t leave them scratching their heads.”

8 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Oct. 5. La Esquina, 1000 W. 25th St. $10-$15. 816-931-1277 or www.owencoxdance.org.√

Bach Motet Project

The six motets of Johann Sebastian Bach are some of his greatest masterpieces, which is saying something, considering the genius of Bach.

Yet the works are rarely performed, partly because they require virtuoso singing from an entire choir. Luckily, we have an ensemble up to the task, and next weekend it will perform all six motets in three different venues.

The Spire Chamber Ensemble conducted by its founder, Ben Spalding, has made the music of Bach a specialty. Last year the group began an ongoing project to perform a different Bach cantata every week at Trinity Lutheran Church until all 209 cantatas have been performed. So Spire has Bach in its blood and is unusually qualified to give the difficult motets an authoritative and passionate performance.

“They’re just pure fireworks,” Spalding said. “They’re some of the most demanding vocal music ever written. The motets are really unique in that there is an unbroken performance tradition from Bach’s death to the present day.

“They’ve been popular since his death, unlike some of his other works, like the passions and other things that fell out of fashion until (Felix) Mendelssohn and others revived them.”

The motet is a hymn-like form that dates to the Middle Ages. In the Renaissance, composers elaborated on the motet and used it to create complex, polyphonic structures. The motet remained popular in the Baroque and many composers wrote them, but, as Spalding says, “Bach’s were the pinnacle of the form.”

7:30 p.m. Friday at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, 701 S.W. Eighth Ave., Topeka.

7:30 p.m. Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church, 5601 W. 62nd St., Mission, and 3 p.m. at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St. $20. www.spirechamberensemble.org.

Hector Olivera

As those who attended last month’s French Organ Festival can attest, the Ruffatti organ in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception can make a mighty sound.

Played by an organist who truly understands the instrument, like the cathedral’s music director, Mario Pearson, the Ruffatti can send chills down the spine and blow the roof off the house.

The Argentinian-born Hector Olivera is another organist who has a great feel for the cathedral’s 50-rank instrument built in Padua, Italy, by the brothers Ruffatti. In fact he’s made two recordings on it.

Olivera will give a recital at Immaculate Conception on Tuesday that promises to be exciting for both organ connoisseurs and newbies. On the second half of the concert, Rivera will play his own Roland Atelier, a touring organ with an unusual sound.

7 p.m. Tuesday. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, $10. www.kcgolddome.org.

Cornerstone Chorale and Brass

Based in St. Louis, the Cornerstone Chorale and Brass have performed to great acclaim around the country, including at New York’s Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.

The ensemble’s 20 singers, brass quintet, piano and percussion will give Kansas City a taste of its music Saturday in a free concert at Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church.

7:30 p.m. Saturday. Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church, 7600 N.W. Barry Road. Free. www.pineridge.org.

Patrick Neas is program director for RadioBach.com. You can reach him at pneas@jccc.edu.

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