ERJCC’s Dance Month Celebrates Houston Companies, Local Legends and Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY’s Houston Debut

For Houston dancers and choreographers, the start of a new year signifies more than a clean slate and an opportunity to make good on a host of personal resolutions. January means that it’s Dance Month at the Kaplan Theatre. 2015 marks the 35th year of the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center’s annual dance celebration, which includes a full calendar of concerts, master classes, and lectures.

NobleMotion. Photo by Lynn Lane.

NobleMotion. Photo by Lynn Lane.

Choreographers X6, a showcase of six Houston-area choreographers, has been dropped from this year’s program and has been replaced by Four + Four: Celebration of Dance, two concerts that feature eight of Houston’s most cherished dance troupes over two different evenings. NobleMotion Dance, Revolve Dance Company, Urban Souls Dance Company and Uptown Dance Company will take the Kaplan stage on Saturday, January 24, while Chapman Dance, HIStory, Houston Ballet II, and METdance will perform on Sunday, January 25.

HIStoryDanceCo.

HIStoryDanceCo.

The roster is notable not only in the artistic merits of each company, but because it includes a wide-range of Houston dance; the line-up represents the best in ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, and Modern. “I think at this moment they all have the most visibility,” explains Silberstein. “We could only choose eight, and of course there were other companies that were in the mix. I think these companies or choreographers in particular are doing a lot of work. They have a season, and are doing something in the fall and in the spring. We also wanted to present a good representation of dance, and not just make it a modern or ballet evening.”

Acia Gray. Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Acia Gray. Photo by Amitava Sarkar

In case you might be thinking, but what happened to tap? Don’t worry. Tap gets its own evening with Tapping Away on Saturday, January 31. Acia Gray, co-artistic director of Austin’s Tapestry Dance Company, will team her dancers with Pelayo Parladé Jazz Trio for an exciting evening of rhythm-based movement and sound. They’ll be joined by local tap artists for a concert with a high entertainment value that is designed to appeal to an audience beyond dance enthusiasts and the local Modern dance community.

Four + Four will also see the commemoration of two important Houston dance artists and dance supporters, Joan Karff and Shelly Power. Both honorees were natural choices for special mention during Dance Month’s thirty-fifth anniversary. “Joan Karff was in residence at the J for twenty-five years,” says Silberstein. “I danced with Joan for fourteen years, and I danced with her company. We went back through our records and history and saw that Joan’s company performed at Dance Month eighteen or nineteen times. She was a part of Dance Month when we first started, and we never had an opportunity to recognize her and thank her for being here for so many years.” Karff will be honored on the 24th while Shelly Power will be honored on the 25th.

It was while dancing for Joan Karff that Silberstein also made the acquaintance of Power. “Shelly was one of our Choreographers X6, and it was one of the first opportunities she had to present her work outside of her studio and recitals.” Power, who is the director of Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy, has played an important role in developing a working relationship between Dance Month and the city’s internationally recognized ballet company. “They were part of our twenty-fifth and thirtieth anniversaries, and now they will be a part of our thirty-fifth. Shelly has always been supportive of Dance Month, so we felt now would be a wonderful opportunity to honor her.”

Ate9. Photo by Scott Simock

Ate9. Photo by Scott Simock

Each year, Dance Month brings to Houston a company of national renown, and 2015 is no exception. This year the JCC’s committee chose Danielle Agami’s Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY, which has been praised on both the East and West Coasts. According to Silberstein, the dance committee looks for companies that might not be brought to Houston by larger presenters, but who are on the rise and staking a claim for themselves in the dance world. Agami spent eight years with the Batsheva Dance Company, and since coming stateside four years ago she’s already built quite a name for herself, including being listed in Dance Magazine’s 2015 25 to Watch.

Aside from national visibility, Silberstein also found special interest in Agami’s movement. “Danielle and her company of dancers have a lot of versatility. She uses the Gaga technique, which she brought from Israel, and she uses this technique to bring out the best in her dancers and their individual flare.” Agami’s company will perform “mouth to mouth” on Saturday, February 7 at 8 p.m. and again on Sunday, February 8 at 3 p.m. The evening-length explores themes of human connection and intimacy through the distinct physicality of the Gaga discipline.

Houston dancers eager to explore Gaga will get their chance on February 4 with a master class taught by Agami at the JCC, one of three master classes that will be hosted during Dance Month. (Diavolo will hold a master class on January 8 and Complexion Contemporary Ballet will lead a class on February 19.

Ate9. Photo by Scott Simock.

Ate9. Photo by Scott Simock.

Agami will also figure in two other events, including a lecture/demonstration with historian Rebecca Rossen, as well as a restructuring of her site-specific work Exhibit O at Laura Rathe Fine Art on February 3. The piece was originally commissioned by City Arts Festival in Seattle to create a site-specific gallery work. “She’s continued to present this piece in different galleries throughout California,” explains Silberstein. “When we were planning the residency, we saw different uses of the company’s talent, and we thought this would be an interesting work to present to the community.” Don’t expect to just sit and watch; the dancers in Exhibit O will interact with the audience to create an interactive experience.

With so many dance companies on board, and every style of Western concert dance represented across a host of concerts, a multi-dimensional experience might just be the best way to describe Dance Month 2015.

For a full listing of events, visit www.erjcchouston.org.

 

About the Author

Adam Castaneda is a dancer, writer, and arts administrator based in Houston. He is the Executive/Artistic Director of the Pilot Dance Project and performs with Suchu Dance/Jennifer Wood and Bones and Memory Dance/Heather VonReichbauer.

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