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A stirring ‘Summer Soiree’

Amy Querin, artistic director of NOCO (and one of this city’s most impressive creative souls), stood on the now-empty “stage” holding court after her dance company’s performance Sunday night at the Fresno Art Museum. She graciously accepted the compliments pressed upon her by the well-wishers surrounding her for “Summer Soiree,” but in a moment of self-deprecation, she lamented that she didn’t have more time to more effectively transform the performance space into “another world.”

I respectfully disagree. The space that Querin and her hard-working company created in the museum’s lobby/atrium for the production — which paired members of the company with a Fresno Philharmonic string quartet — indeed had an otherworldly ambiance. The audience sat on risers, and the wall behind the performance space was swathed with fabric that echoed the billowing feel of the centerpiece aerial rig. The colors of the beige fabric of the rig and its gold-colored metal support beams seemed perfectly in sync with the nude color of the draperies. Above the audience hung dozens of paper origami birds. The effect was muted and ethereal — a refined, stylish atmosphere.

It was entrancing.

So was getting to watch dance paired with live music. The string quartet gave a stirring version of Kevin Volans’ “White Man Sleeps,” whose “wild meters,” as Querin describes them, meshed well with the robust choreography.

Adding a poignant touch of the evening: Querin’s farewell to Jackie Aldern, the assistant director, and Hannah Cavallaro, the rehearsal director. They’re the company’s last two original company members. A new NOCO generation has begun. 

Best of all was the overall world that Querin — helped by gobs of people, including Fresno Phil executive director Stephen Wilson — helped create. For a few hours on a Sunday evening, it was as if the museum were transformed into an elegant oasis — a sophisticated cultural buzz-spot filled with people who want the local arts scene to just keep getting better. That’s a world worth believing in.

Weekend pick: NOCO’s ‘Summer Soire’

My Beehive colleague Joshua Tehee already flagged this as one of his “5 Things You Should Do This Weekend,” but I wanted to give it an extra boost.

It’s exciting to see collaborations between local arts organizations. And this Sunday’s “Summer Soire” at the Fresno Art Museum, featuring the Fresno Dance Collective (NOCO) and a string quartet representing the Fresno Philharmonic, sounds especially refreshing.

The Bee’s Sharon Martin writes about the event in Friday’s 7 section cover story:

The event, at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Fresno Art Museum, 2233 N. First St., features aerial and contemporary dancers paired with live music from the Fresno Philharmonic string quartet. The quartet will perform Kevin Volans’ String Quartet No. 1, “White Man Sleeps.” This is the first time the Fresno Dance Collective and the Fresno Philharmonic have worked together.

The dance will feature aerialists both inside and outside the Fresno Art Museum. Performances include two aerial duets, two dance solos, one duet dance, one trio dance and one group dance.

I’m looking forward to it.

Pictured: Jackie Aldern of NOCO. Bee photo by Craig Kohlruss.

Win tickets to Ballet Folklórico de México

When it comes to ballet folklorico, we’re talking here about the big leagues. Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez regularly performs at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. The company is on tour in California, and it’s returning to Fresno Aug. 8 in a performance sponsored by Arte Americas.

I have two tickets to the 7:30 p.m. performance at the Saroyan Theatre to give away to a lucky Beehive reader. 

To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us whether you’ve ever seen this world-famous company on its previous visits to Fresno — and why you’d like to win tickets. I’ll pick a winner at random.

Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Monday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winners by email on Monday at 5, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by 10 a.m. Tuesday, I reserve the right to pick another. If you’re the winner, you’ll need to pick up your tickets at the Bee’s front lobby. Rules are on the jump.

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Watch dance live at Fresno State … online

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UPDATE No. 2: Performance is at 3:30 p.m., an organizer confirms on Facebook.

UPDATE No. 1: There’s a discrepancy as to the start time of this live-streamed event. It’s either at 2:30 p.m. or 3:30 p.m., depending on the link you click. This is what I ended up writing in a clarifying note on a Facebook post: “I don’t recommend buying a ticket for the online performance. It’s great to embrace cutting-edge technology by offering live streamed events, but botching the start time isn’t a good way of reaching new audiences. Kind of embarrassing, actually.”

ORIGINAL POST: This sounds interesting: The touring Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre company is at Fresno State today to present a live performance that will be broadcast live online, thus allowing “anyone from all of the world to engage in the creation of the performance.”

Performers dance in, around and on top of a 1961 vintage Oasis trailer, transforming it into an art-filled home. Live music and video projections are part of the effect. The performance, titled “From Time to Time — At the Oasis” begins at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the university’s Free Speech Area. You can watch it online but need to buy a ticket. (You pay what you want; suggested donation is $10.)

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ROGUE REVIEW: Kinetic Interludes

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I cannot recommend JuxtaPosition Dance Theatre’s “Kinetic Interludes.”

The Saturday afternoon show was disappointing. There were several technical issues, and the dancers, who come to the Rogue from Redondo Beach, just seemed off. In most of the dances, they lacked unison and, at many times, seemed to be looking to each other to remember the steps. And the show’s structure, which covers themes that deal with “female strength” through a series of dance numbers, has no flow. In fact, the audience is left sitting in semi-darkness in silence while the dancers change clothes off stage. These long awkward pauses just added to an already uncomfortable atmosphere.

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Opening tonight: Fresno State’s Contemporary Dance Ensemble

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“Systematic Process: The Audition,” choreographed by Kenneth Balint, is one of the world-premiere pieces featured in “Syntheses,” a concert presented by Fresno State’s Contemporary Dance Ensemble. The concert presents six repertory dance works on tales of injustice, identity, personal relationships, absurdity, competition and beauty.

The show opens tonight at Fresno State’s John Wright Theatre and continues through Feb. 22.

Other premieres are “Gezi” by guest choreographer Seda Arbay, “Blithely Stomping Through the Minefield of Contemporary Sensitivities” by Balint, “Intelligence is Just Another Name for Depression” by student choreographer Katherine Dorn and “Underneath the Surface” by guest choreographer and Fresno State Alumni Rogelio Lopez. Rounding out the program will be Balint’s contemporary duet “Friction Brings Fatigue,” which premiered at Fresno State in 2005.

Win tickets to ‘Literary Movements’

Literary Advertisement

The contemporary dance group Caris and Company is gearing up for its big 7 p.m. Saturday performance, a concert titled “Literary Movements,” at The Grand in downtown Fresno. The show is an ode to literature and writers.

We’ll be featuring an interview with artistic director Jasmin la Caris in Friday’s 7 section. In it she discusses some of the writers referenced in the show:

Maya Angelou’s poem “And Still I Rise” inspired me to create a solo about overcoming prejudice. Juana de Ibarbourou’s poem “La Higuera” (The Fig Tree) is about encouragement so I developed a piece that takes place in a ballet class. My Co-Artistic Director Danny Moua’s favorite book as a child was “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. His choreography follows the relationship between a young girl and a tree.

The Beehive is giving away two tickets to Saturday’s event. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling us why you’d like to see the show. If you’re so inclined, tell us what literary work you’d most like to see depicted in dance.

Deadline is 10 a.m. Thursday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winner by email on Thursday morning, so keep a watch on your inbox. You’ll be able to pick the tickets up at Will Call. Rules are on the jump.

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NYE overload! Concerts, parties, gatherings and more

NYEDon’t get caught by the “whatcha doing on New Year’s?” question. There is an overload of events planned (big and small, formal and casual, chill and raging). Here’s an extensive (though no doubt incomplete) list.

For a more detailed look at some best bets (as chosen by the Beehive staff) head over to The Fresno Bee.

MUSIC

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Win tickets to ‘Mystic India’

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Looking for a happy Friday evening? I don’t think you’ll have to look farther than the Lively Arts Foundation’s presentation of “Mystic India,” a live Bollywood dance spectacular. This kind of music and dance just seems to bring out the smiles in audiences. Here’s a description:

Audiences can expect an explosion of colors and energy as they travel on a celebratory journey through Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat, and even through the progression of Bollywood films via a stunning visual display that fuses dance, theater, and spectacular special effects.

I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to the 7:30 p.m. Friday concert at the Saroyan Theatre. To enter, leave a comment on this post. (If you know something about Bollywood, feel free to share your favorite movies or dance styles.) Deadline is 7 p.m. today (Monday). One comment per person, please. I’ll be informing winners at about 7 p.m. via email, so check yours around that time. If you’re a winner, you’ll be able to pick your tickets up at Will Call. Rules are on the jump.

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Watch this: Sahab rips out his own heart.

Electronic indie hip-hop act Sahab is in full-on promo mode for his new album elevenfiftynine. The album will be available on Aug. 27 and as lead up, the performer is doing everything from an Instagram project/contest, to a series of videos produced in conjunction with Windsong Productions.

I’m not 100 percent how the videos tie back to the album, but if you have five minutes or so, they’re worth the time. Maybe you can help explain them to me. The fourth (of five) episode of the series will be available at 11:59 on Tuesday, over at iamsahab.com.

Watch episode two on the jump. It’s a doozy. Dude rips out his own heart. The rest can be seen here.

Electronic group AndDrop! plays the “Discovery Stage” at EDC

25153Pro tip: If you want to get some hometown press for your accomplishments, just tell your mom. I’ve said it before, proud parents make the best PR reps (at least with me).

So there’s the preface.
Here’s the story: AndDrop, a group of electronic DJ/producers (and Fresno natives) from Los Angeles, was chosen to play the Discovery Stage at this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival. The carnival, which takes place this weekend, is like an overgrown version of your local warehouse rave. It’s a three-day event that draws close to 300,000 people, making it the largest electronic music festival and dance music event in North America.

So, it’s pretty impressive if you can get on the bill. We emailed producer (and Fresno native) Harris Kauffman to get the full scoop on the group, the festival and the rise of EDM (electronic Dance Music).

First tell me about AndDrop! Who does what and how did you all come together?

AndDrop! is comprised of DJ Joe Wiseman (Washington, DC) and producers/brothers Harris and Sylvain Kauffman. Joe and I met in the dorms at UC Berkeley, and instantly bonded over a shared appreciation of hip-hop and dub reggae. All three of us were very interested in the rise of new wave electronic/dance music. Artists like Crookers, Jack Beats, and Wolfgang Gartner were driving the scene in 2008. Sylvain and I had been working on hip-hop instrumentals and Joe had been developing his skills on the tables when the three decided to combine forces under one name.

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Win tickets to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ ballet

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UPDATE: Congratulations to our winner, Sarah Pearce.

ORIGINAL POST: A charming family option awaits this Saturday: the annual story ballet from The State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara. This year’s original ballet, “Beauty and the Beast,” tells the classic fairy tale through contemporary dance. I have a family pack of four tickets to give away to a lucky Beehive reader to the 2 p.m. performance at the Saroyan Theatre.

For those of you up to your ears in singing teacups, never fear: This isn’t the Disney version. From my Sunday column:

This “Beauty and the Beast” is an original retelling of the classic fairy tale by Robert Sund, a guest choreographer for the Santa Barbara company. Recorded music by Tchaikovsky will accompany the 22 professional members of the company, along with 20 advanced local area ballet students …

Instead of servants turned into enchanted objects, this production is more nature oriented, with insects and animals personified through contemporary ballet. There’s still the same basic plot of Belle being imprisoned by the prince-turned-beast, but there are many changes, such as a squad of fairies (played by local dancers) working their magic.

Here’s how to enter the contest: To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling us if you’ve ever seen a non-Disney version of “Beauty and the Beast.” I’ll pick one comment at random. The winner will receive four tickets. No repeat entries, please. These are paper tickets, so you’ll need to come down to The Bee’s front lobby by 5 p.m. Friday to pick them up. Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Wednesday. Be sure to check your email after the deadline, because that’s how I’ll inform winners. Complete rules are after the jump.

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Tonight: Contemporary dance (at 50% off)

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There’s still plenty of time to catch the annual Contemporary Dance Ensemble at Fresno State. Five performances remain for “Joy! Shout!” 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The company, under the artistic direction of Kenneth Balint, aims to present works that are serious in content and entertaining, with a social meaning or context. This year’s program contains five premieres: “Doubt Surrounding the Inevitable Light” by guest choreographer Rogelio Lopez, “Finding Me” by guest choreographer Martha Kelly-Fierro, “Existence” by ensemble dancer Leesha Melson, and “Redux” and “Joy! Shout!” by Balint.

And talk about a bargain: It’s a ticket sale! (Update: for online sales, use the code “dances13″.)

 

Beehive guide to December entertainment

December is jam packed with local entertainment options you won’t want to miss. You can go to see lots of theater, check out Christmas concerts and live bands and even see a dragon, among other things. So check out our “Don’t Miss It” guide to December and start filling up your entertainment calendar. View the full PDF below.

PDF: The Bee’s “Don’t Miss It” entertainment guide for December.

DANCE REVIEW: Dance Theatre of Harlem

Fresno welcomed the reborn Dance Theatre of Harlem main company back with gusto Sunday night to the Saroyan Theatre. The famous ensemble has visited the city five times starting in 1989. When it had to shut down in 2004 for economic reasons,  the brand was continued with its “second company,” a training troupe for younger dancers. (That group visited Fresno in 2010.) The re-formed main company made its debut just a few weeks ago in Louisville, Ky.

The challenges of kicking off a new company — even one with such a storied tradition — are numerous, and it was probably too much to expect an early performance such as this to brim with the confidence and unified artistic vision that one would hope from a world-class ensemble. That said, I was ambivalent about Sunday’s performance.

Only when the company took the stage in its fourth and final piece, Donald Byrd’s explosive “Contested Space” (pictured above), did the evening feel riveting. Set to the jarring music of Amon Tobin, this “hip exploration of contemporary male/female relationships,” as the program put it, unfolded with a smoldering, mechanized, aggressive sensibility.

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Win tickets to Dance Theatre of Harlem

UPDATE 11/9: Congratulations to winners Joey Fernandez and Jan Quezada. Hope  you enjoy!

ORIGINAL POST: I have tickets to give away to a very big-deal dance event taking place Sunday: a performance by the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Any occasion in which a top-notch New York company performs in Fresno is a major event, but the wow factor of this concert is multiplied for an interesting reason. The Dance Theatre of Harlem had to shut down in 2004 because of financial difficulties, but it’s being revived. The first performance was just a few weeks ago in Kentucky, and the company is on tour looking toward an anticipated New York debut in spring 2013. So Fresno is one of the first cities to see the newly reconstituted group perform.

(After Dance Theatre of Harlem shut down, the company’s “second” performing group — made up of younger dancers, many in training, continued the brand under the name “Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble.” That group performed in 2010 in Fresno.)

So here’s the deal: I have two pairs of tickets to give away to Sunday’s performance, which takes place 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Saroyan Theatre.  These are premium seats (Row J, orchestra) that would go for $78 each.

To enter our giveaway, leave a comment on this post. I’ll pick two winners at random who each will receive two tickets. Deadline is 4 p.m. Wednesday. If you enter, please remember to check your email, because that’s how I’ll be notifying winners. These are paper tickets, so you’ll need to be able to come down to The Bee’s front lobby during business hours by 5 p.m. Friday to pick them up.

See complete rules on the jump.

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ROGUE REVIEW: ‘Breaking through the Breakdown’

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“Breaking through the Breakdown” is a dance show that tells the story of breaking down the barriers that hold us back in life. The show is staged, acted and danced well. But I have to say that I was a bit disappointed.

I’m not sure if it was the photo in the Rogue Map, or the impromptu show that I passed by the group of dancers in front of the Tower Theatre Saturday afternoon, but I was expecting a break dance show. To me, that means a show filled with mostly break dancing. This show was not. I would describe it more as a contemporary dance show that happens to feature a bit of break dancing.

Vincent Gonzales, who wrote, directed and stars in the show, has wonderful talent. The pain and confusion of his character was palatable throughout the show. When he danced, it was fantastic fun. Unfortunately, it seemed he spent more time crouched, writhing on the edges of the dance floor than he did actually dancing. The moment he “breaks through” and embraces dance was fabulous, energetic and engaging. There just wasn’t enough of it to satisfy me.

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Win tickets to see BREAK! Urban Funk Spectacular

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UPDATE: We have an email out to our winner, Eric Billings. Thanks everyone for playing!

Original: BREAK! Urban Funk Spectacular will bring breakdancing, locking, electric boogaloo, popping, power tumbling and beat boxing to the stage of the Saroyan Theatre Saturday and we have a pair of orchestra level tickets to giveaway. You can read a summary of the show from Donald Munro here.

The tickets will go to the FIFTH commenter on this post.

A few notes: Winner will be notified in an e-mail, so leave a real one. No repeat comments. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something in the past 30 days. We won’t post any comments until we have a winner. Tickets will have to be picked up at The Bee building in downtown Fresno between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday. Complete rules after the jump.

If you don’t win, tickets are available here.

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ROGUE REVIEW: Fresno Dance Collective

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I have to be honest, I didn’t really enjoy the Fresno Dance Collective show Saturday afternoon. And, after talking to a few people in line at other shows yesterday, I get the sense that I’m not the only one who left this performance feeling a bit disappointed.

I can’t quite put my finger on what it was. Maybe it’s a combination of things, such as the show being a half hour (not the 45 minutes advertised) and feeling so rushed that I had no time to process what I saw between vignettes. It could be that I felt there was a lack of fluidity between moves, as if the dancers were preparing for the next step instead of seamlessly moving. Or maybe it was that I never really felt like the dancers — who are definitely talented — really connected to the music, choreography or each other. The moves were all there, beautiful bodies, crisp positions, movement, lightness, conviction, but yet, I never really felt anything. Maybe it was that this is the company’s premiere performance locally, and it just needs more time to shake out the bugs. Or, maybe it was just me. I love watching dancers, and I expect to be moved. Saturday, that didn’t really happen for me.

I really am excited to see this local dance company emerge. I applaud their goal of exposing and educating the Valley about modern dance. At one point in Saturday’s show, guest dancer Megan Yankee of San Mateo talks about how the company wants to get rid of the notion of modern dance not being understandable — that there is no right answer and it’s OK for each person to interpret the dance in a different way. I agree, and I hope they succeed.

SHOW INFO: 4 p.m. Saturday at Severance, 1401 N. Wishon. Admission: $10.

ROGUE REVIEW: Origins

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First, I have to confess: I have no idea what makes good belly dancing. The only belly dancing I had ever seen, until Saturday, was in the movies. That said, I really enjoyed the “Orgins” show by Fallen Orchid.

The three women who danced were beautiful, tasteful, controlled and sultry. They do this thing with their eyes — kind of looking at you but not — that really oozes sex appeal and draws you in (I know my husband was captivated). If this was an “America’s Next Top Model” critique, Tyra Banks would be gushing at how they smiled with their eyes.

The 60-minute program consists of the trio performing together, as pairs and in solo numbers. Each girl seemed as strong on her own as she did with the group. When the ladies dance together, they really compliment each other. There are some fun surprises, such as one number involving balancing a stick and another with a snake. This PG-13 show is not suggested for children, but I found it very tasteful. The costumes are sexy but not gross or inappropriate (the strategically placed tattoos add a little something interesting). The moves are rhythmic but not too suggestive.

There are several belly dance shows in this year’s Rogue Festival lineup. I have no idea how this compares to those. All I can say is that this show was fun. I left smiling.

SHOW INFO: 7 p.m. today, 4 p.m. Saturday at Million Too, 1153 N. Fulton. Admission: $7.

To-Do Tonight: FCC dance concert

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I love this quote from Jimmy Hao, artistic director of Fresno City College’s fall dance workshop:

“Life is tough these days, but dance could make it easy.”

The workshop, titled “Surge of Spirit,” is what Hao calls a spiritual journey choreographed by faculty and students. Hao says that every work is filled with individual experiences. Genres range from classical ballet to post-modern dance.

Performance dates are December 3, 4, and 5 at 7:30 p.m. and December 5 and 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 general, $10 students/seniors. Details: (559) 442-8221.

Pictured: an image from Fresno City College’s April dance workshop.