Archive for August, 2011

Street dancers holler for fellow hip hoppers and b-boys.

Street dancers of all creeds converged in North Las Vegas for a showcase and fundraiser put on to raise money for Tunay Ink, a street dance studio downtown that’s ailing financially.

The Dr. William U. Pearson Community Center on West Carey Avenue was bustling with dancers in Nikes, Chucks and stripes, the unofficial uniform of hip hoppers and b-boys. Tunay swag and gift cards were raffled off, street superstars Jimmy “Scoo B Doo” Foster, Bailey “Bailrok” Munoz, Jeff “J Boogie” Kelley and Ariah “Baby Wockee” made appearances, and attendees threw down in battles all over the place.

Impromptu battles aside, several performances by Las Vegas crews brought some serious funk to the event. Ground Zero, Hypnotix, Heartbreakerz, High Profile and Virtuouz Dance Krew all demonstrated the breadth of street dance and the individuality inherent in all facets of these variations.

Chris Gorney, cohost of the event, kept things lively and interesting in between performances and emphasized the importance of having a studio like Tunay.

“The word [Tunay] means real, true and genuine,” Gorney said. “We’re really trying to keep that studio alive and that’s what we’re all here for today.”

This was the thread running through the showcase. Bailrok, a pint-sized member of Rock Steady Crew, The Prodigy and Future Funk, agreed with Gorney.

“We should all help Jojo because he did a lot for the hip hop community,” he said.

Despite these declarations, the mood of the evening was anything but somber. Contagious energy abounded and an undercurrent of affectionate competition washed over battles. Scoo B Doo, largely regarded as locking royalty, underscored this.

“Everybody, everybody should love dancing because it makes you happy,” he said. “Politics has got to stay out of this. It’s a battle when ou get out on the floor, but you still love each other.”

Tunay owner Jojo Peralta manned the mic at the end of the show and talked about challenges Tunay is facing, but also of the studio’s unifying presence for the street dance community in Las Vegas.

“We got a hard-core crew,” he said, eliciting cheers and fist-pumps. “That’s what’s really going to keep things going.”

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Barre Las Vegas is located at Town Square, between Eddie Bauer and what used to be Robb & Stucky.

Cross-training isn’t a new concept for dancers, but doing so in a carpeted space in a shopping mall might not sound like hitting an elliptical at the gym. At Barre Las Vegas, though, customers are invited to don socks and stand at, yes, a barre, for an hour-long workout inspired by the noble art of ballet.

The barre physique technique draws from yoga, core strengthening, flexibility and cardio for a comprehensive workout designed to tone the upper body, core, legs and “seat” (or what your ballet teacher would call a derriere.) Each class clocks in at an hour, which is shorter than most dance classes, but that hour packs a punch.

I took a Mixed Barre class from Drea Lee, another Vegas dancer, and I was struck by both the similarities and the differences of this Barre business. For instance, unlike ballet, the workout starts with center work. And weights.

Another Barre employee advised that I grab a pair of the lightest weights to start out, saying that they get heavy quickly. While I’m not one to doubt the strength imparted upon me by dance teachers demanding push-ups, I’m also not one to disregard sensible advice, and this seemed to fall under that category.

Forget the push-ups. By the end of the arms series, those little pink weights seemed brutal. The choreographed workout did a great job of targeting muscle groups and working areas like biceps, triceps, deltoids and lats. For dancers that want to up their upper body strength, the first third of class alone could seal the deal.

The workout continued with exercises at the barre that engaged quadriceps and hamstrings. It might take some adjustment for dancers to complete an entire plie series with a lifted heel or hip circles, but the physical aspect is undeniable: even if it’s not conventional ballet, it isn’t easy.

The ab work was accentuated by a clever strap-and-barre arrangement that fully utilized obliques that can be skimmed over in a traditional sit-up. This part of the class would probably be familiar to Pilates enthusiasts, along with that lovely burning sensation. Simply put, the intensity of the class continued.

A few exercises targeting the lower back and a nice cool-down stretch rounded out the barre class. Plank positions and push-ups were interspersed throughout and the dance-mix-style music contributed to the cardio feel. My muscles were quivering by the end of the hour, but I appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to hop on a treadmill to achieve that level of fatigue. Given a choice between a barbell and a barre, I’ll take the barre.

Barre Las Vegas has two locations, one each in Town Square and Summerlin. Classes can be paid for individually at $20 apiece or purchased as part of a number of packages, which cost $79 and up. Semi-private and private lessons are also available. For more information about location, pricing and class offerings, roll on over to the Barre Las Vegas homepage.

Iconic choreographer Twyla Tharp joined artistic hands with the timeless music of Frank Sinatra and created “Come Fly Away,” a show that debuted on Broadway in March 2010. The show came to Las Vegas under the name “Sinatra: Dance With Me” in December 2010 and ran through mid-April of this year.

The show was a fantastic melding of Sinatra’s and Tharp’s celebrated works and was delightfully different from many other shows seen on the Strip. Untouchable dancing and world-class musicians graced the stage of the Encore Theater for a scant five months, far too brief a tenure to do the show justice.

Elsewhere, though, the “Come Fly Away/Dance with Me” experience continues. A national tour began in April and tickets for the Broadway show are available here. And Tharp, the innovative brain behind shows like “Movin’ Out,” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” continues to contribute to the dance world.

For a great story on Tharp’s career, present projects and forthcoming endeavors, head over here for an entry from the National Post. Robin Leach mourned the loss of “Sinatra: Dance with Me” in his story here, which originally ran in the Las Vegas Sun.

The Nashville Swing Dance Foundation has embarked on a series of short films produced in honor of the noble art of social dance. (Jump Session is a venue that NSDF recently opened for dance events, classes and workshops.) For anyone out there that’s planning on grabbing a map and pointing out that Nashville is nowhere near Las Vegas, at least refrain until after you’ve watched the video. Even if it has little geographic proximity to our fine city, it is most definitely worth four minutes of your time.

Here’s a shout-out to Rob Nixon, a “Dance Insider” reader who kindly shared the link with me. People like you make the dance world spin round!

For much of the dance world, tradition is the backbone in the body of technique. Ballet and modern are perhaps at the helm of this, each with long histories of established customs. This rigorous structure allowed for an interesting tangent in the 1980s in the form of exploratory, creative movement; a sort of cubism of the dance world. These tendencies persist today, and not just in modern dance.

Russian ballet might not fall under the “unorthodox” category for most people, but that’s how Tobi Tobias described recent performances by Mariinsky Ballet.  Although Tobias undercuts the production of “Anna Karenina,” he speaks candidly and gives fair voice to the dancers who “did their best under the unfavorable circumstances.” The review also includes an assessment of Alexei Ratmansky’s “The Little Humpbacked Horse,” a remake of a ballet whose history began in 1864. Find a link to the story here.

The second installment in the wave of the unusual is enumerated in Deborah Jowitt’s latest post about Jonah Bokaer and his pieces “Recess” and “Why Patterns.” Paper and ping-pong balls both make appearances and contribute to larger questions: What is a pattern? When does it cease to be one? What do 10,000 small, plastic balls have to do with anything? Jowitt muses on these and other issues in her post on DanceBeat. Read it here.

“So You Think You Can Dance,” the hugely popular, “American Idol”-style reality show on Fox, has garnered some serious attention in its eight-year tenure. Dancers of many creeds have strutted their stuff in front of a varying panel of judges in an attempt to be christened America’s favorite.

The show, now in its eighth season, begins with a lengthy audition process in select cities across the country. Dancers show up in droves for day-long auditions and a lucky few are sent through to Las Vegas for the next round of cuts. They then compete for a spot in the Top 20 and, once those 10 girls and 10 guys are chosen, the serious competition begins. Ultimately, one dancer is chosen by viewers as America’s Favorite Dancer. (Cue up the video below for a taste of what this season’s Top 20 can do.)

Like the “Twilight” series, Lady Gaga and fanny packs, this amount of attention naturally brings along differing points of view on the show itself. “So You Think You Can Dance” has been a big component in making dance more accessible to an audience that might not otherwise be interested. However, some dancers have voiced the concern that this shiny, commercial version might be alienating styles like classical ballet or modern dance.

Tiler Peck, the principal for New York City Ballet, chimed in on the issue alongside Michelle Dorrance of “Stomp,” Dallas McMurray of the Mark Morris Dance Group, hip-hoper Anthony “Ant Boogie” Rue II, who toured with Madonna, and Brittany Marcin, a former Rockette. For these four, dance is a business. To read their insight regarding SYTYCD, follow the link here for the original story from the New York Times.

The season finale is on Fox today at 8 p.m. EST. Regardless of your stance on “So You Think You Can Dance,” most dancers find it at least somewhat entertaining … even if, like Olympic figure skating, you’re only watching it for the falls.

It might sound like someone lost a bet, but a Guardian sports writer was sent to the Royal Opera House to review a production of “Tosca” a number of years ago. (The culture critics had to swap jobs with the rugby writer as well, as is sporting.) Despite the apparent hilarity of the situation, some interesting observations about the similarities of sports and dance came forth. For a video, follow the link here.

The New York Times decided in July that this was an idea worth considering. Perhaps because we don’t have rugby over here, book critic Dwight Garner was sent to a performance of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Anna Karenina” by Mariinsky Ballet, formerly the Kirov company.

As with Thomas Castaignède of The Guardian, Garner proffered an innovative perspective and some valuable insight into the story that, after all, began as a literary tale. The result is a modest article that makes ballet both more accessible and more enlightening, which tends to be a fine balance to strike. More than anything, both stories demonstrate the universality of arts and human feeling.

For the story about the ballet that “unfurled like a black rose” for a New York Times book critic, follow the link here.