One of the strengths of Dance Central is the lifetime of experience owned by its directors. Co-artistic director Kathryn Horne, for instance, learned "Graduation Ball" directly from its creator David Lichine, who introduced the ballet during World War II. Horne danced the work many times as a member of American Ballet Theater. Orchestra conductor Anatol Dorati arranged the Strauss music specifically for the ballet.
The time of the piece is the late-19th, early-20th century. The setting is a private girls' school on the outskirts of a large European city, perhaps Paris or Vienna. Mixing of the sexes was unheard of in education, but on rare occasions, a highly regulated co-mingling of the sexes took place. At the end of the school year, the girls' school would invite the male cadets of the local military school to come and be partners for their girls at a graduation ball. The head mistress and the "General" in the story have had a mild flirtation for many years,
Professional dancers Georgia Tucker and Anne Marie Loesch are among the graduates in this production. The humor is light and charming; expect a limber, lilting touch rather than knee slappers.
Mary Ann Mee, the company's other co-artistic director, danced in modern dance pioneer Charles Weidman's company for many years. Her major contribution to this new program is "For Lo The Winter Is Past," a joyful, triumphant affirmation of the season of rebirth and renewal. The favorite time of year for Mee's mother was spring; this piece is dedicated to her.
What makes modern dance unique is that the choreographer allows the dancer to express his/her own personality and "take" on what the choreographer is trying to express. One very talented dancer with personality is Clay Daniels -- a mainstay of Dance Central until he left town to join a professional company. Unfortunately, that old devil lack of funds forced his new troupe to go belly up, and Daniels has taken a featured role in this ballet in which each dancer represents a different aspect of spring. This is a decidedly upbeat, celebratory work that should take many audience members by surprise.
Kathryn Horne's other ballet in the season finale is "The Sound of Bells," danced to a percussive score of drums, gongs, xylophone, etc.
Two summers ago, Horne and I attended a performance by the Twyla Tharp company at the American Dance Festival at Duke University. At intermission, a crowd of people was standing in front of the orchestra pit watching the "composer" assemble his "instruments." The man who created Tharp's score is called the "junk man." Anything that makes a sound when hit is fair game to him. The result was a perfect percussive blend with the dancing onstage, a delightful, truly innovative theater piece. Horne now has the chance to relay some of that cutting edge feel through this piece.
Marry Ann Mee's mentor Charles Weidman was a comic genius. Her "Secret Life" is a throwback to Weidman and seems Thurberesque. The cast consists of four people: a boss who does little more than sit with his feet on his desk smoking his pipe, his executive secretary who resents the fact that she does all the work to keep the firm going, a receptionist who does little more than chew gum, file her nails and pretend to be working, and a Fed Ex delivery man.
This is the way the four appear to the world, but each has a "secret life" and we're given a glance into their fantasies, making for a comic romp.
If you haven't yet discovered Dance Central, you're in for a treat. For $10 you can buy a movie ticket and a box of popcorn. For the same money at Pease Auditorium, you'll see live entertainment. These folks put on a damn good show.
Contemporary Rights, Dance Central's Spring season finale, will be performed April 12, 13 and 14 in Pease Auditorium on the CPCC campus. Curtain on Friday and Saturday is at 8pm, Sunday afternoon at 2:30pm Tickets are $10. For more information, call 704-330-6534 or visit online at www.dancecentral.org. *