Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dance imitates art

Footlight?s senior company to dance paintings to life

Express Staff Writer

Footlight dancers are inspired by the painting ?Frieze of Dancers? by master impressionist painter Edgar Degas. Photo by Aubrey Stephens

Matisse, Degas, Mondrian, Goya and Ruzo are works of art one would only see in museums far from the Wood River Valley. However, through the Footlight Dance Company's senior company premiere performance of "Dances at an Exhibition," valley dance enthusiasts can experience the works of these master painters through dance interpretation.

"I'm always looking for new ideas and ways to collaborate the arts," said Footlight Dance Company artistic director Hilarie Neely. "Last summer I was thinking about the Wood River Alliance Children's Arts Festival and looking at paintings on the walls of schools with several art teachers who are teaching the history of art and learning about the many techniques, and I thought it would be great to make the master painters come alive."

The 24 dancers who make up the senior Footlight company will make paintings such as Matisse's "Blue Nudes" and Degas' "Frieze of Dancers" come to life through several forms of dancing, including modern dance, ballet, tap dance, jazz and hip hop. Under Neely's artistic direction, "Dances at an Exhibition" is a performance inspired by Modest Mussorgsky, whose musical work by the same name was composed in 1874 in Russia to accompany his friend Victor Hartmann's paintings.

"I knew about several artists," Neely said. "We had to use Degas, and I was familiar with Matisse and more contemporary artists like Calder. I started researching on the Internet and looked at paintings as well as talked with other choreographers who are part of my faculty. I started to brainstorm--it took up to four months."

Footlight has been teaching Blaine County students to dance for over 20 years, and has performed for over 50,000 students. The company's mission has been to expose dance and other collaborating art forms in an exciting and educational setting, especially to promote the exposure of art to children.

"Dances at an Exhibition" will feature the sculptural movements of modern dance depicting Henri Matisse's "Blue Nude II" (1952), as well as classic ballet, most befitting with Edgar Degas' "Frieze of Dancers" (1893), which reveals ballerinas adjusting their slippers. In addition, there will be a tap dancing piece in conjunction with Piet Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie Woogie" (1942-1943) and a flamenco dance performance for Franciscio Goya's "Senora Sabas Garcia." More modern dance interpretations will be jazz to depict Victor Ruzo's "Fine Stockings" (1938) and hip-hop dance for "Street Art" (2007) by Wood River High School's Max Monahan.

Monahan created a graffiti backdrop for the performance to portray street art, which is art found in public places. Street art has no barriers and can be found through cities and towns around the world. It is meant to distinguish the difference among territorial graffiti, vandalism and corporate art.

The production will be narrated by Jesse White, a senior at Wood River High School who performs with the academy.

The performance of the senior company is the culmination of several years of dancing for Footlights and is an anticipated performance by families and friends of the dancers.

"These are accomplished dancers and pre-professional," Neely said. "The performance will show off a beautiful product of what the dance performing arts is all about."

'Dances at an Exhibition'

Footlight Dance Company senior company will perform on Saturday, Feb 2, at 7 p.m. at the Community Campus Theater in Hailey.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students available at Chapter One Bookstore in Ketchum and The Toy Store in Hailey as well as from dancers and at the door.

Proceeds from the performance provide scholarships for dance students.

For more information, contact Hilarie Neely at 788-3481 ext. 6.

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