Saturday, March 20, 2010

'Beat of America' holds strong work

Jasmina Wellinghoff - Special to the Express-News For its winter performance, titled "The Beat of America," the Alamo Arts Ballet Theater (AABT) decided to mix ballet – classical and otherwise -- with patriotic and military themes, throwing in a dose of Big Band jazziness for good measure.

The show premiered Saturday at the Carver Community Cultural Center and will be repeated at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Saturday's performance was for the most part an enjoyable experience despite some last minute changes in the program which substituted the pas de deux from "Sleeping Beauty" for Balanchine's "Star and Stripes." The latter was supposed to be danced by the big stars of the night, guest artists Michele Gifford and Andrey Prikhodka, who instead starred in the "Beauty" number.

Both rose to the occasion, of course, though more so as soloists than as partners, but the Balanchine piece would have been more relevant to the theme and more interesting for local audiences to see.

Fortunately no one canceled the other piece featuring Gifford, "Lorelei," choreographed by Elizabeth Gillaspy to music by Brahms. Inspired by romantic poems about the bewitching siren of the Rhine, Lorelei, the dance was visually stunning, the choreography fresh and eloquent and Gifford's charged performance spellbinding. The final moment when the ballerina stood still and alone in the center with only one of her arms gently undulating by her side as if animated by a departing breeze, was the kind of image that's likely to stay with you for a long while.

The program held other riches as well. Guest choreographer Bill Coleman created a much more modern but also poignantly eloquent piece called "Letting Go" set to Sarah MacLachlan's "Let You Go." Ccompany member Marcie Miller portrayed a woman receiving the letter that every military wife dreads. After an anguished "no!" she threw herself with abandon into Coleman's choreography, struggling with her pain and with letting go.

Partner Jorge Villafana was basically there to support her. Their moves were more naturalistic and positively rough by ballet standards. He would lift her like a child, for instance, with her back against his chest, her knees tightly folded under her, or she would jump into his arms only to be lifted and hugged with her legs sticking straight out by his sides. She also repeatedly ran and grabbed him from behind and he carried her semi-limp body on his back for a while.

On a more cheerful front, there were two big numbers Artistic Director Julie Morton-Simpson set to military marches and big band sounds, respectively. The former opened the program with simple but pleasing choreography cleanly executed by company dancers and the very capable guest artist Preston Patterson. In one segment he partnered the graceful Felicia McBride, who is currently with Ballet Austin II but grew up and learned her craft in San Antonio. All the "marchers" wore military caps and cute white gloves, moved briskly and did a lot of charming saluting.

The big band showpiece closed the proceeding in great style. Consisting of six sections, several of which were choreographed by Morton-Simpson -- with Judith Gani and Jennifer Buchheit contributing one each -- the work was flirtatious, jazzy, humorous and entertaining. It also did a nice job of incorporating showbiz and social dancing moves into ballet.

Patterson again stood out with his powerful leaps but the entire ensemble caught the spirit of the piece, including McBride, Miller, Meghan Oswald, Michelle Becken, Samantha Canedy, Ivy Newell, Leah Brown, Eres Gomez and others.

The one wrong note in the show was the kids' number "4th of July Picnic." The need to encourage young dancers is understandable, but they would shine a lot more in a school recital than they did last night. In addition, the concept and execution of the piece needed a bit of cleaning up and tightening.

As if all of this weren't enough, the evening also held two very brief dances adapted for this occasion by former Houston Ballet prima ballerina Lauren Anderson, and Coleman's "In the Night," a dance that wasn't quite in sync with its music, namely George Benson's highly expressive interpretation of "Here Comes the Sun."

Tickets cost $11 - $21 and can be purchased at the Carver's box office before the show


Rana said...

There will be a special screening of “The Long Ride Home” at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema at 410 and Blanco Rd. on Thursday, June 3rd 2010 at 7:30pm.

The film, distributed by Lions Gate Films, stars Randy Travis, Eric Roberts, Academy Award Winner Ernest Borgnine and Garry Marshall.
Moviegoers will have an opportunity to meet the producer and writer of “The Long Ride Home” (who also starred in the picture) after the show as well as enjoy a “Question & Answer” session.  A live auction will allow attendees to bid on two professional actor's demo reels for themselves or their children, each valued at $1000.00.
All Box Office proceeds will benefit Performing Arts San Antonio (PASA), a non-profit organization, as they prepare the first live productions in their new theatre.
At Performing Arts San Antonio, the instructors work individually and intensively to assist actors in the development of their unique working concept and teach them how to work organically, objectively and dynamically. PASA actors become powerful, creative and secure performers as they explore who they are, and how they work on an individual basis.
The founders of PASA have studied with some of the most renowned teachers in both New York and Hollywood.  Paul Tinder and Vaughn Taylor, who have starred in over 600 episodes of network television and over 400 national commercials, have merged those different techniques into a new working concept of acting that brought them great success in New York and Hollywood.   They now bring the PASA principle to San Antonio to assist “performers with dreams” in maximizing their talent and opportunities. 
For more information about the special screening of "The Long Ride Home" or to find out more about the classes offered by Performing Arts San Antonio, call 210-557-1187 or visit

Rana said...

Performing Arts San Antonio announces their 2010 Summer “Train With A Pro” Acting Workshops.  Students will be able to learn the skills and techniques they would learn in a professional  workshop in New York or Hollywood.  Directed by Paul Tinder and Vaughn Taylor, these workshops are a must for students desiring to work in the entertainment industry.
Paul Tinder and Vaughn Taylor have many years of professional experience in Theatre, Film, Writing and Television. They are joined by industry experienced instructors to create the most professional training available in the region.  Workshops are open to College, High and Middle School students.  Elementary school students may audition for acceptance.
Weekly intensives will be offered in three tracks: Musical Theatre, covering voice, vocal performance, movement, and stage craft; Acting, covering technique,character development, movement, and projection; and Acting on Camera, covering creating a powerful reality in on-camera work.  All tracks will feature audition preparation techniques.
Session 1, Acting On Stage, will run from June 14th – June 18th.  Session 2, Acting On Camera, will run from June 21st – June 25th.  Session 3, Musical Theatre, will run from June 28th – July 2nd.  Session 4,  Acting On Camera, will run from July 12th -– July 16th.  Session 5, Musical Theatre, will run from July 19th – July 23rd.  Weekly Session 6, Acting On Stage, will run from July 26th – July 30th.  Each session will include over 30 hours of training per week, with classes held from 9-4 each day and ending with “Showtime” performances or film festival viewings on Friday at 7PM.
Cost is $250.00 per week Multiple family member and multiple class discounts are available.  Early drop-off and late pick-up is also available for an additional $50.00 per week
Acting students will be required to prepare a 1-minute monologue to the first class.  Musical Theatre students will be required to bring 1 prepared song with sheet music on their first day of classes.
Performing Arts San Antonio is located at 15717 San Pedro, San Antonio, Texas, 78232, off of the 281 between Brook Hollow and Thousand Oaks.  For more information, call 210-557-1187 or visit
Performing arts students are not going to want to miss this unique and exciting opportunity.

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