Dance St. Louis Unites Nationally Renowned Choreographers With Local Dance Companies to Create Four World Premieres

 In Culture

There’s no question that Dance St. Louis is a vital organization for advancing dance in the city of St. Louis. For 46 years they’ve brought major dance companies from across the globe to thrill locals with the tripudiary arts. They are—to put it grandly—a golden thread in the tapestry of the city’s cultural community. But last year’s debut of Dance Horizons—which paired four nationally-significant choreographers with local dance companies in one exciting performance—may just prove to be a metaphorical grand jeté in an important new direction for the art of dance as a whole.

Leverage Dance Theater

Leverage Dance Theater (Courtesy of Dance St. Louis)

If you missed the event last year, you’ll get another chance. Dance St. Louis premieres Dance Horizons II at Touhill Performing Dance Center this weekend. It’s an experience that artistic and executive director of DSL, Michael Uthoff, says, “takes dance to the bare essence of what it’s all about; creativity. It challenges our local artists to greater achievement. That’s the whole idea behind it,” he says.

Contemporary Dance Company (Courtesy of Dance St. Louis)

Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company (Courtesy of Dance St. Louis)

It’s not just the local artists who will relish the unique opportunity. The event also inspires the choreographers who have been commissioned to create the world premieres. Emery LeCrone, the wildly admired ballerina-turned-choreographer who is working with St. Louis Ballet, arrived in town with a concept and general ideas about the movement, but didn’t have anything set in stone. “You don’t know what the dancers are going to look like, how they’re going to move or what their various strengths are going to be,” LeCrone says. “I get a lot of inspiration from the dancers.”

Saint Louis Ballet (Courtesy of Dance St. Louis)

Saint Louis Ballet (Courtesy of Dance St. Louis)

But the biggest benefits might go to the city itself. The program puts St. Louis not only on the national map but the world map as well, establishing the city as a place to see exciting dance and to expect the unexpected. In fact, it’s already happening. “We are already collaborating on a similar project in Kansas City, where they also feel this is the way that dance should move forward and enhance the community,” Uthoff says. “It does that and much, much more.”

MADCO (Courtesy of Dance St. Louis)

MADCO (Courtesy of Dance St. Louis)

Here are the four pairings of choreographers and dance companies who will come together to create Dance Horizons II, courtesy of Dance St. Louis.

Nejla Yatkin and Leverage Dance Theater

Renowned choreographer and dancer Nejla Yatkin works with Leverage Dance Theater, a modern dance collective led by Artistic Director Diana Barrios that uses dance and creative movement in non-traditional environments to engage new audiences and generate social discourse to fuel artistic work. Yatkin, a Berlin native with Turkish roots, draws upon diverse traditions of dance, cultures and medium and utilizes subjects that are at once universal and timeless. The New York Times says Yatkin “is after more than choreography,” describing her as “a magician telling tales and creating worlds with understated images and movement.”

Uri Sands and Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company

Uri Sands collaborates with Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company, the company founded in 2010 by Jennifer Medina that creates accessible and uplifting dance performances throughout the St. Louis area. Sands, a former principle dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, founded TU Dance in Minneapolis in 2004 with his wife, Toni Pierce-Sands, who is also a former dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Recognized in 2005 by Dance Magazine as one of the “25 Choreographers To Watch,” Sands is known for blending high physicality with fine technique while drawing on a broad range of dance traditions from contemporary ballet to modern and traditional forms.

Pilobolus and MADCO

Pilobolus, named the “most popular dance company in the country” by the New York Post, works with MADCO, the professional dance company in residence at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Under the direction of Artistic Director Stacy West, MADCO is known for its versatile and athletic style. Pilobolus is resetting “Land’s Edge”—a piece that Michael Uthoff, artistic and executive director of Dance St. Louis, first commissioned in 1986 from Pilobolus for Hartford Ballet, where Uthoff served as artistic director. At its conception, The New York Times called it “one of Pilobolus’s richest, most haunting and most exasperating pieces.”

Emery LeCrone and Saint Louis Ballet

Emery LeCrone of New York City collaborates with Saint Louis Ballet, the region’s largest ballet company, directed by Artistic Director Gen Horiuchi. Since the premiere of her first ballet in 2006, Emery LeCrone has choreographed more than 40 pieces. Hailed by The New York Times as “…inventive…ready for primetime knockout” and by the New Yorker as “ambitious…expansive and dynamic,” LeCrone’s highly acclaimed work has attracted numerous grants and has been heavily commissioned in New York and across the country.

Dance St. Louis presents PNC Arts Alive New Dance Horizons II, Friday, Oct. 4 at 8pm and Saturday, Oct. 5 at 2pm and 8pm at Touhill Performing Arts Center. For tickets and information, visit the Dance St. Louis website.

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