Martha Graham, Ninette de Valois, Pina Bausch, Judith Jamison, Kathryn Dunham, Twyla Tharp, Agnes de Mille. The list of talented, successful and famous female choreographers is long and their repertoire of work is profound. Yet currently in dance — an industry so seemingly geared toward, pioneered by, and dominated by women — some of the most prominent, high-profile choreographers today are men, leaving many to ask, “Where are all the female choreographers, and why aren’t we giving more visibility to their work?” It’s a question the dance world continues to contemplate and address, and Dance St. Louis is doing its part with its upcoming presentation New Dance Horizons V: Women Who Inspire.
What: Dance PNC Arts Alive New Dance Horizons V: Women Who Inspire
When: March 3 at 8 p.m., March 4 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Where: Touhill Performing Arts Center
Tickets: All tickets are $20 (http://dancestlouis.org)
Supported by funding from the PNC Foundation through the PNC Arts Alive initiative, this season’s presentation, New Dance Horizons V: Women Who Inspire, explores notable women in history, with choreographers selecting inspirational women of their choice for their work. The concept, which is now in its fifth year and has been picked up in different markets and by other companies, brings together nationally renowned choreographers to collaborate with and set their work on local professional dance companies to perform a collection of world premieres.
New Dance Horizons V’s selected choreographers are San Francisco-based Amy Seiwert, Wendy Rein, Ryan T. Smith, and award-winning Chicago dance artist Stephanie Martinez. Saint Louis Ballet, MADCO and The Big Muddy Dance Company are the participating professional dance companies. The choreographers’ inspirations for their world premieres include 12th-century abbess, mystic and composer Hildegard of Bingen; Susannah Cahalan, author of “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness”; French-American visual artist Louise Bourgeois; and Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral.
For each world premiere, choreographers were inspired by either the work of these unique and notable women in history or their stories. Choreographer Amy Seiwert, artistic director of Amy Seiwert’s Imagery in San Francisco and named one of “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine in 2005, selected the music of of 12th-Century German Benedictine abbess and mystic Hildegard of Bingen as her inspiration. Hildegard of Bingen, also known as Saint Hildegard and “Sibyl of the Rhine,” composed an entire corpus of sacred music that is still popular today, and is considered one of the first known composers in the Western tradition. Seiwert sees Hildegard of Bingen as an incredible force of nature with an astounding story about her ability to compose music as well as write books on medicine, botany and theology while living as an abbess.
San Francisco-based choreographers Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith, founders/co-artistic directors of the award-winning contemporary dance company RAWdance, have drawn inspiration from two talented women: Susannah Cahalan and Louise Bourgeois. Washington University graduate and journalist Susannah Cahalan is the author of the 2012 New York Times best-selling autobiography “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” in which she discusses the disease that attacked her brain, left her with no memory of a month long series of events, and ultimately altered her life. 20th century French-American visual artist Louise Bourgeois, whose work has been described as intensely feminine and spanned from large-scale sculpture and installation art to printmaking and painting, is the choreographers’ other inspiration. Both women used their art to repair their own lives and share their experiences with others.
Choreographer Stephanie Martinez, an award-winning Chicago dance artist with more than 30 years’ professional performing experience and founding member of River North Dance Chicago, chose Gabriela Mistral, Chilean poet-diplomat, educator and the first Latin American author to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945. Mistral’s poem “Miedo” (or “Fear”) is central to Martinez’s choreography, which also draws inspiration from the Latina culture of her family, including her sister Mercedes Inez, who composed the music selection for the world premiere.
New Dance Horizons V: Women Who Inspire takes place during Women’s History Month on March 3-4 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. The world premiere weekend also includes a variety of pre-show, intermission and post-show features, including lobby performances and panel discussions about St. Louis dance icons Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham, Central VPA High School student artwork exhibition, and a “Wall of Inspiration” campaign contest with the audience and local community. Don’t miss! V
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