Garth Fagan Dance Announces Premieres, Opening Night Festivities & Holiday Family Fun
Internationally acclaimed Garth Fagan Dance has consistently impressed audiences with its powerful physicality, its undeniable artistry, and the welcoming accessibility of its live performances. A true Rochester treasure, GFD packs a punch with Fagan's signature technique that marries the fluidity of Caribbean dance, the polyrhythms of African dance, the precision of ballet, and the strength and weight of modern dance. Founder/Artistic Director Garth Fagan - winner of America's Tony, Bessie, and Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Awards; England's Olivier Award; and Australia's Helpmann Award - reflects vital social issues in his soul-stirring, visceral choreography that displays the breadth of his repertoire and the incredible skills of his dancers.
"We know that Rochester is proud of our success and views us as global ambassadors, and we appreciate that so very much," says Garth Fagan Dance Executive Artistic Liaison and former GFD dancer William J. Ferguson II. "We also want to reach out to our friends and neighbors and remind them that - whether they experienced a performance years ago or have yet to see the company live - this holiday season is the perfect opportunity to join us for our exciting 2018 Home Season at Nazareth College Arts Center."
This year's performances will feature Fagan's Rochester premiere of The North Star, a celebration of the life of 19th-century abolitionist, orator, author, and Rochester icon Frederick Douglass on the bicentennial of his birth. The work opens with Bessie Award-winner and original company member Steve Humphrey dancing to The Melodians' reggae version of Douglass' favorite Psalm 137, "Rivers of Babylon." A brilliant score by veteran Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra saxophonist Walter Blanding carries the next four sections. Fellow Bessie Award-winner/GFD Rehearsal Director Norwood Pennewell and So You Think You Can Dance star Vitolio Jeune portray the elder and younger Douglass' struggles respectively in a powerful duo. Bessie Award-winner/GFD School Director Natalie Rogers-Cropper as Grandmother Betsy Bailey and newcomer Rishell Maxwell as his surviving daughter Rosetta Douglass complete a quartet of tour-de-force performances. A final section - Reverence/Celebration - features the entire company.
The North Star made its world premiere last week to rave reviews such as this one from BroadwayWorld.com at the company's annual season at The Joyce Theatre in New York City: "The energy was so contagious, you could see many members of the audiences moving and grooving...Mr. Fagan is a truly amazing choreographer whose work will live on for generations to come! He absolutely has a way of captivating audiences from across the globe."
"I have read so much of Frederick Douglass that I allowed The North Star to lead me," explains the much-awarded Fagan, who founded the company in 1970. "The work is receiving roaring ovations in New York, and I hope that it will also move and inspire Rochester audiences."
Additionally, all six performances will feature the Rochester premiere of Distant Kin, an impressionist work by Pennewell. In this, his ninth piece created for the company, seven dancers perform to the electronic music of "Gold Town" and "Ghajar" by Stavroz, and "Für die liebe" by Matthew Dekay and Lee Burridge.
Two different evening programs (TBA) will also include several of these stirring revivals from the company's rich archive:
· From Before (1978), set to music by Trinidadian Grammy-winning percussionist Ralph MacDonald.
· In Memoriam: The Innocent, The Brave, The Hands, The Minds...All Mankind, dedicated to the victims and survivors of September 11, 2001 (September 2001), Plus: Aretha Franklin, John McCain, Paul Taylor, Arthur Mitchell. This solemn and moving tribute to the victims and families of 9/11 is set to a sacred chant by the 16th-century composer Cristóbal de Morales and saxophonist Jan Gabarek.
· Mudan 175/39 (2009). Commemorating the City of Rochester's 175th anniversary and Garth Fagan Dance's 39th anniversary, it uses the music of contemporary Chinese composers performed by the celebrated Ying Quartet. The piece was named by The New York Times as third in the top six dance-watching moments of 2009.
· Estrogen/Genius (2017): a group of five women express and assert their vulnerability, outrage, comradery, and ultimate resilience against violence. Music by Naturally 7.
· No Evidence of Failure (2016): a duet that shows a harmonious, working relationship, one that has bumps along the way but ultimately succeeds through love and respect. Music by Monty Alexander - Harlem-Kingston Express.
Plus, a different program for matinees (TBA) will feature a piece by the Garth Fagan Dance Student Ensemble, multi-racial GFDS students ages 5-18 who train in the Fagan Technique and rehearse and perform original choreography By Artistic Director/Choreographer William J. Ferguson II. The Ensemble is a program of the Garth Fagan Dance School, led by School Director Natalie Rogers-Cropper, with classes taught by GFD company members and dancers trained in the Fagan technique. The Ensemble members are cultural ambassadors for contemporary dance, and perform throughout the year at area festivals and corporate events.
Garth Fagan Dance's 2018 Home Season runs for six performances December 5 - 9 at Nazareth College Arts Center (4245 East Avenue, 14618)'s Callahan Theatre: Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 8 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. A meet-and-greet in the lobby with Fagan and all dancers follows each performance. Tickets are $40 (Orchestra), $43 (Orchestra Aisle), and $55 (Premium), and are available at the Nazareth College Arts Center Box Office in person at 4245 East Ave., by phone at 585-389-2170, or by visiting https://www2.naz.edu/events/3051/. Discounts available via Box Office only: $15 tickets for children/students under 18 as well as college students with ID, a 20% senior discount, and a 20% discount for groups of 10 more.
To further entice the hometown crowd to experience one of Rochester's true gems, Garth Fagan Dance is offering some festive extras and special incentives for this year's season:
· Wednesday, Dec. 5, following 7:30 PM performance: Opening Night Reception with Garth & Company in neighboring Medaille Hall, open to all ticket buyers on a first-come/first-served RSVP basis (as space is limited) by calling Garth Fagan Dance offices at 585-454-3260.
· Thursday, Dec. 6 at 8 PM: buy-one/get-one-free ticket, applies to all full-price tickets ($40, $43, $55), available via Box Office only. Includes Post-Concert Chat with Garth Fagan and special guests.
· Sat. & Sun., Dec. 8 & 9 at 2 PM: Family Holiday Matinees with buy-one-adult/get-one-free child/student ticket offer, includes goodie bags, photo opportunities, and Student Ensemble performance. Available via Box Office only.
More about Garth Fagan Dance: Garth Fagan Dance is an internationally acclaimed contemporary American dance company, a bustling school of dance with an enrollment of 400 students, and a community-based resource of broad and growing influence, whose home has remained in Rochester for almost five decades. The company began in the '70s, when the country was just beginning to emerge from a tumultuous decade of riots and widespread unrest. As part of his recent appointment to the faculty at the State University of New York in Brockport, Garth Fagan began teaching dance classes at the SUNY Educational Opportunity Center in downtown Rochester. Many of his students had no previous training, and most came from inner-city, economically disadvantaged backgrounds. But Fagan was so inspired by their raw talent and tenacity that he decided to transform this highly unconventional group of dancers into a professional company, based not in one of the world's cultural capitals, but in Upstate New York. From this early start, the organization has continued to evolve, shaped by the values that first prompted its formation. Garth Fagan Dance is still dedicated to the sentiments expressed in its founding mission: "To advance, nurture, and sustain Garth Fagan's pioneering vision of contemporary dance through creation, performance, and preservation of his choreography and the commissioning of works by company dancers. Dance training that encourages young people - regardless of their race, gender, or financial resources - to develop their full potential. Educational programs, performances, and activities that enrich communities and engage audiences." The current Garth Fagan Dance company includes long-time Fagan stars and Bessie Award-winners Norwood Pennewell, Steve Humphrey, and Natalie Rogers-Cropper, as well as Vitolio Jeune, Guy Thorne, Adriene B. Hodge, Wynton Rice, Andrew David, Davente Gilreath, Sarah Herbert, Le'Tiger Walker, Rishell Maxwell, Anna Lee, Justus Alicea, and J'royce Jata. Please find more biographical information at garthfagandance.org.
Photo Credit: Erich Camping.
Pictured: Standing Top: Adriene B. Hodge, Bill Ferguson, Norwood Pennewell, Wynton Rice, Nina Price, Davente Gilreath, Andrew David, Steve Humphrey; Standing Middle: Guy Thorne, Natalie Rogers-Cropper, Garth Fagan, Le'Tiger Walker; Sitting: Rishell Maxwell, Vitolio Jeune, Sarah Herbert