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BWW Interviews: Rebecca French Talks THE RITE OF SUMMER

Photo by Pin Lim.
Adam Castaneda and Lyric Williams in The Rite of Summer.

FrenetiCore Dance is reviving its 2013 show, THE RITE OF SUMMER, for the Wortham Center's Cullen Theater on August 1, 2015. Artistic Director Rebecca French's THE RITE OF SUMMER was created to commemorate Stravinsky's 1913 masterpiece, THE RITE OF SPRING. THE RITE OF SUMMER by FrenetiCore Dance is a celebration of life, nature, and the exuberance of a bright summer day.

I recently caught up with Director Rebecca French to talk about the performance, which will be performed this Saturday at 8:00pm.


Tell us about FrenetiCore Dance and how this season has been going.

We founded the organization in 2003, and we do about three full length shows per year. This is the end of our 2014-2015 season, it's the culmination of a wonderful year that included performing with Houston Arts Alliance at the Transported + Renewed Art project, which celebrated the culture of the east end. Then we did DANCING WITH THE MACHINE, which was our steampunk dance drama based on an original story by Adam Castaneda.

Tell us about the THE RITE OF SUMMER.

It's a celebration of summer, and nature, and life, and the original Stravinsky score that was created over a hundred years ago that took on some really new movements in musicality and choreography. It's the famous ballet that caused a riot in France when it premiered because the music was so dissonant and atonal and not like anything that the audiences had ever heard before. The choreography was inverted, turned in, bizarre, sharp, angular, and not like any of the ballets that audiences had ever seen. People completely rejected it. They couldn't handle how ahead of its time it was. But within a year, audiences were already starting to embrace it, because it was the wave of our future of a new modern aesthetic. It's such an inspiration for FrenetiCore to go back to those groundbreaking and cutting edge artists from centuries past.

How has FrenetiCore Dance updated this piece?

Photo by Pin Lim.
Danielle Artis in The Rite of Summer.

To contribute something new to it, we reworked the entire score with Chris Becker doing an electronic reimagining of the original music. It sounds updated, there's a chopped and screwed section toward the end, there's a lot of new instruments, and even animal sounds that have been added. The music is very rich, dynamic, and modern. The choreography features twelve totally beautiful athletic dancers running, jumping, and embodying the characters of various animals and things from nature. There are giant insects, blades of grass that are really sharp, kids running through a garden, foxes, and bunnies. There are dancers on pointe that inhabit the element of water, so they are very fluid, then other times they are frozen as if they were sharp icicles. Then we added the use of projections created by Varina Rush. She's got some beautiful picasso-inspired paintings being projected, and they move, shift, and change colors to help create rich colorful scenes on stage. The finale is a showdown between insects and the grass, and they're dancing on these large bamboo poles they use to fight each other and do great tricks on. It leads to this wonderful climax of battles, and the athleticism, strength, and skill of these dancers are really showcased in this final scene. The dancers always contribute their own artistry to the choreography as well. I want to give them credit for having great ideas and coming up with some of the more fun and elaborate movements that we do.

What makes this performance different than FrenetiCore Dance's previous productions of THE RITE OF SUMMER?

This is our second time performing it. We did it in 2013 on the 100-year anniversary of Stravinsky's premiere. We intend to do it about every two years from now on, but this is our first time doing it in a large scale venue. Performing at the Cullen Theatre is a whole other experience for the audience, because they get to see us on a giant stage with higher production value. We've also got a different cast. I think about four of the original cast members are in this year's production.

Photo by Pin Lim.
Jaime Garcia in The Rite of Summer.

What else can audiences expect at the performance?

We've got two other pieces also being performed: FILM NOIR, an awesome musical work by Andrew Karnavas that I'm choreographing for six dancers. In contrast to how colorful THE RITE OF SUMMER is, FILM NOIR is sultry, smokey, black and white, grainy, and takes you back to the FILM NOIR from the 1940s. It's really swanky and fun, and it tells a story of a femme fatale. The opening of the entire show is Cirque La Vie, Houston's premiere acrobatic circus troupe.

What's next for FrenetiCore Dance?

After this, we're going to work on a short dance film, probably a love story, for the fall. Then for Christmas we're doing the SNOW QUEEN, based on the original Grimm Fairy Tales. We'll have two guest choreographers in addition to me, full FrenetiCore cast, and some guest dancers as well. It is going to be a great NUTCRACKER alternative, it'll be a great family friendly show, with dark fairy tale elements that will keep adults engaged.


THE RITE OF SUMMER by FrenetiCore Dance

Location: Cullen Theater, Wortham Center, 501 Texas Avenue

Date: August 1, 2015 Time: 8 p.m.

Tickets: $16 - $50

For tickets and more information please visit: http://tickets.houstonfirsttheaters.com/single/EventListing.aspx

Cast: Danielle Artis, Ashley Boykin, Brenda Baez, Lauren Burke, Adam Castaneda, Rebecca French, Jaime Garcia, Carlos Guzman, Kelsey Kincaid, Taylor Martin, Michelle Mayo, Lyric Williams

Director and Choreographer - Rebecca French

Original Score - Igor Stravinsky

Music and Sound - Chris Becker

Visual Art and Projections - Varina Rush

Costumes - Ashley Horn

Marketing and Development - Adam Castaneda



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