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the Long Center, from Inside the Ring

Monthly Archives: October 2012

I applied for an internship position at the Long Center in early August. The blog entry you’re reading now should give away that yes, I did get one of the positions. I opened an email and found that I would be working in…

Guest Services?

To be honest, my first thought was something along the lines of “What in the world is Guest Services?”

Guest Services seems like this mystery corner of the building. Not because we are in a mystery corner of the building, but because a lot of people don’t realize a) that we are here, or b) what we do exactly. If you’ve attended a show at the Long Center, chances are that you’ve seen us.

So, the burning question: what exactly do we do?

We help you, the guest , and make your visit as hassle-free as possible. How?
Let’s speak in hypotheticals for a moment: you and a friend/significant other/someone (whom we shall dub Ticket Buddy) have tickets to see Capitol Steps. Last week, Ticket Buddy took a skydiving expedition. While they had a blast doing so, they did not come out unscathed. Whoops. Ticket Buddy swears the ground came out of nowhere and is now using a wheelchair while some legs (and pride) heal. While you feel bad for Ticket Buddy, you have been looking forward to the show. Do you miss it or scramble to find someone else to go with?
Go with option C and call Guest Services. We’ll help you find the easiest way to get to your seats and accommodate Ticket Buddy in whatever way possible.
Let’s get hypothetical again: you and Ticket Buddy attend the show after all. Awesome! During intermission, you grab a snack at one of the bars on your level. Great! The show is over, and you drive on home to find that Ticket Buddy’s bad luck is rubbing off on you. Your wallet is missing, probably lost near your seat.

Don’t go cancelling all of your credit cards yet! The amount of lost items (keys, wallets, credit cards) found here is shocking, but the amount of items that don’t get claimed is even more mind-boggling. There’s a good chance an usher picked up your missing item and turned it in post-show. If so, it’ll be waiting for you to claim it here.

The ushers wearing the black vests and purple ties are volunteers who give their time to make sure that every guest is kept safe and enjoys the show. They also help locate seats, read tickets, help with handicap accommodations, and enforce safety rules. Ushers show up beforehand to prepare for the show, and stay late to make sure everything is back to normal for the next performance.

So the next time you attend a show and have questions about anything, Guest Services is the place that would answer most of those questions.

“Can I bring a camera into the hall?” Usually not, but it could depend on the show.

“Can I take drinks inside the hall?” Again, depending on the show, maybe.

“Can you help stop Ticket Buddy from his next skydiving trip?” Um, probably not. Let’s just hope that the string of bad luck has stopped by then. But if it hasn’t, we will be happy to help sort out Ticket Buddy’s seat again for your next visit.

– Stefanie Martinez, Guest Services Intern
The Long Center

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Editor’s note: the organizations that make the Long Center their performance home aren’t just our patrons, they’re our family. We’ve already included several guest blog posts from the directors of some of the organizations we work with, and we expect to feature many more. This one comes from Olivia Chacón of Flamencura Dance, director and choreographer for A’lante Flamenco Dance Ensemble.

Flying fringe, swinging earrings, pounding heels, and yards of ruffles: one of flamenco dance’s most striking characteristics is the costuming of the female performer. While male dancers may get to don flashy suits, women in flamenco get to be the real peacocks. However, the surface frills on a dancer’s costume mask the steely interior—physical and emotional – required to perform flamenco.

A'lante Flamenco Dance Ensemble - at the Long Center on October 26 and 27

Both as a dancer and as an aficionado of flamenco, I have always loved the dichotomy inherent in flamenco performances—dressed to the nines in costumes inspired by modest 18th and 19th century fashions, flamenco bailaoras often personify dignity and repose one moment, seconds later exploding into a torrent of powerful footwork, savage turns, and movements alternating between playful and sensual. The swathes of fabric may look spectacular onstage, but underneath is where the sweaty, muscular reality of flamenco technique takes place. Any dancer worth her salt knows that a core of iron is required to maintain the proud carriage of the flamenca, not to mention execute the arched-back turns known as quebradas. Rapid-fire footwork demands hundreds of sweat-soaked hours in the studio to perfect, and it takes deltoids like rocks to maintain arms gracefully swaying overhead. At showtime, though, the physical workout of flamenco dance is often overshadowed by the lace and ruffles. The steel nails covering the heels of our shoes are never seen by the audience.

This juxtaposition of hard and soft is also evident in flamenco music. Many people know flamenco for its delicate guitar melodies and upbeat rhythms, but listen closely to the Spanish lyrics and flamenco’s origins as the music of the poor and oppressed in Andalucia  become evident. Even as singers describe heartrending moments like the death of a child or loss of a lover, dancers and guitarists elaborate the gentlest phrases of movement and melody. At other times, as in the seemingly lighthearted buleria, dancers and musicians work in perfect tandem in what is actually a rhythmically complex tour de force.

One of my favorite tasks as Artistic Director of A’lante Flamenco Dance Ensemble is choosing wardrobe for the company. I love deciding on the character of each piece and developing it through costume and staging. For A’lante’s show at the Rollins Theatre on October 26 and 27, Act One and Act Two are strikingly different in their costume requirements. The first act, “Dark Sounds/Sonidos Negros” consists of six dances, each distinct from the rest in music, look, and attitude, ranging from strictly traditional to totally contemporary in style.

For the second act, “The Red Shoes,” I chose costumes to highlight an idea in Hans Christian Andersen’s story that I find is a perfect match for flamenco: the fine line between an innocent passion and a dangerous obsession. In Andersen’s tale, the young protagonist flouts grim social convention by wearing red shoes to church and dancing frivolously while her mother lies dying. Unbeknownst to her, the red shoes are bewitched by a magician, forcing her to dance without stopping and endangering her life. Far from a simple children’s story, “The Red Shoes” delves deep into psychological territory and nightmarish suffering. I can’t help but be reminded of flamenco’s typically dual nature: combining joy and suffering, rhythm and melody, soft and hard… lace and steel.

– Olivia Chacón

Director and choreographer of A’lante Flamenco Dance Ensemble.

The A’lante Flamenco Dance Ensemble will be performing at the Long Center on October 26 and 27. Visit for more information and tickets. You can also visit the website of the A’lante Flamenco Dance Ensemble here.

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Americans love to laugh, especially when things are the most serious. And with a hotly-contested presidential election looming, political satire has never been more popular.

Serious topics have rarely been too taboo for jokes. Jonathan Swift famously suggested eating babies in his 1729 essay A Modest Proposal. Joseph Heller made a mockery of war in Catch-22. That politics would become the butt of jokes is no surprise: the often dysfunctional American political system usually seems like it would be better suited for a sitcom than for actually governing a nation.

In 2011, Jon Stewart’s news-satire The Daily Show averaged more viewers than any cable news show other than The O’Reilly Factor. And with Election Day only two weeks away, it’s prime-time for political satire. Comedy Central’s coverage of the Republican National Convention actually pulled in more viewers than any of the actual news networks, and a Facebook page mocking Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” quote from the second presidential debate has over 350,000 ‘likes.’ Even when it comes to things we care about, there apparently is just about nothing that is no laughing matter. And I have to say, this year’s election has not disappointed when it comes to humor.

The normal suspects like Stewart and Colbert have had plenty of fun with things. But there have been some new kids on the block, like Soul Pancake’s ‘Kid President’.

The Gregory Brothers, who produced Auto-Tune the News, have been on fire with their ‘songified’ debate highlights (warning, some strong language in this one):

And The Gregory Bros and the New York Times collaborated for another one: in “Patriot Games,” Romney and Obama square off to see who can drop the most buzzwords in this mash-up of their nomination acceptance speeches:

Maybe we’re gluttons for suffering: unsatisfied with the news being depressing enough, even our humor has to have that tinge of black comedy. Maybe there’s something cathartic about making light about the same national issues that we’re intensely stressed about.

Whatever the reason, the Long Center’s presentation of political satirists Capitol Steps this Thursday couldn’t be more timely. If anyone in the political satire business knows just how tragically funny the American political system can be, it would be them – most of the group started out as congressional staffers, and they’ve been making fun of their old jobs and former bosses professionally since 1981.

Capitol Steps have done their share of bipartisan bashing this election season. Here’s their take on the first presidential debate:

So as we bring in a bunch of political satirists less than two weeks before this heated election, it’s not that we’re not taking the election seriously – it’s just that sometimes things are so serious, there isn’t anything to do but laugh.

– Nick Curry, Development Intern
The Long Center

Capitol Steps will be at the Long Center on October 25. Click here for more information and tickets.

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I remember the first time I saw Amalia Hernandez’s Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. I was nine years old and nestled quite comfortably between my aunt and uncle during a particularly cool summer evening in Mexico. Although I am the first in my family to be born and raised in the United States, I have been fortunate enough to spend almost every summer since I can remember with my family basking in the Mexican sun and attempting to learn how to cook my grandmother’s recipes.

Photo by Robert Shomler

Amalia Hernandez’s Ballet Folklorico holds a special place in Mexico’s heart as it presents its viewer with the richness and vigor found within our culture. Each dance celebrates the different regions and their respective traditions with a beautiful display of gracefully choreographed movements and stunning costumes. Here, Mexico’s rich heritage is displayed right before your eyes.

Photo by Robert Shomler

That evening, I particularly remember being struck by “La Danza del Venado” (Deer Dance) which is native to the Yaqui tribe from the northern Mexican state of Sonora. The dancers reenact a dramatic deer hunt, honoring the cycle of life as well as the white-tailed deer which provided for most of the Yaqui’s needs. This tradition is particularly poignant because it has little to no European influence as the Yaqui fiercely resisted Spanish conquest. Moving to the sound of the reed flute, percussion, rasp and rattle, “La Danza del Venado” invites you to enter the Mexico that is wild and untamed – it is a journey to the authentic Mexico. I gasped with awe at each leap the mighty deer took and was honestly horrified at its fate as the two hunters slowly conquered the beast. To say it was mesmerizing would be an understatement. It taps into the primitive, the wild. It captures the essence of Mexico.

Photo by Joan Shomler

This dance was so memorable for me because it was a part of my heritage that I had yet to experience. Stripped of its oppressive and bloody history, I saw a Mexico that was free and un-inhibited. The sense of pride that I felt that evening was an experience that I will never forget, because somewhere deep down in my nine-year-old subconscious I knew that this was what the real Mexico was all about. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good round of mariachi just as much as the next gal. But what is more meaningful to me is the celebration of the multi-dimensional Mexico, from white-tailed deer to Jarocho.

– Bryana Marrero, Programming Intern
The Long Center

Ballet Folklorico De Mexico will be at the Long Center on October 23. Click here for more information and tickets.

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Four of the five Brown siblings wait in the green room at KUT’s studios before their on-air interview with Eklektikos host John Aielli.

Two of the most important lessons to learn in life seem to be to do what you love and to put family first. The Five Browns can check the boxes for both.

We sat with the group in the Green Room at KUT studios this morning before their interview with Eklektikos host John Aielli. They talked about everything from the program tonight (Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to Saint Saen’s Dance Macabre to Star Wars) to what they wish Juilliard would have taught them (the practical stuff, like how to build a website, instead of just how to practice more hours than you sleep), from music theory love/hate to how if they had known that the Austin City Limits Festival were this weekend, they would have found an excuse to stay an extra few days. When music majors get together, they generally lapse into shop talk within about thirty seconds. Being musician siblings seems to shave even a few more seconds off that average time.

What they didn’t really say was just how great it was to be able to work and tour and perform with the family they grew up with: all five brothers and sisters on the road and stage together, sometimes even all five playing at once. But they didn’t have to – you could tell.

The world is full of mixed messages: family over everything, but take care of yourself first. Don’t sacrifice your dreams, but you better be practical. Do what you love, but be realistic even if that means doing something else. It’s enough to give just about everyone a pretty confused sense of priorities.

The Brown siblings somehow lucked out. I’m sure that they’ve all made plenty of sacrifices in their lives, but they get to do what they love, to play music for a living with the people they love the most. There’s a special joy to that.

They don’t have to say it – you can tell.

– Nick Curry, Development Intern
The Long Center

The Five Browns will be at the Long Center on October 11. Click here for more information and tickets.

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Ballet Folklorico De Mexico isn’t a typical ballet. It doesn’t look like ‘The Nutcracker’ and it definitely doesn’t look like ‘Black Swan.’ Now we love Tchaikovsky ballets as much as anyone, but the lack of resemblance is actually a good thing.

When dancer and choreographer Amalia Hernández founded Ballet Folklorico De Mexico in Mexico City back in 1962, she gave ballet a somewhat novel twist. As a classically trained dancer, Hernández knew all the things ballet was supposed to be – graceful, elegant, refined, and with just about as little in common with folk art as possible. She just didn’t care about what it was ‘supposed’ to be.

Hernández took the regional folk dances of Mexico and blended them with ballet. This kind of folk art infusion changed the classical music landscape through composers like Antonín Dvořák and Béla Bartók. And while Amalia Hernández might not have the worldwide recognition that Dvořák and Bartók have found, she’s no less of an innovator. Hernández and Ballet Folklorico pioneered the ‘baile folklórico‘ amalgam of Latin American folk dance and classical European dance.

Amalia Hernández’s Ballet Folklorico De Mexico combines the high art of ballet with the ethnic and regional folk dances of Mexico. The dances are often stylized – many of the choreographies are from Hernández herself – but they still retain some of the regional folk traditions that are disappearing from the modern world. But Ballet Folklorico De Mexico isn’t celebrating what their culture was, not who they as a people were; it isn’t a nostalgic nod to the past-tense but a celebration of who they are. A celebration of the idea that your roots are part of you and that ignoring those roots means ignoring a part of oneself.

And we’re looking forward to celebrating all of these things with them.

– Nick Curry, Development Intern
The Long Center

Ballet Folklorico De Mexico will be at the Long Center on October 23. Click here for more information and tickets.

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One thing leads to another.  My experience as a Tap Dog was better than I could have ever imagined.  It was one of the first Tap dance shows I saw as a teenager.  It was one of the reasons I pursued a career in Tap Dance confidently.  Years later, to be added to the infamous roster of Tap Dogs, was a dream come true.  The audiences that I was exposed to were wild.  They are tapethetical rock stars, and while on tour we lived like it.  Music, dance, sweat, applause, fans, after parties… you get the picture.  It is also one of the most physically demanding shows I’ve ever been a part of.  The alumni of the show welcomed me to the fold with a single warning, ‘party at your own risk, because tomorrow is another show.’  90 minutes of pure adrenaline filled testosterone.

Auditions have their own challenges.  I don’t remember wanting a gig quite as much as I wanted Tap Dogs, until I attended the audition for Tapestry Dance Company.  I went from one world class choreographer, Dein Perry, to another, Acia Gray.  I thought the boys played hard.  Austin’s own, Acia Gray is a pioneering woman who plays harder than anyone I’ve seen.  She is the cofounder and artistic director of Tapestry Dance Company who has sustained her company for 24 years.  I toured North America with Tap Dogs, and China with Tapestry.  I am lucky to have been a part of both rosters. Our family of Tap Dance is quite diverse, and there is so much more to come.  Tap Dogs October 9th at the Long Center.  Tapestry Dance Company’s ‘April Fools’ November 30th – December 2nd at the Long Center.

–Travis Knights formally of tap dogs and currently of Tapestry Dance Company

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