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Austin Dance India presents Bharata Natyam Solos and Duets at the Long Center Rollins Studio Theater, March 28-31. We asked Austin Dance India’s Artistic Director, Anuradha Naimpally  to give us some insight on this classical style of Southern Indian dance.

Often I step back mentally during the busiest moments of the day and always
find myself amazed at what I am doing. At times it is in a studio teaching a class. Other times it is performing in a school cafeteria to 500 kids and Journey-Sunday-041teachers. On occasion it is under the bright lights of a proscenium stage. But wherever I am, I am doing what I love most in this world — dance. And specifically, bharata natyam dance, a classical style from southern India.

I’ve always loved to dance and studied the usual ballet, tap, and jazz while growing up in a remote northern Ontario city. But when I saw bharata natyam for the first time when I was 12 years old,
I instantly knew this was the dance for me. There was just something so familiar about it that I was drawn to it like nothing I have ever felt before. With two of the most supportive parents, I had the opportunity to eventually travel to India and live there to study professionally with incredible masters in Mumbai. I haven’t looked back since.

I have traveled far and wide teaching and performing bharata natyam. I have received many honors which are wonderful but always seem like icing on the cake because I don’t ever feel like this is work. It is hard to fathom that this dance just keeps getting more beautiful and richer in depth as time goes on. An ancient text on bharata natyam states that the performer is doubly blessed because they themselves obtain such joy from this art and they can also share it with their audience through performances. How true.

What is incredulous is that this form, that dates back to ancient times the likes of the 3rd century B.C.E., still finds relevance in today’s modern world. This is what amazes me! Bharata Natyam portrays universal values, aesthetics, human emotions, and situations to which any person can relate. A jilted lover, longing for one’s beloved, playful pranks of a child, young love, spiritual joy are just a few experiences that are portrayed and explored in bharata natyam dance.

I am excited to be presenting an evening of new works with my daughter, Purna, now a lovely young dancer. She was born, and has grown up in Austin and studied bharata natyam with me since she was very young. Our performance, Two Generations, One Tradition: Bharata Natyam Solos and Duet, is a culmination of all that amazes me during those moments of stepping back; I am performing bharata natyam in Austin, TX in 2013; I am performing with my daughter; I am performing at The Long Center; I am performing for all of you! What a blessing indeed!

Anuradha Naimpally, Austin Dance India

For tickets and more information on Austin Dance India’s Bharata Natyam Solos and Duets at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, March 28-31. 

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title les enfants terrible

Long Center Marketing Intern Mari Stoner plays the character “Elisabeth” in the upcoming University of Texas  opera production, LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES by Philip Glass.

Opera, like most things, has its stigmas in modern culture. Although some say opera is a dying art form, perhaps it is simply in the process of evolving to reflect the times. As opera continues to search for its place in our fast-paced, technology-based culture, it becomes necessary to make it accessible to future audiences.  For me, a masters student in opera at the University of Texas Butler Opera Center, one of my goals is to promote opera through my performing.

I have received a fantastic opportunity to do this via my portrayal of the character “Elisabeth” in UT’s winter opera opening this Friday – Les enfants terribles by Philip Glass. This opera is in no way your traditional Mozart or Puccini opera. It is a bit more avant-garde, a bit more bizarre, and has incredible potential to attract a diverse audience.

Les enfants terribles or “The Terrible Children” is adapted from a novel written in 1929 by Jean Cocteau. The story centers on Paul and Elisabeth, a brother and sister living essentially unsupervised in Paris in the early 20th century. Abandoned by their alcoholic father and uncared for by their invalid mother, they spend their time living in their shared bedroom and engaging in a game of hypnotism to escape their mundane reality. Two other characters enter the picture as the show goes on: Gerard, Paul’s school friend, and Agathe, an orphan that Elisabeth meets when she secures a job with a seamstress. Before the children realize what is happening, desire and jealousy creep in among them, and suddenly the harmless game becomes a reality from which there is no escape. Consumed by hate in her struggle for power, Elisabeth must find a way to maintain control, even if that means she and her brother must die.

Both the music and staging for Les enfants terribles are unconventional with regard to standard opera. Composer Philip Glass conceived of the piece to be a dance-opera, in which a singer and a dancer portray the emotions of each character on stage simultaneously. Stage Director David Toro manages this hybrid art form by establishing the dancer characters as manifestations of the singers’ subconscious thoughts. From a musical perspective, the work presents challenges not found in standard opera repertoire. Glass’ music tends to incorporate repetition and a level of unpredictability that make it surprisingly complicated despite fairly simple musical textures.  According to Maestro Kelly Kuo, each of the twenty scenes in the opera present a “tableau of emotion” musically and dramatically rather than driving forward an actual progression in time. This assessment seems to match Philip Glass’ own perspective on Les enfants terribles:

“Here, time stands still. There is only music, and the movement of children through space.”

Opera buff or not, expect the unexpected with the Butler School of Music production Les enfants terribles, playing this weekend at the University of Texas McCullough Theater on Friday, February 22nd and Sunday, February 24th at 7:30 pm.

-Mari Stoner
Long Center Marketing Intern
 
FOR TICKETS AND MORE INFORMATION.

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There’s no way around it: the Blue Man Group is a strange bunch. Intentionally and delightfully so, but nonetheless, pretty odd. Their uniqueness is part of the appeal, but it makes it slightly tricky to explain what it is they actually do. The press kits they send us, allegedly to help us tell you what exactly it is the Blue Man Group is, aren’t too much help either: they like to drop phrases like “indescribable phenomenon” and “experiences that defy categorization.” Fortunately for us, we’ve seen Arrested Development (more on that in a later blog post) and we’ve scoured the interwebs for the best clips of the Blue Man Group in action, so we’re at least slightly more familiar with the Blue Men.

1. “Blue Thousand One”

This might be the classical music nerd part of me talking here, but I’m a sucker for just about anything that uses the opening to Richard Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra” (or, as it’s more commonly known, the music from the monolith scene of Stanley Kubrick’s classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey). Whether it’s the computer files scene in Zoolander or Blue Men tossing exploding balloons full of paint at each others’ faces, this music can make just about anything dramatic and epic. Maybe I should cue that tune up for the next time I’m washing dishes.

2. Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”


Okay, I like Lady Gaga. I’ve spent the last five and a half years studying classical music theory, but there’s still just something about cheesy, superficial pop music that I enjoy so much. This last week, my listening was split (nearly 50/50) between Maurice Ravel’s La valse and Swedish pop star Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend,” and I’m okay with that. I can love them both.

In this clip, the Blue Man Group takes a crack at Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and, as you could expect, it’s wonderfully silly. While this isn’t my favorite Gaga cover ever (that distinction goes to the staff of National Public Radio for their amazing rendition of Gaga’s Telephone) it’s still pretty cool.

3. Rods and Cones


Part science lesson and part musical performance, this video from the Blue Man Group production “Tubes” features mesmerizing rhythms, grooving percussion, and an intriguing look at how our eyes work. I definitely have a soft spot for well-done educational entertainment (my childhood was spent with Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? and Bill Nye the Science Guy, after all) and this clip not only has some pretty great music but throws in a fascinating examination of the human eye.

– Nick Curry, Marketing and Development Intern
The Long Center

The Blue Man Group will be at the Long Center on December 31-January 2. Click here for more information and tickets.

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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 thelongcenter.org for more information and tickets. You can also visit the website of the A’lante Flamenco Dance Ensemble here.

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 The most commonly asked question I get in the box office is somewhere along the lines of: “in your opinion where are the best seats?” Although the Michael and Susan Dell hall is a state-of-the-art concert hall, seating 2400 people, picking a seat can be somewhat intimidating if you’ve never visited us before. To avoid the generalized, “every seat is great” answer, I’ve approached each of my box office coworkers and asked them the question and hopefully – after reading this you’ll be a lot more confident in finding seats for our upcoming season.
Eric Cardona, Box Office Manager, is partial to the Mezzanine Box East seats because “it feels like you’re right in the action, observing the artists at work whether it’s a musical, play or concert.” Especially, for the new and upcoming speaker series, National Geographic Live!, the box seats would definitely put you into the forefront of this exciting new storyteller series.
Susan Griffin, Box Office Manager, is looking forward to the return of The Five Browns, the quintet of talented Steinway piano players performing as the ultimate family act on October 11th. Preparing to bring her family to this show, she favors Orchestra Left, row E seats 101-103 because with the kids there is “plenty of leg room and discreet enough to make a swift exit.”
Daniel Cooper, Lead Box Office Representative, prefers the Mezzanine Center in row A (specifically seat 128) because of the “excellent sightline” and particularly for the unique Igudesman & Joo: A Little Nightmare Music performance set for January 19th, this seat is definitely going to put you at the center of a zany performance of classical music.
Loly Rosas, Box Office Representative and Receptionist, suggests the Parterre Center, row AA seats 126-127 as she is petite this row “allows enough space and height between the row in front of you, nobody tall can obstruct the view.” She plans on seeing Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, October 23rd to celebrate with the superb dance company the richness of Mexico’s history and culture in music, movement and color.
Brandon Strange, Box Office Representative, likes the Orchestra center, row S on either side of the aisle. At a mere, 6’6” there is “plenty of leg room and nobody sitting behind to block their view.” Expect to see him at the performance of Henson Alternative’s Stuffed and Unstrung featuring The Miskreant Puppets, where eighty Henson puppets and six comedians take the stage improvising songs and sketches based on audience suggestions. Recommended for mature audiences.
I, Becky Liendo, Group Sales Coordinator, would like to offer my suggestion as well. I enjoy sitting in the Balcony center, row A seat 116 (aisle seat) because you can definitely get a sense for the overall experience of all the shows. What better way to turn a Long Center event into an experience than with our inaugural Rock-a-LONG Wednesdays series with the internationally acclaimed Jeans ‘N’ Classics band recreating the legendary music of rock and roll legends: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Queen, as the Austin Symphony Orchestra adds a classical dimension?
What’s great about the Long Center are the many theater settings available outside of the Michael and Susan Dell Hall. There’s the small and intimate Rollins Theater, accommodating 200 people for a variety of shows ranging between Austin Shakespeare and the Austin Film Festival. The City Terrace is another location on site that can host up to 2200 people and this season, not only can you see the best view of downtown Austin but while you’re at it, pet a few dinosaurs at Erth’s Dinosaur Petting Zoo™ thanks to the wonders of some incredible puppetry children will have the opportunity to feed, water and care for these marvelous creatures in an unforgettable, interactive experience. The West Lawn next year will be covered by a circus tent as the Zoppe Italian Family Circus bring their 160-year-old tradition of acrobatics, equestrian showmanship, canine capers, and clowns! As a final point, I’d like to mention the free building tours available every Wednesday at noon, should you feel you’d like more information or to get a better feel of the Long Center. If you have immediate questions regarding accessible seating or other general questions please don’t hesitate to call the 3M Box Office Monday-Friday 10am to 6pm at 512-457-5664, option 1 and Saturday 10am to 4pm.

-Becky Liendo
Group Sales Coordinator
Long Center Box Office

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