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the Long Center, from Inside the Ring

Tag Archives: dance

Power. Precision. Passion. Valentine’s Day weekend.
Music by Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Schubert.
Allegro Brillante – George Balanchine
Requiem for a Rose – Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
The Rite of Spring – Stephen Mills

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Long Center Founding Resident Company Ballet Austin presents The Rite of Spring February 15-17 at the Long Center. Here are some beautiful photographs from a recent dress rehearsal. Photo Credit: Tony Spielberg.

For more information and tickets to The Rite of Spring.

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As distinctive and dynamic as the city it calls home, Ballet Austin welcomes audiences near and far to participate in its “classically innovative” vision for the democratization of dance. With a rich history spanning five decades, acclaimed productions, a commitment to creating access to programs and one of the nation’s largest classical ballet academies, the organization is poised for an even greater future. From their home at the Butler Dance Education Center in downtown Austin, Ballet Austin and Artistic Director Stephen Mills actively engage the community, dancers, and audiences alike. The New York Times proclaims Ballet Austin “a company with big ambitions” originating work that is “absorbing.”

For More Information and Tickets to The Rite of Spring. 

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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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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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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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(an excerpt from the Ballet Austin blog, written by Ballet Austin Company Dancer Michelle Thompson, who is featured in the 1st image below.)

There are so many things that make this production special. The story, the humor, the sets, the music, and the joyful movement are all lovely ingredients for an extremely entertaining evening.

The choreography is filled with quick jumps, swirly spins, humorous gestures, and intricate patterns. Mills’ choreography relates directly to the music, which swoops and swirls around you encouraging you to jump, spin, bend, and run with energy. I am one of the Commedia dancers, and there are very few times of stillness throughout the ballet. The Commedia dancers form intricate patterns and lovely movements, but they also shift the scenes and become part of the narrative that helps drive the story forward. It is important when dancing in a corps de ballet and when moving sets that your timing be precise. Musicality and awareness are essential as you move through the ballet, but all this must be done with a mask on that includes a large beak. So not only do your toes have to be in line, but so does your beak. Ha!

Ballet Austin’s Taming of the Shrew runs Friday, October 7, through Sunday October 7 at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

To read the original blog post, click here.

For tickets to Ballet Austin’s Taming of the Shrew, click here.

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So long summer, hello slightly-less-warm season called autumn. Cooler days hint at the change in seasons, with rainy afternoons offering plenty of time for reflection.  This summer I worked with the Long Center as the Development Intern. Innovation and adventure reign here, which explains why my favorite memories of this summer are of our brand new series, All Summer Long. These events were created by the inventive minds of the staff and executed within mere weeks: seven FREE events encompassing dance, art, music, food and fun for the whole Austin community. Over 8,500 people attended the events throughout the summer.

Rhythm on Stage featured four nights of free dance lessons on the Meredith Family Stage, from Country Western to Swing, Bollywood, and Salsa. Hundreds of people filled the stage to learn new moves from the Austin musicians and dance instructors who collaborated in these wonderful events. I joined in too, and I’m confident that I could Two Step my way across Texas now.

Hundreds visited the Long Center for Rhythm On Stage, a free summer dance series.

Over 3,000 people attended BubblePalooza to enjoy bubbles, crafty fun, and treats. Chalk art covered the City Terrace as kids enjoyed a visit by the Bubble Professor and music by fantastic kiddie-rock bands. Thousands more dropped by for the first two Trailer Food Tuesdays, where food trucks and live entertainment created a foodie’s paradise outdoors.

BubblePalooza brought over 3,000 to the Long Center City Terrace for family fun, live music, treats, and of course — bubbles.

The good news is it’s not over! I’m still here at the Long Center and there are more free community events ahead. Trailer Food Tuesdays continues on the last Tuesday of the month through November. And I recently joined the Long Center family as the Development Associate. As the newest member of the Development team, I’d like to personally thank all of you for your support! It is our mission to reach the community with memorable and engaging events, which we couldn’t accomplish without wonderful volunteers and generous contributions. I’m glad to be working with a group of people who have shown such care and enthusiasm for Austin’s community.

-Amanda Turley, Development Associate
The Long Center

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