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the Long Center, from Inside the Ring

Tag Archives: Rollins Studio Theatre

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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POLLYANNA THEATRE is always thrilled to be performing in The Rollins Studio Theatre, our creative home. Our upcoming production, PLAYGROUND SUPERHERO by Andrew Perry will kick off our 2012-2013 season Oct. 10 – 17. We are anxious to share it with young Austinites, their teachers, their parents and caregivers.

You may not know it, but every play that Pollyanna produces is a brand new play. Working with local as well as nationally recognized playwrights, Pollyanna commissions new plays that speak to the needs, dreams, and imaginations of young people and the child that lives inside each of us. And PLAYGROUND SUPERHERO is no exception to this rule. This play came from our desire as a company to help young children address issues that effect all of us.

Many of us have memories of dealing with the playground bully. Either we were the bully’s target or we witnessed someone else struggle with daily abuse. As a society, we currently face an epidemic of this harmful behavior and the aftermath of peer abuse. Not all bullies are 9 years old. Many people carry their bad behavior right into adulthood. PLAYGROUND SUPERHERO is the story of one young boy’s discovery that no one is immune to bullying. But it is also a story about his discovery that there is something that we can all do about it. We can speak up.

About his play, Andrew Perry writes, “PLAYGROUND SUPER-HERO is a play about new experiences. I vividly remember those feelings of a new school and new friends. I remember all the excitement and worries that come with what is new. Will the other kids like me? Will I make friends? What will my new teachers and principals be like? Every time we find ourselves in those starting moments when the future is unknown, there is both the chance for things to turn out fun and the chance for things to turn out scary. And that never changes as we grow up. In every generation, children as well as adults have to deal with all sorts of bullying. These encounters can turn horrible so quickly, people often have no idea what to do, how the situation was caused, or how to avoid it in the future. I wrote this play with the hope of showing young people that we do not always know why people are mean, but that we can still try to be open to moving past any harm done. Sometimes people have a bad day, or bad month, or even a bad year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a bad person. We should always try to learn why people are the way they are so that we can help if possible. We should never give up on our friends just because they are not behaving well. We should always try to turn scary times into fun times. That’s just what a real hero does.”

These may seem like some very complex concepts for children as young as 7, 8, or 9 years old to handle. But childhood isn’t always an easy time and sometimes the smallest people have to face the largest challenges. And Pollyanna will always be here to help guide the way through the discussion. Won’t you join us in the conversation?

— Judy Matetzschk-Campbell
Producing Artistic Director, Pollyanna Theatre Company

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