Category Archives: dance

NYC Ballet at Iowa City’s new Hancher

What a treat to see the NYC Ballet for the first time in ages – and the first time in Iowa. Apparently, this was the company’s first visit to Iowa City, so I’m guessing it’s the first visit to Iowa since Iowa City hosts the state’s best dance performances (although Des Moines is improving!). The company was superb, as always, and it was a particular treat to see Iowa City native Miriam Miller dance – including in a sensational, sensual duet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon (who choreographed The Joffrey’s new nutcracker, which we saw last year during our first visit to the new Hancher.) Speaking of which, the new Hancher is stunning —  I like it better than the old one. It feels smaller, more intimate, more vertical than horizontal, more peaceful with calming colors (seafoam green, grey, tan wood) and plush upholstered seats. Having sat in the balcony and on the floor, close to the stage, I’m not sure there is a seat with a bad view. (Our floor seats were way off to the side but we saw the vast majority of the stage.).
Dinner was a Takanami– for sushi and tempura, which was a nice change from all the heavy food we ate in the Deep South. We couldn’t deal with more burgers, ribs or fried chicken. We were tempted to try the new (or new to us) Szechuan Chinese restaurant, Bashu, that opened where the Linn Street Cafe used to be but it looked a little too authentic for a before-theater/meal. Didn’t want to get an upset stomach.  Locals seem to be loyal to Szechuan House.

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Hancher reborn, Nutcracker reborn (by the Joffrey Ballet), best burger — Iowa City

Outside the new Hancher Auditorium

Outside the new Hancher Auditorium

What a treat to visit the new Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus, not far from where the first was very destroyed but a flood 8 years ago. It is had not to compare the two buildings. Hancher One had a more open feel with a long wide front lobby, seating area and stage. Hancher Two feels a bit cramped by comparison but I really like its three floors and floor to ceiling glass with great views looking out across the campus. The auditorium is more of a horseshoe shape, with many balconies, which I think means lots of seats with a good view. Our seats were way on the side but we could see the full stage. I also liked the colors, sort of a light river green paint on the walls, wavey motifs here and there (mighty generous given that the river destroyed the previous building. The seats were also new and well upholstered so very comfortable.

img_0335AS for the ballet, I loved it, which was a bit of a surprise because I have seen the nutcracker many times so feared I might be bored. But this new version, by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is very fresh. THe staging is so dramatic that it also overpowered the dancing but I lived the sets, which appeared to be done by some sort of fantastical computer generated animation. IT was hard to tell what was actually physical vs. graphic at times. And the setting, the humble home of a working class polish family living in Chicago at the time of the worlds fair was refreshingly different than the posh aristocratic setting of nutcrackers pastttle. The choreography was fun and more contemporary than I’ve seen in nutcrackers past. I particularly loved the reimagined battle between the toy soldiers and mice. This time it was vs. nuts (little kids dressed in hilarious costumes, each a bulbous  nut that cracked open occasionally to reveal their little faces) atop spindly little legs in brown tights. My only criticism is that during the full ensemble dancing, the action became a bit of a blur, with the stage seeming too crowded at times.

We had an early dinner at Short’s, which serves the most amazing burgers. The meat comes from a local farm and tastes accordingly. The burgers ar huge and mine was actually prepared exactly as ordered — medium  rare– which is in of itself, rare.img_0333

 

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Kinky Boots and Paul Taylor Dance coming to Des Moines

Kinky Boots (musical poster).jpg

Always look forward this time of year to finding out what shows will be coming to Des Moines during the 2014-2015 season – and as usual there are a few I’m excited about! Paul Taylor Dance comes on Nov. 8 to the Civic Center – following on the heels of the wildly successful visit by Alvin Ailey Dance in March, this is a good sign of more topnotch dance to come, which has been sorely missing in Des Moines and in Iowa City since the demise of Hancher Auditorium (soon to rise again on higher ground!). Also excited to see “Kinky Boots” – the Tony award-winning best musical. Saw the movie – look forward to seeing the show. Feel the same about “Once” which I’ll see next week on my birthday. What a treat!

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Alvin Ailey on Tour – Go if they’re anywhere near your town!!

Revelations performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in 2011

Alvin Ailey Dance showed up in Des Moines for the first time that I can remember (and I’ve been here since 1990) last Tuesday and put on a spectacular show. Great dancing (the men were particularly superb), music (Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Spirituals and Gospel), choreography (including several pieces by the late Alvin such as the 1960 classic Revelations). There wasn’t a weak piece or moment – just nonstop crowd-pleasing fun. So go if you can. I hope they won’t wait another decade or two to return to Des Moines!

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Taking the el from midway/Kendall college dinner/joes stone crab/Joffrey ballet…Chicago!

Whirlwind trip to Chicago but well worth it. got to see some of my favorite people, my aunt, my son, my sister and niece. Got a dose of big city culture and crowds– a fantastic contemporary program danced by the Joffrey Ballet, a stroll along Michigan avenue! shopping in Eataly? some good food too including dinner at Kendall college, where the food was prepared and served by the students who go to hospitality and culinary school there. (Pretty good food, okay service but the kids are trying their best!). We also had a nice lunch at Joes stone crab which I haven’t been to since I was in ninth grade and in Miami beach(not south beach back then) with my grandma Betty. had a fabulous crab Louis salad that was even better than the one I make (must remember deviled eggs using the sauce Louis, hearts of palm, avocado, greens) and yes, sublime key lime pie. Onto Milwaukee tomorrow on the train, hoping to beat a snowstorm here also,there will probably be one in Milwaukee. Ahhh winter in the Midwest.
Ps flew into midway on southwest and took the el to my aunt’s. Piece of cake. Orange line to Roosevelt then red line north to Clark/division.

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Hubbard street dance, Andy’s Thai kitchen, eataly, Chicago

We are unexpectedly encountering snow on our return home from Chicago but it didn’t start until we were west of Davenport and so far it hasn’t been as bad as our outbound trip Friday night. Right now, at 6:43 pm about 10 miles east of Iowa city the flurries have stopped. But we don’t know what lies ahead.

Before this I was going to write that our Chicago trip had been worth the sometimes harrowing drive. Easy for me to say since I am not the driver. Still, we had a really good albeit brief visit to Chicago. Hubbard street’s Saturday night performance of “One thousand pieces” was among the best I have seen during decades as a Hubbard street fan. The dancing, choreography, staging was superb and there were some “firsts” for this dance fan, notably the dancers performing on the equivalent of a giant slip n’ slide, with the water adding all kinds of interesting effects, from the sound of the water splashing to the sight of the water on the darkish stage with white clouds of drifting white smoke/dry ice, to the added challenge for the dancers of executing challenging moves on a slippery surface. The second act of the piece began with a solemn line of 20 some dancers staring out into the dark theater, then executing one twitchy move after another in unison. that gave us in the audience a lot to watch and ponder. I was also pleasantly surprised be the Phillip Glass score which was less monotonously repetitive and more stirringly melodic than expected. I do think they could have turned the lights on just a little – I’m not the only viewer who got a bit sleepy…

      Earlier in the day we had yet another excellent meal at Andy’s Thai kitchen in Lakeview. The crispy basil pork belly, yum. We tried a few different dishes and they were well done. The panang had excellent quality chicken and eggplant well cooked and a not too heavy, well seasoned sauce.

Before the ballet, we braved the crowds at the new Eataly that just opened on Ohio Street just west of Michigan Avenue (next to Room and Board, one of my favorite furniture stores. Eataly Chicago seemed brighter and less chaotic than its cousin in New York City. It was a perfect place to get a light bite before the ballet. We decided on a plate of well picked Italian cheeses served with some
Candied fruit, figs in balsamic, honey and olive oil. We were swiftly served and our plucky Midwestern server made sure we were on our way when need be to make our show on tome.

Now back to now-snowy interstate 80. (postscript: we made it home safely – and slowly…)

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Hubbard Street Dance at CHicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art

MCA Chicago 060930.jpgA treat to attend a performance of Hubbard Street Dance and in a new venue for me – the theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art (the MCA Stage, see photo), which is much smaller than the Harris Theater further south in Millennium Park. The production continues through June 16.

The price was very reasonable ($35) and the outing had a more casual feel. The dancing was superb, as always – I am amazed by the athleticism and grace of Hubbard’s young dancers. The choreography was more of a mixed bag and I guess that’s the point of the “danc(e)volve: New Works Festival.” The first half before the intermission was my favorite! Some of the new works were a little too odd and avant-garde for me – I especially prefer when dancers do NOT talk and when they dance to music that is NOT primarily noise, which a few selections were (in one case, the discordant sound was so loud I discretely plugged one of my ears, like New Yorkers do in the subway when a train is screeching by). It was fun though to watch a film by Hubbard Street dancers that shared highlights from their US State Department sponsored trip as cultural ambassadors to Morocco, Spain and Algeria.

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