This weekend Todd Rosenlieb Dance will launch its 10th Anniversary season “TODD x 10” at the Roper Theater with dance concerts comprised of past favorites as well as new material, and a gala party at Work | Release following Saturday night’s concert.
People have compared the art and structure of dance choreography to many things, but Artistic Director Todd Rosenlieb is the first I’ve heard to select corn as a metaphor.
“When you choreograph,” Rosenlieb explained during a phone interview earlier this week, “it’s not like you’re just taking the corn and cooking it; you have to actually grow the corn. You have to have an idea, you have to find the music, you have to make all the movement, you have to costume it, you have to light it. When a symphony plays a piece, the music is already written. When a stage company does a play, it’s already written. There is nothing when you start a dance.”
While there may have been nothing when Todd Rosenlieb Dance first opened its doors in 2005, there’s now a whole lot of “corn” to choose from when selecting dances to include in the Highlights of the Last 10 Years segment. “Entre Cuerdas” was choreographed by Associate Artistic Director Ricardo Melendez during TRDance’s first year, and is the oldest piece to be included in the Highlights. Melendez also choreographed “Voiced,” which will open the segment, having premiered in 2011.
Rosenlieb will be presenting his own “Liebeslieder Waltzes,” which premiered last year, as well as excerpts from “Nina,” set to music by Nina Simone and another piece set to the music of Tom Waits called “Heavy Like Waits,” that premiered in 2010 and 2011 respectively. “I wanted to choreograph to Tom Waits for ages and ages,” said Rosenlieb. “The movement matches his raspy voice. It’s big and heavy and ballistic.”
There will also be the world premiere of “To Be Frank,” choreographed by Rosenlieb to honor Frank Sinatra, who would be turning 100 years old next month. Set to some of Sinatra’s most iconic works, it will be packed with humor, musicality, and daredevil physicality. “I tried to pick some music that wasn’t as readily known,” said Rosenlieb. “He was the Elvis before there was Elvis. He wasn’t just famous, he was infamous.” Some sections of “To Be Frank” aren’t set to music, but rather recordings of Sinatra speaking at a microphone.
Before establishing TRDance ten years ago, Rosenlieb had been dancing professionally since 1992 when Erick Hawkins selected him from a technique class to join his company in New York City. The program will include Hawkins’ “New Moon,” which was first performed in 1989 at the Joyce Theater in New York. “Part of our mission statement is to preserve historic pieces,” Rosenlieb said, “and since I danced for Erick Hawkins I’m familiar with the work. It’s a great way to keep that legacy alive. It has a great meaning to me, and I wanted to honor him as my mentor. ‘New Moon’ is just this gorgeous piece that I love dancing and I wanted the company to have the experience.”
“New Moon” is 25 minutes long and features an original score by Lou Harrison and set by Ralph Dorazio. Jeffery Phelps will be conducting a live seven-piece orchestra to accompany the piece, which goes very much in hand with TRDance’s efforts to solidify a fund to keep live music and dance together in Hampton Roads during this tenth anniversary season. Hawkins always insisted on live music for his choreography to sharpen the dancers’ concentration. “The movement only works in its texture and sensation if you’re not trying too hard,” said Rosenlieb. “You can’t manufacture the movement, you have to let the movement happen.” Dancer Elizabeth Blachman wrote of her experience working on this piece earlier this week in AltDaily with A Dancer’s Diary: On Trying-But-Not-Trying.
This powerhouse modern dance concert could be the perfect introduction for audiences who’ve never attended a dance concert before.
“In watching dance, when you interpret it you can never be wrong.,” explained Rosenlieb. “For me a dance happens two places: in my brain when I make it and in your brain when you watch it, and that space in-between is the interpretive web. I’ve had people come up and tell me what they thought the whole dance was about, and I liked it better than what I thought the dance was about. My favorite compliment is when someone says that piece made me want to get up and dance.”
It’s certainly going to be an evening of delicious corn.
TODD x !0 will perform 7pm at the TCC Roper Performing Arts Center at 340 Granby Street in Norfolk on November 13 and 14. The 10thAnniversary Gala Party will take place at Work | Release on Granby Street following the Saturday night concert. Call 757-626-3262 for more info and visittccropercenter.orgto purchase tickets to the concerts.