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WINTER ARTS GUIDE

Three companies present Boston premieres at Global Arts Live’s new Winter Dance Fest

Joan Myers Brown’s Philadephia-based Philadanco, celebrating its 50th anniversary, performs Feb. 1
Joan Myers Brown’s Philadephia-based Philadanco, celebrating its 50th anniversary, performs Feb. 1Lois Greenfield

One-night-only performances over back-to-back weekends at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre will showcase the singular talents of three acclaimed dance companies with very different profiles: Rubberband (Jan. 25), Philadanco (Feb. 1), and Parsons Dance (Feb. 8). As part of Global Arts Live’s first Winter Dance Fest, each will be performing Boston premieres, with Rubberband presenting a new evening-length work co-commissioned by Global Arts Live.

Global Arts Live executive director Maure Aronson says the programming is deliberately eclectic. With their distinctive artistic visions, the companies "will offer Boston audiences a wide perspective on what is relevant contemporary dance,” he says. “And they’re all incredible.”

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Taking advantage of Emerson College’s slow early winter period, Aronson was able to snag three consecutive weekends at the Majestic without the work and expense of having to strike lights and drapes in between shows. This made it possible to book companies in a larger theater than most of the dance performances the organization presents. “We’re starting small this first year and hoping to develop more workshops and engagement activities next year,” he says. “I already have dates on hold.”

The larger space is especially important for the expansive opening production by Victor Quijada’s Montreal-based Rubberband, the evening length “Ever So Slightly.” This will mark the third time Aronson has brought the company to Boston (the first was in 2010), and only the second time Global Arts Live has participated in commissioning a new dance.“I saw it in December in Montreal, and it is riveting, fast-moving, dramatic … a home run,” says Aronson.

Rubberband performs "Ever So Slightly" as part of Global Arts Live's Winter Dance Fest
Rubberband performs "Ever So Slightly" as part of Global Arts Live's Winter Dance FestMarie-Noële Pilon

The Mexican-American Quijada has had his own company since 2002. Through years of hard work and many ballet classes, Quijada danced his way from breaking on the streets of his native Los Angeles into the companies of Twyla Tharp and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal. Along the way, he developed a groundbreaking choreographic vocabulary and training methodology combining contemporary dance and ballet with the raw energy and edge of hip hop. “It’s a movement vocabulary unlike any other,” Aronson says.

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And Quijada says that for the 70-minute “Ever So Slightly” for 10 dancers, he was determined to push that vocabulary even further and do something unlike anything he’d done before. The work examines how we deal with the anxiety and stress of today’s world. “It’s about finding the courage to make change and finding peace with that,” he says. “The first section is us conditioned to become warriors in our day to day [life], to fight and survive. The second half is unveiling the true vulnerability behind those masks and armor.”

Original music by Jasper Gahunia is a live mix of electronic music, breakbeats, and vintage sampling with live electronic violin played by William Lamoureux. Quijada says, “I went back to Jasper, who I’ve worked with for 10 years and asked, ‘Can we go big? Let’s push each other.’ We brought in a dramaturge [Mathieu Leroux] and had this vision of this show that would out-do anything we’d done.”

The fest’s second weekend showcases Joan Myers Brown’s Philadelphia-based company Philadanco!, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. “This is a company that we strongly believe in,” Aronson says, “in their experience as a contemporary company, as a repertory company rooted in the African-American tradition. They create wonderful work with superb dancers and they need to be seen a lot more in Boston. This is our third time presenting them, and it’s a very interesting program – the premieres of ‘Endangered Species’ by Anthony Burrell, ‘Super 8!’ by Ray Mercer, and ‘Folded Prism’ by Thang Dao, and one of the great pieces, ‘Enemy Behind the Gates’ by Christopher Huggins. They really are a virtuosic, uplifting, and socially conscious dance company.”

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Parsons Dance rounds out Winter Dance Fest. Founded in 1985 by artistic director/choreographer David Parsons and lighting designer Howell Binkley, the company is known for its high-energy athleticism, particularly in Parsons’s own work, like the seminal strobe-lit classic “Caught” (1982). Each flash of light vividly captures a solo dancer in stunning midair leaps, making it seem as if he never touches the ground. The program also includes Parsons’s “Round My World” (2012), “Kind of Blue” (2001), and “Nascimento” (1990), as well as the Boston premiere of “Eight Women” (2019) by Trey McIntyre. Aronson, who sees the company perform every year in New York, says, “I’ve wanted to bring the company back to Boston for 10 years, and the festival format lets me do that.”

“It’s a great mix,” Quijada says of the programming. “All three companies have a very clear identity, and I imagine this question about not repeating yourself but maintaining an identity comes up with all these companies. We’re all very apt to push toward that barrier of how do we reinvent, explore, go beyond without losing the connection to who we are.”

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GLOBAL ARTS LIVE WINTER DANCE FEST

At Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, Jan. 25-Feb. 8

Tickets $40-$65

617-876-4275, www.globalartslive.org

Karen Campbell can be reached at karencampbell4@rcn.com.


Karen Campbell can be reached at karencampbell4@rcn.com.