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Commentary: The art form of dance thrives in St. Louis

The art form of dance is thriving in its many guises throughout our city.

Dance St. Louis, led by Michael Uthoff, presents the best dance companies from around the world at both The Touhill and The Fox.

During Uthoff's ten year tenure, the organization not only focuses on the art form, but has through time, energy, and money been committed to preparing St. Louis's youth interested in dance with comprehensive educational programs.

Two vibrant new programs have come to fruition under Uthoff's leadership. "Spring to Dance" brings together 30 professional dance companies from across the country for three unique, exhilarating nights over the Memorial Day weekend. Ballet, hip-hop, tango, classical, contemporary, modern and more are all presented.

The other new program, "New Dance Horizons IV" will be presented in February with a new twist. In celebration of Black-History Month, three African American choreographers create three new works inspired by legendary St. Louis African American choreographers. Each choreographer is paired with a local professional dance company to present three unique world premieres.

MADCO performs an original creation by Bebe Miller. Miller, a Bessie Award winner, has choreographed pieces for dance centers around the world. MADCO was founded in 1976 and is a world-class professional dance company in residence at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the campus of U.M.S.L. MADCO has a strong commitment to dance education and is an integral part of the U.M.S.L. Dance Program.

The Big Muddy Dance Company pairs with San Francisco-based choreographer Robert Moses whose works explore topics ranging from oral traditions in African-American culture to the dark side of contemporary urban culture. The Big Muddy Dance Company is a St. Louis based repertory dance company. The company works with both emerging and established choreographers and collaborates across the community through senior outreach and training future performers.

New York City Ballet principal dancer, Gen Horiuchi, artistic director of St. Louis Ballet, continues to present classical ballet at its finest with many modern twists.

And of course COCA Dance has been the pride and joy of COCA, the Center for Creative Arts, for many years. According to Alison Ferring, patron of the arts, "Alvin Ailey's loss is St. Louis' gain.” Antonio Douthit-Boyd and Kirvin Douhit-Boyd who were married in 2013 have taken on new positions as co-artistic directors of COCA. Antonio trained at COCA before becoming a principal dancer with Ailey. Every January for years, both Antonio and Kirven have returned to COCA to work with the students of COCA Dance. All eyes will be on COCA and St. Louis as this dynamic team nurtures the next generation of dance talent.

Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company led by Jennifer Medina is committed to community based initiatives and The Ashleyliane Dance Company led by Ashley Tate presents dance of a hip-hop and street dance nature. Leverage Dance Theater does collaborations and contemporary works. And speaking of dance theater, The St. Lou Fringe Festival, led by Em Piro, always has some sort of collaborative dance and theater presentations.

Other independent choreographers, according to Michael Uthoff, such as Dawn Karlovsky and Audrey Simms are well worth keeping an eye on.

If you enjoy dance, body movement or whatever you want to call it, St. Louis is the place to be.

Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years on numerous arts related boards.

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