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Dance

Kelly Pratt | Kelly Pratt Photography

Ballerina Vanessa Woods came up with the idea for Vitality Ballet when she was looking for a side hustle that involved making a meaningful impact through movement. 

The founding principle of the organization is that no one is too old to learn to dance.

“I actually got the idea from my mom,” Woods said. “She’s an occupational therapist, and she works with older populations ... and I loved that idea. It immediately captured my imagination.”

For Woods, the major question was, “How could I create a dance program that would allow seniors to experience ballet?”

MADCO dancers Darrell Hyche (in front), Belicia Beck (right) and Natalie Williams choreographed "miles (dia)logged."
Provided | David Lancaster

People living in the disparate municipalities of St. Louis often struggle to relate to each other. But members of a local dance troupe believe the first step toward having meaningful conversations can be taken without words.

On Saturday, MADCO will hold a free community performance at Central Studio, 5617 Pershing Ave., designed to get people with opposing views and politics to talk to each other.

MADCO’s “The Unity Movement” began with listening to people open up about their communities. The company worked with Washington University researchers to go way beyond the stereotypical, “Where did you go to high school?” Managing Director Emilee Morton said.

Emily Webb (1976-2018) began clogging as a young girl in St. Charles, Missouri. Family members and fellow cloggers joined “St. Louis on the Air” this week in remembrance of her love for the American folk dance.
Thunder & Lightning Cloggers

About three months ago, Emily Webb and her six children were traveling along Route 3 in Columbia, Illinois, when a large truck struck their SUV, killing 41-year-old Webb and leaving a huge void among her family and friends.

She is remembered as a beloved wife and mother. She was also a big part of the St. Louis region’s clogging community and an active member of the Thunder & Lightning Cloggers of Southern Illinois.

A boy named LaRon enjoys a class at the former Intersect Arts Center building, before the organization moved into its new renovated space.
Intersect Arts Center

St. Louis artist Sarah Bernhardt had no idea she’d be teaching children when she first moved into her Gravois Park studio. But that changed after a rock sailed through her window and she invited a teenager with a good throwing arm to come inside for an art project.

That was five years ago, in the early days of her Intersect Arts Center, 3636 Texas Ave. A $3 million renovation recently transformed the center, but the commitment to free art classes for local kids remains a cornerstone.

Marissanne Lewis-Thompson | St. Louis Public Radio

When Jazzmine Nolan was 12, her father was murdered by one of his friends. His death left her devastated and empty inside.

“I was so angry that I didn’t know what I was feeling,” she said.

Nolan became unsure of whom to trust. Her cries for help and understanding often fell on deaf ears of the people around her. But instead of going down the path of self-destruction, she turned to the dance form "step" as a way to cope.

The Big Muddy Dance Company's Erin Warner Prange and Robert Poe.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend, The Big Muddy Dance Company will celebrate the ends of its sixth year in show business. Since its inception, the company has grown and begun touring the Midwest.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, contributor Steve Potter chatted with members of the troupe about upcoming efforts. Erin Warner Prange, the company’s executive director, and Robert Poe, a dancer with the company, joined the program.

Choreographer Stephanie Martinez worked with Big Muddy Dance Company to create a piece inspired by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, who died in 1957.
Provided | Dance St. Louis

A 20th century Chilean poet who wanted her daughter to be more than just a princess is the inspiration for a dance performance on stage in St. Louis this weekend at the Touhill.

The dance that is rooted in the poem is called “Destino, Roto.” It’s one of three pieces in Dance St. Louis’ “Women Who Inspire,”  the name of the organization’s fifth annual New Dance Horizons presentation.

This artist's rendering shows a renovated studio space at COCA.
Provided | COCA

Hammering and drilling will soon join the chorus of tap dancing and singing at the COCA arts center in University City.

The institution will launch an expansion and renovation in early 2018. It includes a 450-seat theater, more than 8,000 square feet of studio space, a community area and a 200-car parking garage. COCA expects to complete the work in late 2019.

Ignite Theatre company is one of nine groups to take up residence in .ZACK
Provided by Ignite Theater Company

Nine young arts groups will find a home this fall at .ZACK, the new performing arts incubator.

Created by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, the space aims to foster collaborations among the St. Louis performing artists. Its inaugural class will include dance companies, theater troupes and youth outreach initiatives.

Detail of Katherine Dunham in Choros, undated
Missouri History Museum | Provided

Before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, before Freedom Riders headed to segregated bus stations, before Martin Luther King Jr. led his first march, there was Katherine Dunham.

The dancer and choreographer stood up to discrimination as far back as 1944. She railed against a system in which hotels wouldn’t book her and theaters wouldn’t let her black and white fans sit together, according to Washington University professor Joanna Dee Das. Das has written a book about the legendary artist and activist who lived in East St. Louis off and on starting in the mid'60s. The book, “Katherine Dunham:  Dance and the African Diaspora,” is set for release early next year.

Ashely Tate dances between two of her students in preparation for "Dance to Vote."
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

Dancers are helping people get a leg up on voting this Saturday afternoon in University City.

An outdoor performance in front of Vintage Vinyl is designed to encourage passers-by to register and cast their ballots in the Aug. 2 Missouri primary. Three dance companies will alternate voting-related performances from 2-5 p.m.  Four spoken word artists will also participate.

Curtain closing on UMSL dance curriculum

Apr 29, 2016
UMSL students Qianling Ye, Charis Railey, Robbie Wade, John Hood, Lalitha Jilakara and Tony Marr perform with their classmates during the dress rehearsal for their spring concert.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend is the last time those studying dance at the University of Missouri-St. Louis will put on a performance.

After this semester both UMSL dance professor Ronderrick Mitchell and the students who want to make dance into a career will be gone.

Michael Uthoff, second from left, talks with students, along with Dance St. Louis’ Janet Brown. (Brown is in the middle on the right-hand side of the photo).
Dance St. Louis

Dance St. Louis is under new leadership as it winds down its 50th season, after executive and artistic director Michael Uthoff announced he's leaving after 10 years.

"I’m 72 and I figure I need some time to smell the roses," Uthoff said.

Dance instructor and Afriky Lolo dance company founder Diádié Bathily
Diádié Bathily

As an African-dance instructor in St. Louis for nearly two decades, Diádié Bathily is immersed in African culture. At the same time, he longs to experience it — up close. Now, thanks to a recent grant, Bathily can return to his home continent to soak up creative energy. Bathily is one of 10 people each receiving $20,000 fellowships from the Regional Arts Commission in 2015 (see full list here and below).

Big Muddy Dance Company

A lot of things have changed in the past five years for Big Muddy Dance Company, but one thing has not: the dedication of the group’s original core members, most of whom are still performing with the company. That’s pretty inspiring, mostly because the group has completely changed the tone and tenor of its dance style over that period of time.

Elizabeth Herring leads the girls in St. Louis' Juvenile Dention Center through the five ballet positions.
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

What does a dancer and former debutante born in 1926 have in common with teenagers at St. Louis’ juvenile detention center?

A lot, as it turns out, according to Elizabeth “Bunny” Herring.

Herring, 89, sees striking similarities between herself and the young women in the ballet classes she teaches inside the locked facility, as part of the Prison Performing Arts (PPA) program.

Ben Hejkal Photography; Courtesy of the Nevermore Jazz Ball and St. Louis Swing Dance Festival

You can get a day’s worth of live music and dancing on Cherokee Street on Saturday - all for free.

Dances of India

November 13 will mark the 38th season opening night for St. Louis-based Dances of India, the first classical Indian dance company to be established in Missouri. President Nartana Premachandra and Artistic Co-Director Theckla Mehta joined “Cityscape” host Steve Potter to discuss the organization and their 2015-2016 season.

St. Louis Dancers Step-Up co-founder Keith Williams works with performers for Dance Speaks Volume I.
Sara Burke

For more than a year, St. Louis dance professionals have worked to create a performance responding to the death of Michael Brown.

On Friday at 7 p.m., the public can see the result of their efforts at Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive St., in Grand Center. “Dance Speaks Volume I" is presented by St. Louis Dancers Step-Up, in cooperation with the Grand Center Arts Academy Theatre Department.

Carmellena Blockton (black pants) and Diva Sweat Girls
Ambee's Photography

In March, Carmellena Blockton set out to provide an outlet for young girls in St. Louis to develop social skills, learn physical fitness and to increase self-confidence. Straying away from the traditional mentoring program, she chose a different approach and created a hip-hop inspired majorette dance team entitled “Diva Sweat Girls.”

Diva Sweat originally began in 2013 as an adult dance class. As time went on, Blockton noticed a need in her community and decided to take action.

Cortango hosts debut album release concert

Jun 12, 2015
Used with permission

On June 16, Cortango Orquesta, will host an album release concert for the release of their first album, Tandas. Founded by Cally Banham, the six-member band Cortango describes itself as a “dance band performing tango music with a symphonic twist.”

“I started the group with the intent of creating an ideal experience for social dancing,” Banham said. “We started by playing more traditional, steady tangos. [Now], we like to present some pieces that are concert-like in nature and also play for dancers.”

This photo of St. Louis' Big Red Burlecamp was taken in St. Charles in 1963. Big Red is in the center, with guitar.
Reedy Press

When Kenneth Johnson was a young boy growing up in rural Missouri in the 1940s, his bedtime routine included music. But the sounds that lured this youngster into dreamland were the live performances of dance-hall musicians.

Lydia Berry, number 100, in orange leotard
The Muny

Ever thought about trying out for America's oldest, largest outdoor theater?

Each year, the 98-year-old St. Louis Muny holds open auditions; anyone can come. Singers and dancers try out on different weekends.

From Left, Frank Schwaiger, Nancy Fowler, Willis Ryder Arnold, Bruno David and Leslie Laskey
Donna Korando | St. Louis Public Radio

This week, St. Louis Public Radio debuts its first arts podcast,"Cut & Paste."

We invite local visual and performing artists to tell stories. Who inspires them? What are their successes? Where have they stumbled along the way? Sometimes, in the conversation, it's us doing the stumbling! But we always have fun. We hope you will, too.

Dance Company Takes Over The Pageant

Jan 23, 2015
Courtesy of The Big Muddy Dance Company

Ballet may be one of the last things you’d expect to see at a rock venue, but it will happen next weekend.

The Big Muddy Dance Company will perform at The Pageant on Jan. 30 — a first for both.

Renowned Dancers Leave New York To Join COCA

Jan 16, 2015
Kirven, right, and Antonio Douthit-Boyd
Andrew Eccles

Antonio Douthit-Boyd “stumbled upon dance” in St. Louis. Kirven Douthit-Boyd was “forced into it, really” in Boston. The pair, now principal dancers with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, is moving to St. Louis to become the Center of Creative Arts’ artistic directors of dance.

Antonio Douthit-Boyd
Jacob Blickenstaff Photography

For dancer Antonio Douthit-Boyd, the time has come to return the favor.

At 16, the beat of a drum lured him off the street and into a Washington Avenue dance class, where he was soon taken in as a disadvantaged prodigy. It changed his life.

Now, he and his dancer husband, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, are coming home to instruct and nurture a new generation.

“I hope that Kirven and I can do for other students what they did for me,” Antonio Douthit-Boyd said.

The Saint Louis Ballet's 'Nutcracker' features the professional company and students from the St. Louis Ballet School.
Saint Louis Ballet

“The Nutcracker” has become a holiday tradition, and is performed by countless ballet companies around the world.

“‘Nutracker,’ for ballet companies, is kind of our Super Bowl,” said Saint Louis Ballet dancer Stephen Lawrence, who plays the Cavalier in the company’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

Leverne Backstrom at the Katherine Dunham Museum
St. Louis Public Radio File Photo

An East St. Louis museum dedicated to a renowned activist and dancer faces an uncertain future.

The museum honoring the late Katherine Dunham owes $7,000 in back property taxes. A delinquent tax sale is set for Nov. 10 in the hopes that someone will pay the bill as an investment.

When Dunham died in 2006, the dancer and activist apparently willed the museum to her assistant, as well as the organization. The assistant has since died, but her heir now has an interest.

(Courtesy: Matt Menietti)

On the third Wednesday of every month there’s a unique gathering in St. Louis during the lunch hour. Dozens of people gather for Lunch Beat St. Louis to dance, eat and get away from their normal routine.

Andrew Warshauer is the organizer of Lunch Beat St. Louis, which he started last June.

“I like to say it’s a chance to slip away from the every day,” said Warshauer.

Lunch Beat started in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2010 and has spread to more than a dozen cities worldwide.

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