Dance Celebration’s 28th Season – Superstars of Dance, Today and Tomorrow

Dance Celebration’s 28th Season, “Superstars of Dance, Today and Tomorrow,” features eight companies in 35 performances at Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA. Season highlights include Philadelphia premieres, a Broadway dance spectacle, and a special holiday show.

20th century superstars and visionaries Paul Taylor, David Parsons, and Luis Bravo, as well as the collectives  Pilobolus and Mummenschanz, brought new vision and meaning to dance through years of breathtaking  innovation and exploration.  These icons, masters, and magicians have raised both the standards of what is humanly possible and what dance can do and say to audiences worldwide. 21st century rising stars Larry Keigwin, Mark Dendy, and Aszure Barton offer new perspectives, fresh energy, and tantalizing subject matter informed by today’s society, while honoring past traditions.

Randy Swartz, artistic director of Dance Affiliates notes, “We wanted to celebrate iconic figures by presenting their newest works and bring to the forefront new talent who will carry on a tradition of continually reinventing dance.”  Dance Celebration, presented by Dance Affiliates and Annenberg Center, is one of the few remaining dance-only series nationally. This season also celebrates Randy Swartz’s 40 years as a presenter of world-class dance. Prior to productions at Annenberg Center, in the 1970s he directed the dance series at the Walnut Street Theatre. Swartz reflects on the early beginnings and how it was “a great privilege to work with the great legends – Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Alvin Ailey, Jose Limon, Erick Hawkins and Paul Taylor. It was also an added bonus to discover fresh new voices and provide an opportunity for the first tours of Pilobolus, Tharp, MOMIX, Parsons, Dance Theater of Harlem, BodyVox, and Iso.”  It is in this spirit of honoring our traditions and discovering new voices that we celebrate the “Superstars of Dance, Today and Tomorrow.”

Paul Taylor Dance Company (October 21-23, 2010) kicks off the Dance Celebration series. In his early days, Paul Taylor danced with Graham and was a rebel known for creating avant-garde works such as Three Epitaphs, Big Bertha and Untitled Duet which was performed in silence and garnered him the infamous wordless review in the New York Times.  Now heralded as “the greatest living choreographer,” (San Francisco Chronicle) Taylor has set the bar for contemporary dance with his brilliant repertoire of 131 works and the skill and artistry of his sensational troupe. At 80 years of age, this MacArthur ‘genius award” winner is prolific, witty, and relevant.  His troupe returns performing his latest masterpieces, all Philadelphia premieres.

Luis Bravo’s Forever Tango (November 16-20, 2010 – seven performances Tuesday through Saturday) ran for an unprecedented 92 weeks on Broadway. In keeping with the great folkloric traditions, Bravo brought the tango out of  its origins in Argentine nightclubs and onto the concert stage.  Tracing the evolution of the tango’s 19th century roots, Forever Tango consists of a stellar cast of 14 incredible dancers, an 11-piece orchestra featuring a bandoneon player, and live singers. The two- hour spectacle takes the audience on a journey through the history, culture and passion of Argentina.

Parsons Dance Company (December 2-4, 2010) premieres the full-length work Remember Me, a rock opera created in collaboration with the East Village Opera Company.  Hailed as “one of the great movers of modern dance” (New York Times), David Parsons was a soloist for a decade with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.  Recognized for his humorous, superbly danced and accessible works such as Caught, The Envelope, and Too Many Cooks, Parsons has captured the imagination of audiences worldwide. In 2000, he ended the Millenium with a 24-hour celebration aired globally from Times Square.  Back from a national tour, Remember Me is a classic love story between two brothers and the woman they both love featuring singers, lighting design by Tony Award winner Howell Binkley, and costume design by Project Runway’s Austin Scarlett.  The Village Voice exclaims, “Awesome dancing…. eye-popping visual effects… excellent showbiz savvy performers… perpetually  smoldering, lusty sensual movement.”

As a special holiday event, the Swiss troupe Mummenschanz (December 16-18, 2010) has revolutionized the theatre world with a mix of acting, mime, illusion, dance, and magic. Mummenschanz’s newest show 3 X 11 (a 33-year retrospective) transforms recycled junk into astonishing shapes and forms resembling gigantic balloons and massive  potatoes,  huge slinkies, otherworldly pleated tubes, and colossal heads. Using cardboard boxes, foam, toilet paper, suitcases, and large white sheets, the actors bring inanimate objects to life.  These invisible masters of movement (founding members Bernie Schurch, Floriana Frassetto with Raffaella Mattioli and Pietro Montandon) convey a whole scale of emotions, from laughter to surprise to fear. For 33 years, Mummenschaz’s mission has been “to stage a play without words or linguistic or cultural borders.” The Age Melbourne exclaims “the company’s work is a visual feast… the performers are fabulous and power their scenes with artistry and pace.  Whether you are 8 or 80, Mummenschanz is a night to remember.”

Keigwin + Company makes its Dance Celebration debut (January 20-22, 2011) with the Philadelphia premiere of the full-length Elements. Considered by many as the latest choreographic find, Keigwin grew up watching MTV.  Known for his pop sensibilities, outrageous slapstick approaches and unflinching showmanship, Keigwin has danced with downtown New York superstars Mark Dendy (for which he won a Bessie Award for his performance in Dream Analysis),  Jane Comfort, John Jasperse, and Doug Elkins, as well as The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Doug Varone ‘s Le Sacre du Printemps.  With music ranging from Mozart to hip hop to Perry Como, Elements explores the themes of earth, fire, water and air. Metro New York exclaims, “If you miss this hoot of a performance, you only have yourself to blame. “

After a 10-year hiatus from the concert stage to pursue a career in musical theater, OBIE and Bessie award winner Mark Dendy returns with his troupe Dendy DanceTheater (February 10-12, 2011).   A legendary downtown New York performer recognized for his “wild, mad, beautiful and extraordinarily energized choreography” (The New York Post), Dendy has danced with Pooh Kaye, Ruby Shang, Pear Lang, and the Martha Graham Ensemble.

His semi-autobiographic program will include his famously uproarious reinvention of Martha Graham, as well as the brilliant Afternoon of the Faunes, a male duet (originally danced by him and Larry Keigwin) to Debussy channeling twin Nijinskys.  Working Class Heroes, a tribute to the American do-or-die spirit, will make its premiere.

***Photo by John Kane

Pilobolus Dance Theatre (March 3-5, 2011) exploded onto the scene 40 years ago shocking audiences with its imaginative weight-bearing techniques, breathtaking physicality and collaborative approaches.   Founders (Robby Barnett, Lee Harris, Moses Pendleton and Jonathan Wolken) met while taking Alison Chases’ dance class at Dartmouth College.  Untrained as dancers, they created a new movement vocabulary based on physical humor and gymnastics that interconnected body parts into unfathomable shapes. Early works include Walklyndon (1971)  an hilarious work based on walking; Monkshood Farewell (1974)  a group work featuring unusual balances and revolutionary body connections;  and  Day Two (1981), showcasing dancers in nude-colored thongs skimming and tumbling through a water slide set the stage for international success. Recipients of Berlin’s Critic Prize, the Scotsman Award and a Primetime Emmy Award, Pilobolus has appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes, The Academy Awards, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the 2002 Olympics.

Making its Dance Celebration debut, Aszure Barton & Artists premieres the full-length work Busk (May 5-7, 2011). Awarded the City of Edmonton’s prestigious Ambassador for Contemporary Choreography Award, rising star Aszure Barton has created works for Hubbard Street, American Ballet Theatre, Mikhail Baryshnikov, the National Ballet of Canada, Sydney Dance Company, and Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, as well as the Broadway production of Three Penny Opera. Inspired by what street performers (buskers) do to lure audience and a make a living, Busk features street hoofers, hooded monks, compelling video projections, and an evocative score by composer and violinist Lev Ljova Zhurbin. Using the idiosyncratic movement of her virtuoso dancers, Barton creates a psychological portrait riveting with humor, pathos, zaniness, and unpredictability.  Dance View Times states, “I thought that the audience was going to explode from its seats… Aszure Barton, where have you been? Where are you going? The art of choreography needs you.”

All performances will take place in the Zellerbach Theatre, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA, 19104.  Subscriber benefits include unlimited exchanges on all subscription tickets, free ticket replacement, priority seating and other special promotional offers, including parking discounts and discounts at restaurants and shops around town. Subscribers have the opportunity to purchase additional tickets to any of the season’s Dance Celebration or Annenberg Center Presents shows at a 10% discount. Current subscribers may renew their subscriptions through July 23, 2010 and keep the same seats.  Single tickets will go on sale at the end of August.  Subscription prices range from $66-$266. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Annenberg Center Box Office at 215-898-3900 or by visiting

Founded in 1983 by artistic director Randy Swartz, Dance Affiliates is one of the nation’s few remaining dance-only presenters.  Its Dance Celebration program, Philadelphia’s most acclaimed and longest-running series of world-class contemporary dance, has presented 175 companies in 1,500 performances. In addition to its original production of Thank You Gregory: A Tribute to the Legends of Tap, in 2005, which was revised for a national tour in 2009-2010,  Dance Affiliates also conceived and produced The Music That Made Us Dance: From Lindy to Hip Hop in 2006, its first-ever commission for the series featuring Philadelphia’s most inventive choreographers and dancers.  Dance Affiliates partners with other nonprofit, educational and community organizations such as its symposium at The Philadelphia Museum of Art with the Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown dance companies; The Mann Center for the Performing Arts to develop extensive outreach activities for its Royal Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Bolshoi Ballet engagements; the Baryshnikov Dance Foundation to present the play Forbidden Christmas or The Doctor and The Patient at Prince Music Theatre; the University of the Arts and The Rock School to sponsor on-site visits with students by Patrick Swayze, Lisa Niemi and George de la Pena; the Merriam Theater to bring Mikhail Baryshnikov’s PASTForward with White Oak Project; and Kids Dancing for Kids showcasing  some of America’s most talented young dancers in  joint production with the Prince Music Theater benefiting its outreach program The Rainbow Connection.

In addition to performances, the Dance Celebration 2010-2011 season offers outreach activities by all the touring companies for the local community. These programs include master classes, workshops, residencies and special projects as part of The Artist to Artist Series and full production performances in The Student Discovery Series.     For more information call 215-636-9000 ext.110 or visit

Significant funding for the 2010-11 Dance Celebration season is provided by the William Penn Foundation and also in part by The Connelly Foundation, Samuel S. Fels Fund, Friends of Dance (Affiliates), Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and the Virginia C. Mulconroy Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation.

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