Modern dance dazzles the Queen City

Trio of interpretative dance shows head to Charlotte

by Alison Woo

Good things are said to come in threes. This season, three distinctive interpretative dance shows are heading to the Queen City to dazzle and delight audiences.

“Momix” celebrates the botanical world

“Momix: Botanica,” at the Knight Theater from Feb. 22 to 27, has been described as the “Museum of Natural History brought to life.” This Connecticut-based dance troupe has traveled the globe for more than 30 years bringing its unique vision to the masses. In Botanica, they tapped world-famous designers such as Michael Curry, most famous for creating the puppets from “The Lion King,” to bring the natural world alight. You’ll see breathtaking landscapes, props and puppets all supported by an ethereal score that includes classics such as Vivaldi and beautiful bird song.

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Lion King choreographer celebrates 40th anniversary

Garth Fagan, multiple Tony and Bessie-award winning choreographer best known for his extraordinary work on “The Lion King,” comes to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center March 31 to April 3 to celebrate his legendary dance troupe’s 40th anniversary.

Fagan describes modern dance as “contemporary energies meets contemporary movement.” While the esteemed dancer has worked in every style of dance, he says he loves modern dance because it spotlights “men who are not afraid to be vulnerable and strong and women who are strong and feminine all at the same time. This is everything we would hope all our children will become.”

Fagan’s dance group is an eclectic cultural blend encompassing all races and ethnicities. Some of the pieces audiences can expect to see include “Mudan,” a celebration of a rare and exotic peony tree from China, as well as “Dance Collage for Romy,” an homage to the work of prolific North Carolina artist Romare Bearden. The show ends with a “Fete Joy” inspired by the music and dance of Fagan’s hometown of Jamaica and the extraordinary rhythms of New Orleans.

Fagan says his celebratiob of women is inspired by the loss of his 2-year-old daughter, as well as his 3-year-old grandchild. It fuels his vision for dance and to celebrate both the frailties and the strength of the human spirit. “We open the program with ‘Prelude,’ a perennial favorite just to show that this is a modern dance concert,” he said. “But the cake is the wonderful human being that you see before you and I’m proud of my dancers and the women are strong and jump and turn. And unlike other dance disciplines, they are contemporary women like you who have jobs and can still be lovable and feminine. They’re not waiting for someone to rescue them.”

With movies like “Black Swan” focusing on the dysfunction that can happen within a dance group, Fagan says he lives his life and focuses his art on the uplifting message left from his mentor, best-selling author Alex Hailey. “He said, ‘You have to find the good and praise it,’ and that’s been my philosophy,” he said. “My concert has lots of positives and in the pieces, it may have a difficult moment just like life, but it’s about overcoming adversity and celebrating life that matters.”

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Cirque du Soleil takes flight

Cirque du Soleil’s “Totem” makes its first U.S. stop debuting at Charlotte Motor Speedway March 3 to 20. While Botanica celebrates the earthbound, Totem is not so rooted.

The entire expanse of Charlotte Motor Speedway will be taken up with the visual spectacle that Soleil is known for, including dancers using bars, hoops, unicycles and bowls and soaring over the stage on roller skates or flying though the air on trapezes.

Robert LaPage, Totem’s writer and director, says the show was created to celebrate life in all its forms.  This is his second Cirque du Soleil show following “KÀ” in 2004. “Inspired by the foundation narratives of the first peoples, Totem explores the birth and evolution of the world, the relentless curiosity of human beings and their constant desire to excel,” he said. “The word ‘Totem’ suggests that human beings carry in their bodies the full potential of all living species, even the Thunderbird’s desire to fly to the top of the totem.
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