Ulster Ballet Company’s Festival of Dance this Saturday at UPAC

Photo of Calvin Grimm’s backdrop for Ellen Sinopoli’s Sea Ghosts at the Egg by Rich Hommel.

A distinguished festival showcasing dancers, both aspiring and professional, and the choreographers who put them in motion in a diverse range of styles and techniques: That’s what is in store for audiences in the Hudson Valley this weekend, when the Ulster Ballet Company presents its 29th annual extravaganza, the Festival of Dance. Held at Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston, the program features local and internationally known dancers in an original program that will captivate all dance enthusiasts. Very few dance productions in the Hudson Valley offer such phenomenal, first-rate dancing of so many different genres, all in one night.

Highlights of this year’s Festival include performances by the New York City Ballet’s principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht and soloist Erica Pereira. The pair will perform Tarantella, showing off their technical brilliance in the roles. Ulbricht will also perform an edgy solo piece, Piazzola Tango. Sea Ghosts will be performed by the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, and RFX Swing will move the audience with a trip to the Savoy Ballroom with its award-winning rendition of the Lindy hop. Solas An Lae directors Deirdre Lowry and Patrick Brown will present Soul, a synthesis of traditional Irish dance and distinctly American moves.

The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre returns to the Festival with an excerpt from Whispers in the Dark, a contemporary abstract work choreographed by Edward Liang. The Kingston-based Energy Dance Company will mesmerize the audience with break dancing, salsa, step and hip hop: a veritable fusion of dance. Heather Gehring and Lou Brock of Ballroom Dancing for Tough Guys will bring their inimitable style to three very different pieces: Nice and Easy, Only You and Crazy River. The Ulster Ballet Company will perform two pieces by resident choreographers Holly Gross and Sara Miot: Cimetiere du Ballet and the premiere of Mist, Wind, Fire.

Experience phenomenal, first-rate dance of many different genres, all in one night – Saturday, March 24 at 8 p.m. – at UPAC, located at 601 Broadway in Kingston. Tickets cost $19 for adults, $15 for students and seniors and $12 each for groups of ten or more. They can be purchased at the box office at (845)339-6088 or through www.ticketmaster.com. Additional information can be found by visiting www.ulsterballet.org or www.upac.org. The Ulster Ballet Company received funding for this performance from a project grant awarded by the Dutchess County Arts Council, made possible with funds from the Decentralization program of the New York State Council on the Arts.

@ Ann Hutton



Festival of Dance this Saturday features Woodstock artist Calvin Grimm’s backdrop for Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company


Sea Ghosts, a new dance by the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, will be performed on March 24 at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) as part of the 29th annual Festival of Dance. An otherworldly, subterranean realm is immediately established by the dramatic backdrop, a 15-by-20-foot banner reproducing a colorful, gestural painting by Woodstock-based artist Calvin Grimm. Dramatically blown up from the original artwork, the image is a touchstone for the tentaclelike movements of the dancers, who seem to float and writhe in an aquatic world, whose wavelike rhythms and underwater resonances are further conjured up by the eerie sound piece written by Chicago composer William Harper. The set piece is a first for Grimm, who, after attending a Sinopoli Dance Company piece at Kaatsbaan, the dance center in Tivoli, approached Ellen Sinopoli about a possible collaboration.

As a visual artist, Grimm said that he feels an affinity with dance and music, given that his process is itself a kind of performance involving the body. “Very often my paintings begin with a broad gesture that involves the whole reach of my body,” he said. “Maybe there are a number of these gestures. The painting builds that way. It’s very much like a dance, in which elements sometimes cluster together in places and push off from each other.”

Grimm noted that this particular work belongs to his Deep Ocean/Deep Space series, which was inspired by his experience of nature growing up on coastal Long Island, leading wilderness expeditions in Wyoming, Alaska, Belize and the Yucatan and sailing on the Clearwater. “I started focusing on the idea that the aquatic and celestial realms are quite similar,” he said. “”They have currents and movements and pressure. Things respond to one another in both environments.”

Sinopoli, whose 21-year-old company is based at the Egg in Albany, said that her original idea had to do with the aging process and “how a person is manipulated to a certain degree – certain components of the body would work and certain ones would not.” However, the piece evolved associations with the ocean after she heard Harper’s composition. “It has an electronic feel. He layers things very interestingly, and as I created the piece I was drawn into that component. We ended up in an undersea world.”

The costumes were designed to “have tentaclelike elements, which cover the entire body – I didn’t want a lot of skin.” Grimm’s painting was another essential aspect of the theme. “I was trying to put the dancers inside a type of visual environment. His painting was quite effective in accomplishing that.”

When the piece premiered at the Egg in January, an image of the painting was projected onstage, rather than consisting of a banner, as at UPAC. Sinopoli and Grimm said that they were excited about the various ways his artwork could be integrated into the dance, with a rear projection being a third type to be explored in the future.

Sinopoli likened the creation of the dance to a complex jigsaw puzzle, with the pieces gradually falling into place. “The piece begins to have a voice of its own,” she said. “It’s interesting to see where it went. Calvin’s work was the icing on the cake.”

The Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company is one of five companies that will perform at the Festival, which starts at 8 p.m. UPAC is located at 161 Broadway in Kingston. Tickets cost $19. For special discounts and other info, visit www.upac.org.

@ Lynn Woods

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