Arts on the Horizon: October 2021

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By Rodger Skidmore

Way too much music

The pianist and composer Eubie Blake wrote more than 1,000 songs (well, he did live a long time). However, Sarasota’s Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe will not be playing and singing all of them during any of their performances of the Broadway musical Eubie! It is limiting that number to 23 of his best songs. NOTE: If it did 23 different songs in each of a series of Eubie! shows there would be more of them (43) than Star Wars sequels — hard to believe.

One of the great things about Eubie Blake is that he not only wrote delightful tunes, but that he collaborated with some of the best lyricists of the time — Noble Sissle, Andy Razaf, and James Europe. The result was, starting in 1921, great shows on Broadway and wonderful music played on people’s pianos in living rooms across America, back when so many people had pianos.

This musical review was conceived by Julianne Boyd and will be directed by Jim Weaver, who has consistently directed and arranged so many WBTT shows throughout the years. And for your viewing comfort, Eubie! will be performed in the WBTT’s new theatre on North Orange — comfortable seating really does add a lot to a show. Eubie! was nominated for three Tony Awards while on Broadway. Besides recreating a version of that show, the WBTT will also be re-creating the first show that it staged in Sarasota. It promises to be a great evening of music, singing, and dancing, starting Oct. 6 and running through Nov. 21. Singers and dancers will stay after the Oct. 17 matinee to answer questions from the audience.

More info at Westcoastblacktheatre.org

Ballet gossip column

Have you heard that Martha Graham and Ricardo Graziano are an item? They were seen together in Sarasota in late October, 2018 and … here they are again. The word is out that they will be back-to-back (how close can you get?) for three days, Oct. 22 through 24. If you play your cards (tickets) right, you will see them (or their works, and they are something to get worked-up over) at each of Sarasota Ballet’s performances at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts up on the Ringling Campus. Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring will feature Graham’s choreography and Mr. Graziano will follow with the premiere of his new ballet (his 11th for the Sarasota Ballet).

The first thing that might come to mind when one says the word “ballet” is a woman in a pink tutu. And, throughout the years, that is how many dancers appeared. But when you imagine the most memorable ballets that you’ve seen, the costumes are feathered, flowing silks, tuxedos, French berets, ball gowns and colorful leotards. Marrying the costume to the motion of the dancer is an important aspect of ballet that should never be overlooked. The results of the collaboration between Graziano and Jerry Wolf, head of wardrobe, will be interesting to see.

If you are a ballet aficionado, you’ve probably seen a number of ballets with music by Antonin Dvořák — who, by the way, never wrote any ballet music. It’s just that his compositions, based on Slavonic dances, are so danceable. See how Ricardo Graziano has woven the steps of the core de ballet and soloists of the Sarasota Ballet around the notes that Dvořák has written, and listen to that music as it floats along with the dancers.

Info at Sarasotaballet.org.

Dancing under the stars

If you’d like to dance under the stars, a good place for that would be in the entrance atrium of the Sarasota Opera House. There, the sky’s the limit– but that would only be if you were looking up through its glass ceiling.

If you wish to actually dance with the stars, that is possible, although you’d have to be one of the dancers up on the stage, on the evening of Oct. 3, when the local Fred Astaire Dance Studio goes international with a host of world-famous dancing sensations.

Often, when listing what will be served at a gala, one says “Everything will be served, from soup to nuts.”

Well, if the international dancing stars are the soup, the nuts would be the local amateurs that will dancing with them. And by “nuts,” it is meant that they are “crazy” about dancing — just like those that appear on the TV show Dancing with the Stars. That show’s new season started in September and the unique and exciting choreography of a past star, Emmy award-winning Louis Van Amstel, will be featured at the Cirque du Soleil Showcase. Music, as the title suggests, will be Cirque du Soleil originals. And, given the diversity of the dancers and the music, the evening should be quite a circus.

Tickets at Fredastaire.com/sarasota.

Engage/disengage    

Or, more simply, did you like it or not?

When it comes to the arts — painting, music, theater, film, sculpture, dance, culinary or whatever — the question often is, “Did you like it enough to see, hear, watch, taste, or listen to it again?”

And, of course, how you felt at the time of observation, also comes into play. Looking back on the ‘50s and ‘60s, when you came home from work, you might have put a Mahler symphony on the victrola or listened to some songs by Doris Day and Johnny Mathis, all depending on your frame of mind.

It’s the same today. The Ringling Museum has separate kinds of art in separated areas. Religious art, landscapes, abstract, photographs, etc. One day you’re up for old favorites and the next week photos of interesting architecture, from various towns in Eastern Europe, are just your cup of tea (or coffee). That ability of ours to change our focus from one form of the same general arm of art to another (and appreciate both at different times) is why Florida Studio Theatre can switch from a musical about Sophie Tucker to a play about drone strikes in a war zone — why Sarasotans support revivals of Peter Pan at the Asolo Rep and rampant family dysfunction at the Urbanite.

It might even explain why some New Yorkers like the Mets and others follow the Yankees (go figure).

All of this leads to EnsembleNewSRQ, Sarasota’s Classical/Contemporary Chamber Group. George Nickson and Samantha Bennett have been playing and presenting new contemporary music here since 2016.

This season’s first show starts with Sequoiaby Yaz Lancaster. At some point during this hot summer it might be pleasant to walk through a cool forest, settle down in a shady glen, lean your head against a majestic tree and listen to serene music. Oct. 11 at First Congregational Church might be just the right time and place.

Rhythms rise and fall with Christopher Cerrone’s Don’t Look Down, a piece for percussion quartet and piano. The evening is rounded out with the premiere of a new piece by Max Grafe, written specifically for this performance. It will be performed by Nickson, Bennett and Conor Hanick.

Info at ensrq.org.

Rodger Skidmore
Author: Rodger Skidmore

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