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 Post subject: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Thu Feb 27, 2003 4:16 pm 
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Location: London
Programme One
Prelude "Discipline is Freedom"
Choreography by Garth Fagan 1981
Music by Abdullah Ibrahim and Max Roach

In Memoriam "The Innocent, The Brave, The Minds...All Mankind"
Choreography by Garth Fagan 2001
Music by Cristobal de Morales (1500-1513)

Touring Jubilee 1924
Choreography by Garth Fagan 1982
Music by Preservation hall Jazz Band

Intermission

Music of the Line/Words In the Shape
Garth Fagan
Music by John Adams

Intermission

Woza
Garth Fagan 1999
Music by Lebo M

Programme Two
Mix 25
Garth Fagan 1996
Music by Wynton Marsalis, Brahms, John Cage and Foday Musa Suso

Intermission

Moth DReams
Garth Fagan 1992
Music by Andre Jolivet, Thelonius Monk. Wynton Marsalis

Intermission

Transition Transition
Garth Fagan 2002
Music by Jazz Jamaica All Stars

Tickets £10-£35 Sadler's Wells Ticket Office 020 7863 8000 [b]www.sadlerswells.com

The Tony and Olivier Award winning choreographer of "The Lion King" Garth Fagan brings his modern dance company to perform at Sadler's Wells.

Jamaican-born Fagan has developed a thrilling signature style, fusing elements of modern dance and ballet with African and Caribbean rhythms and movement.

Fagan was born in Kingston in 1940. He dance with Ivy Baxter's Jamaican National Dance Company before moving to the US at the age of 20 to study psychology in Detroit. Whilst at university he continued to dance, training with Martha Graham, Jose Limon, Mary Hinkson and Alvin Ailey. In 1970 he moved to Rochester, NYC to teach at the University of New York. part of his job included working with disadvantaged students in downtown Rochester. From these untrained individuals he created his first dance company called the Bottom of the Bucket, But..Dance Theatre. Twenty years later in 1990, the Company's stature and dancers had improved so much it became simply Garth Fagan Dance.

<small>[ 06 March 2003, 08:29 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2003 5:49 pm 
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Location: UK
Garth Fagan Dance opened their London dates this evening with a 5 act programme which spans over 20 years of the company's repertoire.

"Prelude: Discipline is Freedom" is an early work created in 1981 and revised in 1983. This piece introduced the audience to Fagan's varied dance vocabulary - effectively a montage of American Modern dance technique - fusing Horton, Humphrey, Limon and Graham with Afro-Caribbean rythmns and movement. The company beautifully and elegantly executed this work to the upbeat music of master jazz musicians Abdullah Ibrahim and Max Roach. It seemed as though we were watching Fagan's dancers working in the studio to achieve his eclectic and virtuostic style.

It is clear especially with "Music of the Line/Words in the Shape" that Fagan has taken more to the abstract form in the last 20-odd years. The dancers sported paint-splattered trousers a la Jackson Pollock, and in fact this work shows Fagan as painter. The dancers work like splatters of paint on a blank canvas carving out the space with line and shape. The dancer who stood out most for me in this work was Natalie Rogers, a striking performer with her beautiful lines and flawless articulation of the percussive detail in the upper body. I wasn't too sure about this work, in many ways the score overpowered the dancing, but all the performers were strong albeit a few wobbles here and there. I felt detached from it, but If I could liken this particular dance of Fagan's to painting it would be a lot like Abstract Expressionism.

The piece de resistance of the evening's programme was Woza (1999). Woza means Zulu for "Come". The piece opens with "Come Prepared …" as dancer Sharon Skepple in a seemingly impossible position, completely tilted over her front leg, back leg in a 180-degree arabesque. The audience was amused by this contortion, but Skepple proved she was more than just a flexible dancer, she is a sassy dancer and her solo was a treat for us all judging by the audience's reception.

"Come Forced Voyage" was the another vignette of what seemed to me to be a story about the African slave journey to America. Haunting but not heavy, this section was poetry in motion and probably the most emotional piece of choreography I had seen all evening. Although "Woza" was abstract, I still felt I could access the work through an emotional response to the dancing and the choreography.

"Woza" is a celebration of the triumph of the human spirit and it was the most enthusiastically danced piece of the entire evening's programme. This is the best example of Fagan as a great American choreographer at work.


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 Post subject: Re: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2003 12:06 am 
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Location: London
Christine - thanks for getting your review up so quickly. Hope you enjoy the second programme.


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 Post subject: Re: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2003 4:25 am 
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Thanks Emma, yes, I did enjoy the second programme and I did find something out. And that is it would be a mistake to come to see Garth Fagan Dance if you are expecting something of the same ilk as Alvin Ailey. If anything, Fagan is post-Ailey and encompasses a technique of his own that points to the post-modernists.

Mix 25 (1996) was made up of 5 vignettes that seem fairly unrelated to one another. The final section of this work called 'Give Thanks' has the company clad in swimming costumes - sporty malliots for the women and speedos for the men - displaying their bodies in a fashion that make it unmistakable that these are fine athletes as well as artists. The dancing is tremendously challenging with extreme tilted balances switching into dizzying turns and energetic jumps ending again in those off-centre tilted balances that seem to somewhat of a signature of Fagan's style.

Moth Dreams (1992) held the solo Their Dream (Son) created for Fagan's muse - Norwood Pennewell. Although it was a bit on the long side and Thelonious Monk did most of the work, it was still lovely to watch as Pennewell is a wonderfully sensitive performer. The last section entitled 'Her Dream (Mother)' was much more fun to watch and included a peanut cart donated by the Smithsonian Institute. The costumes and set seemed to add to the magic, which up until now were pretty minimal.

The best was saved for last in Translation Transition (2002) with music by Jazz Jamaica All Stars. This was an exceptionally strong piece that displayed Fagan's style through the dancing. What I liked about this work was the absolute enjoyment of the dancers on stage and how the profoundly complex movement flowed organically from dancehall to modern to jazz to what-have-you. It was effortless, his company made it look so easy. The dancers that make up the company deliver Fagan's vision impeccably.

I felt this programme was the stronger of the two, containing a more fluid mix of the company's repertory. Programme one gives a sort of retrospective of the company's work, however, I think it is probably more interesting to see where the company is at now and heading toward rather than how far Fagan has come as a choreographer.

Garth Fagan Dance appears at Sadler's Wells until 8 March and at the Nottingham Playhouse on 11 March.


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 Post subject: Re: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2003 6:14 am 
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Christine - great coverage. Quite right that people do connect up Garth Fagan Dance Co with Alvin Ailey.


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 Post subject: Re: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2003 6:18 am 
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Location: London
Garth Fagan
By Debra Craine
The Times


Quote:
THE Jamaican-American choreographer Garth Fagan won acclaim and awards for his work on the Broadway hit The Lion King (his opening processional was a stunning highlight), but he’s more than just the man who put the steps into Disney’s African musical. For more than 30 years he has run his own modern dance company, based in Rochester, New York, a much-travelled outfit that takes Fagan’s choreography to all corners of the globe.
more...



Judith Mackrell
The Guardian


Quote:
Garth Fagan Dance barely pause in their determination to press the biggest, brightest buttons available to their art form. During their opening programme, we see dance as a splurge of emotional energy, as virtuosity as athleticism. But, while the company's mix of fearlessness, talent and goodwill should be irresistible, the point of their performances slips between their steps.
more...

Fast, frustrating leap backwards
Luke Jennings reviews Garth Fagan Dance at Sadler's Wells for The Telegraph


Quote:
If Jamaican-born Garth Fagan is known at all over here, it is as the choreographer of the musical version of The Lion King. In the US, however, it's another story. The 63-year-old has to his name a Guggenheim Fellowship, a coveted Bessie award, an honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School, and more besides.
more...

<small>[ 08 March 2003, 07:23 AM: Message edited by: Emma Pegler ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2003 3:57 am 
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
Review in The Observer.

Quote:
Garth Fagan, director and choreographer of his 32-year-old company, fuses Afro-Caribbean dance styles with many influences to form a distinctive idiom. His recipe is highly adaptable - the opening parade of dancing animals in The Lion King is his creation - but he's not essentially a showbiz choreographer.

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 Post subject: Re: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2003 12:31 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
More highs than lows
David Dougill for The Sunday Times has reservations, but he bows down before Garth Fagan’s splendid dancers.


I remember, though not too clearly, many years ago, an appearance in one of London’s small library theatres by a young troupe from Rochester, New York, with the quirky name of The Bottom of the Bucket, But... Dance Theatre. Its founder-choreographer was the Jamaican-born Garth Fagan, and his work seemed quirky too. Now renamed Garth Fagan Dance, and in its 32nd year, the company is internationally lauded, and Fagan is also celebrated as “the award-winning choreographer of The Lion King”. Fagan’s style is a fusion of ballet, modern dance, jazz and Afro-Caribbean influences. The whole repertory has always been his own work, and he gave two programmes for his first visit to Sadler’s Wells.

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 Post subject: Re: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 1:43 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
An empty athletic aesthetic
By Nadine Meisner for The Independent

Garth Fagan's choreography is the American dream: self-made, uninhibited, a cultural melting pot. Born in Jamaica, Fagan mixes Afro-Caribbean syncopations with ballet and modern dance postures. He founded his company 32 years ago, an ensemble of athletic dancers, made of spun steel and elastic.

If only their athleticism was applied to more aesthetic and meaningful shapes; if only their individuality had scope to flourish. Fagan's choreography may be just the thing for musicals – it won Tony and Olivier awards for The Lion King. It may even be the kind of high-energy product often tagged as "vibrant".

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 Post subject: Re: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Mon Mar 17, 2003 3:32 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Garth Fagan interview
Tony Award-winning choreographer of Broadway's 'The Lion King', has been called "a true original," "a genuine leader," and "one of the great reformers of American dance." As his company prepare to visit London, with two programmes at Sadler's Wells from 4 - 8 March, he talked to Melanie Nix for londondance.com

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<small>[ 17 March 2003, 04:42 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Garth Fagan Dance
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 9:14 am 
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REVIEW: Garth Fagan Dance Company - Saddler's Wells 04/02/03

The set opens with a class scene reminiscent of the 1980s - girls clad in leotards and leg warmer combos step-ball-change and clap their hands, immediately probing into whether Fagan is merely experimenting with previously used, second hand dance movement.

His choreographic structures are simple and clear. The dancers perform much of the work in unison, flitting on and off stage like a herd of gazelles, in swift and engaging linear patterns. His use of opposites works well – fast and slow, stillness and movement, sound and silence. Sharp and precise lines are subverted by dead limbs and floppy wrists. This ‘cubist’ choreography lends Fagan the artistic title of body sculptor - shaping the body within space, creating sequences of movements as if by chance, strung together with staccato fusion. However, there is no development of movement sequences and the repetitions of phrases are like a joke that the more you tell, the less funny it becomes.

There is a sense of something missing – movement for movement’s sake is all very well, but if this piece is there only to be enjoyed, then it should be enjoyable to watch. One can imagine that their technique class is a wonderful experience, but that rep time is spent with a lot of ‘gap filling’ – static leg lifts to fill in a count or two whilst the others in the trio are finishing their lift.

The question is then posed - why does Fagan not just stick to the enjoyable pieces like ‘Woza’, and ‘Moth Dreams’? These uplifting, colourful and virtuoso pieces are where the company excels, consisting of energetic and strong African movements set to throbbing scores incorporating percussion, choral sounds and birdsong.

The fact that both programs consisted of so many short pieces seems to imply that Fagan is full of beginnings that phase out into frustrated ideas; that he is following a maze of dead ends in his quest to become a ‘serious artist’. What he does not seem to realise is that you can’t just throw a bunch of very specific techniques together and then add some chicken arms and flinching into the bargain and expect a postmodern masterpiece to emerge.

The piece entitled ‘In Memoriam’ was safeguarded by its dedication to the victims and survivors of September the 11th. The dancers stroked the floor with their feet and kept their eyes firmly downcast. The movement was appropriately weighty grounded and solemn, whereas the choreography was not – this piece should have been moving.

Both programs seem not to be about choreographic depth, intensity or provocation, as much as the ‘Fagan technique’ – fast spins, high leg kicks and a plagiarism of Graham, Cunningham, release and Dunham (African) technique, tacked together with gaping seams. There is no free flow between styles, rather an incongruous juxtaposition of static movements, good only for photographic images of slow silhouettes and duet/trio montages. Disciplined it is, free it is not.

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