Brian Jacobson

Hip Hop, Modern and Kathak dance to play Kohler

By - Sep 7th, 2009 09:47 pm


RennieThe important Sheboygan incubator and cultural hub known as John Michael Kohler Arts Center has an incredibly strong season of film, visual arts, music and stage performances in the 2009-10 brochure. But it’s a set of dance programs in the Footlights Performance series that grabs attention. One will bring back a landmark performance that brought street dance and ballet closer than ever. One brings an internationally renowned choreographer (and Milwaukee native) with her progressive company to organize a special piece just for the center. And, the last features a former child prodigy who has gone on to become a preeminent figure of a traditional dance form in India and America.

Performing Arts coordinator Ann Brusky acknowledges that when the staff planned this year’s shows, they wanted to “get gutsy.” She notes that hyping hip hop in Sheboygan isn’t as strange as it may seem. In previous years, programs and education seminars of this style have been wildly successful. They haven’t had anything like it in awhile, but the return of Rennie Harris with a grant from the NEA’s American Masterpiece: Dance helped to bring the piece Students of the Asphalt Jungle back to life. Harris has been pretty blunt about his background and how strict he stays to the discipline of hip hop dance artistically, so it will be interesting to see it performed again.


A production still from the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange piece called the Farthest Earth from Thee. Photo by Lise Metzger

The collaboration with Liz Lerman and her Dance Exchange is one that John Michael Kohler Arts has explored before, and always with profound results. This time around, they are still thinking about the world’s condition as they stay within a theme for the season. What that may result in is unknown. Other company members have been working on dance pieces revolving around urban drift, the future of human genome and coal mining communities. As the company connects with communities, anything goes.

Finally, it will be a rare opportunity to see Pandit Chitresh Das and his dance company for several shows in April 2010. The artist has ‘evolved’ the form from its 16th-century origins, where whole lineages of dancers proudly come from one of three major schools concentrating on the movement. Das is fluent in the Lucknow and Jaipur schools and recently produced a dissertation for Harvard University on “Kathak Yoga.” He often splits his time between homes in California and Calcutta, where he has a school that includes classes for children living in slums and an empowerment/self-awareness movement for daughters of sex workers. For this showcase, Das is including live musicians to accompany the showcase performance. Currently, the troupe is touring with a show called Sita Haran.

You can visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center website for a complete listing of performances and education opportunities, or call the mainline at 920-458-6144.

Pandit Chitresh Das, from his website

Pandit Chitresh Das, from his website

Categories: Arts & Culture, Dance

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