Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks: Save the last dance for me

When the curtain falls on the final performance of its 24th season, Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks will dance away into history and an era of dance in Austin will end

Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks: Save the last dance for me

An era in Austin dance is ending.

I know, I know, that kind of journalistic pronouncement gets tossed around far too casually, but when you're talking about a local company with an international reputation closing down after 25 years, it's a phrase that cries out to be used. The troupe in question is Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks, and Saturday night, when the curtain falls on the final performance of the final production of its 24th season, this longtime leader in contemporary movement will dance away into history. That decision, by the way, was made unanimously by S+BD's board, staff, and company artists after months of discussion and weighing the options for a company that had grown increasingly difficult to maintain.

Sharir + Bustamante was not Austin's first modern-dance company and never its only one, but it was always on the frontier of experimentation, seeking out the next forms of expression in movement, especially where developing technology was concerned. As I wrote in these pages two years ago, our city has been blessed with many pioneering modern-dance artists – Deborah Hay, Sally Jacques, Heloise Gold, Diana Prechter, Andrea Ariel, Darla Johnson and Andrew Long, Ellen Bartel, to name a few – but none has done so much for so long at the head of one company as Yacov Sharir and José Luis Bustamante. It was Sharir who brought a host of national choreographers of note to Austin in the Eighties, dance makers such as Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Margaret Jenkins, Doug Varone, and Bella Lewitzky. And as computers took off, it was Sharir who saw the potential in cyberspace as a medium for movement and became an internationally recognized leader in the field of virtual reality and interactive technologies. At the same time, Bustamante, who came to Austin from Monterrey, Mexico, in the early Eighties, established himself as a pioneer in the fields of site-specific performance and video in dance. In addition to pursuing their own creative discoveries, these men opened their company's productions to other choreographers so they could do the same, and they hosted the regional platform for the Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis, one of the world's most renowned international choreographic competitions, to help propel their fellow artists' work across the globe. The company that Sharir and Bustamante built was a potent force for modern dance during its existence, and that will be missed.

The company's farewell program continues its tradition of presenting invigorating new works and leading dance artists from around the country. Stuporwoman, and Other Dances of Mad Exhausting Beauty will include the premiere of a new work by José Luis Bustamante and performances by Philadelphia dancers Nichole Canuso and Tania Isaac, as well as the revival of a favorite Michael Foley dance performed by S+BD company members Andee Scott and Theresa Hardy. At the risk of trotting out another cliché, this is one program that's not to be missed.

Stuporwoman, and Other Dances of Mad Exhausting Beauty runs June 7-9, Thursday-Saturday, 8pm, at the McCullough Theatre, UT campus. For more information, call 477-6060 or visit

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Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks, Yacov Sharir, José Luis Bustamante, Stuporwoman, and Other Dances of Mad Exhausting Beauty, Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis

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