The Austin Chronicle

Top 9 Dance and Classical Music Treasures of 2009

By Robert Faires, January 1, 2010, Arts

1) 'THE TRASH PROJECT' (FORKLIFT DANCEWORKS) Allison Orr's epic team-up with Solid Waste Services yielded so much loveliness: garbage trucks like elephants on parade, stunningly graceful cranes, poignant odes to creatures killed by cars, Graham Reynolds' funky and tender score, and, best of all, thousands of Austinites crowding onto the Austin Studios tarmac to celebrate and honor the sanitation workers of our city.

2) WELCHER: 'SYMPHONY NO. 5' (AUSTIN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA) A symphony of the old school – sweeping, lush, robust – scored with notable complexity by local hero Dan Welcher, whose dear friend Peter Bay propelled its premiere to stirring heights through ASO's full-bodied performance. A work I'm eager to hear again.

3) RACHMANINOFF: 'VESPERS' (CONSPIRARE) The acclaimed choir at its most focused: three dozen vocalists crafting sounds as exactingly as master jewelers carving gems. Their meticulous treatment of these chants transported me to the heart of Mother Russia, into an ancient chapel hushed and holy.

4) 'HAMLET' (BALLET AUSTIN) In the 2009 revival, Stephen Mills' Shakespearean ballet proved more powerful than I remembered, its portrait of a court awash in grief and rage visually arresting and emotionally intense.

5) 'DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES' (AUSTIN LYRIC OPERA) In a fine season for ALO, the finest work. This test of faith in the fires of the French Revolution was exquisitely staged and sung, its music and drama building as one to a theatrically stunning finale.

6) 'IMPERMANENCE' (BLUE LAPIS LIGHT) In sending more aerial dancers skyward than ever before and having more of them partner together, choreographer Sally Jacques created new wonders in the heavens, airborne duets that intertwined mortality and infinity.

7) ANTON NEL (LONG CENTER) One man, one piano, one recital, and more pleasures than I can count. Nel's virtuosic readings of Haydn, Mendelssohn, Schubert, and Brahms enchanted and amazed, carrying us through sunshine and storms with peerless artistry.

8) RATCLIFF: 'ODE TO COMMON THINGS' (AUSTIN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA/CONSPIRARE) Poems by Neruda in a most uncommon setting – a choral-orchestral work of monumental sound and musical complexity – delivered by ASO and Conspirare with a force and majesty to blow Dell Hall's roof off.

9) 'BODIES IN URBAN SPACES' (FUSEBOX FESTIVAL) Scampering through Downtown after a crew of daredevil performers to find where they'd wedged themselves into parking garages and trash cans coupled the thrill of new dance and the joy of an Easter egg hunt.

9.1) REYNOLDS/FOUNTAIN: 'BETWEEN STEEL AND STARDUST (SONGS OF TEXAS WOMEN)' (BUTLER SCHOOL OF MUSIC) Its playful way of honoring state heroines from Barbara Jordan to Mary Kay Ash made this song cycle a five (Lone) Star delight. Yee-haw!

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