Robert Faires’ Top 10 Dance and Classical Joys of 2018
In this year’s dance and classical offerings, extraordinary depictions of loss and suffering continue to haunt
Reviewed by Robert Faires, Fri., Dec. 28, 2018
1) "FOUR MORTAL MEN" (Ballet Austin) Stephen Mills' elegy for dancers he knew in Eighties New York created such tight connections among his quartet here that whenever one left the group, we felt the profound loss he had.
2) OTELLO (Austin Opera) Verdi's Lion of Venice in all his power, honor, and agony, thanks to a commanding turn by Issachah Savage in the title role, gripping work by Marina Costa-Jackson and Michael Chioldi, and elegant staging.
3) ARTIST AND MUSE (Performa/Dance) A choreographic exploration of suffering wherein the movement by Oren Porterfield, Oliver Greene-Cramer, Francesca Dugarte, and Anais Di Filippo made pain both beautiful and haunting.
4) BE STILL, MY HEART (Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company) An improbable combination of prone bodies, darkness, whispers, wordplay, springboard steps, tight ensemble moves, scarves, and lip-synching to pop hits offered an exhilarating revelation of secrets and delights.
5) GOLDEN HORNET YOUNG COMPOSERS CONCERT We grieved just-slain young composer Draylen Mason, but his spirit was present here and, true to him, added to the energy and excitement of his peers debuting their new music.
6) BACH N' BEATS (Austin Symphony Orchestra) ASO proved that classical music can totally kick it in clubs. The back-and-forth between a string quartet's chamber music and the thumping mixes of four DJs thrilled the packed Parish. Repeat, please.
7) "TROUBLED WATER" (Austin Chamber Music Center) At this year's Black Composers Concert, pianist Artina McCain made Margaret Bonds' spin on the spiritual "Wade in the Water" turbulent with sorrow, yearning, anger, and an ache ages old.
8) I, TOO, SING AMERICA (Inversion Ensemble) A history lesson through choral music, speaking to struggles present and past (e.g., witch trials in Adrienne Inglis' forceful Innocent Blood), with the choir's united voices ever a symbol of e pluribus unum.
9) "RESURRECTION" (Dance Repertory Theatre, UT Department of Theatre & Dance) For the first Haruka Weiser Commission, Rennie Harris gave us heaven and earth, the latter in exhilarating hip-hop moves, the former in a field of arms waving like flowers.
10) LEONARD BERNSTEIN'S MASS (Merick Strategies) It took a village of area cultural organizations and artists to realize ASO Music Director Peter Bay's lifelong dream of conducting his idol's massive 1971 theatrical work. The result: a singular event.
THE CITY WEARS A SLOUCH HAT (line upon line percussion)
THE YELLOW WALLPAPER (UT New Music Ensemble)
"FOUR SEASONS OF BUENOS AIRES" (Austin Camerata)
DREAM (Austin Classical Guitar)
EXISTENTIAL SOLSTICE (Revel)