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St. Louis Festival Presents Ballet, Belly Dancing, Clogging and More

The Clayton event featured 30 dance companies, schools and groups offering St. Louisans a look at rich local dance culture.

The St. Louis 2011 Dance Festival Showcase happened over three evenings this weekend and featured performances by 30 professional dance companies and schools from the St. Louis area. The event at in Clayton is in its 12th year and is presented by Dances of India, the first classical Indian dance company to be established in Missouri.

The showcase aims to present St. Louis audiences with the vast array of dance available to them in an effort to increase both interest in the companies involved and attendance at their performances. During Saturday's performance, eleven companies, schools or clubs presented classical and modern ballet, modern dance, Indian folk dance, flamenco, belly dancing and even clogging.

While the variety of skills and levels of performance varied, each discipline had something to offer. Viva Flamenco provided outstanding castanet work, and Dances of India showed grace. Belly dancing by Aalim Dance Company is always provocative, and the award for the most fun goes easily to the Missouri River Cloggers, whose spirited clogging to a combo of boogie woogie, bluegrass and country music had the audience clapping in time to the music.

Alexandra Ballet presented Frescoes. The group demonstrated some good form but had a few timing issues. aTrek Dance Collective performed modern dance, telling a story of incarceration that seemed to draw from the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany. The performance was big on story but short on actual dance. Still, an entire program by the company might show more depth.

Collective Motion, a modern dance company, presented some truly great choreography. But during the moments when the dancers were supposed to be together, they weren't. The dancers seemed unconnected, particularly at the beginning. It's a small problem that can be overcome. This piece is worth keeping.

A special mention must go to Joshua Hasam from Washington University's dance program, whose dynamic and impressive solo demonstrated why the school's department of dance is nationally recognized. His performance was of a caliber that one might expect from the top ballet companies in the nation.

Three companies stood out during the evening. Dimensions Dance Center presented Dirty Violin, a compelling and captivating performance featuring a fusion of jazz, ballet and a hint of pop dance. Dimensions deserves a loyal following for a work of this caliber.

Modern American Dance Company (MADCO) presented an excellent performance that illustrated what modern dance should be. Four couples performed the rites of male and female relationships, the ebb and flow of couples in occasional conflict who ultimately coming together, bound by deep love.

If MADCO showed what modern dance should be, Saint Louis Ballet (SLB) provided proof of the power, grace and charm of ballet. SLB presented choreography by George Balanchine, widely regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet. The group gave a compelling and, at times, stunning performance. Artistic director Gen Horiuchi danced for Balanchine with the New York City Ballet; in fact, Balanchine created a ballet just for Horiuchi. He knows the material well, and he brings out the best in his professional, year-round dance company.

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