Percussive dance featured at Dance Festival

As the highlight of the Bates Dance Festival 1997 season, an international ensemble of dancers will perform HOT FEET: An Evening of Percussive Dance from Around the World at 8 p.m. Aug. 8, at the Lewiston Middle School, located on Central Avenue.

A lively evening of rhythm artistry, HOT FEET will feature jazz tapper Herbin van Cayseele, currently astounding audiences in Riverdance; Maine tapper Drika Overton; acclaimed French step dancer Benoit Bourque of Montreal; STOMP star and Irish step dancer, Sean Curran; and Madrid-based flamenco master, Clara Ramona. Festival musicians will provide live music for this concert.

The combination of talent, diversity of style and cultural tradition and sheer energy that these five dancers bring to the stage offers an unprecedented evening of percussive dance. Tickets for the performances are $14 and $8 (for full-time students and seniors) and can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 207-786-6161.

Suzanne Carbonneau, historian and dance critic for The Washington Post, will discuss The Resurgence of Percussive Dance, in a lecture at 8 p.m Aug. 4, in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St. The public is invited to attend free of charge.

Carbonneau will explore the history of percussive dance, from its African roots to contemporary dance forms, and its current widespread popularity, as evidenced by such dance/musical theater productions as STOMP, Riverdance, Tap Dogs and Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk.

Jazz tap and hip-hop are truly American forms, developed on the streets and brought to creative heights by African-American performers, such as sensation Rennie Harris, whose company PureMovement is also performing in the Bates Dance Festival concert series this summer.

A dancer who comes out of a tap tradition, Herbin van Cayseele is cognizant of the hip-hop vocabulary and energy. The HOT FEET concert will continue to raise the public’s consciousness of jazz tap’s place in African and American history, and link this dance form to the driving, percussive rhythms of traditional French and Irish step dancing, further enlivened by the flamenco artistry of Clara Ramona.

In an effort to develop new audiences for contemporary dance, the festival will provide HOT FEET ticket subsidies for youth and community members participating in the Youth Arts Program and the Community Dance Project, and to various social service agencies for at-risk teens. The ticket subsidy is underwritten in part by the Maine Arts Commission. HOT FEET is sponsored by L.L. Bean, Inc.

Herbin van Cayseele presents a contemporary, improvisation style of tap blending hip-hop, funk and the traditional jazz idioms of bebop and swing. Currently, he is a featured dancer with the rhythmic sensation Riverdance. He was one of the featured performers in Dance Umbrella’s Fascinating Rhythms: A Celebration of Jazz Tap, a 14-city tour in 1993. Born in Guyana, he studied ethnic and Latin dance before moving to Europe at age eight, where he studied tap dance and Afro-Brazilian dance at the American Center in Paris. In addition, he was a featured dancer, vocalist and percussionist on the European tour of Mr. Thing and Professional Human Being. Van Cayseele is founder and producer of Urban Tap, a new concept in tap dance, which combines the varied rhythms of Africa, Brazil, India and American traditional jazz.

Musician and dancer Benoit Bourque has delighted audiences for 23 years with his choreographed performances of Quebec’s traditional dances. He has toured all over North America, appearing in festivals, schools and music camps, and he is the founder of Le Carrefour Mondial De L’Accordeon, an international accordion festival. From 1990-95, Benoit was the artistic director of Les Eclusiers de Lachine, a folkdance group that has gained international acclaim, and in 1996 he joined the new French folk music ensemble Advielle Que Pourra, touring with them all over Canada and the United States. Bourque is the recipient of grants from the Maine Arts Commission, Catamount Arts for Touring in Vermont, the Portland Performing Arts’ House Island Project and “Ragoout d’pattes de cochon,” in collaboration with choreographer Ann Carlson. He currently tours with Montreal musician and vocalist Gaston Bernard.

Sean Curran has made his mark on the international dance world as principal dancer with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. He received a New York dance and performance Bessie Award for his work in Secret Pastures and is currently performing in the off-Broadway show STOMP. Curran’s own choreography and performance work has been presented in New York at the Joyce Theatre, Dance Theatre Workshop and DIA. He teaches at colleges and universities around the country. In Europe, Curran has performed at the Scottish Edinburgh Festival and Denmark’s Aarhus Festival.

Clara Ramona is a principal dancer, choreographer and director of Spanish and modern dance in various U.S. and Spanish companies, such as The Dance Collective, Mandala Folk Ensemble, Ramon de los Reyes Spanish Dance Theatre and Boston Ballet. In 1994 she created her own company, the Ballet Espa–ol de Clara Ramona. As a ctor, Clara has collaborated with the Boston Conservatory of Music (where she earned a B.F.A. in music, choreography, teaching and technique), the Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts and the dance program at Boston University. Her numerous choreographic creations have included ballets such as Capricho Espa–ol by Korsakov, Bolero by Ravel, and Sonata in F by Soler.

Maine’s own tap and percussive dancer Drika Overton created the Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival in 1995 to celebrate the rich traditions of the American art of jazz tap and its connection to the music and percussive dances of many cultures. The co-founder of the jazz tap ensemble Stop Time, the Classical Tap Trio and Suite: Feet, she is a recipient of an individual artist fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. Overton has studied extensively with such notable tap legends as Jimmy Slyde, Honi Coles and Eddie Brown, as well as body musician Keith Terry and rhythm dancer Kimi Okada. She currently teaches at the University of New Hampshire and the Leon Collins Studio in Boston.

In addition to its critically acclaimed mainstage performance series of 17 concerts, the festival offers two intensive training programs, one for adults and one for younger dancers. For more information, or to request a brochure, call the Bates Dance Festival at 207-786-6381.

View Comments