Revealed: Free Fusebox Festival events

Austin can make many claims to singularity. But there really isn’t anything anywhere else like the Fusebox Festival.

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‘Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance’ is one of the marquee shows in the 2017 Fusebox Festival.

Each year, more than 100 events are presented at 19 venues in Central and East Austin. More than 40 artists and companies from six continents participate.

It’s a little bit like FronteraFest, only global.

And it’s all free. This year, the carnival runs April 12-16. Advance reservations are now available online. Tickets will be offered at the door as well.

Before the festival proper, one can attend a fundraising party known as Fusebox Eve on April 11.

There’s lots to relish this year, but at the top of our list is the Austin premiere of a chamber opera, “Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance,” from composer Graham Reynolds, Rude Mechs’ Shawn Sides and Mexico-based artists Lagartijas Tiradas del Sol.

Ballet Afrique takes audiences back to Harlem Renaissance

At the height of the Harlem Renaissance nearly a century ago, the famed Cotton Club featured some of the era’s best blues and jazz performers. The venue, which featured African-American entertainers, had a whites-only clientele.

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Jamie Wright, center, and Precious Jewel Thompson, right, rehearse a burlesque performance at the Ballet Afrique studio on Monday. (Julia Robinson/ FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Singers, dancers and musicians weren’t allowed to mix with the club’s audience. And their families couldn’t watch loved ones take the stage.

But on Saturday, Austin’s Ballet Afrique imagines a different history inside the 1920s New York City hot spot. What if, despite rising racial tensions at the time, the Cotton Club had, for at least one night, opened its doors to an integrated audience? What if Duke Ellington, one of the venue’s signature artists, had threatened to walk out if it didn’t happen?

READ THE STORY: Ballet Afrique takes audiences back to the Harlem Renaissance

“Echoes of Harlem: A Night at the Cotton Club” examines the cultural complexities of the period while taking audiences back in time. To immerse in the swanky club experience of yesteryear, ticket holders will be asked to dress in roaring 1920s attire and no cellphones will be allowed at the show, which will be 8 p.m. Saturday at the Sterling Event Center in Northeast Austin.

We’re bringing the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing to recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages. This snip was taken from Nancy Flores story on Ballet Afrique.

Ballet Austin among Austin’s best

Don’t take the arts in Austin for granted. Because it wasn’t always this way.

During the past few weeks, I’ve rediscovered Austin’s arts. Not that I ignored them during the past 10 years. But with everything else going on in this city, it’s not easy to focus on one thing at a time.

I’m now reminded that Austin is home to first-rate symphony, opera, ballet and choral ensembles, along with equally potent theater, dance and performance troupes, art museums, community arts groups and public art projects.

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Edward Carr (Beast) and Michelle Thompson (Belle) in “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast.” Contributed by Tony Spielberg

Thirty years ago, Austin artists showed enormous creativity. The scene crackled with energy. But it lacked top leadership, revenues and facilities. Those have arrived — or are on the way.

EXAMPLE: A new museum in Austin: It’s called the Blanton.

A search of GuideStar.org reveals that, since the last time I checked 10 years ago, Austin arts groups have doubled, tripled or in some cases quadrupled their revenues.

No longer the skinny teen that needed reassurance and safeguarding. Rather the arts have reached a sort of gorgeous maturity that will always need steady reporting, storytelling and celebrating from all sorts of writers.

I was reminded of this at a matinee performance of Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast,” packed as it was with every stripe of Austinite.

RELATED: Ballet Austin explores love, death and sex.

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Demetria and Reid Wilson at Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux.” A dancer, she convinced him to attend. He was grateful she did.

I do not hesitate to call Stephen Mills‘ and Graham Reynolds‘ ballet a masterpiece. Every moment was riveting, ravishing. It dealt with the emotional residue of sex in a way that made me shiver and, in the end, weep.

After the show, an Austin artist approached me at the H-E-B.

“Thank you so much for writing about the ballet the other day,” she said. “I haven’t paid enough attention to them and your article made me want to go. I adored the show. I won’t ignore them from now on.”

My own reporting interests still encompass a wide swath of Austin — social, historical, literary, etc. — but I won’t blink when it comes to exalting the arts whenever appropriate.

2Dance2Dream brings dance to all kids

The dancers at 2Dance2Dream stand in a circle in a Balance Dance Studios classroom. The music is thumping.

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Pilar Rivera, 15, takes her turn dancing across the room. “I like McKenna teaching me,” she says. “I love the dance moves we’re doing.” Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

One by one they take turns entering the circle and showing off their dance moves, but then there’s a pause.

A dancer hesitates. Another dancer takes her hand and they move into the circle to dance together.

This is the vision of 2Dance2Dream: that all kids can dance; that all kids will want to dance, given the encouragement, the patience and maybe some assistance.

The organization is the brainchild of Austinite Julie Lyles Carr, 49, and her daughter McKenna Carr, 22. Since 2011, local dance studios have opened up their classrooms for 2Dance2Dream to bring dance instruction to kids with special needs including Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, chromosomal anomalies and undiagnosed differences.

“It has its own magic,” says Julie Lyles Carr, who serves in the women’s ministry at LifeAustin church and has written a parenting advice book, “Raising An Original.” “There’s nothing like seeing someone exceed what people think.

We’re bringing the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing to recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages.

This was a snippet of Nicole Villalpando’s piece for dance for all.

Ballet Austin explores love, death and sex

 

The studio lights gleam brightly, yet an aura of darkness pervades.

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Edward Carr (Beast) and Michelle Thompson (Belle) in “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast.” Contributed by Tony Spielberg

Pairs of dancers in rehearsal togs curl, loop and tangle around each other. They mirror each other’s movements, often in distorted, unsettlingly beautiful ways. Everywhere in the music, in the action, in the faces of the performers, one registers a sense of foreboding.

Stephen Mills is never far from the essential flesh and blood of a ballet.

“Dance, to me, is about life,” says Ballet Austin’s artistic director. “And life is about love and death and sex. These are the things that are interesting in life. How you come into the world; how you live in the world; and how you leave the world.”

All these elements are abundantly on display during a practice for the second iteration of “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast,” to be revived Friday through Sunday at the Long Center.

Although Mills has ushered more than 50 new dances into the world — and many of those have taken on lives of their own in subsequent stagings — he finds “Belle Redux” among the most haunting.

Starting to bring Austin Arts blog up to date with recent and still relevant arts stories.

Here’s a peek at piece on Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux.”

Watch: Austin flamenco dancer Olivia Chacón

Sometimes in dance it really is just all about the feet.

Recently we dropped in on a rehearsal with A’Lante Flamenco, the award-winning Austin troupe headed up by the husband-and-wife team of Isai and Oliva Chacón.

A’Lante has show this weekend at the Long Center. “Snapshots: New World Flamenco” features work by two guest flamenco choreographers, Karen Lugo and Miguel Vargas.

The show features Olivia Chacón in a solo of her own choreography too.

Lightning-fast, precise, complex footwork is the hallmark of flamenco dancing. And Chacón proves her elegant mastery in just this one minute of rehearsal.

Chacón was awarded “Best Dancer” by the Austin Critics’ Table in 2014.

Here’s our feature story on Isai and Olivia Chacón.