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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The 2015 Governor's Art Awards, and a Missing Grace Potter

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 10:44 AM

Sparky and Peggy Potter with Gov. Peter Shumlin - COURTESY OF VAC/PETER ARTHUR WEYRAUCH
  • Courtesy of VAC/Peter Arthur Weyrauch
  • Sparky and Peggy Potter with Gov. Peter Shumlin
On Monday evening the Vermont Arts Council (VAC), now in its 50th year, hosted the Governor's Arts Awards at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. The council bestowed honor and gratitude upon 10 Vermont artists for their ongoing commitment to creativity in our small corner of the country. Graciousness and ferocity were in ample supply at the event, reflecting the tight-knit community responsible for the state's creative legacy.

Waitsfield singer-songwriter Grace Potter was the event's headliner, so to speak, as the 2015 recipient of the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts — the state's highest honor in the creative sector. She was the youngest of the year's award recipients by far. Potter, however, was unable to attend the ceremony, due to a last-minute invitation from First Lady Michelle Obama. The singer was on her way to visit American troops with FLOTUS, along with TV late-night host Conan O'Brien. 

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Vermont's Ernest 'E-Knock' Phillips Competes on 'The Amazing Race'

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 11:29 AM

Vermont dancer Ernest "E-Knock" Phillips is no stranger to reality television. He's shown off his sizzling moves on "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Best Dance Crew." But this summer, Phillips went after something even bigger: the $1 million grand prize on CBS' globe-trotting competition "The Amazing Race." He and his brother, Jin Lao, were one of 11 teams competing on the hit show's 27th season, which hits the air waves on Friday, September 25.

How far around the world did E-Knock get? You'll have to watch to find out. Meanwhile, watch the CBS video embedded here, in which he and Lao introduce themselves and explain why they're after the prize. Phillips describes himself as working "four jobs" and sleeping in his car. He also says he doesn't like flying with his brother — which could cause some ratings-bait friction as they race from one pit stop to the next. For his part, Lao describes Phillips as the "Eddie Murphy" of the duo, because he's seldom at a loss for words.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

With Cofounder Departing, Spielpalast Cabaret Faces the Future

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 9:06 AM

Phinneus Sonin and Lois Trombley - COURTESY OF HEATHER HAYES
  • Courtesy of Heather Hayes
  • Phinneus Sonin and Lois Trombley
Now in its 14th year, Burlington's Spielpalast Cabaret has plenty of sassy, sexy history under its collective garter belt. Inspired by 1930s cabaret performances in Europe, the annual production presents a bevy of dancing, singing beauties and an always-awesome band. True to the Weimar era, Spielpalast mixes in skits that address topical issues — particularly that evergreen one, abuse of power.

It's gratifying to say that this saucy entertainment has become a Vermont institution that in no way, shape or form has anything to do with cows. This year's production — entering its last week at Main Street Landing's Black Box Theatre — offers what one has come to expect from Spielpalast: a freewheeling variety show featuring both borrowed and original music (primarily by musical director Zoe Christiansen) and a spirited band; just enough corny jokes; women whose attitude is at once flirty and don't-fuck-with-me; mesmerizing ensemble dance numbers; and a slightly fatalistic undertone that suggests we're all going to hell in a hand basket so we might as well have fun.

This while everyone's clad in lingerie or costumes that show a sea of tattooed young flesh to excellent advantage. (So ample is the body ink that its various artists ought to have considered handing out business cards during intermission.)

The 2015 production of Spielpalast Cabaret has another undertone: Cofounder Phinneus Sonin has announced it will be his last. "At least as the MC," he says of his juggling, impish impresario character, Maxi.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dancer Ernest 'E-Knock' Phillips Cuts Footloose in New Video

Posted By on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 1:03 PM

First he danced his heart out in a jail cell to a Bruce Springsteen remix. Now, Vermont dancer Ernest “E-Knock” Phillips is busting moves in an arcade. And Burlington filmmaker Michael Fisher has been there to capture it all.

As Seven Days’ Eva Sollberger documented in a May 2014 installment of “Stuck in Vermont” (below), the dancer and the filmmaker have struck up a fruitful artistic collaboration. Phillips has performed on the shows “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Got Talent”; Fisher, a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, has made a name for himself with his stylish, evocative short films.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Steel Cut Theatre and Dance Deliberation Put on The Show

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 10:36 PM

Four performers put on The Show. - COURTESY OF JAMES MOORE
  • Courtesy of James Moore
  • Four performers put on The Show.

There's a modern dance show coming to Burlington performing arts venue Off Center for the Dramatic Arts this Friday and Saturday. And not just any show. The Show.

Choreographed and performed by James Moore and Frankie Binder, the couple behind Steel Cut Theatre, in collaboration with Kelsey Wilson and Annie Brady of the newly christened local dance duo Dance Deliberation, The Show is a 70-minute movement arts production with 14 original choreographed dances and maybe a hidden "bonus track." Two of those dances are presented through video.

The four performers first collaborated during an Eat My Art Out event last year. Buoyed by positive audience feedback, they've been preparing The Show's eclectic, zany and occasionally serious movement pieces for months.

"We are interested in using movement to push through the mundane to find something real and true, sometimes serious, sometimes silly," writes Moore in the event's press release. "We find inspiration in music and have been exploring ways to support or actively fight against certain songs."

Beyond that, leave any preconceived expectations by the wayside. "There are dances that are more serious, and there are dances that invite you to laugh," Moore says. "We want to keep everyone entertained, and if you don’t like something, don’t worry, it won’t be there very long!" 

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

'NC Dances VT' Takes to Three Stages This Week

Posted By on Thu, Sep 18, 2014 at 12:40 PM

"Tract" choreographed by Paul Besaw - COURTESY OF JEFF HERWOOD
  • Courtesy of Jeff Herwood
  • "Tract" choreographed by Paul Besaw
It's a small-world coincidence that the heads of two Vermont college dance programs got their starts in the same place: Christal Brown of Middlebury College and Paul Besaw of the University of Vermont both began their contemporary dance careers at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Though they studied at different times, they shared a teacher: acclaimed modern dancer and choreographer Jan Van Dyke.

This week, the three will unite on three stages in the Green Mountain State for "NC Dances VT." The evening-length performance features works choreographed by Besaw, Brown and Van Dyke. 

The show comes to Middlebury College tonight, September 18; to the University of Vermont on Friday, September 19; and to the Contemporary Dance and Fitness Studio in Montpelier on Saturday, September 20.

The UVM performance is sponsored by the Lane Series, marking the first time the Lane and the Department of Music and Dance have collaborated on a show. It's also the first time in more than 20 years that the Lane has presented dance. Director Natalie Neuert says more such partnerships are to come.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Common Ground Center Comes Full Circle With a Tribute to Rachel Bissex

Posted By on Tue, May 6, 2014 at 2:25 PM

  • Common Ground Center
  • Rachel Bissex

When singer-songwriter Rachel Bissex, a beloved fixture of the Burlington-area folk and jazz scenes, died of breast cancer in 2005, she was mourned by her family and many friends and fans. And her death was strongly felt at Camp Common Ground, the “intergenerational family camp” that she helped to found in 1994. Bissex was not only one of the camp’s organizers but a warm and friendly presence whose musical performances were enjoyed by attendees.

“Unlike many other singer-songwriters, who tend to be a little shy, [Rachel] was really outgoing,” says Jim Mendell, co-director of what is now called the Common Ground Center, and another of its cofounders. “She’d be singing on a porch and all of a sudden have 10 or 15 people singing on the porch with her. She was a really generous person who made everybody’s lives happier and more musical.”

This weekend, the Common Ground Center will host “Coming Full Circle,” a “mini music festival” that will celebrate Bissex’s life and mark the camp’s 20th year. 

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vermont Legislature to Proclaim 2015 Year of the Arts

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 6:30 PM

Bread and Puppet Theater
  • Bread and Puppet Theater

Stop the presses! The Vermont Legislature is going to declare 2015 Year of the Arts tomorrow morning — Thursday, May 1, at 9:30 a.m. — and the Vermont Arts Council will be given an unlimited budget!

Imagine the funds that the agency will be able to shower on the state's artists — which, as near as we can tell, is about every third person. So totally awesome, and not a moment too soon, because, perhaps you've heard, artists are starving.

OK, I made up that part about unlimited budget. For a moment I got the VAC confused with the Pentagon. And most of Vermont's artists are probably not starving. (Such as Bread and Puppet, above, chosen as a totally random example of Vermont artiness.)

Asked about any possible financial windfall that might result from the legislature's proclamation, the ever-good-natured Alex Aldrich, ED of the arts council, said simply, "Wouldn't that be nice?" Well, he also said he dreams about waking up one morning and finding the Golden Dome over the Vermont Arts Council. I don't know what he meant by that. Maybe he would melt it down for cash?  Well, a guy can dream.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Middlebury Hosts Weekend Events to Celebrate 'The Place of Dance'

Posted By on Tue, Apr 1, 2014 at 9:01 AM

  • Courtesy of Alan Kimara Dixon
  • Andrea Olsen

If you ask Andrea Olsen, dance has a role far beyond the stage or the studio.

"Since I teach in both environment and dance at Middlebury, I’m very interested in the way that place affects your movement and also how dance fits into the larger cultural matrix of the age," says the longtime dancer and Middlebury College professor. "My own personal feeling is that dance is essential to understanding human beings at this time on the planet, rather than being something extra or nonessential."

Olsen recently published a third book, The Place of Dance: A Somatic Guide to Dancing and Dance Making (Wesleyan University Press), coauthored by movement artist Caryn McHose. This weekend, the college hosts several events to mark the occasion.

A free dance performance featuring work by 11 artists interviewed or otherwise featured in the book is on Sunday, April 6, at 2 p.m.; Olsen and McHose teach a "Finding Your Feet" workshop on Saturday, April 5, 2-4 p.m.; and a corresponding photography exhibit goes on display at Middlebury's Davis Library.

"My fear is that because there's 'dance' in the title, people who don't feel they are dancers would feel it's not for them," Olsen admits.

That would be to miss the point entirely.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

UVM's Orchesis Dance Company Hosts Spring Showcase

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Orchesis Dance Company - COURTESY OF KELSEY DEWITT
  • Courtesy of Kelsey Dewitt
  • Orchesis Dance Company

Some Vermonters spend cold winter nights — or cold spring nights — indoors watching movies, reading books or listening to music. Others prefer braving bone-chilling temperatures and getting outdoors to embrace the season before the arrival of April weather. At the University of Vermont, a group of 15 women has found movement the best way to get warm — indoors. They spend countless hours every week rehearsing their chosen form of expression: dance. They are Orchesis.

The student-run Orchesis Dance Company began at UVM in the 1960s. This Saturday, March 29, its current members will showcase their best moves, according to an announcement from Orchesis president Alyssa Jones.

 The dancers rely on each other for inspiration. After spending their mornings and afternoons in class, they come together to share their ideas for new dances. There are no coaches or teachers guiding the way. Instead, these women express through movement whatever lives inside them. Any member of the club can choreograph a dance to any song and in any style she chooses. Watch a sample rehearsal here.

The result of this autonomy and individuality promises, says Jones, “a dynamic and varied showcase” for the audience to enjoy. She adds, “No two shows are ever alike.” Fourteen original pieces will be performed on Saturday.

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