Nov 6, 2010
Dancers challenge quartet with ‘Danzón’
By HOWARD DUKES
Tribune Staff Writer
The Luna Negra Dance Theater tries to bring an avant-garde feel to art forms that have been viewed as being somewhat old school.
The Luna Negra Dance Theater performs Wednesday and Thursday at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts.
Luna Negra Dance Theater, Turtle Island Quartet and Paquito D’Rivera perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $35-$8. For more information, call 574-631-2800 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 574-631-2800 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit the website performingarts.nd.edu.
Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, the group’s artistic director, says Luna Negra builds on the folkloric styles of Latin dance, but the group is not beholden to the traditional styles of choreography.
Sansano says that Luna Negra works with young choreographers who create works that fuse Latin dance with more contemporary musical styles, a combination it will put on display Wednesday and Thursday at the University of Notre Dame when it performs a new work commissioned by the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts in a collaboration with the Turtle Island Quartet and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera.
Violinist David Balakrishnan, founder of Turtle Island, says that his ensemble is the perfect complement to Luna Negra.
“We are a modern take on the string quartet,” he says. “A string quartet usually plays classical music from the 18th century.”
Balakrishnan says Turtle Island features a group of classically trained artists who are versed in such modern jazz styles as bebop and who have an appreciation for the influence that Latin music has had on jazz.
“If you are going to play jazz, you have to know about the Afro-Latin influences,” he says.
Turtle Island and Rivera’s 2002 recording, “Danzón,” serves as the basis for this week’s commissioned work, which Luna Negra founder Eduardo Vilaro choreographed in 2009 for the company.
Luna Negra, Turtle Island and D’Rivera currently are on tour with “Danzón.” Vilaro will be present and will participate in post-performance talks at DeBartolo.
The program also includes the samba-influenced “Bate” from 2005 and Ramirez Sansano’s “Flabbergast” from 2002.
Regarding “Danzón,” a reinvention of the traditional Cuban dance form that evolved from a Haitian folk dance called contradance, Balakrishnan admits that playing music for a Luna Negra performance will take Turtle Island out of its comfort zone.
“It’s a challenge for us,” he says, “because there is a lot of improvisation in our music.”
But, Balakrishnan says, the dancers might be inspired by having to improvise with the music.
Balakrishnan says that he is not a dancer, and does not completely understand how the dancers adjust to Turtle Island’s music.
But they do, he says, “and I love it.”