Three cheers for choreographer Deborah Reshotko's Speaking of Dance: The local company has bravely squeaked through ten years on the planet -- not a bad track record in a state that trails the nation in arts funding. But successes of this sort don't come without a modicum of stress, and there's a little bit of that breathless feeling drifting in and out, thematically, through the troupe's tenth-anniversary concerts. Speaking of Dance performs three dances in The Human Animal: A Celebration this weekend at the Lakewood Cultural Center.The element of time plays heavily in Reshotko's triple vision: In her own life and career, she hopes to find ways to slow down in the next ten years, with a goal of recapturing the elusive creative rhythm that often falls victim to the day-to-day obstacles of tedious arts administration. "Race Against Time" addresses that dilemma directly. "The piece is a race," Reshotko explains. "We wear racing clothes, and the motion is very physical." Set to an original score by Colorado composer Jon Stubbs, "Race" vividly points out how hard it is to pull out of the fast lane, the very thing that Reshotko, inspired by recent travels in less-hectic Asian climes, intends.
Also on the slate is a revived 1991 solo work, "A Dance to the Bunny Spirit You Released When I Ran You Over With My Car," an old favorite that combines personal feelings about the bunny tragedy with feelings kicked up by that era's Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Reshotko dusted the work off and reset it in the current context. "The bunny even got a new costume," she says, but perhaps more challenging was keeping up with actual events: "I started work on it in mid-February, and the situation in Iraq has changed. I had to continually try to keep it contemporary over a period of six weeks."
Reshotko's take on Camille Saint-Saëns's "Carnival of the Animals" completes the program appropriately (the composer used his musical menagerie to poke fun at human figures of his day) and with good humor, a fitting prelude to her anticipated life change. But don't fret. Reshotko assures us there's more to come from Speaking of Dance: "Our ten-year longevity gives me confidence that no matter what happens, art is still a part of my life."
More yuk for your buck
Old theater troupes never die, and we can all be thankful for that, especially in the case of John Ashton's Avenue Theater. The company drifted into limbo after losing the lease on its building last year, leaving longtime fans of its belly-laugh-inducing comic style in a lurch. Now the group is coming back, to a new location on its old street, East 17th Avenue, though Ashton admits his anticipated June debut is subject to the vagaries of remodeling. Looking ahead to that project, Ashton hopes Avenue habitués will come out of the woodwork for a $30-a-head fundraiser tonight at the LIDA Project Theatre, 2180 Stout Street. ("Basically, I need the dough," he says.) Among the performers featured will be songstress Lannie Garrett, comedian Edith Weiss and a vintage cast of the comedy improv ensemble Chicken Lips (best known for pioneering interactive murder mysteries here), including Ashton and friends-of-the-Avenue Bob Wells, Pam Clifton and Bill Berry. Also on the bill are Beth Flynn, who impersonates the Vegas-era Elvis, and funny folk from Buntport Theater; Ashton also hopes to resurrect some favorite old scripts and invite audience members to come up on stage and read with the actual actors. Murder Most Fowl, anyone?
Then, with luck, Ashton, who's still leafing through scripts in search of the right work to open with, will be able to plug on. In these dour times, it won't be a moment too soon. The Avenue is dead! Long live the Avenue! Call 303-321-5925 for details. -- Susan Froyd
Dialing for Drama
Play With Your Radio is not your average radio drama. But then again, CU-Boulder's oddball broadcaster Radio 1190 is not your average station. So it's no surprise that the show, brainchild of young producer/director/writer Ben Popken, has become a Thursday-night staple on 1190 AM, airing weekly at 6:30 with original scripts and a talented voice cast. Hear, hear.Tonight, Popken and crew turn it up a notch: Fans of the show will have a chance to actually see what these guys look like, when Play With Your Radio teams with the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art for a totally live evening of radio, featuring on-air cast members in the flesh, with added excitement (and some sound effects) provided by local bands Painted Saints and Maraca 5-0. "It'll be ultra-live," Popken says of the show, which will not only air simultaneously on 1190, but will be Webcast around the world.
BMoCA, at 1750 13th Street in Boulder, will host performances of Lolly Trollops in the Grass-Grass, a politicized suburban sendup, and Golem, a modernized version of the classic Jewish tale; the evening promises to make a good argument for the future of live radio drama, an art Popken admits is generally thought to be on the wane. Or is it? Tickets are $7; call 303-443-2122. -- Susan Froyd
The Colorado Conservatory reheats jazz
Many high-schoolers probably wouldn't know Duke Ellington from the Duke of Windsor. But thanks to the Colorado Conservatory for Jazz Arts, an ambitious non-profit jazz-education organization now in its third year, there are plenty who do. And at 6:30 tonight at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, more than thirty young players will celebrate Ellington's works by performing them in a CCJA benefit concert alongside some of the finest jazz instrumentalists Colorado has to offer. This last group includes bassists Mark Simon and Ken Walker, pianist Jeff Jenkins, trumpeter Hugh Ragin and drummer Paul Romaine."Our program creates wonderful opportunities for kids," says Chris Romaine, CCJA's executive director (and drummer Romaine's significant other). "It lets them meet professional musicians and learn from another perspective than they might get from teachers at school. It's basically like having a mentor. "
At this jam, the latest batch of recruits will show why. After an introductory blast from the conservatory's faculty, six student-dominated combos are slated to survey originals and assorted standards, followed by a big-band finale dedicated to the Duke. And not the one from England.
Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. For details, call 303-688-4754. -- Michael Roberts