'Lion King' choreographer, dance company coming

Garth Fagan, Tony Award-winning choreographer of “The Lion King,” will bring his Rochester-based dance troupe to SUNY Oswego for a performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre.

Garth Fagan dance troupe in actionThe evening will feature works created for the 40th anniversary season of Garth Fagan Dance, including a tribute to Nelson Mandela called “Madiba,” and “Liminal Flux,” a new choreographic contribution from veteran Fagan dancer and rehearsal director Norwood Pennewell.

Highlights from the Fagan repertoire complete the program. “Griot New York,” a collaboration with composer Wynton Marsalis and sculptor Martin Puryear, premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1991. The jazz-infused work, in which dancers share the stage with giant sculptural set pieces, was also filmed for the “Great Performances” series on PBS.

Fagan has continually renewed his distinctive movement vocabulary, which draws from many sources including ballet, modern and Afro-Caribbean dance. That process of renewal has made Garth Fagan Dance one of the most durable American companies, along with those of Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor.

Beyond lions

“The Lion King,” which opened to critical praise on Broadway in 1997, added to the choreographer’s worldwide reputation. SUNY Oswego dance instructor Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell said the groundbreaking musical provides an excellent first exposure to his style—characterized by beautiful extensions and balances that are much more difficult for dancers than they appear.

Bill Ferguson conducting dance workshop at Oswego“That show is brilliant,” Wilkins-Mitchell said. “It’s a completely cohesive performance package in which the choreography coalesces perfectly with all of the other elements—music, story, costuming and set design.”

But Fagan’s concern for the health of dancers led him to simplify his choreographic approach for Broadway performers, who often appear on stage seven times in a single week. His more challenging work and ambitious themes are seen in the concert pieces he will bring to Oswego.

While in residence for the Artswego Performing Arts Series, company members also will present a school performance for Oswego’s high school and middle school students. A master class at the college and educational programs in Hannibal and Mexico are among other scheduled activities. Complete details of residency events open to the public are available at www.oswego.edu/arts.

Tickets for the main public performance on Friday evening are $12 ($7 for SUNY Oswego students; $10 for other students, seniors 60 and older and SUNY Oswego faculty and staff). Tickets are available at all SUNY Oswego box office locations, online at http://tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141.

Parking is free in campus lots for those attending this performance.

The Garth Fagan Dance residency is made possible by a grant from NYS DanceForce, an initiative to link dance and communities across New York. School activities are also supported by the Tarandi Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

PHOTO CAPTIONS: Fluid movements—The Garth Fagan Dance company will bring the Tony Award-winning Rochester choreographer’s characteristic extensions and balances to SUNY Oswego’s Waterman Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10. From left are Vitolio Jeune, Norwood Pennewell and Lindsay Renea Mudan. (Greg Barrett photo)

Choreography showcase—Bill Ferguson, a member of the world-famous Garth Fance Dance troupe, recently conducted a workshop for SUNY Oswego students and community members in the Lee Hall dance studio. (James Russell photo)

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(Posted: Jan 26, 2012)

Tags: dance, artswego