STAGE 7 DANCE THEATER ON COMEBACK TRAIL IN S.D.
Marius Zirra had a dream. He envisioned a grass-roots ballet company with classically trained dancers, an eclectic repertory and a theatrical orientation.
After building the ensemble from scratch for more than a year, Zirra’s dream was realized in 1981, when the Stage 7 Dance Theatre took its first bows. Buoyed by kudos from the critics and a warm reception from local audiences, the Stage 7 Dance Theatre presented seasonal concerts for about three years, despite a lack of financial support from the community.
Even after Zirra, discouraged by fund-raising efforts that fell far short of the mark, departed for greener pastures, Wayne Davis, who took over as artistic director, persevered with the troupe for a brief period before allowing the performing group to slip quietly into oblivion.
Now, after more than three years of inactivity, Stage 7 Dance Theatre is gearing up to try again with a program of ballet and jazz that features a premiere of a dramatic contemporary theater piece and a balletic trio by Davis, two jazz works by Phil Fontilea and a restaging of the ebullient old chestnut, “Tarantella.”
The three-concert series is scheduled for 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday at City College Theatre.
Although Davis is excited about the troupe’s return to the limelight, he has no illusions about the caliber of the company. During a brief lull in rehearsals at the studio, Davis reflected on Stage 7 Dance Theatre’s current status.
“We’re a cut above a school recital, because we’re selective about the dancers,” he said, “and we’ve been working very hard on this (concert).
“Probably four or five of the dancers are professional quality, but we’re really a middle ground between a school and a performing company. We’re very serious about continuing, however. In fact, we’ve already scheduled another concert for May 1 and 2, but I don’t want to say this is the beginning of a professional company.”
What Davis believes will set the revived company apart from the typical dance school recital is the fact that the choreography is all carefully tailored to accentuate the positive and eliminate--or at least obscure--the negative.
“I challenge them in my choreography, but I won’t make it ridiculous,” he said. “I’ll change something rather than have the dancers struggling till the day they’re on stage. We’re on a little shaky ground with ‘Tarantella,’ but ‘Trio’ (a classical pas de trois set to the burnished tones of a Brahms’ work) is quite lovely, and the dancers are extraordinary in ‘Crystals on Her Mind.’ ”
That 47-minute ensemble piece for 24 dancers is a new theater piece that evolved from an old idea. It is scheduled for the finale and Davis expects it to be the highlight of the show.
The thematic structure of “Crystals on Her Mind” revolves around alienation, independence and the vagaries of fate. Stage 7 veterans Kim Clark-Chidley and Kary Stergion dance the parts of the parent figures (or Watchers, as Davis describes them)--the leading roles in this complex dance drama.
Although Davis has had to mount this production with “a zero budget,” the concert will be fully costumed and theatrically lit.
“The costumes are not as lavish as I would have liked,” he said, “but you always work with constraints. If we didn’t have a single costume, if we had to do it in practice clothes, it would still work. The nut, the kernel, is the dancing.”
Davis is convinced there is a future for the Stage 7 Dance Theatre in its hometown, and he’ll be happy with even a modest piece of the performing arts pie.
“I’m interested in presenting programs that the populace can enjoy,” he said. “I’m not interested in some grandiose idea of what ballet is supposed to be. I’m not going to do any ‘Giselles’ or ‘Copellias’ or ‘Nutcrackers.’ We’d love it if we could build audiences, but I just want to touch people in some way.”
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