3rdAve. Dance goes 'Crazy'
Local troupe brings 'world of dance' to Durango

Members of the 3rd Ave. Dance Company line up prior to performing “Cell Block Tango,” from the hit musical and movie, “Chicago.” The piece is one of eight the company will be presenting for the next two weekends during “Crazy,” the 2004 edition of the group’s annual show./Photo by Todd Newcomer

When the members of the 3rd Ave. Dance Company sat down to come up with a name for their upcoming show, one theme kept recurring.

“We were trying to title the show, and what kept coming up was the word ‘crazy,’” said Lisa Bodwalk, one of the dance company’s co-founders/artistic directors. “With what’s going on in the world, with the election, the war, natural disasters and in our personal lives, we all really felt like ‘Crazy’ was the best name.”

However, Bodwalk, who shares creative responsibilities with co-founder/art director Suzy DiSanto, said the show was not so much a reflection of the times as a reply to them.

Lisa Bodwalk in her solo performance, “Blackbird.”/ Photo by Todd Newcomer


“The show feels like a response to what we’re all going through in the world,” she said. “All this crazy art really has a place in the world. It works to help people express themselves and to inspire people. Art is the response to the chaos of life.”

Bodwalk said the 10 dancers that make up the company began working on the show last June. The show’s eight pieces range from slow, passionate tangos and swing to modern jazz and hit Broadway musicals. Four of the pieces were choreographed out-of-house, including one, “River,” which was composed and set to dance by KT Nelson, of the prestigious ODC dance company of San Francisco. Bodwalk said choreographing these pieces required an extra dedication on the part of the dancers as well as the choreographer.

“We would work four or five days with the choreographer,” she said. “We’d go from knowing nothing to having a full piece in those few days. We’d have to work very quickly.”

The results of all this hard effort, as well as the time that went into choreographing the other pieces, will be evident to Durango audiences starting this Friday, as “Crazy” begins a two-weekend stint at the Smiley Theater.

The show kicks off with the dramatic and striking “Rondine,” which features six of the dancers in red velvet set against a backdrop of dark pink. Set to music by Monteverdi, the modern piece was choreographed by Wade Madsen, of Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts. “Rondine” is the Italian word for “swallow,” and Bodwalk said the piece is meant to mimic the circling, flowing movement of the birds.

“The piece keeps moving, and circling like the swallows do,” she said.

In keeping with the Latin mood, the following piece is “10,000 Kisses,” a steamy tango performed by DiSanto and Fred Hauser. The piece was choreographed by Hauser and is at times sweet and slow while at others, fast and furious.

“Fred just loves tango and really wanted to create a different style of tango in terms of previous years,” Bodwalk said. “This one has a lot of contrast.”

Like most tangoes, Bodwalk said this one is meant to represent the male-female relationship. “It’s 2 a.m. and these two lovers find themselves on a street corner under a street light,” said Bodwalk. “The piece is sort of a glimpse into their night and the entanglements of human relationships.”

The show’s third piece takes a departure from affairs of the heart with the uplifting and lively “Rosie the Riveter.” The boogie-woogie swing piece, which features nine of the company’s dancers, including three men, was choreographed by Bodwalk and is set in World War II era America.

“It’s about the craziness of women having to work at home while the men were off at war and then having the men return home,” said DiSanto.

Bodwalk said the piece was originally done for the company’s first show, in 2000, but has been reworked and reset, complete with blue work shirts and red bandannas.
“It’s a liberating piece,” she said. “It’s meant to be a fun dance number.”

The lively feel of “Rosie” is contrasted by the following piece, an elegant solo by Bodwalk titled “Blackbird.” A jazzy, female version of the Beatle’s classic, “Blackbird” was set to dance by Madsen and showcases Bodwalk’s power as a modern dancer. Wearing dark trousers and an emerald satin top, Bodwalk captivates as she takes viewers on her flight, only to gracefully “fly away” at the end as the stage fades to black.

The last piece before the intermission is the dangerously catchy, “Cell Block Tango,” from the Broadway hit musical and film, “Chicago.” The campy piece features five of the company’s female dancers in hitherto jail wear, as well as Hauser as the unlucky male who “had it coming.” Staged by4 DiSanto, it was originally done for last year’s “Snowdown Follies,” where it was a huge crowd-pleaser.

“Musical theater is always fun and very satisfying to do,” said Bodwalk. “It’s very accessible for the audience to relate to and they can get into it easily. It’s fun, straight-up dance.”

The company returns from intermission with the show’s most artistically ambitious piece, “River.” The 12-minute piece features four dancers: Hauser and Eagle Young, playing the role of fishermen, and Erika Wilson Golightly and Talia Bamerick, playing the part of two fish that become intertwined with the men. The piece was choreographed by Nelson, of ODC-SF, who also wrote and mixed the score, an avant garde mix of tribal-like beats, the whispering voice of a woman, and chorale singing. Using the river as metaphor, Bodwalk said the piece is a study of life and the human state.

“It’s definitely a strong story of life and death,” said Bodwalk. “It’s about the intensity required to be in a relationship with other people.”

Bodwalk said doing the piece, which has been part of the ODC’s repertoire since 1993, is a great honor.

“It’s an exciting piece for us,” she said. “We’re the first company to be the recipient of their repertory pieces. To have this piece really feels good for us.”

For the final two pieces of the show, the company shifts gears, first with “Crazy,” a nod to the show’s title as well as the godmother of country music, Patsy Cline, and “Luscious Chutney,” a lively and intense jazz number.

Choreographed by DiSanto, “Crazy” features a suite of Cline’s songs, performed by eight of the company’s dancers. Unlike the other pieces, “Crazy” incorporates costume changes as well as props, in this case suitcases.

“The suitcases are meant to represent the things we all carry around with us,” said Bodwalk.

Like many of the other pieces, “Crazy” is about relationships, but not just the male-female variety. “It’s not only about women and men, but women and women and the relationships that we have with ourselves,” she said.

The troupe ends the night with a memorable, energetic number, “Luscious Chutney,” which was choreographed by Nancy Cranbourne, of the University of Colorado, Boulder. All seven female members of the company unite for this eclectic piece, which makes unlikely but entirely complimentary partners of American jazz and Middle Eastern music.

“It’s a really fun, fierce jazz piece with a sort of Asian flair,” said Bodwalk.

And it’s just the type of piece that she hopes to continue producing in the future, for the sake of the company as well as its audiences.

“There’s a whole world of dance out there,” she said. “And by bringing part of that in here, we continue to grow. By having these relationships with dancers outside the area, we keep it fresh.”







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