Risky Shows More Interesting

Sunday, September 9, 2007

BY DAVID LYMAN | ENQUIRER CONTRIBUTOR

Writing about a new dance season is always problematic. It’s a sure thing that the season’s most popular events will be things like “The Nutcracker” and “Romeo & Juliet” – pieces that audiences are least afraid of. They’re fine works, mind you. But they’re rarely the performances that are most interesting, whether the audience is made up of dance aficionados or less-experienced dance viewers. Inevitably, the shows that are the most intriguing are ones that employ contemporary music, have contemporary movement and are, well, more contemporary. Unfortunately, that work is much tougher to sell than the familiar works.

As audience members, most of us tend to be timid. It’s natural, I suppose, when you and your hard-earned dollars are parting ways. That’s why we order the same thing over and over at a restaurant instead of trying the entrée that sounds fascinating but is pricey or is made from unfamiliar ingredients.

It’s the same when we go to the theater. Whether or not you’ve ever actually seen “Swan Lake,” it’s a title you’ve known since you were a kid. It’s familiar. Same with buying a ticket to a dance performance. You’re far more likely to drop a few bucks for “Swan Lake” than you are for, say, a performance by the Exhale Dance Tribe. (Exhale is, by the way, an excellent jazz dance company on Cincinnati’s West Side.) Going to see unknown dance is a crap shoot. It may not be what you expected. But sometimes that new dance will go where you never imagined dance could go. And that is a treat so indescribably rich that – in my opinion – it makes the gamble well worth it.

So while you should experience the tried-and-true, here are a few dance gambles that, on paper at least, look like they might just be extraordinary. Sept. 20-30: Cincinnati Ballet New Works Festival – The city’s best dancers in an evening of all-new choreography. Very cool. Cincinnati Ballet’s Mickey Kaplan Performance Studio, Over-the-Rhine. March 28-29: Exhale Dance Tribe – The company is sassy, stylish and exerts more energy in a single piece than the Reds do in an entire game. Aronoff’s Jarson-Kaplan Theatre.