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'Rhapsodia' is creative Foehringer concept

MFDP: San Francisco
August 3, 2000

by Keith Kreitman
copyright ©2000

The Mark Foehringer Dance Project presented "After a Dream," a collection of some of his choreographed works at the Theater Artaud in San Francisco over the weekend.

Foehringer, a Minnesotan raised in Brazil by his missionary family and trained n a wide range of South American, African and European dancing traditions, wowed the critics when he first danced in San Francisco some 10 years ago.

But his choreography will probably be his most lasting legacy. It is uplifting and thrilling in a uniquely American fashion.

He seems to eschew the European prima ballerina and lead male dancer tradition, gathering for most of his works a group of equally talented young dancers whose infectious enthuiasm envelops the audience and leads to foot-stomping accolades.

This was especially apparent in the Fugue from the "Concerto Grosso" by Ernesto Bloch, where the entire ensemble performed such rapid and complex interweaving motion that people in the audience held their breath, wondering whether collisions would be inevitable.

From Lines Contemporary Ballet of San Francisco, he has drawn Maurya Kerr and Christian Burns. Juliann Rhodes joined him from the Kunst-Stoff of San Francisco and Carlo Sierras from the Oakland Ballet.

Graciela Acedo, Tatiana A'Virmond, Lori Seymour, Katherine Wells, Annette Williams, Michael Howerton and Matt Kovac rounded out the project.

There is no question that as artistic director of the Western Ballet, which recently presented his "Romeo and Juliet" at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, he established his credentials as a creative choreographer in the classical tradition. But his contemporary works set him apart.

What is most remarkable about his collection is his range. The first half of the program was drawn from the classical tradition, inspired by the music of Michael Nyman, Gabriel Faure, Hector Villa Lobos and Ernesto Bloch. After the intermission, he moved to more contemporary styles, dances set to Rachnmaninoff and a series of popular songs.

What inspires him?
"I hear a certain piece of music and I am unable to resist it," says Foehringer. "I am driven to choreograph a ballet piece to go with it."

In any case, it is doubtful that he isses a single leap, turn or other step, awkward or graceful, from the balletic movement pallet in doing so.

But the real treats of the eveing were two of Foehringer's most recent works. "Rhapsodia," danced to Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," is a brilliant and creative concept: a whimsically danced who-dunit. It is an Agatha Christie-type of murder mystery performed in tuxedos and evening gowns, and at times employing the set furniture for props.

The other standout piece, "Jammies," performed in pajamas, is a sometimes sexy, sometimes side-splitting, series of vignettes danced to popular songs. Three of the tunes --"I'm in the Mood for Love," with Katherine Wells and Matt Kovac, "Pillows" and the "Toothbrush Tango," with the entire cast --are show-stoppers.

August 3, 2000
copyright ©2000 San Mateo County Times
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