Staying en pointe

Posted on 18 Jan 2013 at 8:30am

As the Joffrey returns to Dallas to mark a century of ‘Rite of Spring, ‘TITAS’ director Charles Santos examines the need for dance in North Texas

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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST | Dancer Matthew Adamczyk, pictured, believes the original choreography reproduced by the Joffrey is still enough to shock and awe audiences 100 years after its debut.

GREGORY SULLIVAN ISAACS  | Contributing Writer
gregoryisaacs@theaterjones.com

When we sat down to talk about the visit of the Joffrey Ballet, TITAS director Charles Santos was unsure what TITAS actually stands for.
“I think the second T stands for ‘theatrical,’ and we do so much more that that. We gave some thought to changing the name but decided to leave it TITAS, sort of like IBM. Everyone knows it by that anyway.”

Actually, it stands for Texas International Theatrical Arts Society and Santos, who took over as its leader in 2001, is completely correct in his assessment. While it is still in Texas and international in scope, they present equal portions of both music and dance with very little theater per se. This has changed somewhat since they forged a partnership with the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

“We decided that it was counterproductive to compete with them, so we joined forces. We forged a really good relationship. They needed what [TITAS] had, as well as my experience in dance. They knew that you can’t have a major venue without a dance component,” Santos says.

He is adamant that dance needs to be seen live, so bringing the top companies to Dallas is an imperative. It is, in fact, what led him to bring the Joffrey Ballet back to Dallas (finally) to mark the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s revolutionary ballet The Rite of Spring, presented with Nijnsky’s reconstructed 1913 choreography, and even reproductions of the original costumes.

Dancer Matthew Adamczyk, who is in this production, said that Nijinsky’s choreography was “meant to shock and awe. Aggression, hunched positions, stomping, bent feet and hands; everything you would imagine a classical dancer to look like — this is the opposite.”

“I was the beginning of modernism,” says Santos. “Talk about left of center! I just knew that we needed to bring it here for” its centenary.

In 1913, audiences were accustomed to graceful motions, exquisite ballerinas floating across the stage en pointe, flowing lines, pointed toes, rustling tutus and men executing powerful leaps in perfect form. Instead, they got men in menacing bear suits, stomping feet, a brawl punctuated by fisticuffs. Bodies writhed inelegantly, with pigeon-toed foot positions, cramped hands and angular arms. At the climax, there was no graceful dying ballerina sinking to the stage with fluttering hands. Instead, Nijinsky presented a woman dancing herself to death leaping spasmodically into the air.

It wasn’t long into the performance before the rival jeers and the supportive cheers gave way to physical confrontations. And things went downhill from there.

Santos marvels at the difference between 1913 and 2013. “I can’t imagine anything that we could put on the stage that would cause a riot today,” he says with a laugh.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 18, 2013.

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