Octogenarian Paul Taylor, still at it

Paul Taylor photo by Maxine HicksLegendary choreographer Paul Taylor is still going strong. The bisexual dance maven is 82, and has two eponymous companies, one of which comes into the Eisemann Center this weekend for the first time in more than two years.

When his company was last in town in 2010, I spoke with Taylor. You can read that interview here. And you should try to see the performance on Saturday, just to experience the legend while you still can.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Queer locals of 2011

As we crown our local LGBT Person of the Year on the front page, over here in Life+Style we’ve been thinking about the locals who we will forever relate to helping define 2011 from the standpoint of entertainment and culture. Here are the ones who made the year memorable.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

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Chisom-Spillman

Anthony Chisom
activist, left

Derrick Spillman,
activist, right
In a short time, these two have made waves across the local LGBT African-American community. Chisom erased lines of gay and straight to focus on Dallasites with his foundation’s inaugural South Dallas AIDS Walk, which raised more than $10,000 in March. Spillman’s work with the DFW Pride Movement  stepped up Dallas Black Pride. With marquee speakers and a schedule of both educational and got entertaining sessions, The Movement the rep it’s been working for.

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3-Ferrell-CMYK

Joel Ferrell
theater queen
Whether producing Arsenic and Old Lace or directing two of the best shows of the year, Ferrell has been a force in Dallas theater since joining the DTC as an associate artist, and the community is richer for his vision and tireless work as a director, choreographer and all-around talent.

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4-Moore-Foley-copy

Linda Moore &
Laurie Foley
dog lovers
Moore and her partner Foley are devoted dog breeders, and in 2011 their cocker Beckham stormed Westminster, and ended the year as the top dog of any breed, anywhere, in America. Wow.

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Charles Santos
task master
As executive director of TITAS, Santos is used to bringing talent to Texas, but it was his inspired idea of celebrating AIDS at 30 with A Gathering that reminded locals of his devotion to AIDS fundraising.

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Mark Trimble
bear-ish fundraiser
Trimble and the guys of BearDance came into their own this year with their dance party nights. The highlight was the TBRU party, and with three events during 2011, BearDance raised an impressive $22,000-plus for area charities.

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Leslie Ezelle
cancer survivor/TV star
Just weeks after completing chemotherapy, Ezelle landed on TV’s Next Design Star. She didn’t win, but her celebrity, paired with the experience of beating breast cancer, has made her a devoted fundraiser for the
Susan G. Komen Foundation.

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8-Berryman.Dave-CMYK

David Berryman
gayborhood cheerleader
For years, Berryman has been the largely quiet behind-the- scenes guy for events like the Pride parade, but in 2011, after talks of the possible cancelation of Easter in the Park, Berryman stepped in, offering to coordinate it and obtaining the funding, literally saving Easter in the gayborhood.

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9-Lynch-Rane-CMYK

Craig Lynch & Jeff Rane
theatrical impresarios
Ten years after founding Uptown Players as an upstart theater troupe doing gay-themed work, Lynch and Rane launched the first-ever gay theater festival to coincide with Pride Week at the historic Kalita Humphreys Theater, their impressive new home. Way to go in a decade!

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10-Heinbaugh-CMYK

Chris Heinbaugh
re-committed arts lover
After years as Mayor Leppert’s right-hand man, the former actor and TV reporter left politics to return to his first love — the arts — by working with the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Shabby Shriek of the Week: Liz Primo

Liz Primo’s debut ‘Exposed.’ Shab or fab?

For this week’s entry of Shabby Shriek, we look to Liz Primo. Last week, I received her debut Exposed, which might have been renamed “derivative.” With her Nicki Minaj look on the cover and Katy Perry whimsical and colorful getups on the inside, I wondered if I had heard this already — you know, without having to open it and listen.

But to be fair, I did open and pop it in on the drive home. With only six songs (and one remix), I figured this would be easy to get through. By track four, I pulled out Primo and put in the infinitely better Femme Fatale by Britney Spears. Now, how often do you hear that?

So here we go:

—  Rich Lopez

Starvoice • 02.25.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYTommy-TUne

Tommy Tune turns 72 on Monday. The legendary Tony award-winning dancer, singer, choreographer still keeps busy in the business. Not only does the Wichita Falls-born Texan returns in March with performances in Dallas, he’s also developing a musical based on the iconic club Studio 54 in the age of disco.

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THIS WEEK

Venus entering Aquarius opens new aesthetic opportunities and challenges. Be daring and adventurous in your own presentation and your choices for entertainment and art. The North Node entering Sagittarius opens new challenges to look past apparently logical details to the fuller picture. Both are leaving Capricorn, so break out of old problems with new perspectives.

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PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Your social instincts are sharp. Resist the tendency to fall back into the partying embrace of your home and community. Network! Hang out with people who can help you get ahead.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
Being charming and innovative are great ways to promote yourself. The energy is there. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have, but don’t shy away from your own sense of style.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Ask yourself what’s the most beautiful country in the world (besides your own). Do some research and expand your aesthetic vision to open up a much deeper sense of yourself.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
New erotic exploration won’t just spice up your sex life but helps you understand where your relationship needs to go — or where one should get started. Invite your honey to surprise you in bed.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Start a new conversation with your partner about old challenges. A breakthrough will require risks and experimentation, but probably not sexual. Review how the two of you share or divide tasks.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Redecorate your workplace to make it more efficient. Innovate your beauty and health regimen. Dance classes are fun and introduce you to new people. Try something wild and different.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Play with new ideas and images. The urge to be the best or to utilize these expressions professionally should take a backseat to expressing youthful visions and affirming your roots.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Call your mother, grandmother or an aunt. What starts out as a simple conversation can reveal a lot about your family and more about yourself. Keep it simple, direct and personal.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Grab keyboard or pen and paper; liberate your mind writing whatever occurs to you. Scrapbooking works. Review it a few days later and see what you can learn about yourself.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Set aside some money for a spontaneous indulgence or impulsive whim. Resist the urge to splurge on anyone else. This treat is for you! Get yourself something outré, so wrong that it’s right.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Take time out — a long walk or a spiritual retreat — to think about who you really are deep inside and who you want to be. Then consider how best to make your outside match your inside.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Old traumas contain lessons, but better yet review your earliest feelings of love and beauty. Sure, age brings disappointments. So what? You can still keep those innocent ideals alive.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Sarah, upside down

Buzz surrounds local musician Sarah Jaffe, but she’s ready to move on

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Going from playing smaller clubs like Dan’s Silverleaf and Club Dada, to selling out the Granada Theater last year, Sarah Jaffe’s star is on the rise. She gets a primo gig Saturday when she headlines at the Wyly Theatre in support of her 2010 full-length debut, Suburban Nature. After garnering attention for Nature locally and nationally (from the Dallas Observer to NPR), Jaffe wasn’t just a girl with a guitar — she unlocked yearning and pain with wisdom beyond her 25 years. Jaffe captures the poetry of life and love and sets it to music … even if she doesn’t mean to.

“I’ve never been a strategic writer and I’m thankful for that,” she says. “It comes out sporadically. There are those moment in life when I slow down and it’s just me being human and being alive and the writing is totally cathartic.”

Despite her ardent folk music and Joni-Mitchell-and-the-like upbringing (thank her parents), her musical affinity lies elsewhere.

“I love electronic music and I love making it. I’m obsessed with Robyn. I have this secret dream to be a choreographer because I legitimately love dancing. It makes me happy,” she gushes.

With big-time hype and attention, Jaffe is a contradiction to the ramping buzz about her work. She sounds like she wants a sensible perspective despite her self-proclaimed pessimism.

“I feel so lucky at this point. When people talk about you, it’s strange with even a small amount of success,” she says. “But there’s always some negativity. It’s a huge honor for people to recognize my work but I question myself. I’ve always been a cynic, but I guess I have a shitload to learn.”

Jaffe’s “small amount of success” has already been on the receiving end of the “is she or isn’t she” curiosity. She received accidental lesbian attention when AfterEllen.com included her in a travel destination piece on Dallas and, she surmises, the writer mistook her for Erase Errata’s Sara Jaffe. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise — it expanded her audience base.

“I do have a large lesbian following and it’s great anywhere it comes from,” she says. “Any sort of relating that anybody can get out of music is a wonderful thing.”

She’s learned quickly it comes with the territory, but it’s awkward for her nonetheless.

“It’s weird there’s this curiosity. Sexuality is gray for me but people are gonna talk about those things,” she says. “I’ve loved men and I’ve loved women but it’s more like I relate to a human connection. None of that matters to me.”

Jaffe’s just glad to get any person to her show as well as clean her slate. Despite the success of Nature, she’s ready to move on.

“I plan on an EP release this spring. They are all demos but I think there’s a charm in it,” she says. “I’m so proud of Suburban Nature, but the songs are like six or seven years old. And I’m chomping at the bit.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

From Broadway to broadcast: London staging of musical ‘Fela!’ comes to Angelika screens tonight

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

When Stephen Hendel first approached out choreographer Bill T. Jones about directing Fela!, Hendel’s hoped-for musical about the life and work of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, Jones had absolutely no experience on Broadway.

But that was OK — neither did Hendel.

“I’d never produced a musical — not any theater show — before. And this was the first time [my wife] Ruth and I had lead-produced before, though Ruthie is a Tony voter. And the show was out of left field from the mainstream fare on Broadway,” Hendel says by telephone from New York.

This week, the culmination of their efforts will be seen by the largest audience ever, as Fela! airs as part of the National Theatre Live series of stage productions filmed for moviehouses opens at the Angelika, starting tonight.

The path was one of mutual enthusiasm by relative novices. Hendel was put in touch with Jones through a mutual acquaintance. Hendel had already spent several years trying to generate interest in his idea for a non-narrative musical overloaded with dance and tribal rhythms. And Jones was very interested.

“I could see he was really, really brilliant and that many of the themes — of an artist in society, of being a political artist and being a black man — were all issues will had spend him career exploring and living. We agreed when and if I got the rights [to the music and story], Bill would direct and choreograph the show.”

It took nearly a year for that to happen. In the interim, Jones got an agent who secured him choreography duties on an off-Broadway play called Seven. One of the hopefuls was not cast, but Jones loved his energy. He would eventually originate the role of Fela on Broadway.
Jones, for his part, made an impact as well, winning an Tony Award for choreographing Spring Awakening and becoming a hot property in the theater community. And Hindel got him started. (Hendel himself has continued his theater work, co-producing American Idiot, another outside-the-box, Tony-nominated musical from last season.)

The journey from New York stage to London stage to, this week, movie screens across the world, was a surprisingly natural progression.
“We opened on Broadway and got amazing reviews, and the National Theatre [in England] came to see it. Nick Hytner, their artistic director, called me to talk about bringing it to the Olivier Stage in London, so we created a production for the National,” Hendel says. He then learned that the National was beginning its second season of broadcasting stage works from its and other London stages to movie theaters across the world.

Hendel was in. The version airing this week at the Angelika Film Centers in Dallas and Plano was shot with nine cameras at the London shortly before Fela! closed its original Broadway run earlier this month. That means the broadcast is the only way an American can see the show for the time being.

“It’s like having the best seat in the house every minute, only you get things you can’t see sitting in a Broadway house,” Hendel says. And it is just one more way people in the U.S. can experience a musician Hendel has long loved but most people have never heard of.

“People thought we were crazy [doing the show] — who’s ever heard about Fela Kuti and would want to see a show about a Nigerian they’d never heard of?” he says. “It has been a big challenge making audiences aware of what it’s about and why it’s so entertaining and important. We want people all over the world the see the show and why we’ve spent eight or nine years working on it. It’s been a total joy and a total thrill.”

Still, Hendel says the cinema version does not replace seeing it live, which he hopes will happen; he is planning to announce soon a U.S. and international tour to start mid-2011.

Until then, though, the Angelika’s the place to be.

Fela! airs at the Angelika Mockingbird Station Jan. 19 and 20, and at the Angelika Plano Jan. 22 and 23, at 7 p.m. Visit AngelikaFilmCenter.com for details.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Senior class

Gay director John De Los Santos keeps his elders in line in his annual ‘Senior Follies’

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

choreographer John de los Santos
SANTOS GOLD | If a hip goes out, choreographer John de los Santos is ready to jump in.

SENIOR FOLLIES
Eisemann Center,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson.
Sept. 3–5. $10–$50.
SeniorFollies.com.

You’re never too old to tap dance.
While that’s not the official mantra of the Spectacular Senior Follies 2010, it should be. The singing, dancing, variety extravaganza from producer Mark Carroll is back and as choreographer John de los Santos has learned in his second year on the show, age is just a number for the over-55 set.
“Botox has been very kind to them,” he jokes.

De los Santos, whose choreography credits include hits for Uptown Players, the Fort Worth Opera and last year, Carmen at the Kennedy Center for the Washington National Opera, has had to learn to quickly switch gears when juggling shows simultaneously. By day, he’s working on the U.S. premiere of the Pet Shop Boys’ Closer to Heaven for Uptown Players and by night, the Senior Follies, which opens this weekend.

“I’m going from 18-year-olds to 88-year-olds,” he laughs.

His oldest cast member is a spry 92. He says that working with the seniors is great because not only do they have lots of life experience and wisdom to share, they’re happy to be performing again.

“Most of them had stage experience. A few of them were in vaudeville or burlesque back in the day, but they all have different backgrounds,” he says. “Some were tap dancers who are singing now. Some were cabaret singers who are now doing complicated staging. We wouldn’t have cast them if they didn’t already have some experience.”

But choreographing an aging cast does have its challenges. The young whippersnapper has to keep his cool when dealing with all this experience — and personality.

“You just have to be very, very patient and optimistic all the time,” he says. “The minute you get frustrated or impatient, they just shut off. I have to keep a smile on my face and try to make them laugh.”

But de los Santos keeps a trick up his sleeve.

“It’s funny because the gayer I act, the more they like me,” he laughs before breaking into a mock old lady voice, “I’ve got a grandson that’s just like you!”

The show, which is similar in style to the legendary Ziegfeld Follies, features standards from the ’30s and ’40s, just a tad before 29-year-old de los Santos’ time. But that isn’t even an issue.

“I’ve done a lot of shows from pretty much every period, so I’ve kind of gotten used to it,” he says. “I did a lot of show choir when I was younger. Part of the reason they hired me in the first place is because I know a lot of this material already.”

The finale of the show is one of the biggest numbers de los Santos has to stage, and it’s the one the Senior Follies is perhaps most famous for: a performance by 12 showgirls ranging in age from 55 to 84.

“Some of the gams on these women are to die for,” he says. “They maintain pretty well.”

But for now, he’s just got to get through opening night to be able to relax a little. Even then, there are always unknowns that could pop up when working with seniors. What if someone breaks a hip during a dance number?

“I’ve already planned for that. I’m gonna don a wig, grab a walker and I’ll just do it. I’m sure a lot of people would love to see that.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Drawing Dallas

Artist and entrepreneur Tabrechai Washington gets her pride on

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Independent lady

Name: Tabrechai Washington
Spotted at: The patio of the New Amsterdam Bar in Deep Ellum
Occupation: Professional dancer, choreographer and teacher Out, proud … and patriotic: This Big Apple transplant is a co-founder of Kinetic Exhibit, a bi-monthly art party seeking to transform the community through art. This free-spirited dancer spent her formative career in New York City. She has an affinity for Roseau, Dominica, the capital and largest city of the Caribbean island of Dominica. She has spent a lot of time there and is a frequent contributor to the Caribbean Living Lifestyle blog.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas