Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wade Robson and His Original Work, "Change"

When Wade Robson left Huntsville last July, after a week of master classes, auditions and a three-day intensive, my husband and co-founder of Merrimack Hall, Alan, and I said to each other that if Merrimack Hall never did another thing, that week was worth the money we have donated to start this organization. We knew that the opportunity we had been able to provide to 285 area dancers was truly unique and that the three-day intensive was absolutely life-changing for the 13 dancers Wade selected. After seeing the performance of his original work, "Change," at Merrimack Hall's Evening of Dance featuring Wade Robson last month, we have a new perspective on how truly amazing our experience with him has been.

When I first contacted Wade's agent, in August of 2006, it was a pipe dream that I might be able to convince him to come to Merrimack Hall to help us inaugurate our dance programs. But after my dear friend April Cook, Director of Marketing for Broadway Dance Center in New York, spoke to Wade on my behalf, we were able to schedule the week with him.

In 2007, there were five organizations that received original work from Wade Robson; the hit TV shows "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing with the Stars," The San Francisco Ballet, Cirque de Soliel and.......Merrimack Hall! When "Change" was performed on January 27 at Merrimack Hall, it received a five-minute standing ovation and brought much of the audience to tears. This intense, moving and inspirational piece is Wade's personal statement on peace, and on young people becoming empowered to make a change in the world. I know that each of the young dancers who were a part of this performance were shown the power of dance to express emotion and convey a message - this one of hope and change.

We feel a "semi-connection" to the work Wade did with the San Francisco Ballet, as they called him to commission him while he was in Huntsville in July! He had recently had a piece on "So You Think You Can Dance" entitled "Hummingbird and Flower" that caught the attention of the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Ballet, the nation's oldest professional ballet company. Wade was in our Green Room having his lunch when the call came asking him to meet with the ballet company to discuss the commission. He was so excited after the call and told me he was blown away by the response to "Hummingbird and Flower." He worked with the dancers in San Francisco for several weeks in the fall and again in January, and his piece was the focal point of the ballet company's 75th anniversary celebration in January. Wade said, "I haven't spent one hour doing what those ballet dancers do, and they haven't spent one hour doing what I do, so we were all challenged to work together. But we did it, I loved every minute of it, and I think they did as well." The performance received rave reviews from the San Francisco press, and I'm sure that this work will lead Wade in many new directions!

While he was in Huntsville in July, he was also in the middle of his negotiations with Cirque du Soliel to be the choreographer for a new production they are mounting at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas in August. He has temporarily relocated to Montreal for rehearsals for this new Cirque show, which features the magic of Chris Angell, a cast of 12 dancers and other Cirque characters. Wade is working to set choreography around aerial tricks, acrobatics, and the amazing magic and illusions of Chris Angell. The show is set to open in August, and we are planning our trip to attend one of the first performances! Wade's wife, and creative partner, Amanda, said she is anxious to see what Chris Angell's "tricks" are, but said she is frankly afraid there aren't any tricks - she said after meeting Angell, it is highly possible that he can actually do those unbelievable illusions!

Wade has promised to schedule a return to Merrimack Hall in late 2008 or early 2009, once his work with Cirque is finished. We'll keep you informed as these plans develop!

Debra Jenkins, Founder

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