Tipping hat to dance at Columbia

Dance company celebrates choreographer, sporting camaraderie at annual sampler show

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



If You Go

• What: “Columbia Dance Presents!”

• Featuring: Excerpts from “Don Quixote,” new works, special guests.

• When: 7 p.m. today; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, 3101 Main St.

• Tickets: $20; $15 for students and seniors; $10 for children 12 and under.

• On the web: http://columbiadance.org

Once upon a time, the real point of the Olympics wasn’t furious competition between nations. It was support and cooperation — “the camaraderie of athletes from all over the world, coming together and celebrating their skills,” Jan Hurst told her dance students during a recent rehearsal.

That’s the happy spirit of “10 Afoot,” a sporty new ballet by Zachary Carroll, which you can catch during this weekend’s showcase of repertory classics and new works, “Columbia Dance Presents!” It’s an annual sampler featuring special guest stars, professional guest choreographers and the students at Columbia Dance, a downtown Vancouver school and studio.

Choreographer Carroll was a faculty member at Columbia Dance for a decade, according to artistic director Hurst, and he’s still busy with companies such as The Portland Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theater and BodyVox.

Hurst said Carroll’s ebullient “10 Afoot” was inspired by the 2016 summer Olympics. At rehearsal last week, “sprinters” clenched their fists and braced for the starting gun; “fencers” bounced, lunged and parried; and “swimmers” swirled about in a human whirlpool. Then those three groups wove themselves together into a picture of Olympic unity.

The other new piece for this production is supposed to be happy, but Hurst confessed that she tears up every time she talks about it. That’s because it recalls the spirit of the late choreographer Bob Fosse — who was world-famous for his style of big, bold, brash Broadway musical theater. The Fosse flavor is all elbows and knees, high heels and straw hats, sharp angles and sly pauses.

Fosse died in 1987; Hurst said the dance world still feels the loss. Choreographer Laura Haney, “a passionate advocate of the Bob Fosse style,” Hurst said, designed a piece set to “I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man (While I Can).” That’s a song from the Fosse musical “Dancin’.”

The dancers do more than dance in this one. In classic Broadway style, they also sing: “Gonna leave my footsteps on the sands of time. If I never leave a dime, never be a millionaire, I don’t care.” Hurst said she finds the song’s evocation of the difficulties of the dance world — the injuries, the competition, the unpredictability of fate — almost impossibly poignant.

Also in the show are several solo and duet dances that Hurst designed for her students. And, there’s the grand finale from the ballet favorite “Don Quixote.” This scene skips all the plot twists and troubles — no swords or windmills here — and goes straight for the huge, happy ending, she said, as lovers Kitri and Basilio are blissfully united and embraced by their village.

“It’s in classic ballet style with a Spanish flair,” said Hurst.