ROCHESTER — Internationally acclaimed Garth Fagan Dance has consistently impressed audiences with its powerful physicality, its undeniable artistry and the welcoming accessibility of its live performances. GFD packs a punch with Fagan’s signature technique that marries the fluidity of Caribbean dance, the polyrhythms of African dance, the precision of ballet and the strength and weight of modern dance. Founder/Artistic Director Garth Fagan — winner of America’s Tony, Bessie, and Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Awards; England’s Olivier Award; and Australia’s Helpmann Award — reflects vital social issues in his soul-stirring, visceral choreography that displays the breadth of his repertoire and the skills of his dancers.
“We know that Rochester is proud of our success and views us as global ambassadors, and we appreciate that so very much,” said GFD Executive Artistic Liaison and former GFD dancer William J. Ferguson II in a press release. “We also want to reach out to our friends and neighbors and remind them that — whether they experienced a performance years ago or have yet to see the company live — this holiday season is the perfect opportunity to join us for our exciting 2018 Home Season at Nazareth College Arts Center.”
This year’s performances will feature Fagan’s Rochester premiere of “The North Star,” a celebration of the life of 19th-century abolitionist, orator, author and Rochester icon Frederick Douglass on the bicentennial of his birth. The work opens with Bessie Award-winner and original company member Steve Humphrey dancing to “The Melodians,” reggae version of Douglass’ favorite Psalm 137, “Rivers of Babylon.”
A score by veteran Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra saxophonist Walter Blanding carries the next four sections. Fellow Bessie Award-winner/GFD Rehearsal Director Norwood
Pennewell and “So You Think You Can Dance” star Vitolio Jeune portray the elder and younger Douglass’ struggles respectively in a powerful duo.
Bessie Award-winner/GFD School Director Natalie Rogers-Cropper as Grandmother Betsy Bailey and newcomer Rishell Maxwell as his surviving daughter Rosetta Douglass complete a quartet of tour-de-force performances.
A final section — “Reverence/Celebration” — features the entire company.
“I have read so much of Frederick Douglass that I allowed ‘The North Star’ to lead me,” explained Fagan, who founded the company in 1970. “The work is receiving roaring ovations in New York, and I hope that it will also move and inspire Rochester audiences.”
Additionally, all six performances will feature the Rochester premiere of “Distant Kin,” an impressionist work by Pennewell. In this, seven dancers perform to the electronic music of “Gold Town” and “Ghajarâ” by Stavroz, and “Für die liebe” by Matthew Dekay and Lee Burridge.
Two different evening programs (TBA) will include several of these revivals from the company’s archive:
• “From Before” (1978), set to music by Trinidadian Grammy-winning percussionist Ralph MacDonald.
• “In Memoriam: The Innocent, The Brave, The Hands, The Minds ... All Mankind,” dedicated to the victims and survivors of Sept. 11, 2001, plus Aretha Franklin, John McCain, Paul Taylor and Arthur Mitchell.
• “Mudan 175/39” (2009). Commemorating the City of Rochester’s 175th anniversary and GFD’s 39th anniversary, it uses the music of contemporary Chinese composers performed by the Ying Quartet.
• “Estrogen/Genius” (2017): a group of five women express and assert their vulnerability, outrage, comradery, and ultimate resilience against violence. Music by Naturally 7.
- “No Evidence of Failure” (2016): a duet that shows a harmonious, working relationship, one that has bumps along the way but ultimately succeeds through love and respect. Music by Monty Alexander — Harlem-Kingston Express.
Plus, a different program for matinees (TBA) will feature a piece by the GFD Student Ensemble, multi-racial GFDS students ages 5-18 who train in the Fagan Technique and rehearse and perform original choreography by Artistic Director/Choreographer William J. Ferguson II.
Garth Fagan Dance’s 2018 Home Season runs for six performances in the Callahan Theatre at Nazareth College Arts Center, 4245 East Ave.: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5; 8 p.m.Thursday, Dec. 6; 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9. A meet-and-greet in the lobby with Fagan and all dancers follows each performance.
Ticket prices range from $40 to $55. Tickets are available at the Nazareth College Arts Center Box Office, by phone at (585) 389-2170, or by visiting www2.naz.edu/events/3051.
Garth Fagan Dance is offering some festive extras and special incentives for this year’s season:
• Opening Night Reception Dec. 5 with Garth & Company in neighboring Medaille Hall, open to all ticket buyers on a first-come/first-served RSVP basis (as space is limited) by calling Garth Fagan Dance offices at (585) 454-3260.
• Buy-one/get-one-free ticket for the Dec. 6 performance; applies to all full-price tickets, available via Box Office only. Includes Post-Concert Chat with Fagan and special guests.
• Family Holiday Matinees with buy-one-adult/get-one-free child/student ticket offer at the 2 p.m. shows Dec. 8 and 9; includes goodie bags, photo opportunities and Student Ensemble performance. Available via Box Office only.
Learn more about GFD at garthfagandance.org.