Best Bets: Dance from Argentina and music from Kentucky

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2002

Sultry tangos, driving rock, zippy breakdowns and the high, lonesome sound of traditional bluegrass provide music and dancing for Juneau this weekend.

The Bearfoot Bluegrass band performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the ANB Hall. Last spring this band played an outstanding set at the Alaska Folk Festival. The five-piece group features two fiddle players, three-part harmonies and original music as well as traditional bluegrass songs.

The musicians grew up in Anchorage and Cordova and have been playing music in earnest since their early teens. All five are between 17 and 20 years old, which makes their skill seem all the more remarkable. They have the polish of trained professional musicians coupled with genuine warmth and love of music. They've spent the entire summer playing bluegrass and teaching at music camps, and Juneau is the last stop on a seven-state tour.

The group stopped in California to record a second CD, and will have its first CD available at the concert.

If you've ever wished you could learn how to tango, your opportunity is knocking. The Juneau International Folkdancers group is sponsoring a three-day Tango workshop this weekend.

I took a waltz class from guest instructor Richard Powers last winter. He is an enthusiastic, extremely knowledgeable teacher and a very skilled dancer. He brought another talented dance teacher with him, Angela Amarillas, and she'll be back again for the tango workshop.

He said he'll approach the tango class as he did the waltz class. In addition to the steps and moves specific to the waltz, he emphasized fundamentals of dance that apply to many styles, such as the basics of leading and following and social etiquette. He's also very interested in the history of dance and the music.

He explained different moves in a half-dozen ways, aware that people learn differently. It was interesting to watch - people who were baffled by one approach suddenly lit up when the step or turn was demonstrated in a different way. The class moves fast and rapidly builds on the acquired knowledge. Powers was clearly determined to give the serious students their money's worth.

"He has people switch partners, which is a good technique," said Bruce Botelho, one of the organizers of the event. "People rotate through and you learn the different ways people move, and it removes stress that can come from leaning a dance with your own spouse or partner."

I have no doubt that anyone interested in tango will come away with a much better understanding of the dance. Quick learners, in good shape and with dance experience, will benefit the most.

If you're a little bit interested, take the first session from 7-10 p.m. Friday night at the Juneau Dance Unlimited Studio in Scottish Rite Temple. If you want more, there are additional sessions Saturday and Sunday. Cost is $50 per person for the whole class or $15 for each session. Call 364-2334 to register.

A new rock band debuts in Juneau this weekend at the Imperial Saloon. Dag Nabbit includes guitarist Jay Caputo, drummer Dale McFarland, bassist Tully Devine and lead vocalist Adam St. Hilaire.

"We're billing it as dance music, a lot of funk, and funk punk rock," Caputo said. "We've got Parliament Funkadelic stuff and a lot of originals, at least half originals."

Devine and St. Hilaire recently moved to Juneau from Haines, where they had a rock band called Tully's Tow Truck, with a different drummer and guitarist.

"Tully's phenomenal, he's a great slap player," Caputo said. "He's got an aggressive edge to his playing and it really goes over with that punk funk."

The band has been polishing its chops at the Thursday night open mike at the Imperial over the past couple of months. Dag Nabbit goes on stage about 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and plays until closing.

The German film "Brother of Sleep" is showing this weekend at the Gold Town Nickelodeon. It's a sweeping, surreal story about music, magic and genius, set in a remote, primitive village in the Alps at the turn of the 19th century.

Robert Schneider wrote the screenplay, based on his internationally acclaimed best-selling novel by the same name. The 1996 film received strong reviews, although with caveats such as "over-the-top fable of tormented genius that probably only a German could make," and "You have to be in the mood for the dizzying emotional extravagance of 'Brother of Sleep.' "

Lisle Hebert booked the film at the Gold Town Nickelodeon because he was so impressed with the book, he said. The film shows five times over the weekend.

The story centers on the brilliant, anguished and vulnerable Elias, whose supernaturally acute hearing inspires him to unleash a torrent of music when he sits down at his village church organ. He becomes so absorbed in his music that he's blind to his love for the pretty Elsbeth, who worships him. As with most stories about musical geniuses, a climactic performance highlights the tale.

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