Best Bets: Celebrating the venerable, reshaping a classic

Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2002

Juneau is enjoying the full onslaught of the fall arts and entertainment season. The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council is offering its biggest event of the year next week, and films, art exhibits and musical opportunities abound.

A host of musicians are performing Friday for a musical memorial for Jane Stewart. Stewart, a talented musician, arts organizer and veritable pillar of the arts community in Juneau for 40 years, died in August at the age of 82. Dancers, singers and a number of musicians will celebrate Stewart's life with a free concert at Centennial Hall. Members of Juneau Lyric Opera, the Juneau Symphony and a variety of guests will perform and talk a bit about their experiences with Stewart and her contributions.

Every year the Fraternal Order of State Troopers sponsors a big-name act on a regional tour, and this year the country group The Bellamy Brothers is performing.

The Bellamy Brothers have enjoyed a string of pop and country hits in their 25-year career. The duo fronts a tight five-piece touring band and will perform in Juneau at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at Centennial Hall. Fans of the songs "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would you Hold It Against Me)," "Redneck Girls" and "Let Your Love Flow (Like a Mountain Stream)" won't want to miss the band live and in person.

An excellent bluegrass band is coming to Juneau this weekend - Northern River. The band is playing at the Alaskan Bar and there's no cover. Northern River features mandolinist Joe Page, guitarist Carl Hoffman, bassist Gary Schultz, banjo player Gary Markley and dobro player Danny Burbage. All are top-notch players with decades of experience.

The band is based in Fairbanks, although Page lives in Anchorage. Four of the five players sing so there is a lot of harmony.

"It's pretty much traditional and contemporary bluegrass music," Page said.

I've seen this band many times and have never been disappointed.

The Australian Dance Theatre performs "Birdbrain" Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Centennial Hall. The show has received strong reviews in the New York Times and dance publications, and reviewers have praised the athleticism of the dancers and the dramatic impact of the choreography.

Although it has been called " 'Swan Lake' for the 21st century," some may not even recognize it as such. The Times reviewer said it is fun to watch and fun to think about. He added that it alludes to "Swan Lake" but is choreographically independent.

Choreographer Gary Stewart, the artistic director for the Australian Dance Theatre, said in an interview with a dance magazine that he wanted to explore the crevices between the major themes. For example, in the story, the swan maidens are under a spell and at midnight they turn from swans into women, and at dawn they turn back into swans. Stewart's comments on that are telling of his approach to the entire production.

Stewart said: "I was interested in the moment in which that transformation takes place and I choreographed a scene in which a dancer goes through this really cathartic process of transforming her body from that of a swan into that of a woman. It was influenced by (a scene from the movie) 'An American Werewolf in London.' "

Stewart added, "Of course that is not looked at in 'Swan Lake' because classical ballet is about seamlessness, putting the pain away and not showing the effort."

The dancers with the Australian Dance Theater are renowned for showing effort, and their performances are marked by gymnastics and the acrobatics of break dance, modern dance and hip-hop styles. See the events calendar on Page 2 for ticket prices and details.

An intense character study, "The Piano Teacher," is showing this weekend at the Gold Town Nickelodeon. The film looks at a gifted, 40-year-old pianist and teacher in Vienna who still lives at home with her controlling mother. An intelligent and charming student begins courting her, which unleashes a torrent of emotions and issues in the piano teacher.

The performances by the two leads, Isabella Huppert and Benoit Magimel, earned them the best actress and best actor awards at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and the film won the grand jury prize. The film is rated R for sex, some violence and adult situations, and one reviewer warned that it may be too strong for some. "My Big Fat Happy Greek Wedding" it's not.

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