Kranzberg Arts Foundation partners with Open Highway Music Festival for month-long brunch and live music series
By Caitlin Lally
Sundays in October are about to get a little louder in Grand Center.
The sound of banjos strumming and voices harmonizing will fill the air outside The Grandel as the community gathers, safely, for brunch and live performances by local Americana and bluegrass musicians.
On the artist lineup for Oct. 18, and also the founder of Open Highway Music Festival is John Henry, (pictured above), who said he is very grateful for the opportunity to work with Kranzberg Arts Foundation to produce the October concert series.
“It was nice to be able to do something a little different from what we do. It’s strange putting on a show during daylight. And while the [music] industry is shut down in a lot of ways, I feel there is a need for music,” Henry said.
“It’s nice to be able to present these shows in a way that supports the artists and gives the fans something to look forward to … it gives people a sense of normalcy in these really unnormal times.”
Like countless events this year, Open Highway Music Festival delayed their ninth annual festival that was scheduled for late July and into August at Off-Broadway due to health and safety concerns caused by COVID-19.
“We saw the industry shut down, so we’ve had to abide by the guidelines set forth by the city, but most importantly we want to put the safety of the patrons and bands at the forefront of everything,” Henry said, who also books talent for the South City venue Off-Broadway.
However, Henry acknowledged that the support for and among the local music scene has grown amid the pandemic.
“In a time of uncertainty and struggle, it’s good to see that many local artists have grown tighter and embraced a sense of community because, without that, things just fall away.”
While the state of the music industry is open-ended as it currently stands, Henry said it’s nice to see the local support for artists.
“I appreciate the efforts of everyone involved to give local artists an opportunity to present their music to people,” Henry said. “It’s been a rough year, obviously, and any little bit helps.”
For more information about Blue Sky Brunch including the full lineup and ticketing details, click here.
“Caffeinated Curation” is a routine book and beverage pairing that highlights Blueprint Coffee and relevant reading recommendations from High Low resident artists and community members. Our latest chapter of the series comes from High Low barista Josie.
Sometimes a book just calls to you. One day working at High Low, “Leo the Late Bloomer” by Robert Kraus just jumped out and intrigued me deeply. After picking it up, the art touched something in me even more. Upon reading, it still surprised me.
Leo can’t write, draw, read, or talk … yet all of the other kids can. In some aspect of our lives, all of us have felt “slow” or “behind,” or that we didn’t live up to the expectations of others. Every time we see Leo, he looks uncomfortable, frustrated, or defeated. His watchful father is constantly looking for signs of progress. “What’s wrong with Leo?” We learn after a while that bloomers can’t bloom while being watched. Even when not being watched, the seasons pass. Still no blooming. Still no blooming! Until finally out of nowhere, he does. The first time he speaks, he says a whole sentence. Turning to his mother and father with elation in his eyes, he says … “I made it!”
The drink I’ve chosen to pair with this book … Let’s just call it Josie’s Special. Really, it’s my guilty pleasure. This book made me cry a lot, so I do need it. I also find it fitting because I make this drink in a very individualized way. I cater myself in the way I would for someone I really want to feel loved. To make it extra special, just for that person exactly the way they like it. Which is my favorite way to prepare any beverage.
First, I add just a tiny bit of water to the bottom of a 12 oz cup and completely fill the rest of the cup with ice. I brew a double shot of espresso and pour that over top, in an even swirl to melt the ice. I then agitate the beverage and swirl the cup for as long as it takes to fog up the glass and bring everything to its coldest possible temperature. And then I fill the rest up with even more ice. Lots of raw sugar, to taste. I usually go back and add more. A lot of ice, because I savor it and want to drink it slowly (probably over the course of a couple of hours) without the flavor diluting too much while the ice melts. It has to have a straw so that I can texturally enjoy the crunchiness and the more complex molasses-y flavor of raw sugar as a chaser. When the coffee stays separate from the sweetener, each shot retains its individuality and I remain an active listener to the flavor and present in my sensory experience.
This drink has been with me — and there for me — for a long time. To this day, I have a soft spot for the burnt-toast flavor of the over-roasted and unevenly extracted shots I tasted in some of my favorite community-oriented spaces over the years. A lil’ bit of sugar can take the edge off of anything.
Prior to the pandemic, the two artists were scheduled to hang their show centered around caregiving and parenthood at the end of May. As everything began to shut down, Jessica and Christine were given the option to reschedule for the following year or follow through with their show as the first physical show scheduled since the shutdowns occurred. The second of these two options would pose several unknown challenges for public viewing and the logistics of creating a collaborative show while social distancing. Both mentally and physically exhausted from homeschooling their children and working remotely from home, the artists had to make a decision. Christine called Jessica that evening and said, “I think we should do it. When has our subject matter of caregiving and parenthood been more amplified than in this current situation?” Both of them decided to sleep on it and make their decision the next day. Ultimately the two friends motivated each other to take on the unknown along with making new works, and the exhibition “It Hits Home” was born.
Artist Christine A. Holtz shares her creative process making new artworks for “It Hits Home”
I make all my artwork in my living room — which transforms into a studio once everyone else is in bed. When the pandemic started, I began furiously jotting down inspiration and conceptual ideas in my notebook/sketchbook. My emotions about the pandemic needed an outlet. My dining room table, now a schoolhouse and home office, caused stress just looking at it. To add insult to injury, I would step on Legos at the base of our stairs almost daily (which inspired “One Step from (in)Sanity”). A huge part of my artistic practice is a reflection of the absurdities endured during my everyday life. The pandemic provided an abundance of absurdities. In the evenings, my husband and I would work out in our living room after the kids were in bed as a way to relieve stress. We often elbowed or kicked each other due to lack of space, but it made us laugh. It helped us stay connected. Exhausted and feeling defeated from the day, my living room transformed from family space to workout room to studio, where working on art provided me with a release for my flood of emotions.
“Covid-19 Work Blazer” is a work uniform for the pandemic. The blazer has three sets of sleeves to show the extra arms needed to take on the additional job of homeschooling while also transitioning my job of teaching to a remote format. I plan to wear it this fall while teaching on campus.
“Up a Creek Without A Paddle” filled up my entire living room floor during construction. It is made from an old set of bed sheets out of necessity and to symbolize the home. Due to tight quarters and the size of the piece, I had to actually sit on the floor and move my sewing machine instead of the fabric to make each of the seams. I needed to make this boat. I needed to do whatever it took to keep my family safe. I know it is absurd — so is the situation. It is also a very raw display of how helpless the pandemic has made me feel.
More people being confined to the domestic environment due to the stay-at-home orders has amplified the uneven division of labor in the home. I wanted to follow through with this exhibition in hopes that the work would resonate with more people right now. I can’t help but wonder if our show would have been received the same way without a pandemic.
Artist Jessica Witte shares her creative process making new artworks for “It Hits Home”
As soon as we made our decision and connected again to talk strategy, Christine shared her idea for a huge mask/boat titled “Up a Creek Without a Paddle.” Her idea was inspiring and could be an anchor for the show’s new direction. Christine added, “I know it will be hard, but I think we will both feel better if we can process this while it is happening.”
With the baseline anxiety of everyone being so high, I definitely felt the stress on my students, myself, and my family. I began hard training again with running to exhaust myself physically as well as emotionally and help me sleep. Even though I have resources and support, every so often the stress of the situation would leak out and emotions would run high at home. “Smoke and Mirrors: everything is fine” captured those moments when small accumulations of stress exploded into outbursts. To create these little bombs, I inserted wicks into wool and laundry lint felt balls. Stabbing the felting needle repeatedly to form the ball and seeing the works take shape was cathartic, (Christine was right, again).
Witte: Thinking of the viewer at the window
Many people would see the show from the windows on Grand Boulevard, so how could we arrange “It Hits Home” to make the artwork most visible from the street? We placed Christine’s embroidery artworks close to the windows so her intricately detailed drawings would not be lost. “Up a Creek Without a Paddle” and her “Covid-19 Work Blazer” were timely, personal, and still humorous so they were close to the title and window. My new artworks needed to attract the eye with contrast and size but be light enough to be handled by myself alone (due to social distancing during install). Once I had spatial parameters in place, I could start sketching ideas.
What did I most want to say about the pandemic? I worried about my Grandma Rose isolated in her nursing home and my sister-in-law undergoing radiation therapy being at high risk for the disease. Encouraging others to realize how their behavior affects some of the most vulnerable (and to see their value) was my aim for the floor works in “It Hits Home.”
I decided to convey the bright, sunny colorful spirit of Grandma Rose — and make her comfortable and safe during this health crisis. I brought out her pile of quilts to inspire me. How could I also convey her vulnerability? Grandma Rose could have visitors through the glass of the lobby but was too fragile to have close contact in the same room. A drawing on the floor would be similar — easily destroyed by a misstep in the room, but safe when viewed from the window. How could I make the patterns as bright as the colorful quilts and clothes my grandma made for my children? Drawing in sidewalk chalk with my kids between teaching, furiously cleaning, and home-schooling helped answer the question.
Witte: Selecting and learning a new medium
I made lap-blanket-sized powdered chalk drawings into bold quilt patterns. The chalk came in vibrant colors and with the thick application could catch a viewer’s eye from the street. I had a tight timeline to learn how to use this new material, as my previous floor drawings were in seed, with a limited color range. I tested various chalk brands and how to grind and apply a consistent dusting. I made small laminated paper and foam-core templates to quickly stencil and layer the colors.
I dedicated “Targeted Treatment” to my sister-in-law Lori and her fight with breast cancer. I interviewed friends and family who had battled cancer about symbols that best represent their treatment. Caretakers and patients mentioned a new sense of time after a cancer diagnosis. The pattern has seven columns and four rows like a calendar page. A ring of cancer-awareness ribbons surrounds crosshairs in each block. Bullseye targets are peppered throughout the “calendar page” of the pattern to make one think about being an easy mark for the virus.
“You Are My Sunshine” is patterned in bold blue and yellow sunburst shapes centered around archery target centers. I left every other square bare except for the center target highlighting the isolation of the residents of nursing homes.
Please wear a mask in public, reach out to your neighbors and loved ones, work out, get sunshine every day, and be kind.
“We’ve been trying [to find an office space] since we were established in 2015,” said Harvey Lockhart, executive and artistic director of HEAL. “We’ve been with the Foundation since 2016, and [Kranzberg Arts Foundation Executive Director Chris Hansen] has been actively trying to find a fit for us. It’s been a long time coming.”
The Foundation invested in rehabbing the house after acquiring it in 2019, and the space opened for the resident organizations in June 2020, with COVID-19 mitigation policies in place.
“Having our own location gives us the flexibility to create the programming we know students need,” Lockhart said.
HEAL offers music programming for students including lessons and camps, and according to Lockhart, they will now have more adaptability to generate income in the new space. The organization formerly worked out of local high schools, which was convenient for the students, though not having a centralized location proved challenging at times.
“COVID-19 definitely is causing us to think outside the box a little in regards to what we do,” Lockhart said. “There’s definitely space [at the Hansen House] for us to have a virtual studio where we can do some live-streaming courses and pre-recorded courses.”
HEAL’s curriculum not only teaches students how to play music, but it also teaches them about the music business, including negotiating contracts and booking gigs for the ensemble Point of View, which tours regionally.
Similarly, Fly North Theatricals Artistic Director Colin Healy said the new office space also allows him and the Fly North team to make digital resources amid the pandemic.
“We’ve been producing online content — we’ve sort of switched over to that this summer, and that became our new summer plan, which is kind of awesome and has been fun,” Healy said. The theater company originally planned to present “Assassins” this summer at .ZACK Theatre, however, the production’s opening night has been postponed until Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.
“We’re making lemonade,” Healy added.
Now the organization occupies a space that includes an office where Healy will conduct voice lessons when it is safe to do so (bookings available in September); a rehearsal space for private, physically-distanced dance lessons (bookings available in July); and a production studio.
This summer, Fly North has launched a new podcast called “Grown-Up Theater Kids,” an episodic program called “Gin & The Tonic,” which is a “reckless unpacking of music history’s weirdest stories,” and another video series that spotlights local actors.
Prior to moving into the Hansen House this summer, Healy said the organization was challenged by not having a centralized work and rehearsal space.
“We were renting three different spaces essentially,” Healy said. “It was totally inefficient and, not to mention, expensive.”
“Infrastructure is one of the hardest things for arts organizations to maintain and fundraise for,” said Andrew Warshauer, Marketing and Communications Director for Kranzberg Arts Foundation. “That’s why our mission is to provide the arts with the infrastructure they need to thrive. It helps to fill a gap, and allows our city’s art scene to flourish.”
“We’re so grateful to have our own home and grow and really provide the services students need,” Lockhart said.
Healy echoed the sentiment, “It’s just such a flexible and beautiful space, and it means really everything to us. We’ve finally been able to consolidate all the things that we are … To the Kranzbergs, thank you.”
In the age of coronavirus, where artists are compelled to create in front of screens for an audience on the other side of the virtual platform, human connection is much sought after. For St. Louis arts companies like Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, this theme resonates with their work.
“Tennessee Williams’ beautifully poetic work expresses his longing for kindness and for human connection. That is what we all need now, more than ever,” said Carrie Houk, Executive Artistic Director of Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis.
Previewing what the audience should expect from their performance, Houk explained, “In our segment, Anita Jackson plays the Williams character Bertha, singing of her desire to be reunited with her love and to take him to Paradise.”
Presenting work based on similar motifs, Metro Theater Company will share an excerpt from a script in development, inspired by submissions from the company’s COVID-19 Memory Project.
“The four interlocking monologues will be accompanied by an original score by Syrhea Conaway,” said Joe Gfaller, managing director for Metro Theater Company. “Through this performance – and by holding a mirror to the lived experiences of young people in our region as they and their families face COVID-19, MTC continues to serve its purpose to bridge communities, to build empathy, and to create a world in which the emotional wisdom of young people can help us all ensure a stronger future for St. Louis.”
I was inspired by two art exhibitions at The Sheldon Art Galleries in Grand Center Arts District. The first was titled “Amazing Horns: Bridging Continents, Bridging Time.” The works were instruments from The Hartenberger Collection of Musical Instruments now owned by The Sheldon. Dr. Aurelia Hartenberger has been researching and collecting musical instruments and artifacts amassing more than 3,000 items. Ninety-four horns from the collection were on display in this exhibition.
Wikipedia describes horns as any of a family of musical instruments made of a tube, usually made of metal and often curved in various ways, with one narrow end which the musician blows, and a wide end from which the sound emerges. In jazz and popular-music contexts, the word may be used loosely to refer to any wind instrument, and a section of brass or woodwind instruments, or a mixture of the two, is called a horn section. As the name indicates, people originally used to blow on the actual horns of animals before starting to emulate them in metal or other materials. The original usage survives in the shofar (Hebrew), a ram’s horn, which plays an important role in the Jewish religious rituals. The genus of animal-horn instruments to which the shofar belongs is called Keren in Hebrew, Qarnu in Akkadian, and Keras in Greek.
The Wikipedia article on horns describes every horn imaginable from finger horns, marching horns, and saxhorns to horns used all around the globe.
Then I remembered another exhibition at The Sheldon Art Galleries, “The City of Gabriels: The History of Jazz in St. Louis, 1895-1973,” and the wonderful book written about it by Dennis Owsley, jazz scholar, St. Louis Public Radio jazz host and photographer.
Gabriel, of course, refers to the biblical character who blew his horn to announce the judgment day. The trumpet had more references in Owsley’s book than any other instrument.
The definition of a trumpet says it is a brass instrument commonly used in classical and jazz ensembles. The trumpet group contains the instruments (such as the piccolo trumpet) with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpet-like instruments have historically been used as signaling devices in battle or hunting, with examples dating back to at least 1500 BC. They began to be used as musical instruments only in the late 14th or early 15th century. Trumpets are used in art, music styles, for instance in orchestras, concert bands, and jazz ensembles, as well as in popular music. Adam Corre wrote an article titled “10 Of The Most Famous Trumpet Players of All Time,” and of course Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, and our own Miles Davis were all on the list. But we forget just how famous St. Louis is for its trumpet players in general. The late Clark Terry in the forward to Owsley’s “City of Gabriel’s” says, “I am not certain of the exact reasons why my hometown of St. Louis has had such a great jazz trumpet tradition. It could have been the Midwestern atmosphere or the other great musical traditions of the city, but I know that the origins of that tradition come straight from the great Mississippi River.” Owsley says, “Trumpet players have shaped the sound and direction of St. Louis from the beginning. The sound of a St. Louis trumpet player is unmistakable, whether the trumpeter is Charles Creath, Dewey Jackson, Miles Davis, Clark Terry, Floyd LeFlore or Lester Bowie. The unique sound is described as a clear, singing tone, with many bent notes reminiscent of the human voice.”
There are many more notable horn players that have and continue to blow their horns in our city, but I’d like to end this commentary by paying tribute to David Hines (1942-1991) whose life was cut short in a motorcycle accident. By 1963, Hines was touring on trumpet with Albert King, T. Bone Walker, and Little Milton and in 1968, Hines was the jazz soloist with Woody Herman and held the same position with Ray Charles in 1970. Hines also played in theatre orchestra throughout the St. Louis area. He was the leader in halting discriminatory practices in the hiring of musicians for theater work by requiring auditions to be held behind curtains. He taught in various school situations and led the University City Jazz Band in the late 1980s. Hines toured Europe with Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy in the winter of 1986.
We can all toot our horns for St. Louis’ rich history of music where it shines in all its guises.
There’s no better time than at the start of the year to try something new. Lucky for you, there are a ton of ways to get “hands on” in Grand Center Arts District – whether it be through an experience, a workshop, or the discovery of a new musical act. s. Here’s some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
With each exhibition, Pulitzer Arts Foundation hosts a variety of workshops and wellness activities to engage their art-savvy audience in a fresh, new way. Throughout 2020, you are invited to explore ranges of motion and mindfulness (classes include tai chi, yoga, and meditation), workshops and conversations (like paper cutting, tours conducted in Spanish , and conversations with renowned artists and curators), and even unique collaborations with fellow arts organizations like St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Contemporary Art Museum.
The Contemporary Art Museum’s Spring exhibition series opened in January and with it comes a new event roster that includes several hands-on workshops and activities. Two upcoming events to consider are RE: Soul and Drawing from Observation. For RE: Soul, CAM’s 2020 DJ-in-Residence James Biko traces the history of soul music and contemporary sampling in an interactive spinning session inspired by the work of artist Liz Johnson Artur. For April’s Drawing from Observation, guests are invited to draw their own works inspired by the museum’s exhibitions. After a special tour, CAM provides all art supplies for you and invites you to create freely.
For those who have made a New Year’s resolution to learn a new musical skill, KDHX’s Folk School classes are now in session. Folk School offers small group classes for adults and teens of all experience levels, from complete beginner through advanced. Class options include Banjo Introduction, Classic Country Ensemble, Guitar, Music Theory, and more.
At the Arts & Education Council, residentOpen Studio Network takes jazz education seriously, year-round. Designed to connect all levels of musicianship to a network of jazz artists across the globe, Open Studio is your digital connection to courses and flexible membership options. Browse your options by instrument, sign-up, and take courses from Grammy-winning masters of their craft – all in a few clicks.
The Fabulous Fox’sFox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation is committed to bringing theatre to the forefront of creativity from an early age. This year, in addition to their Master Class programs for teens, FPACF has announced a new summer program: Next Stop Broadway. The program consists of classes, workshops, and rehearsals focused on classic Broadway shows. Participants will be taught songs and choreography from two hit shows and also create presentations based on shows in the 2020-21 Fabulous Fox Theatre season.
Creative Reaction Lab focuses on equity-centered community design and provides education, resources, and opportunities for Black and Latinx youth. Each year, programs include options for both youth and institutions to ensure that means and location do not hinder anyone from receiving the opportunities they deserve. The Equity by Design Immersive Series connects the Equity-Centered Community Design to inclusive and equitable outcomes. Creative Reaction Lab facilitators guide participants through highly interactive activities, dialogue, planning, and reflection regarding power, identity, social equity, and community design.
When a new season approaches, we tend to lean on an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude that propels us into the coming months with a refreshed closet, attitude, and outlook. We believe that you should approach your social calendar in that same way.
This fall, organizations, and businesses in Grand Center Arts District are pushing boundaries like never before–offering up exciting new leadership, programs, shows, and menus that are refreshed and ready to lead the charge into a new season and a new chapter in our District’s history.
Both the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries are welcoming their newest appointments to their inaugural fall seasons: Stéphane Denève will officially begin his role as the new music director of SLSO this fall with an exciting new concert line-up, while The Sheldon’s new Executive Director Peter Palermo is ready to capture the attention of a younger audience with targeted programming.
For foodies who are looking for a dining experience they can’t wait to tell their friends about, Bulrush is setting its sights on a truly fall-focused menu thanks to their commitment to foraging their ingredients from local farms. Or, if you’re looking for a date night that includes dinner and a show, The Dark Room’s new menu–and a new roster of musicians who perform live nightly–gives you a great excuse to hire a sitter and grab your dancing shoes. There’s also Turn, where you can chomp on delicious farm-to-table fare while enjoying a soundtrack full of everything from disco to rock n’ roll curated by Chef David Kirkland.
But it may just be the shows that keep you coming back this fall. While The Fabulous Fox kicks off their season on a high note with Hello, Dolly, our locally-based theatre productions are pulling together impressive renditions of new and classic productions like “Shakespeare In Love,” and “The Blue Zone.” The Pulitzer Arts Foundation’s fall exhibitions open Sept. 6 and will feature Susan Phillipsz: Seven Tears which explores the potential of sound + a new commission for the water court; and Zarina: Atlas of her World which includes prints, sculptures, and collages. The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum will showcase the work of Stewart D Halperin, while the Contemporary Art Museum also opens their fall shows Sept. 6 with a variety of impressive works by Stephanie Syjuco, Bethany Collins, Jonathas de Andrade, and Derek Fordjour.
And keep in mind, your very own fall events have a home here at one of over two dozen event venues–including four of the city’s most stunning rooftops. So whether you come to work, to learn, to play, or to eat, we promise you will always walk away with an experience you won’t soon forget.
The region’s small and midsize theatre and dance companies offer a wealth of options. You just need to know where to look.
By Alison Gold
“When people say, ‘Oh there’s nothing to do here in St. Louis on a Friday or Saturday night,’ I think they’re crazy,” says Joseph Novak,
After living in several places across the United States, the tech director believes St. Louis’ art scene is particularly vibrant — for those who pursue it. “I think people just aren’t looking outside their box.”
Part of the reason small and midsize arts organizations get overlooked, he believes, is that there is such a vast range of options across the region. “Because there are so many arts groups in St. Louis, I think some tend to go unseen,” he says. “A lot of people are just not aware of their works.”
Novak has worked on a wide range of shows across St. Louis, including Max & Louie Productions’ June production of Indecent, the true story of a Polish-Jewish playwright who, in 1906, pens a controversial script dealing with prostitution, homosexuality, and cultural assimilation. “I think it has a lot of social impact,” says Novak, who hopes to work on similar projects in the future.
“I think the art scene is growing and blossoming here,” he says. “A lot of companies seem to be doing more shows, and the quality just keeps going up.”
Upstream Theater Company is about to start its 15th season, making it one of St. Louis’ longest-running small professional theaters. In fact, Upstream is “the oldest resident company in the Kranzberg ecosystem,” says artistic director Philip Boehm. “We’ve been able to produce plays where St. Louis audiences are the first to see these international works in the United States. That wouldn’t have happened without the Kranzberg Arts Foundation.”
To date, the company has produced more than 40 plays from nearly 20 countries, the majority of which has been the United States premieres from around the globe: Australia, Argentina, Croatia, and more. The company’s goal is to “move you and move you to think.”
This year, Upstream kicks off the season with The Agitators, the story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass’ 45-year friendship that helped shape American society. Lisa Tejero, a Broadway veteran who’s also done work at The Rep, will direct Mat Smart’s powerful play, Sept. 27-Oct. 13.
Upstream is also expanding beyond St. Louis. This October, it will bring Salt, Root, and Roe (pictured above) — the story of a set of aging identical twins who live by the sea in Wales — to Houston. The theater company produced the U.S. premiere this past spring right here in St. Louis.
“We want audiences to think about what they see,” says Boehm. “It seems to me that theater in the United States, in general, could benefit from more international work.”
Dance has been a part of Ashley Tate’s life since she was a child. “I don’t really know myself without dance,” she says. “I’m a shy person, so it’s my way of being my most expressive self.” She started out with ballet, tap, and traditional dance. Eventually, she joined the St. Louis Rams’ cheerleading squad.
Then, in 2007, she launched her own dance company, Ashleyliane Dance Company. “I wanted to continue giving adults a place to train and dance, including those who worked full-time,” she says, noting that the company rehearses at night. The company started out dancing at festivals and fairs—“anywhere that promoted the arts.”
Now, it spans a professional dance company, an entry program, a summer junior program, and a full drop-in class schedule. Ashleyliane produces at least two main-stage concerts per year and hosts several other events, in addition to partnering with other organizations. “I want to inspire people to know it is hard, but you can make dance a full-time career,” she says. “We’re a small but mighty organization.”
In late October, Ashleyliane will perform Phantom of the Opera while playing up masquerade themes. Then, for Valentine’s Day next February, Ashleyliane will host a hair and fashion dance show focused on the theme of love, which diverges from the typical format of a dance recital in its imitation of a fashion show.
Tate says, “We wanted something interactive and fun for the audience.”
Freedom to Flourish
After working on productions across the country, Andrew Snyder can appreciate what makes St. Louis’ art scene so special. “Everyone is here to support everyone else,” says Snyder, the lighting designer, and stage manager at The Big Muddy Dance Company. “You don’t always get that in other cities. Someone is always there to help, no questions asked.”
On Nov. 9-10, the Inaugural Big Muddy Dance Fest will showcase all the company has to offer. Participants can enjoy classes, workshops, auditions, panel discussions, vendors, and networking with other dancers.
A few days later, on Nov. 14-15, the company will stage a Christmas Carol production — with a contemporary twist. The show will be set against live music of an original arrangement of Tchaikovsky classics, with themes of love and redemption at the forefront.
Then, early next year, Big Muddy will perform Beat Ballads, featuring the music of British composer Joby Talbot, whose work has ranged from a BBC comedy to a ballet of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.Moves & Grooves will follow in April and feature the sounds of Henry Saiz, an electronic music artist. The historic Grandel Theatre will play host to both shows.