Revised on Wednesday, January 17 at 7:45 pm.
The strong, modern and talented women who took charge of Foster Dance Studios ("FDS") on September 30 finished their successful, first run at the helm with an intensely joyful and skilled Together Unique performance on Saturday night at Nichols Hall of the Music Institute of Chicago. To read about the backgrounds and skills of these remarkably poised and confident FDS role models and details of Together Unique, please go here.
When super star dancer and choreographer Ronn Stewart, 42, passed away in the early Saturday morning of September 30, that started six hours later an odyssey that concluded 106 days later at around 9 pm, this past Saturday night with David Maurice (Interim Artistic Director at Cocodaco) dancing figuratively and literally with the ones who "Brung him to the dance," Foster Dance Executive Director Kathryn Jones Ebert, 53, and Foster Dance Interim Artistic Director Jana Schneider, 26.
As the students happily concluded the evening performance (watched by 280 paying customers; the matinee drew 300), they presented flowers to Maurice, Ebert and Schneider. Spontaneously and in accord with the Foster Dance improvisation brand, Maurice ran to the stage, pulling Ebert and Schneider with him, and they each broke out in their own, highly stylized few minutes of happy dance.
But, happiest of all to see this joyful dancing were the students, followed for sure by parents, faculty and friends of Foster Dance-- so many of whom were in the audience at the matinee or Saturday evening performance. They all had been through a collective, collaborative, at times emotionally draining, tear filled roller coaster ride that finally brought tears of joy to all on Saturday.
In the first two days of this journey, it was Kathryn Jones Ebert, figuring out instantly how to start a respectful but necessary line of communication to deal with immediate business matters with newly widowed, single mom, majority owner and classically trained, associate artistic director Sarah Goldstone.
Then Ebert had to communicate with students, parents and faculty to let them know that Foster would be available that Saturday afternoon to talk with students, to help them start grieving-- if they wanted and would open on Monday for classes, grieving and consoling.
Moving from step to step, as if guided by an "Invisible hand," Ebert did the necessary to make sure classes would be staffed and faculty would be emotionally ready to perform during that tough first week.
Then, appropriate mourning services had to be set up and facilitated for those students, parents, faculty and staff who needed and wanted them.
Those inital first steps were followed by key discussions that Ebert had with Foster Dance artistic director Sarah Goldstone, faculty and others about the Foster interim artistic director position.
As you can see by her joyful dancing on Saturday night, that position was filled and executed with "Love and skill" by Jana Schneider [Watch Foster Dance Artistic Director Schneider discuss her art, skills and practical and pedagogical ties to Ronn Stewart's improvisation brand and the emerging Foster Dance brand by visiting here].
Ebert was kept apprised of the decision by Cocodaco artistic director Sarah Goldstone and others involved in Cocodaco management to recruit and hire from San Francisco as Cocodaco interim artistic director David Maurice to replace the late Ronn Stewart.
Maurice ultimately was hired by Ebert to join Foster's faculty and David played a significant role in the preparation for and conduct of Saturday night’s show, assisting the extraordinarily artistically skilled and cohesive team of Jana Schneider, Kathryn Ebert, Graca Sales and Sarah Goldstone.
Then somehow, through the collaborative, creative and disciplined partnership and hard work of that team, with significant contributions from Maurice, the four strong, contemporary modern women pulled it off.
They all worked together to get the new faculty they needed to get them through the fall semester. And, they had to help their students deal with Ronn’s death and help them learn their dance moves and how to perform by collaborating, interpreting and improvising.
Maurice had to focus on Cocodaco (whose first winter show under him was last month), but he also had to be a significant contributor as a faculty member of Foster Dance Company and a choreographer on four of Saturday’s 12 performances. Maurice worked diligently and well with the four strong Foster Dance women.
And, through it all, the Foster Five taught, nourished and inspired the students to continue to develop the Foster Dance Company brand, which was on vivid display on Saturday. [For more about the evolution of the Foster Dance brand and it's growing influence around the country and beyond, please go here].
First and foremost the Foster dancers “Do it with love,“and they always “Remember why they are there.” And they “Keep going all the time,” “Listen to and interact with the other dancers and their choreographer,” and “Suspend judgment of colleagues until they understand.”
On Saturday, the dancers brought the above principles to life and demonstrated again and again the Foster Dance brand ten core elements:
- Be physical, philosophical, emotional, intellectual, visual and spiritual
- Be expressive by using all available space. Hug the ground and fly through the air.
- Travel in the auditorium aisles, as well as all over the stage. Know the audience, even as you let them know you.
- Know your anatomy’s strengths and limitations and use that knowledge well.
- Interact and Improvise, while being disciplined and skilled.
- Watch, see, feel, touch, listen and know intimately your stage and it's supporting areas for dance.
- Combine classical dance theory, practice and strong technique with improvisational/interpretative dance.
- Know, help and do integrated dance with your colleagues-- constantly and happily.
- Feel the joy, power and soul of music and dance- and show it.
- Find happiness, joy and love through dance, because if you don’t- what’s the point?
And, yesterday, the Foster Five started on their preparation for the May 11-12 Annual spring show, which, as always, will be held at Regina high school in Wilmette.
Having done one annual show successfully, the 7th annual spring show, now 115 days away, should be a piece of cake for the Foster Five.
In fact, I would say it's a lock. You can make book on it.
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