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Friday, February 18, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.

Choreographer puts music, moves on equal footing

Special to The Seattle Times

Dance Preview

Enlarge this photoNAN MELVILLE

Donna Scro Gentile, left, and Marisa Demos, of the Sean Curran Company, which will perform at Meany Theater with the Amelia Piano Trio.

Dance audiences tend to expect music to be part of most dance events, whether that music is recorded or played live. Next weekend's program at Meany Theater mixes dance and music in a slightly different way, when the Sean Curran Company performs with the Amelia Piano Trio.

During the concert, sections of pure music will alternate with accompanied dance. "Oftentimes when I go to concerts I like to get lost in the music. I'll close my eyes, find the Zen of it," choreographer Curran said during a recent phone call from New York. "In this instance, it will be a great opportunity to use your eyes and your ears at the same time, and then independently. I'm hoping the audience gets the experience of a two for one, a chamber music concert and a contemporary dance company."

The Amelia Piano Trio, with violinist Anthea Kreston, cellist Jason Duckles and pianist Rieko Aizawa, has received a good deal of praise and critical attention in the five years since it formed. Curran's company, created in 1997, has toured widely, also to high praise, and been the recipient of a long list of grants and awards.

Dance preview

Sean Curran Company, with the Amelia Piano Trio, UW World Dance Series, 8 p.m. Thursday through Feb. 26, Meany Theater, University of Washington, Seattle; $37 (206-543-4880 or

The two groups are rehearsing and performing together for the first time in Ogden, Utah, this week before bringing the program to Seattle. Although familiar with each other's work through exchanging CDs and videos, there will be a large element of spontaneity in the interaction.

"I think it's going to crackle," Curran said.

"There are what I call signposts in the music, or definite places where I want the music and the choreography to link up. There's places where it's looser where it can have more of a parallel relationship."

The interactions between members of the trio and the dancers will be coordinated in part by the pianist. "The piano bench is also the driver's seat. Then we set the cues for stopping and starting between us. Sometimes the dancers take cues from the musicians; sometimes the musicians will take cues from the dancers. There's a real back and forth, an ebb and flow."

Curran describes himself as a music-driven choreographer. "I make dances because I love music so much." His background has reinforced his musicality. He started as an Irish step dancer, went on to modern (performing with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company) and spent four years with "Stomp," the percussion extravaganza.

"Irish step dancing gave me two great gifts that I've used my whole career. One is a speed and fleetness; my quick-twitching muscle fibers got developed very quickly when I was 5 years old. The other gift is a strange musicality. You are listening to the specific rhythms of maybe a jig or a reel or a hornpipe and responding. As in tap you are both a dancer but also a musician layering rhythms on top of music. Doing 'Stomp,' I also had to learn how to really hear the music. 'Stomp' was such a great lesson in composition and improvisation."

Curran made several dances to chamber music before joining up with Amelia for this performance. "I don't have choreographies to larger orchestral pieces. I like a smaller scale. I like the intimacy of the three voices, the piano the violin and the cello and then my eight dancers or me doing a solo."

The program will include music by Mendelssohn, Piazzolla and Schubert.

Mary Murfin Bayley:

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company



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