Hello, DANCEworks Dance Buzz readers.  Seeing as this blog is normally the venue for musings and meditations by DANCEworks’ fearless founder and director Dianne Vapnek, I thought I should introduce myself.  I’m Rachel Howard, a dance writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications, as well as a DANCEworks board member–and, for the coming week as well as again this September, I will be the designated fly-on-the-wall as New York choreographer Adam Barruch creates his ambitious DANCEworks commission, an unusual physical theater interpretation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Barruch’s new project was spawned by a 2011 signature solo he created to a recording of the Sweeney Todd song “The Worst Pies in London.”  After seeing Barruch’s fluid, frenetic, and surprising take on the song, Sondheim gave Barruch his personal blessing for Barruch to choreograph the full score.  That’s the large-scale project Barruch will undertake during his DANCEworks residency, August 31st to September 26th, when he and his dancers will have about 40 hours a week to work onstage, with tech support, at Santa Barbara’s historic 604-seat Lobero Theatre.

Just what the new dance will look like and how it will unfold is unknown–that’s the nature of DANCEworks, which aims to give choreographers unhindered space and time to create and take new risks.  This weekend, April 18th, Barruch will make his first visit to Santa Barbara to lay the groundwork. He will see the theater, meet with Dianne Vapnek and Lobero administrators, and audition local musicians to serve as musical director/pianist and female vocalist for the production.  On Sunday, April 19th, Barruch and his longtime dance partner Chelsea Bonosky will also give a performance of their recently acclaimed interpretation of a Nathaniel Hawthorne story, Belladonna, delivering it in the conversational “Stripped/Dressed” format pioneered by choreographer Doug Varone at New York’s Harkness Dance Festival.

This weekend is only the prelude to Barruch’s creative process, and only the beginning of audience opportunities to see his version of Sweeney Todd as it unfolds.  Every Friday evening during Barruch’s fall residency, DANCEworks will offer a Friday Club work-in-progress showing free to DANCEworks donors, followed by an onstage reception with Barruch and the dancers.  The fall residency will culminate with two world premiere performances, September 25th and 26th.

Throughout all of this, I will be observing, periodically interviewing Barruch and his collaborators, and creating a written chronicle of the new dance’s creation, which will also be documented by David Bazemore’s photography and videography.  Next week, following Barruch’s initial visit, I’ll be posting a Q and A with Barruch and Bonosky, and reports on their groundwork-laying weekend in the theater.

DANCEworks hopes you will become a supporter and join Barruch and his dancers this Sunday, as well as Fridays in September, and that you will join us in observing the creation of Barruch’s new Sweeney Todd, in the Lobero Theatre, and on this website.

To learn more about Barruch and the mission of DANCEworks in the meantime, take a look at this enthusiastic preview by Melissa Lowenstein just published in the Santa Barbara Independent.


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