by Cheryl Lerner
The Omaha Dance Project — Omaha’s original city-wide celebration of dance — will mark its tenth anniversary March 6-8 with performances of classical and contemporary dance works, highlighted by the 19th-century Russian classic Paquita.
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 8, at the Jewish Community Center Theater, 333 S. 132nd Street in Omaha.
“The purpose of the Omaha Dance Project is to provide a professional-style performing experience for students and adult community dancers,” said Cheryl Lerner of the Omaha Academy of Ballet, which sponsors ODP. “Dancers who want to participate attend a city-wide audition which is open to anyone regardless of studio affiliation or dance background. Choreographers watch the audition and choose the dancers with whom they want to work. The dancers commit to a rehearsal schedule, culminating in the weekend of performances. It’s basically the same process any professional dancer would follow for an independent concert.”
Another ODP objective is to give choreographers a forum to present their work, Lerner said. “Unless they’re affiliated with a university or a dance company, it can be very hard for choreographers in the Midwest to bring their work to an audience,” she said. “ODP gives them a chance to present their choreography in a fully-staged theater performance.”
In addition to Paquita — staged by former Ballet Omaha and Cincinnati Ballet professional dancer Juliette Henning — ODP will include works by Omaha choreographers Ashley Durst, Danielle Laurion, Nichol Mason Lazenby, and Lynne Nevin, Lerner said. Guest performances by the Tbd. Dance Collective, the UNO Moving Company, and the JCC Dance Training Company will round out the program. JCC Dance and Cultural Arts Director Esther Katz and Assistant Director Jessica Reed will be performing in the concert. They are both members of Tbd. Dance Collective and will appear in pieces by Stephanie Huettner and Nicol Mason Lazenby.
The JCC Dance Training Company will perform on March 7 and 8. Their work, Over the Rainbow, is choreographed by JCC Dance and Cultural Arts Director, Esther Katz. Of the piece, she says, “Most of us listen to Somewhere Over the Rainbow and it brings us to the story of Wizard of Oz. I recently was made aware of the deep Jewish roots within this song. The lyrics were written by Yip Harburg, a Russian Jewish immigrant. The music was written by Harold Arlen, a cantor’s son whose parents were from Lithuania. The lyrics were about Jewish survival during the Holocaust. Jews of Europe could not fly; they could not escape beyond the rainbow. The “chimney tops” take on a whole new light when you think of them in regards to the Holocaust. When I learned of this history I wanted to choreograph a piece presenting the struggle depicted in the lyrics vs. the carefree beauty that is most often thought of when listening to this song.”
Tickets for the Omaha Dance Project are $15 for adults, $10 for students and those 65 and over. Ticket information is available from the Omaha Academy of Ballet at 402.346.0469. Tickets may be reserved in advance. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door.
The Omaha Dance Project is made possible with the support of the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.