Garth Fagan Dance to jump ‘into the earth, out of the earth’ with fusion of styles

Garth Fagan Dance

Julia Weber
Staff writer

The Garth Fagan Dance company will jump onto stage at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

The company incorporates a particular technique that draws inspiration from and combines multiple dance styles, said Natalie Rogers-Cropper, who is the interim executive director of Garth Fagan Dance as well as the company’s assistant rehearsal director and school director.

The Garth Fagan technique utilizes characteristics like the loose, torso-centered movement of Afro-Caribbean dance, the speed and agility of ballet, the polyrhythms of African music and dance and the loose backs of post-modern dance.

“His work tends to be impressionistic and abstract, not very narrative. He’s definitely a contemporary dance choreographer,” said Rogers-Cropper.

Another distinctive attribute of the Fagan technique is that dancers do not prepare for their jumps during their performances, which Rogers-Cropper describes as being “into the earth, out of the earth.”

“Our jumps have no preparation whatsoever. We just fly into the air; it’s a very technical thing that they have to learn, and it’s quite wonderful,” she said. “When we have to go down into the earth, (Fagan) wants that weight, he wants that strength that is connected with dancers that have a very primal feel.”

Dancers are formally trained in the Fagan Technique and will demonstrate their skill during tonight’s performance at the Amp.

Fagan, for whom the company is named, has choreographed for the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It’s his technique and vocabulary behind Broadway’s The Lion King, for which he was honored with a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography, and Outer Critics Circle Award, a  Tony Award and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer. The Fagan Technique aims to uplift dancers from all backgrounds, particularly dancers of color and older dancers.

“It’s also a reflection of the world that our company wants to present on stage. … The world is made up of children, teens, adults and mature people, so all the pieces reflect that,” she said.

Chautauquans can expect to see an emphasis on group performances, though solos, duos and trios appear intermittently throughout the pieces.

“Choreographically, that’s the art form where you have a different range of people, different directions, different amounts of people and different ages,” she said. “That makes the choreography rich.”

Rogers-Cropper hopes the audience will find the high-energy nature of the show inspiring, as well as the company’s “positive affirmation of humanity.”

“We want them involved at a very deep level – emotionally, certainly, intellectually – to think about ‘What is this about?’ and engaged spiritually, as well, where they really feel like part of the movement,” she said.

She hopes they leave with a heightened sense of joy, and cherish the experience. She also hopes that the performance will offer an alternative to stereotypes about dance in the media.

“It’s important that people of color, especially young people, see the positive images on stage and see that there’s an alternative to the stereotypes that you see in the performing arts and on basic media,” she said.

She would like for the performance to resonate with viewers and wants attendees to leave with a “rollicking time” — and a stronger feeling of connection.

“What (the audience) will experience is a celebration of humanity through dance, and anybody can relate to that,” Rogers-Cropper said. “…When you leave a Garth Fagan dance performance, you are uplifted, you are more positive, you want to talk about it with everyone.”


The author Julia Weber

Julia Weber is a rising junior in Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College where she is majoring in journalism and minoring in art history. Originally from Athens, Ohio, this is her first summer in Chautauqua and she is thrilled to cover the theater and dance performances. She serves as the features editor for Ohio University’s All-Campus Radio Network, a student-run radio station and media hub, and she is a former intern for Pittsburgh Magazine. Outside of her professional life, Julia has a newly adopted cat, Griffin, and she is an avid fan of live music and a dedicated ceramicist.