Concert review: Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in outstanding Rachmaninoff, difficult Bernstein

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Concert review: Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in outstanding Rachmaninoff, difficult Bernstein
By Sarah Bryan Miller St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Apr 28, 2019

Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra are celebrating his 50th anniversary with the orchestra with a pair of concerts. For the first of them, he led three pieces: a new work, a standard work with a favorite artist and a rarity.

On Saturday night, Slatkin received an enthusiastic reception when he stepped on stage. He briefly introduced the evening’s repertoire (a very Leonard thing to do), and then launched into it.

First was “Smothered by Sky,” by Loren Loiacono (b. 1989); she was among the young composers commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to celebrate Slatkin as he finished his tenure there. The percussion-heavy piece demands a large orchestra and packs a lot into its energetic seven minutes, as dense strings contend with outbursts from the brass; it ends with a soft sizzle on a cymbal. It would repay further hearing.

Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish,” was a long time a-borning: commissioned in 1955, it wasn’t completed until 1963, soon after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to whom it is dedicated. Questioning God and veering between faith and anguish, it prefigures his 1971 “Mass” in many ways, with spiky music occasionally giving way to a limpid tune. First and last performed here in 1965, it is not an easy work to embrace.

The Kaddish is the Jewish prayer for the dead; it does not mention death. Bernstein set its reverent words for a soloist and choirs (adult and children’s) against his own spoken texts: “Your covenant! Your bargain with Man! Tin God! Your bargain is tin! It crumples in my hand! And where is faith now — yours or mine?”

As specified by Bernstein, Slatkin used a female speaker, the excellent Charlotte Blake Alston. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke (in the singer-friendly spot at house right of the podium) brought a big, beautiful voice to her solos. Amy Kaiser’s St. Louis Symphony Chorus and Barbara Berner’s St. Louis Children’s Choirs sang with accuracy and feeling throughout, and the tricky score held no terrors for the orchestra. Slatkin made the best possible case for it.

Rosanne Cash, the Paco de Lucia Project, and Dianne Reeves are part of just-announced Chan Centre for the Performing Arts 2019-20 season

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Rosanne Cash, the Paco de Lucia Project, and Dianne Reeves are part of just-announced Chan Centre for the Performing Arts 2019-20 season
by Janet Smith on April 27th, 2019

Legends of Americana, jazz, and flamenco are among the culture-spanning lineup just announced for next season at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

The news was unveiled at tonight's Anoushka Shankar concert at the venue.

Kicking off the 2019-20 season will be Rosanne Cash on September 28, with songs from her first album in five years, She Remembers Everything.

On October 5, the venue welcomes Norway's Mari Boine, who weaves together her native Sámi language, traditional Norwegian folksong, and the sounds of the natural world.

Later that month, Eastern European quartet DakhaBrakha mashes up Ukrainian folk music with Indian, Arabic, African, Russian, and Australian instrumentation.

The Flamenco Legends sextet hits town November 2 for a tribute to late guitar master and former band leader Paco de Lucía…

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra: Slatkin conducts Bernstein

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra: Slatkin conducts Bernstein
Apr 25, 2019

When 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday • Where Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand Boulevard • How much $25-$112 • More info 314-534-1700; slso.org

It’s been a half-century since conductor Leonard Slatkin made his debut with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; this weekend and next, the SLSO celebrates with a pair of programs conducted by the man who’s now the orchestra’s conductor laureate. This weekend’s concerts feature Russian pianist and Van Cliburn Piano Competition gold medalist Olga Kern in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish,” dedicated to President John F. Kennedy, with narrator Charlotte Blake Alston, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and the St. Louis Children’s Choirs. Also on the program: Loren Loiacono’s 2017 work “Smothered by Sky.” 


Q&A with Charlotte Blake Alston about Bernstein's "Kaddish Symphony"

Q&A with Charlotte Blake Alston
By Larry Levin, Special to the Jewish Light
Apr 18, 2019

You performed the “Kaddish Symphony” with the Philadelphia Orchestra earlier this year. The narrator wrestles with such powerful and intimate thoughts and feelings about God and faith during the piece. How did your understanding of the narrator evolve from when you began preparing through the time of your performance?

When I first read the text, what jumped out at me were the emotions of anger and rage. The narrator rails at God with a kind of fist-shaking, finger-pointing fury. To me, much of the sensibilities of the text, its language, pushed the limits of blasphemy. Certainly, among my own thoughts was the personal question: “Do I really want to stand on a stage in front of thousands of people and have words of blasphemy come out of my mouth – Bernstein or no Bernstein!?”  

I read the text several times, then shifted my focus to the primary word in the symphony’s title: Kaddish. I am not a practitioner of Judaism so while I was aware of the Mourners’ Prayer I was unfamiliar with the actual language of the prayer. I began engaging in conversations with Jewish friends and colleagues. My first question: “Are anger and rage ever components or sentiments of the Kaddish prayer?” The answer was ‘no’. Those extended conversations really helped me to think differently about the text and about Bernstein’s internal conflicts framed by what was happening in our country and in the world in the mid-1960’s – including the assassination of John F. Kennedy — into a broader and deeper perspective. …

Maureen McGovern at The Ned next season.

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The Ned bringing different acts to Jackson next season
Brandon Shields
April 17, 2019

The coordination staff with The Ned R. McWherter West TN Cultural Arts Center announced the schedule for their 2019-20 season earlier this week.

The performance venue in Downtown Jackson will host a number of different musical acts between September and April of next year highlighting different genres of music and a one-man show honoring a literary icon of American history.

Maureen McGovern is a singer who’s been nominated for multiple Grammy awards and has performed on Broadway. The performance on Sept. 6 is called “Long and Winding Road,” which is the name o a cover album she recorded in 2008.

The Cleverlys will come to Jackson on Oct. 24 and will bring their combination of pop, rock and R&B hits from recent years performed with Bluegrass instruments and arrangements generates laughs throughout the show.On Dec. 6, The Diamonds, a Canadian group who had a string of hits in the 1950s and 1960s that have developed into a rotating group of vocalists as the group has continued despite original members passing away, will bring a holiday-themed show called “Silver Bells & Diamonds” to Downtown Jackson.

Country singer Royal Wade Kimes will begin the second half of the season schedule on Feb. 21, 2020, by bringing his style of American music to the Hub City….

Mads Tolling and The Mads Men at San Jose Jazz this summer!

San Jose Jazz announces more acts for 2019 Summer Fest
By JIM HARRINGTON
April 16, 2019

San Jose Jazz has announced more performers for its annual Summer Fest event, including The Family Stone, Carl Allen’s Tribute to Art Blakey, Kim Nalley Trio with James Carter, Mads Tolling and the Mads Men and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

Other additions include Sylvia Cuenca Quartet With Gary Bartz, Elio Villafranca, Septeto Chappotín, Kassa Overall, Marquis Hill Blacktet, Ellis Marsalis Piano Competition Winners, China Moses, Arsenio Rodriguez Project, Iris Sandra Orquesta, Orquesta La Moderna Tradición, Gunhild Carling, Aki Kumar’s Bollywood Blues, Emmet Cohen and Tootie Heath, Akira Tana and Otonowa, Aaron Lington Sextet Reimagines the Music of Led Zeppelin and Nicole Zuraitis and the Generations of Her…

Andes Manta Performs at WVPB Studios

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Andes Manta Performs at WVPB Studios
By MATT JACKFERT • APR 5, 2019

South American quartet Andes Manta graced us with their presence at the studios of West Virginia Public Broadcasting. With large drums, guitars, and a myriad of flutes, the four Lopez brothers performed a few of their favorite selections in the Andean tradition. The four Brothers, Fernando, Luis, Bolivar, and Jorge, also spoke of their Ecuadorian upbringing, their instruments, and the uniqueness of their Andean music. 

Andes Manta made the trip to West Virginia to put on shows for area schools and for a concert presented by Footmad on Saturday, April 6th at 7:30 PM at the Culture Center in Charleston. You can order tickets here

Folk music with a South American flair Saturday

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Folk music with a South American flair Saturday
Apr 4, 2019

Saturday night at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, the Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance will hold its last concert of the regular season with South American traditional music group Andes Manta. The concert will incorporate more than 35 traditional instruments, including a variety of pipes and flutes, some seldom seen in the United States. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Adult tickets are $25. Seniors are $20 and students are $10…

Bruce Performs Final “This Is It” Recital, Ending 6-Year Project

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Bruce Performs Final “This Is It” Recital, Ending 6-Year Project
by Olivia Drake • April 2, 2019

After publicly performing almost 16 hours of his solo piano compositions, Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music played his final concert on March 31, concluding a six-year project.

Bruce, who took up piano at the age of 8, began the series titled “This Is It! The Complete Piano Works of Neely Bruce” in 2013. He performed a total of 17 CD-length recitals at Crowell Concert Hall during this time.

“I thought it might take 12 (recitals), but it ended up being 17,” Bruce said. “This was a great opportunity to take stock of my whole life as a composer for the keyboard.”

Bruce has composed more than 300 original songs in addition to three full-length operas; five one-act operas; works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, and wind ensemble; chamber music; electronic music; and documentary film scores. He also set the Bill of Rights to music. Read more about his work on neelybruce.com.

“I never set out to be a composer of such an extensive oeuvre for piano,” he said.

This spring, Bruce is teaching 18th-Century Counterpoint and Music of the 19th Century.

In March, the Center for the Arts Radio Hour featured a conversation between Neely Bruce and composer, scriptwriter, and essayist Michael Kowalski. They discussed many aspects of the oeuvre—how Bruce writes for the instrument, the stylistic diversity of the pieces, his indebtedness to other composers, and more. The conversation also includes performances of Bruce’s “The Feline Sea”; “Playful Edge of the Wave: Image-Based Music for Solo Piano” (Ravello Records); and “Pandiatonic Study No. 3.”…

Hank Williams Fans Get Sneak Peek of New Ken Burns PBS Documentary “Country Music”

Hank Williams Fans Get Sneak Peek of New Ken Burns PBS Documentary “Country Music”
by Danielle Wallace
Mar 29, 2019

For many, Hank Williams is a country music legend. Friday his fans got a sneak peek of a new documentary about his life. Clips from the film “Country Music” were played at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. The film highlight’s Hank Williams and other country music icons. It is a Ken Burns PBS documentary.

Dayton Duncan, one of the films producers attended the screening.  Along with others who worked with Burns and Duncan on the project.

“Anything they do is gold. They’re that good, they’re smart and incredible. Dayton is incredibly talented. And of course ken burns is the master documentary film maker in the world I suppose and I’m just blessed and honored to be part of their project sometimes,” says Bobby Horton, a musician contributed to the film.

The documentary premieres  on Alabama Public Television on Sunday, September 15th – September 18th at 7 pm. It also airs Sunday, September 22nd – September 25th at 7 pm.

Centenary Stage presents Irish music and dance

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Centenary Stage presents Irish music and dance
Mar. 21, 2019 

HACKETTSTOWN -- Darrah Carr Dance joins Centenary Stage Company on Saturday, March 23, at 8 p.m., to present "Ceilidh: An Evening of Irish Music and Dance" in the Sitnik Theatre of the Lackland Performing Arts Center, 715 Grand Ave., Hackettstown.

The evening's performance will also include a special pre-show presentation by An Clar School of Irish Dance. Tickets are $25 for adults, $17.50 for children under 12 and available online at centenarystageco.org or by phone at 908-979-0900.

Darrah Carr Dance brings a bold new twist to conventional Irish dance. Their acclaimed performances draw from Irish music, step dance footwork and spatial patterns to create high-energy, rhythmically-based work that is accessible to a broad audience.

The company is comprised of championship Irish dancers including Trent Kowalik, Tony Award winner and the original star of Broadway's "Billy Elliot" and Timothy Kochka two-time winner of the World Irish Dancing Championships and former member of "Riverdance."

Artistic Director Darrah Carr was named one of the Top 100 Irish Americans of the Year by Irish America Magazine and was awarded the Irish Heritage Award from the New York City Comptroller Office in recognition of her contribution to the cultural life of New York's Irish community.

In addition to their acclaimed performances Darrah Carr Dance offers a variety of community outreach programs which include a whirlwind introduction to Irish dance, including its history, costumes and traditions….

Ryan & Ryan Piano Duo to Perform at WIU March 24

Ryan & Ryan Piano Duo to Perform at WIU March 24
March 19, 2019

MACOMB, IL – BCA will present Ryan & Ryan at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24 in the College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) Recital Hall. 
  
Ryan & Ryan is a dynamic father-son piano duo that draws upon classic and contemporary music to create enthralling concert experiences. From Rachmaninoff to Gershwin to Billy Joel, Donald and Barron Ryan combine their talents to create a dazzling blend of old and new schools.

This performance will showcase the COFAC Recital Hall's two Steinway & Sons Model D pianos. The newest of the two pianos was purchased with a donation from Herb and Nancy Strong and family in November 2017, and unveiled at a performance in April 2018. The 2017 Steinway will ultimately be housed in the Center for Performing Arts, but the School of Music faculty and staff are fortunate to be able to use it in the interim.

The WIU School of Music is on its way to becoming an All-Steinway School, a designation given to an institution by Steinway & Sons. An All-Steinway School recognizes that high quality pianos are necessary equipment for the study of music, and that becoming an All-Steinway School reflects a commitment to provide the best instruments possible….

Slapstick comedian joins juggling ace for SMIRK at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek

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Slapstick comedian joins juggling ace for SMIRK at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek
March 13, 2019

Unbelievable juggling sequences combined with comedic banter, lively music and audience interaction is the perfect recipe for a show that will engage the whole family. SMIRK has captured the attention of all-ages of folks across the state and country, and is sure to engage audiences at the Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC) during their upcoming show on Thursday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for children, or buy a family four-pack of tickets for just $100. Tickets are available now by calling 970-845-8497 or visiting http://www.vilarpac.org. This show is part of the VPAC Pick 5 Ticket Package where you can select from a specific list of shows and get one ticket to five different shows for just $150. Visit http://www.vilarpac.org for a list of shows.

SMIRK reveals the lives of two performers whose comedy derives from the collision of two very different minds trying to perform in the same show. One is a former scientist, and the other a slapstick madman. Juggling, whip cracking, unicycles and a large rocket launcher all make an appearance in this “Odd Couple” meets the circus spectacular. Smirk presents new vaudeville through the lens of comedy and a dynamic Abbott and Costello-style relationship. Reid Belstock and innovative juggling ace Warren Hammond are performers that could not be more different, and their story is a buddy comedy based on two of the oldest archetypes in comedy, the straight man and the goof ball. 

During SMIRK, watch as the duo’s dynamic relationship emerges. Their friendship — and the show itself — is tested as they become at odds with each other. Don’t worry, though, the finale draws the characters back together.

Concert review: Group's show an intense mix of movement and drumming

Concert review: Group's show an intense mix of movement and drumming
BY SUSAN L. PENA
MARCH 10, 2019

Rumbling and galloping, San Jose Taiko plunged into their dazzling performance Sunday afternoon in the Miller Center for the Arts with all the exhilaration of tearing across a plain on horseback.

The eight-member ensemble, led by artistic director Franco Imperial, has put its distinctive stamp on the centuries-old practice of Japanese drumming. The retrospective of their work, ranging from the 1978 “Gendai ni Ikiru,” by Gary Tsujimoto, blending traditional and swinging jazz rhythms to two 2016 works, found the sweet spot at the intersection of drumming and dance.

With every move, including getting drums on and off the stage, choreographed, San Jose Taiko has visual appeal equal to the auditory/visceral appeal of the actual drumming. The moves varied from cathartic flinging of arms and bodies at the drums to slow-motion martial arts; the drummers' grace and exuberance were utterly captivating.

Their first two numbers, “Spirit of Adventure” and “Free Spirit,” both by co-founder Roy Hirabayashi, combined precision and flamboyance, which subsided into solemn drumbeats for Imperial's 2007 “DoR,” created for San Jose's annual Day of Remembrance, commemorating the signing of Executive Order 9066, forcing Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II.

The piece's somber beginning evolved into a powerful, celebratory ending, and that was followed by Imperial's ecstatic, strenuous “Gathering.”

“She Trembles,” composed by Dylan Solomon after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan, conjured an angry earth with lurid red lighting and threatening drum sounds.

Imperial's “SoreSamba,” in which taiko meets Brazilian Carnival, was a joyous mashup of samba sounds and rhythms with the taiko's deeper, full-bodied sounds.

In “Iruka” (dolphin), Imperial found ways to create ocean sounds with sudden surges from the mysterious deep; Hirobayashi's duet “KinMoku” was a beautiful oasis of calm with a large gong, small chime and bamboo flute.

In the most challenging and fast-moving pieces, like Hirabayashi's “NanaShi” (7/4), Jeremy Nishihara's “Hayku,” Jose Alarcon's “Seven Lands” and Yurika Chiba's “Wagamama,” the intensity of the performers and the pounding rhythms awakened something deeply primal in the listener. It was impossible to sit still.

Tsujimoto's amazing finale, “Oedo Bayashi,” inspired by Oedo Sukeroku Taiko of Japan, gave each drummer a chance to combine movement and drumming in breathtaking improvised solos.

Rina Chang, Chiba, Imperial, Yuzu Kubota, Mitchell Fukumoto, Geoff Noone, Alex Hudson and Rylan Sekiguchi each projected their own distinctive, wildly inventive personalities in this unforgettable performance.

Mauro memorial part of new music in 45th anniversary concert by Orchestra New England

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Mauro memorial part of new music in 45th anniversary concert by Orchestra New England
By Joe Amarante
March 4, 2019

Orchestra New England’s 45th ambitious anniversary (or birthday, if you will) will be marked in a concert March 9 amid a season that follows the profound loss of the organization’s (Mary) Anne Mauro.

Mauro, who died in September 2018, “was everything to Orchestra New England — its driving spirit,” said maestro James Sinclair, “as a director, fundraiser, event planner, organizer, decorator, hostess and creative thinker.”

ONE’s 45th-year event — its 781st concert and featuring its 71st-73rd musical premieres, will include a memorial piece honoring Mauro. The concert will take place in Battell Chapel in New Haven. Former members of the orchestra have been invited to join the current orchestra members for festivities in New Haven…

Darrah Carr Dance joins Centenary Stage Co.

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Darrah Carr Dance joins Centenary Stage Co.
MAR 4, 2019

HACKETTSTOWN — Darrah Carr Dance joins Centenary Stage Company on Saturday, March 23 at 8 p.m. to present Ceilidh an Evening of Irish Music and Dance in the Sitnik Theatre of the Lackland Performing Arts Center. The evening’s performance will also include a special pre-show presentation by An Clar School of Irish Dance. 

Tickets are $25 for adults, $17.50 for children under 12 and available on-line at centenarystageco.org or by phone at (908) 979–0900. The evening’s performance will also include The Bessie Award - Nominated company, Darrah Carr Dance brings a bold new twist to conventional Irish dance. 

Their acclaimed performances draw from Irish music, step dance footwork and spatial patterns to create high–energy, rhythmically based work that is accessible to a broad audience. The company is comprised of championship Irish Dancers including Trent Kowalik, Tony Award winner and the original star of Broadway’s Billy Elliot and Timothy Kochka two – time winner of the World Irish Dancing Championships and former member of Riverdance. Artistic Director Darrah Carr was named one of the “Top 100 Irish Americans of the Year” by Irish America Magazine and was awarded the Irish Heritage Award from the New York City Comptroller Office in recognition of her contribution to the cultural life of New York’s Irish community. In addition to their acclaimed performances Darrah Carr Dance offers a variety of community outreach programs which include a whirlwind introduction to Irish dance, including its history, costumes and traditions. Other residencies activities include in – school performances, lectures/demonstrations, workshops and master classes….

Chicago Tap Theatre Returns To City Winery With SWEET TAP CHICAGO

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Chicago Tap Theatre Returns To City Winery With SWEET TAP CHICAGO
Mar. 4, 2019

Artistic Director Mark Yonally and Chicago Tap Theatre (CTT) presents Sweet Tap Chicago Sunday, March 10 at 3 and 7 p.m. at The City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St. Sweet Tap Chicago is a celebration of Chicago musicians and music, with all new arrangements by Kurt Schweitz, a live jazz quintet featuring rapper/singer/host Taylor Mallory and tap dancing. Musicians and bands to be covered include Chicago, Smashing Pumpkins, Chaka Khan, Curtis Mayfield and more. Doors open one hour prior to start time and the running time of the performance is one hour and twenty minutes including one short break. Tickets are $40 for reserved admission seating and may be purchased at ChicagoTapTheatre.com, by calling 800-440-8539 or at the door, pending availability. Group discounts are also available for groups of 10 or more….

Folk, Americana-inspired Bettman and Halpin to perform at River Arts Center

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Folk, Americana-inspired Bettman and Halpin to perform at River Arts Center
AUTUMN LUEDKE
Feb 28, 2019

Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin have a story to tell. Voiced throughout the 14 tracks of their new album, 1,000 miles, the Denver-based duo has grounded their latest music in the roots of blue grass and folk. They will be performing live at the River Arts Center March 1.

River Arts Center Executive Director Lindsey Giese said she was introduced to their music at a conference several years back. “They blew me away with their storytelling and incredible talent as musicians,” Giese said. “I knew I wanted to book them for the River Arts Center but it took a few years to align all the parts that go into booking shows.”

Giese said Bettman and Halpin are a good fit for the community because their folk-Americana music is popular…


BWW Review: LULA WASHINGTON DANCE THEATRE is an Entity All its Own at The Ford Theatre

Broadway World Los Angeles Review
By Valerie-Jean Miller
June 14, 2018

Lula Washington, an L. A. native from Watts, along with her husband Erwin Washington and daughter Tamica Washington Miller, have been the incumbent founders, creators, directors and choreographers of the LULA WASHINGTON DANCE THEATRE since 1980.

They began with the goal to motivate, educate, inspire, challenge and enrich the lives of young people so they could become successful, productive and competitive citizens. Thirty years later, and now a major dance company all over the world, their appearance here in Los Angeles at The Ford Theatre was an incredible ensemble of dance works choreographed by a variety of talented artists, including Lula and Tamica, and performed by one of the most powerful, strong and exciting company of dancers on the planet.....

Review: Ensemble Español pushing Spanish dance into the 21st century

Chicago Tribune
By Lauren Warnecke
June 16, 2018

Ensemble Español ends each season — of which there have now been 42 — with “Flamenco Passion,” the main attraction of the annual American Spanish Dance & Music Festival at Skokie’s North Shore Center for the Performing Arts.

This year, the theme of the festival is the life and work of Jose Greco. Greco was a legendary Spanish dancer, largely credited with popularizing Spanish dance in America. In 1949, Greco founded the Jose Greco Dance Company, which toured extensively across the U.S. and abroad. He would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year....