Chi Chi Randolph has choreographed routines for hip-hop artists including Nelly and the Black Eyed Peas. Kari Lehman has 15 years of ballet training experience. Viviane Bressan turned her love of belly dance into a career, traversing the globe while teaching and performing the ancient art. At Dance Austin Studio, these three number among more than a dozen dance instructors whose dazzlingly diverse backgrounds enable an array of classes for everyone from preschoolers to grownups and fitness buffs to serious students of dance.
Zumba combines fast-paced cardio choreography with dynamic Latin rhythms, and the 18-and-older Sexy Stiletto Fit class uses high heels to tone calves and build confidence. Students can choose to learn fundamental positions, steps, and vocabulary during structured ballet, lyrical, and jazz programs, or they can develop video-ready swagger during hip-hop classes. The studio’s sense of fun occasionally spills out into the community—it recently teamed up with the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to spark a flash mob at city hall, held to raise awareness of emergency preparedness and help officials practice what to do if invaded by dancing aliens.
Although Esther's Follies' variety show of music, magic, and comedy recalls the vaudevillian entertainment of yesteryear (albeit with a more acerbic modern bent), the nostalgia goes beyond just the performances. The longstanding venue and comedy troupe was named after Esther Williams, the Golden Age starlet whose career as a professional swimmer led to numerous iconic MGM films. Posters for several of these pictures are plastered throughout the space, and an undersea mural bustling with brightly-hued coral, kaleidoscopic marine life, and even a Loch Ness monster further contributes to Esther's otherworldly, aquatic theme. The magical environment, along with the shows themselves, have wowed audiences and Austin Chronicle critics alike.
On the production end, Esther's Follies busts guts in record speed with satirical quips on current events; relevant parodies; and high-stepping, fast-paced comedy sketches. Resident magician Ray Anderson keeps things light with levitation illusions known to dazzle crowds. As the Follies cast ignites into choral skewerings of front-page newsmakers, audiences will laugh so hard that giggles come out their noses.
Austin may not be New York City or even Houston, but for a casual town known primarily for its nightclub music scene, it has one of the most renowned opera companies anywhere in America. Many credit the success of the Austin Lyric Opera to maestro Richard Buckley, an internationally acclaimed conductor who was wooed to Austin’s opera company a decade ago and continues to draw some of the biggest talent in the singing world. Austin Lyric Opera puts on lush, fully realized interpretations of classics from Verdi, Mozart and Puccini, as well as a slew of more modern operas. The company also hosts a range of education and community programs, providing a rich blend of high art and accessibility in the city of Austin.
For eight years running, The Company Theatre's B. Iden Payne award-winning actor J. Damian Gillen has been rallying seasonal spirits throughout Texas with his 60-minute one-man productions of Charles Dickens's beloved A Christmas Carol. Audience members can bring a blanket and find a spot among the 600 seats of the Arneson River Theatre on the historical San Antonio Riverwalk, where breathtaking holiday displays and glimmering lights will stoke festive feelings before the curtain rises. The talented thespian takes the stage as the tale's full range of characters, transmogrifying from Scrooge to Bob Crochet to Tiny Tim with biology-baffling ease. Costume changes and special effects add to the plausibility of Scrooge's heartwarming transformation, which will tug at the audience's heartstrings, then pull them out and knit them into a Christmas sweater. The December 17 performance is one of 30 shows in a 30-day tour of local venues and private functions throughout Texas.
Black Grace fuses contemporary dance with Pacific and Maori styles—forging a new form of movement at once tribal, thundering, energetic, and suffused with raw spirit. Having toured their homeland to sell-out crowds, the dance troupe has also wowed dance fanatics at many of the world's top dance festivals, including the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Mexico’s Cervantino Festival, and the Aichi World Expo. During their Austin performance, Black Grace will perform a three-part program of the best selections from their repertoire. The show begins with Minoi, a fusion of Samoan and western contemporary dance, followed by excerpts from Surface, a full-length piece centered around Samoan tattooing, before closing with choreographer Neil Ieremia's latest full-length opus, Gathering Clouds.