Category: Community news

New Eagle Scouts

Oskar Tolmoff, Ryan Hislop, and Seth Foley of Troop 21 of Immanuel Lutheran Church had their Eagle Scout Court of Honor on Saturday, May 13. Oskar Tolmoff and Ryan Hislop are both juniors at Bristol Central High School and Seth…

Southington native among dance luminaries highlighted in new photo exhibit

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

The history of dance in Connecticut will be illustrated with photographs.

And as part of an upcoming exhibit, which was organized by the Connecticut Dance Alliance and was due to open Jan. 19 at the Connecticut Historical Society, the opening night focus was to be placed on a Southington man who helped shape the dance world… not only in Connecticut but across the globe.

Bring up the name of Alwin Nikolais in casual conversation in his hometown, you might get a “Who?” or a blank stare.

But in the world of dance, his name looms large.

And he is one of the names that pops up in “Connecticut Dances—A Visual History,” was organized by the Dance History Project of the CDA.

Jill Henderson, the director of the Dance History Project, said Nikolais – born in 1910 and who passed away in 1993— was an important arts figure, not only in the Nutmeg state but across the globe.

“He had a small (dance) company in Hartford,” said Henderson. He was part of a dance troupe at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. And he was a figure on the international stage. (For example, his piece “Schema” was performed in Paris in 1980, the same time his choreography for an opera by Gian Carlo Menotti was performed at the Vienna Staatsoper.)

“He was very much a presence,” said Henderson. “He was a luminary of Connecticut dance.”

Describing the life of Nikolais, Henderson explained he arrived in the world of dance at an age much later in life than was typical for dancer.

When the Southington native graduated from Lewis High School (now Southington High School), said Henderson, Nikolais was a musician not a dancer. He played in the high school marching band.

But as a young man, he attended a dance performance. The performance was very different from the classical ballet he had seen before.

“He was very inspired,” said Henderson.

In a 1992 interview with Susan Beaucar Palmer, which was provided by CDA, Nikolais said, “I was born in Southington, Connecticut and I was taken to see Mary Wigman. She was Truda (Kaschmann)’s teacher. (Kaschmann brought modern dance instruction to the Hartford School of Music.) I fell in love with what I saw Wigman do.”

During his time in Hartford and Connecticut, Nikolais eventually worked with the legendary Chick Austin, who turned the Wadsworth Atheneum and Hartford into one of the THE places for the arts in the 1930s and 1940s. (In the 1992 interview, Nikolais said, “Chick Austin was the ‘big bad boy’ of the arts in Hartford… and a wonderful stimulation to all of the arts.”)

Nikolais also had his own theater in Southington (“We scraped down an old burned fish market and made a little theater of it. We did plays which didn’t require royalty payment. So along with Michael Adrian, I very often directed parts of things or whole little plays,” he said in 1992.) He worked with the Hartford Federal Theater in the 1930s as a choreographer— brought their by Adrian— who had been a Hollywood director at that point.

Henderson said Nikolais was a trailblazer in that he was one of the first “total theater” performers. He did everything. He handled choreography He created his own sound design. He created the light design  as well.

As a choreographer, said Henderson, Nikolais was unique in how he used his dancers. Typically, he used his dancers as objects to create “visually astonishing effects… so the dancers always became integral with what audience was seeing.” He used dancers, explained Henderson, more like props on stage.

Henderson said there were many possible figures in the world of dance in the state who could have served as a figure for the opening night of “Connecticut Dances: A Visual History.” But the decision was made to dedicate the opening to Nikolais because of his international renown and his radical and creative approach to choreography.

As part of the evening, the Dance History Project even invited the sole remaining member of the 1940-42 Nikolais’s dance company, Ruth Grauert, 97, to speak about the man. Also a former soloist with Nikolais Dance Theatre, Lynn Needle, was invited to perform Nikolais’s “Noumenon.”

The Connecticut Dance Alliance in partnership with the Connecticut Historical Society will present “Connecticut Dances- A Visual History” at the Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth St., Hartford through March 4.

The exhibition is the culmination of a crowd-sourcing initiative “All About Dance in Connecticut” that documents the many facets of the history of dance in Connecticut through an on- line gallery collection of over two thousand photographic images submitted by members of the Connecticut dance community over the past two years. The total collection of images can be viewed at www.flickr.com/groups/2734781@N25/.

“Connecticut Dances- A Visual History” eventually will travel throughout Connecticut. The tour listing as it develops can be found on www.ctdanceall.com.

Registration begins for Miss Southington and Miss Plantsville pageants

Who will be the next Miss Southington, Miss Plantsville, Miss Southington’s Outstanding Teen and Miss Plantsville’s Outstanding Teen 2017? Would you like to earn Scholarship money? Do you have a passion to give back to your community and help others?…

Register for Y programs

Registration is open for Wheeler Regional YMCA in Plainville sports program. The The winter session runs Jan. 9 to Feb. 26. Youth Sports include soccer for ages 2 to 8; gymnastics for ages 18 months to 7; and rock climbing…

Showcase of Stars continues to shine but with new purpose

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

The Holiday Showcase of Stars lost its reason for existence in June.

The annual event was launched as a fundraiser for St. Anthony School. However, after decades of existence, the school was shuttered before last summer.

But as the adage says, the show must go on. And the Holiday Showcase of Stars returns on Saturday, this time as a fundraiser for the city’s two remaining elementary parochial schools.

Debbie Schur, the longtime organizer of the holiday variety show explained, “With the closing of St. Anthony School a decision had to be made and our core group all agreed that Catholic school education in Bristol would continue to benefit.”

She explained, “Parish priests and principals at both St. Joseph and St. Matthew were extremely enthusiastic about supporting and promoting the event, as well as keeping the tradition going.”

“Bristol is blessed with wonderful public and parochial schools,” said Schur. “It is our belief that our citizens have a right to choose which schools are best for their individual children and so we will continue to support the Catholic schools in Bristol.”

Even though the beneficiary of the show’s ticket sales has changed, Schur said the show itself hasn’t.

“Quite honestly, it feels like it hasn’t missed a beat,” said Schur. “Besides initially adjusting to a new rehearsal venue (since St. Anthony School wasn’t available anymore), it has all fallen into place.”

“The toughest part is that a few of our showcase family were unable to take part this year and that has proven to be more of an emotional hurdle for me personally,” said Schur. “But we have new faces and voices and new people have stepped up to assist and that has been encouraging and gratifying. The show itself has a basic format that we play with each year.”

The theme this year reflects, however, the transition that the event has had to made.

This year, the Holiday Showcase of Stars is called “Can’t Stop the Spirit.”

“When St. Anthony school closed, we were all approached by numerous people, about the show ending,” said Schur. “Quite honestly for our tight knit group, that was never an option. Combine our group’s ‘fight instinct,’ if you will, with all the unrest in our country and in our world, ‘Can’t Stop the Spirit!,’ in some ways became a battle cry.”

This year’s Holiday Showcase of Stars is its 13th year as a holiday entertainment tradition in Bristol.

“I think the heart and spirit of our cast help create a very contagious atmosphere and tradition for people,” said Schur. “For many it is their kick off to the Christmas season and it is fun entertainment for the entire family.”

Holiday music endures because it is a tradition, said Schur. Plus, she said, “With different performers performing different versions, even though you always know the song, there is always a spin or surprise.”

The showcase organizers have long prided themselves on the talent of the children in the show, many who return show after show.

“That is one of the things I personally look forward to each year,” Schur, “watching them grow, not only in stature but in their personalities and characters is such fun. We have a set of twins, the Porcaros, that have been with us since age 3, almost their whole lives and their mom told me they are moving. I am heartbroken to see them leave. They have been a part of our family. So, it’s tough to see them grow up or move on.”

The adults also all donate their time to the show. “That unto itself is probably what separates this show from the rest,” said Schur. “People are willing to give their time, their talents and their hearts to this event is so rewarding. And I think it sets a good example to the kids and teens in the show.”

“Every person is blessed with some kind of talent. And I’m sure we all know people who hoard their talents. When God shines a light we don’t hide it under a bushel basket,” said Schur.

“Hopefully, in our show we make people comfortable with sharing their gifts,” said Schur. “And year after year, God sends us who and what we need to produce this show.”

For those who turn out this year, beyond the cause, Schur said they should expect “great talent, great fun, great memories, and of course, great spirit.”

The Holiday Showcase of Stars presents… “Can’t Stop The Spirit” on Saturday, Dec. 3 at St. Paul Catholic High School, 1001 Stafford Ave., Bristol at 7 p.m.

Local singers to perform at screening of ‘Bang! The Bert Berns Story’

  Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford will screen the biographical documentary, “Bang! The Bert Berns Story,” which tells the story of 1960s American songwriter and record producer Bert Berns, on Saturdya, Dec. 17 at 6 p.m., followed by…