Shakin' It Up

Ballet gets a touch of Afro-Caribbean flavor

Spotlight: Garth Fagan Dance


Forget the pink tutus, rhinestone tiaras and pancake makeup - there's a new spin on ballet.

Garth Fagan Dance, a dance company and school, is on the cutting-edge of modern dance, using the "Fagan Technique," which combines the flair of rhythmic Afro-Caribbean styles with the speed and precision of ballet turns and "high extensions," a term for how a dancer lifts the leg.

The dance troupe performs at the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center on Thursday.

The performance will showcase the talents of 15 dancers, who will glide, jump and bend to a variety of music, including the works of Abdullah Ibrahim, a South African composer, and Max Roach, a jazz drummer. The show will consist of two parts, one of which is `legato,' or slower paced, and one that is more rhythmic.

The dancing incorporates "polyrhythms," or multiple rhythms happening simultaneously.

"One rhythm is going [on] in the torso, one in the arms, one in the legs," Fagan says. "So the whole body is in different movements in different parts."

The troupe will do five dances, each having their own themes. And there's something for everyone, Fagan says - romantic duets for lovers, athletic sections for the men, and flowing lyrical movements for the women.

Fagan will also introduce his latest dance interpretation Life: Dark/Light, a dance that moves to a score by jazz violinst Billy Bang and expresses the struggles of moving past difficult moments in life and celebrating the more joyous occasions.

Fagan, 65, is a native of Jamaica and began dancing as a teenager.

The company has appeared in Maryland at several venues, including the Columbia Festival of the Arts in 1991, the Publik Playhouse in Hyattsville in 1996 and the Weinberg Center in Frederick in 2001.

The last time the troupe performed in Baltimore was more than 20 years ago, in 1985 at the Harbor Festival.

Fagan's choreography has been called exotic, addictive and exuberant, but Fagan simply says of his group's performance: "You're just gonna see great, great, great dancing."

Garth Fagan Dance will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Hippodrome Theatre, 12 N. Eutaw St. Tickets are $30-$40. Go to or call 410-547-SEAT.


Age: 65

Birthplace: Jamaica

Career: Fagan studied with renowned dancers such as Pearl Primus, Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey. In 1970, he founded Garth Fagan Dance, which is based in Rochester, N.Y. He won a Tony award for his work as a guest choreographer for the Broadway musical The Lion King.

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