Missouri Contemporary Ballet to perform 'Connectivity' at Missouri Theatre

Calling all fans of contemporary ballet, creative movement and emotional brilliance: the Missouri Contemporary Ballet will inspire you this weekend.

When: Tonight at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Tickets: $19-20 adults, $14 students, $12 kids 12 and under

**Student tickets are 75% off regular price for Friday's performance. Tickets available at concertseries.org or by calling 573-882-3781.

Dance fans and creative minds alike should flock to Missouri Theatre this weekend to see Columbia’s own contemporary dance company perform. The Missouri Contemporary Ballet is partnering with the Island Moving Company of Newport, R.I., for a stellar show that goes by the name “Connectivity." You might not be able to touch your toes or execute an arabesque, but you can watch professionals do those things and so much more.

MCB will perform three pieces from their repertoire, in addition to one fan favorite called "Twisted." The topics of each piece range from a dancer's deterioration to the concept of fitting in with the world. These dancers will stretch their limits and artistic lines as they relay stories to the audience through their movements.

The Island Moving Company will perform four works this weekend, presenting two in each show. The topics of the pieces include the delicate human life, vulnerability and the natural actions and feelings people display toward one another in daily life.

MCB dancers Elise Eslick and Fernando Rodriguez took a few minutes out of their crazy rehearsal schedules to talk with MOVE about the upcoming performances.

Elise Eslick: Company dancer

Eslick, 25, has been dancing since she was 10.

"I started dance because I was a hyper kid," Eslick says. "I was bad at sports and hated gym class. I was always the one running the wrong way with the ball during a game."

Eslick started dancing after a year in gymnastics and has been in love with the art ever since. This is her third season with MCB, and she says she is very grateful of her position with the company and excited for the show this weekend.

“My favorite piece is probably 'Falling Apart,'" Eslick says. "It focuses on how we fall apart as dancers, both psychologically and physically, and the struggles we experience. It’s kind of a funky, quirky piece."

She says her favorite aspect of contemporary ballet is hard to put a finger on.

“I am classically trained, but there’s something more emotional about contemporary ballet," she says. "There’s more freedom and a broader spectrum. The music is different, so it brings out different emotions."

When asked about her goals as a dancer, Eslick reflected on her personal dreams.

“My goal is to push harder than I did the day before," she says. "As ballet is an art form, someone will always be better than you. Even when I’m sore and tired from a day of hard rehearsals, I always go back to dance again because I love it. I’m also very grateful to have a position with MCB, because jobs in performing arts are limited."

She says that dance has shaped her personality and has made her feel more “cultured” in respect to exposition of the arts.

“Dance is my life," she says. "It’s definitely hard to separate my life from dance, because it’s what I do."

Fernando Rodriguez: Choreographer & company danseur*

Rodriguez, 25, began his dance career at the age of 18 after years of experience in musical theater. Though he loved theater, he had not previously taken dance.

He started dancing when he was asked to audition for a role in "The Nutcracker" and fell in love with ballet.

This weekend's show will be Rodriguez's debut as a choreographer. His piece, "Catch’Up," focuses on fitting in.

“It’s about exploring the idea of a person who is trying to have what everyone else has in life: what they do, what they own," he says. "The person isn’t experiencing their own life or doing what they want. It’s about picking up the missing pieces from that."

Rodriguez says he draws inspiration from a variety of ballet dancers, like Fernando Bujones, an American danseur of Cuban descent. Rodriquez says Bujones inspired him with the masculinity of his dancing and artistry.

He is also inspired by Mikhail Baryshnikov, who is regarded as one of the greatest danseurs in history.

Among the many lessons dance has taught him, Rodriguez says he believes the most important is to be authentic.

"Be true to who you are and what you are doing, whether that is in dance or not," he says. "You can’t fake anything in dance — not the technique, not the performance — because it’s a live art. I learned to accept who I am and go full-heartedly in what I believe in."

Rodriguez has been with MCB for four seasons and says he plans to dance until his body can dance no more. Even after that, he wants to continue choreographing and stay involved in the arts.

MCB is currently raising funds and collecting donations for their first international tour to Suncheon Bay, South Korea. The company has been invited to perform at the International Garden Exposition 2013. The Kickstarter campaign began March 1 and runs through April 15.

*Danseur is the technical term for a dancer who is male. Now you know.

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