Three cutting-edge dance companies, representing jazz, hip-hip and contemporary, will make up the fourth annual Summer Heat International Dance Festival, which will open Choregus Productions’ 2019-2020 season.

The main season will feature the return of RIOULT Dance NY, which was one of the first dance companies presented by Choregus Productions, as well as innovative percussionist Ian Rosenbaum, the legendary vocal ensemble the Whiffenpoofs, and the popular band Hot Club of Cowtown.

The Summer Heat International Dance Festival will be July 25-28 at the Tulsa PAC, and will include performances by M/motions, the company founded by acclaimed contemporary choreographer Manuel Vignoulle; Giordano Dance Chicago, which has been called “America’s original jazz dance company”; and FLY Dance Company.

“It was the plan to try to have as broad an appeal with the companies we presented this year,” said Ken Tracy, founder of Choregus Productions.

Vignoulle’s M/motions will open the festival July 25. The Paris-born Vignoulle performed with the Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve in Switzerland and New York’s Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet before beginning his choreography career.

His work has been part of the Summer Heat festival previously, as the troupe 10 Hairy Legs has performed his ballets.

“When I approached him about this summer, he said he had a piece that had been on his mind for a while, and he’d like to premiere it in Tulsa,” Tracy said. “It will be part of a full evening, with two other works from the repertoire.”

Giordano Dance Chicago, which will perform July 27, was founded in 1963 by dancer-choreographer-teacher Gus Giordano.

The company has built up a repertoire of more than 150 dance works by close to 50 choreographers. It was the first jazz dance group to tour the Soviet Union in 1974, and pioneered the presentation of dance on television.

“You see a lot of Giordano’s influence in Broadway jazz dance, and I think this performance will appeal to fans of Broadway,” Tracy said.

The Houston-based FLY Dance Company was founded by Kathy Musick Wood, a retired public school dance teacher, who happened to see a young group of street dancers and decided to blend their energy and spontaneity with her knowledge of classical dance and modern theater.

“This company is making quite a name for itself,” Tracy said. “Their performances are highly theatrical, and they are often doing hip-hop-influenced dances to classical music.”

FLY Dance Company will perform July 28.

All Summer Heat festival performances will be in the John H. Williams Theatre of the Tulsa PAC.

Concurrently with the Summer Heat festival will be the Exchange Choreography Festival, put on July 25-27 at the Tulsa PAC by the Tulsa-based The Bell House Arts. It will bring dance makers from around the country for three days of curated dance performances, workshops and networking events.

“Last year, we got together with the Exchange people to see about running our events at the same time,” Tracy said. “And it seemed to work very well. They bring in people from all over, and there’s a lot of good synergy between the two events.”

RIOULT Dance NY will open Choregus’ main season Oct. 5 at the Tulsa PAC, with a program titled “Purple to Pärt.”

“They were last here in 2015,” Tracy said. “And this program has a lot of broad appeal, because they will be performing a piece set to Prince’s ‘Purple Rain,’ along with a piece set to Arvo Pärt’s ‘Te Deum.’”

The Whiffenpoofs is a vocal ensemble made up of seniors from Yale University, which dates back to 1909. Through the years, the group has appeared on television shows as diverse as “Jeopardy!,” “The Today Show,” “Saturday Night Live,” “60 Minutes,” “Gilmore Girls,” “The West Wing,” and “Glee,” and its signature “Whiffenpoof Song” has been recorded by Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and the Statler Brothers.

The group will perform Dec. 8 at a venue to be determined.

Innovative percussionist Ian Rosenbaum will perform his “Memory Palace” concert Jan. 24, 2020, at the Tulsa PAC. This hour-long immersive piece incorporates electro-acoustic soundscapes, visual projections, and the use of found, built and traditional instruments to perform music by five American composers.

Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company is a relatively new company, founded in 2012, but it has quickly established itself as one of the most sought-after dance companies in North America.

“When Cuba opened up, the Joyce Theater in New York commissioned works from this company,” Tracy said. “They have work by people like Trey McIntyre, Merce Cunningham and Ohan Naharin in their repertoire, as well as original works by company members and other Cuban choreographers.”

They will perform Feb. 8, 2020, at the Tulsa PAC.

Closing out the season will be the Hot Club of Cowtown, performing May 8, 2020, at the IDL Ballroom.

The trio of violinist Elana James, guitarist Whit Smith and bassist Jake Erwin are celebrating 22 years of innovative interpretations of Western swing and cowboy jazz.

Tickets for Choregus Productions shows range from $25-$45 per event, with discounts available. For more information: 918-688-6112, choregus.org.


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James D. Watts Jr.

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Scene Writer

James writes primarily about the visual, performing and literary arts. Phone: 918-581-8478