After performing with the Columbia City Ballet in South Carolina and with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York City, Lincoln Jones founded American Contemporary Ballet (ACB) in Los Angeles in 2011 along with ballerina and choreographer Theresa Farrell.  In LA, the company has performed in numerous venues with live music. The pandemic has, of course, curtailed such live performances.

As part of a series of programs planned for its media channel, ACBTV on April 14, 2021 the company will release a new dance film that the press release describes as “a bold, showy, mood-boosting fusion of ballet and drum solos”. The fee is listed as “pay what you wish”. Inspired, in part, by the musical talents of dancer Fred Astaire, The Drum Dances features choreography by Jones, by Ana Barreiro and Jones, with performances by Michelle Deangelis, Madeline Houk, and Rochelle Chang. “I began studying drums because I’ve always thought Astaire’s facility as a jazz drummer informed his facility as a choreographer,” said ACB Director Lincoln Jones.

There are three solos in The Drum Dances. Variation 1 is performed by soloist Michelle DeAngelis and gives off the aura of a drill team and “old-school New Orleans drumming”. A more subdued Variation 2 is performed by soloist Madeline Houk and the sassier Variation 3 is performed by soloist Rochelle Chang and pays tribute to Astaire’s famous ‘dancing’ with the drum kit itself.

American Contemporary Ballet - Brittany Yevoli and Lincoln Jones in "Astaire Dances II" 2019 - Photo by Darren Dai

American Contemporary Ballet – Brittany Yevoli and Lincoln Jones in “Astaire Dances II” 2019 – Photo by Darren Dai

In creating The Drum Dances, Jones collaborated closely with composer Ana Barreiro. “Ana would play a beat based on one I’d suggest, and I’d put steps on the dancer immediately. Or sometimes I’d work out choreography in my head with a general idea of the musical rhythm I wanted, and we’d work out the drums afterward. It was such a fun way to work – often we’d only remember to stop when the dancers told us they were getting really tired,” Jones said.

“Creating and performing The Drum Dances was one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences of my career,” said ACB dancer Rochelle Chang. “But for as strenuous as it was, I didn’t want it to end. There’s nothing like live music — especially during the choreography process — and the energy from Ana and the audience was unreal.”

Future ACBTV content will include new ballets, a video version of ACB’s Outsiders podcast, documentary footage of ballets being made, and educational content reflecting the company’s Dance and Design and Dancing School series, which offer sophisticated, humorous insights for the ballet layperson.

The Drum Dances is available April 14, 2021 for a “pay what you wish” donation in support of ACB with a $5 minimum to cover hosting fees. For more information, click HERE.

By Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: American Contemporary Ballet’s The Drum Dances – Photo courtesy of ACB