Spring to Dance a strategy for butts in St. Louis dance seats

ST. LOUIS, MO — On my final day in St. Louis I spent a sweaty afternoon downtown and cooled off with two excellent shows at the Spring to Dance festival.  Chicago definitely shined on this last day of three, with some of our heavy hitters appearing in both shows.  I’m ashamed to admit that this was my first time seeing Lucky Plush Productions live, and they certainly did not disappoint with the re-imagined Cinderbox 2.0. Aside from one slightly (assumed unintentional) awkward moment as artistic director Julia Rhoads answers her cell in the audience, the strong facial expressions and characters in this piece, along with a most adorable Kevin Rechner following the dancers around the stage with a microphone, made for one of my most favorite-est pieces of the festival.

The loveable brothers from Minneapolis called Buckets and Tap Shoes created a welcome diversion from the serious, modern dance-y feel that has permeated the festival (not unlike fellow Minneapolitans Sossy Mechanics the night before).  B & TS’s unique mix of stellar tap skills and Stomp-esque percussion made them a memorable part of my evening, as did the touching chair-less performance from Dancing Wheels, a visually-striking duet from River North Dance Chicago, and the technically fierce Ballet Memphis.

In a city that I wouldn’t instinctively peg as a cultural mecca, St. Louis is extremely fortunate in having and ally like Michael Uthoff, the artistic executive director of Dance St. Louis, who presents the Spring to Dance festival each year.  The idea of seeing 30 companies for $30 is one thing, but people come out to this fest in droves.  Looking around the theater, I saw a diverse audience made up of all ages, races and economic classes.  Many of them may only see dance that one time each year, but Spring to Dance has figured out the one thing that we as a dance community often struggle with — getting butts in seats.  And if one of those butts becomes a season subscriber to Dance St. Louis because of Spring to Dance, it’ll be in that seat all year long.  You’re a smart man, indeed, Mr. Uthoff.


Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic, contributing to the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Magazine. She is senior editor of See Chicago Dance. Lauren covers dance across the Midwest and writes regularly for Dance Magazine and Pointe with additional bylines in Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine and Dance Teacher. Forthcoming publications include essays on ballet training in Chicago (University of Illinois Press) and Shirley Mordine (University of Akron Press). In 2020, Lauren published an opinion piece on the impact of COVID-19 on the arts in the South African journal Agenda. Lauren holds degrees in dance and kinesiology and has presented research on dance training practices at the National Dance Education Organization and the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. She has co-facilitated critical dance writing intensives in Chicago and Durban, South Africa, and participated in writing residencies at the National Center for Choreography, Bates Dance Festival and JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. Lauren teaches dance history and kinesiology for dancers, with part-time appointments at Loyola University Chicago and Illinois Wesleyan University.

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