Jacksonville Symphony's "Ballroom With a Twist"

March 15, 2012 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Jacksonville's celebrated Symphony hit one out of the ballpark recently with a barn burning cooperative performance of America's pop idols of television. With vocalists from "American Idol" and dancers from "So You Think You Can Dance" the Moran Theatre was packed to capacity and swinging with the music. Amongst the crowd was Lorraine Cover, MetroJacksonville's newest beat reporter, and dance enthusiast. Here is her maiden publication, a review of the evening. Join us after the jump for a full report on the surprisingly hip evening

Tell a ballroom dancer she just landed two front row seats to a live ballroom stage show and you have one happy camper.  Then tell her the show’s headliners are Edyta Sliwinska and Alec Mazo, regular Pro Dancers on the TV show “Dancing with the Stars”, and well, she’s on cloud nine!

That’s a lot for a show to have to live up to.  Ballroom with a Twist, created and choreographed by EMMY winner and “Dancing with the Stars” pro Louis van Amstel, lived up to this ballroom dancers every expectation.  Included was the glitz and glamour expected of ballroom dancing --the romantic waltz, the sexy rumba, the fun upbeat jive.  Added was the “twist” -- contemporary dancing and break dancing, all done to music performed by the Jacksonville Symphony, with vocals provided by former American Idol contestants.  Seriously – what else could you want??!!

Typical of the ballroom community, starting off the night a local dance studio had a mix and mingle in the outer lobby.  To a ballroom dancer, that means grab your shoes and get ready to dance.  Ballroom dancers are a friendly bunch!  After catching up with friends and enjoying some social dancing, the lights dimmed signaling us the show is about to start!

As we walked through the theater it was fun to see the audience dressed for the occasion, reminiscent of times that going out meant getting dressed up.  As I came upon my seat, I noticed that the gentleman seated next to me was playing solitaire on his phone.  Evidently he was along for the ride.  I, however,  was perched on the edge of my seat awaiting the rise of the curtain.  I must say, for someone who has never been to the symphony, the moment the conductor takes the stage and the violinists come to attention, there was a definite energy in the theater – almost electric!  The show delivered the traditional ballroom dances such as foxtrot, quickstep, waltz, rumba, jive, waltz, and samba – all danced beautifully.  Added was the twist…contemporary dancers and break dancers, accompanied by the  wonderful sounds of the Jacksonville Symphony and American Idol vocalists Gina Glocksen, David Hernandez, LaKisha Jones and Von Smith.  

LaKisha Jones’ powerful  rendition of Whitney Houston’s “ I Have Nothing” left me with chills.   The song is emotional on its own – even more so with the recent passing of Ms. Houston.  

Equally as thrilling was the point when "Legacy" (full name Jonathan Lee Perez), a break dancer, strolled out on to the stage.  Fans of the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” will remember him from a top 10 finish in Season 6.  Knowing his background, the slightly confused look on his face told so much.  What is a b-boy from Miami doing on a stage with the Jacksonville Symphony? The confusion soon lifted as the symphony played and Legacy danced the style that made him famous.  Head spins and freezes set to the sounds of violins, cellos, winds, brass, and percussion does not describe a typical piece at the symphony. In the end, Legacy’s exciting moves and tricks together with the classic sounds of the symphony brought together two worlds that used to only co-exist in the world of the arts, allowing two sets of fans to appreciate something new.

Check out Legacy performing to slightly more contemporary pop music.  It doesn't do justice to the performance that he gave with the full symphony orchestra playing---which was spine chilling---but you can see the talent of this terrific dancer:

Now, to someone who has been a student of ballroom, what those dancers do, and make look so effortless, is just downright amazing.  The athleticism, balance, grace, and focus that these dancers bring to every move is inspiring.    The passion that every dancer, vocalist and musician puts in to his or her performance is of the caliber of a true professional – someone who has dedicated his or her life to the perfecting of their craft.  It just makes you want to be a better person.

At one point the entire audience was participating in a mini dance lesson.  Even my solitaire-playing neighbor was up on his feet, moving side to side and round and round!  Ballroom dancing has a way of winning people over, and I’m pretty sure the crowd left happy!
If you have ever wanted to give dance a twirl, there are many wonderful dance studios in Jacksonville and the surrounding area that teach any kind of style of dance you want to learn.  Check one out and see what all the buzz is about.

Lorraine Cover
Dance Correspondent