This is it! Light the lights! -- Dance and Theatre are dazzling in Rochester.
"World class." It's a description that keeps coming up again and again -- there's no other way to describe Rochester NY's reputation in Dance, compared to other cities of its size. This is home to award-winning choreographers, many nationally and internationally acclaimed companies, a wealth of performances, top university dance programs, and exciting festivals.
The creative environment here is a rich, fertile one and it nurtures more companies and presents more performances than you'll find anywhere in the state outside of New York City itself.
You won't find better theatre outside of NYC, either! With 25 theatrical companies and first-class venues, this is a city full of passionate top theatre professionals ready to entertain you. Rochester is home base to professional designers, directors, actors and performers.
How did this come to be? We can thank George Eastman. Over 100 years ago, Eastman cultivated the arts in Rochester to establish a high quality of life that would attract top employees to work at his Eastman Kodak Company. The Rochester area also became a national center for music performance and education - today we have the same level of musicians as on Broadway.
Offering the best in touring Broadway shows and the most attended theatre in upstate New York -- when it comes to dance and theatre, Rochester has it all.
The ascendance of DANCE
"The Rochester ‘eco-system' of dance is a large one," say Rachel DeGuzman of 21st Century Arts in Rochester. "Garth Fagan Dance, The Rochester City Ballet and SUNY Brockport are the great anchors, but there are many companies and performances in Rochester." Many accomplished dancers go on to form new troupes of their own, and that only strengthens the dance culture in Rochester. It means "more performances, more venues," says DeGuzman, who has worked with top dance organizations, including Garth Fagan Dance. "The performances and art is stronger, the work is better. There are more multi-media performances and more collaboration with the universities in town."
Led by choreographer Garth Fagan, the internationally acclaimed Garth Fagan Dance routinely wins rave reviews. Fagan is the founder and artistic director of the award-winning and internationally acclaimed company, now in its 43rd season. Among many superb shows, Fagan choreographed The Lion King, Broadway's only billion-dollar show. Called "a true original," "a genuine leader," and "one of the great reformers of modern dance," Fagan is a Tony and Olivier award winner.
The New York Times has called Garth Fagan Dance "unfailingly original." The troupe has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, the Near and Middle East, North and South America, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies - and makes its performance home at the Nazareth College Arts Center, the region's premier presenter of world-class and international dance.
Nazareth College Arts Center is also the performance home of the Rochester City Ballet. Founded in 1987, the company performs classic and contemporary ballets and teams with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra for holiday performances of "The Nutcracker." The company presents an extensive season of performances at the Nazareth College Arts Center and Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Rochester City Ballet has given performances at the renowned Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts and presented the critically acclaimed full-length ballet The Blood Countess.
As the third "anchor" in Rochester's dance foundation, The Department of Dance at SUNY Brockport has highly selective programs. Artists, scholars, and educators train dancers on the graduate and undergraduate level for a wide variety of careers in the arts as choreographers, performers, teachers, and leaders in the dance field. It has a modern dance-centered program with state-of-the-art facilities in the department, including five large dance studios. Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble features the rhythms and movements of African, Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian - just one of this university's renowned dance programs.
The Hochstein School of Music & Dance provides classes and performance opportunities for students of all ages.
Alumni and teachers - keeping the city dancing
The Bill Evans Dance Company - Award-winning choreographer Bill Evans has been a permanent artist-in residence at SUNY Brockport for more than a decade.
Guy Thorne danced with Garth Fagan for seven years and then started his own dance company here in Rochester in 2009. FuturPointe Dance is an exciting, up-and-coming company with Caribbean roots. They've trademarked Reggae Ballet and perform contemporary, urban, and global pieces.
Mariah Maloney is currently an assistant professor at The College at Brockport SUNY and presented at the first ever Rochester Fringe Festival. Mariah Maloney Dance Company in NYC has gained national significance.
Within just a year, there's been an explosive growth in dance performances at the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival, with about a dozen dance performances in just its second year in 2013. Packed audiences came to watch new work and new collaborations. The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival takes place annually in September. In 2013, the festival doubled in size from five to ten days and attracted more than 50,000 people to its performances at more than two dozen official venues in and around the East End of Rochester.
Dancing for everyone! We've got rhythm.
There's all sorts of dance in Rochester year round - enough for every tapping foot in the land. All sorts of social dancing goes on every week -- ballroom, tango, merengue, square dancing, belly dancing... What's your preference?
How about swing dancing? We've got just the place for you ! Groove Juice Swing performs and teaches classes specializing in the Lindy Hop and offers dance classes, weekly social dances, live band dance events, performances, and dance workshops throughout the year. Pure fun to watch or join in!
THEATRE - The curtain rises (often!) in Rochester
Visitors are regularly amazed at the abundance of world- class art and culture that exists in Rochester. You'll find a city with a sophisticated and educated charm. This is a city on par with other top arts cities in the nation.
How much do we love theater in Rochester? Consider that Geva Theatre Center has approximately 10,000 season ticket holders -- more than any other performing arts, entertainment or sporting venue in the area. No wonder it's the most attended regional theatre in New York (outside of Manhattan)! Geva Theatre Center is Rochester's leading professional theatre. Founded in 1972, it's become the gateway to downtown Rochester. The Wilson Mainstage seats 524 theatergoers, and Fielding Nextstage seats 180, all of whom enjoy Geva's eclectic mix -- from comedies and dramas to world premieres and musicals.
Over 100 actors, directors, designers and writers are engaged by Geva each year -- and it possesses an impressive alumni list of Pulitzer Prize nominees, Academy Award nominees, Tony Award winners, Emmy Award winners and nominees, and nominees and winners of the Drama Desk Award. Audiences have enjoyed the performances of actors like Kathy Bates, Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, and Bill Pullman. In spring 2013, Geva sold its 4 millionth ticket!
The Rochester Broadway Theatre League presents the best in touring Broadway shows at the historic Kinky Boots at Rochester Broadway Theatre League. Built in 1928, the Auditorium Theatre has become the Greater Rochester area's home for large-scale Broadway musicals such as The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, The Book of Mormon, Disney's THE LION KING and Wicked . In addition, The Auditorium Theatre hosts a variety of rock, classical, comedy, R&B, dance and children's shows. The 2,464-seat theatre has preserved its Art Deco roots and is the home of a magnificent Wurlitzer 4/23 (opus 1951) Theatre organ.
CenterStage at the Rochester Jewish Community Center is a resident professional theatre company with a 300-seat theatre, producing 10 shows a year. (Think of it as a "mini-Geva.") For the past 40 years, CenterStage has been presenting high quality, professional productions of musicals, comedies and dramas, which sometimes have a Jewish theme. One of Rochester's pluses in theatre is being able to see high quality productions of Broadway and off-Broadway World premieres and more at the JCC CenterStage, plays like "Normal Heart" for very affordable ticket prices. And free parking!
We don't forget the littlest theatergoers -- Rochester Children's Theatre performs at the Nazareth Arts Center. (We start them young here for a lifetime of enjoyments of the arts.) In addition, Theatre Young Kids Enjoy (TYKEs) performs at the JCC's Hart Theatre as well.
The Downstairs Cabaret Theatre has a full schedule of professional shows, musical revues and improvs. It's been a part of the Rochester theatre scene for more than 30 years, and is known locally and nationally for developing the comedy Nunsense.
TheatreROCs is an alliance of 25 varied theatre groups presenting amateur and professional companies -- from Shakespeare to improv. You can find links to theatres all over Rochester and the Finger Lakes on their website.
We've only scratched the surface of the opportunities you have to indulge in your passion for dance and theatre in Rochester. Make a weekend of it! Come back again and again. We'll always have something fresh to enthrall you.