SAN DIEGO — The colors are flying again at The Theatre in Old Town.
Last year, U.S. International University showcased the cream of the crop from its School of Performing and Visual Arts at the university-managed theater in a variety show dubbed "Flying Colors." The program featured dances from 16 countries, in recognition of the university's international orientation.
The concert was successful enough to establish it as an annual event. Now "Flying Colors II," which made its debut last weekend, is gearing up for six more performances at The Theatre in Old Town, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. That represents a big jump from the three-performance run it enjoyed last year.
This new incarnation features more than 50 dancers in four diverse works. Like its prototype, it was designed to turn the spotlight on the versatility and virtuosity of the international company, and to complement the kinetic activity with dazzling theatrical effects.
A plethora of flowing fabrics and brightly colored draperies--some suspended in bold sweeps from the ceiling of the theater--create a festive feeling in the barn-like interior of The Theatre. An ever-changing mix of pastel-colored lights playing on the moving draperies produces an array of soft-sculptural effects and suggests an exoticism that lent itself to the global flavor of the first "Flying Colors" concert. But "Flying Colors II" has a new focus.
"Originally, we went for that international emphasis" with folk dances and ethnic expressions from around the world, said USIU's Musical Theater director, Jack Tygett. "But this year we're just trying to give the students and our audiences a broader style.
"We won't be doing any ethnic dances. We wanted to produce a program like the ones ballet companies used to do--a combination of a white ballet, a character ballet, and a pretty pas de deux . But we'll still use materials in motion, even though there's no theme to this concert. We try to create a total environment."
As Tygett pointed out, this year's more traditional approach is the result of a larger student base with more classical training.
"We're really looking to strengthen and broaden our dance program, since we have a better (trained) group of dancers."
The ballet-based program will premiere Tygett's sly spoof of silent films, "Reel Comedy," subtitled "The Romance of Starlene." Also featured is a new production of the classic "Firebird," set to the thrilling Stravinsky score by guest artists Steven and Elizabeth Wistrich of Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, and two works by USIU's own Erling Sunde.
Sunde's traditional white ballet, "Episodes," serves as the curtain-raiser, while his familiar turn-of-the-century spoof, "On the Beach at Biarritz," adds a note of whimsy.
"Reel Comedy," sandwiched in the middle of the program, is a unique centerpiece for "Flying Colors II." It offers aficionados a rare glimpse at a style of dancing that has been sorely overlooked by contemporary choreographers.
"We'll be dealing with the fad dances of the period between 1900 and 1910--even before the Charleston," Tygett said. "You never see some of those dances any more, but the kids just love doing that stuff."
Tygett calls these his "animal dances" and explains that they include the grizzly bear, the fox trot, and a take-off on the period he describes as "the ostrich toddle."
Tygett's intent with this four-piece program is to give his dancers a full range of performing experience.
"We want to prepare our dancers to make a living in the commercial world," he said. "That's why we choose different types of ballets, so they can do comedy, the classics and character ballets. We emphasize ensemble work, and they all get a chance (in the limelight). We have some very good performers, and this year should be our best year of dancing."