Artistic alliance

 Baum dancers, Palace Theatre join together for local and regional arts programming

 TRESCA WEINSTEIN Special to the Times Union

Section: Preview,  Page: P28

Date: Thursday, April 28, 2005


 Maude Baum hopes the arts event she's staging Saturday at the Palace Theatre in Albany will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

 A combination of dance and musical performance, book signing and gallery showing, the event kicks off a partnership between Maud Baum and Company Dance Theatre and the Palace, which aims to bring more local and regional arts programming to the recently renovated theater. "The idea is to have the Palace be a place for world-class regional arts and arts-in-education programs," said Baum, founder of the eba Center for Dance and Movement on Lark Street. "We need to make sure the arts have a good strong foothold there."

Jeff Yule, general manager at the Palace, is equally enthusiastic about the alliance.

 "Hopefully the event will be a smashing success," expanding both organizations' audience base and laying the groundwork for future performances there by Baum's company, Yule said.

 Billed as a "one-of-a-kind arts event," Saturday's program includes two performances by Maude Baum and Company Dance Theatre: a 2:30 p.m. family matinee and an 8 p.m. performance featuring a selection of dances by Isadora Duncan accompanied by local musicians Findlay Cockrell and Elaine Newhall.

Peter Kurth, author of the Duncan biography, "Isadora: A Sensational Life," will sign his book during a reception at 6:30 p.m., which benefits future ventures of the newly formed partnership. The event also includes a show of work by five local artists, curated by Tommy Watkins and Chip Fasciana of Albany Underground Artists.

 Watkins says the event and the Palace/Baum partnership is an outgrowth of the connections between arts groups that are being formed all over the region. He cited 200 Proof Magazine, an independent arts and literature magazine, and Art 4 Central, a space on Central Avenue that may become the area's first cooperative art gallery, as two such grass-roots ventures.

 "What's happening at the Palace is a reflection of that new union that's been springing up over the last year," Watkins said. "When they allow us to come in and do what we do at their venue, they allow their public to be exposed to a very different grass-roots arts flavor."

 Albany Underground Artists, the brainchild of Watkins, Fasciana and Mark Gregory, has grabbed the community's attention over the past year with one-night group art shows set in unusu al venues like an abandoned bakery on Lark Street and the empty Home Savings Bank on Pearl Street. They also hung the work of local artists at the Palace during the theater's tsunami relief benefit in February.

 Their goal, Fasciana said, is to "create an art scene from the ground up."

 "There's a ton of creative artists around here, and there's nowhere for them to show their work," he said. "At least 60 or 70 people showed their art (at AUA events) who wouldn't have had the opportunity to do so."

 The organizers say the events have encouraged local artists to continue their work, inspired similar shows and garnered the group an invitation from the Albany Institute of History & Art to mount a show there in September.

 The art on view at the Palace on Saturday includes Watkins' abstract oil paintings, landscapes and cityscapes by Luke Williamson, Shaina Marron's vibrant color photography, large-scale oils by Ryoko Tanaka and Fasciana's textural paintings, using mediums ranging from house paint to toothpaste and Sharpie markers.

 The evening performance by Maude Baum and Company showcases a similarly diverse selection of work. The Duncan dances, reconstructed for the company by Jeanne Bresciani, artistic director of the International Duncan Institute, include three pieces from her early 20th century series set to piano music by Frederic Chopin, performed Saturday by Cockrell. The company also will show three pieces set to sections of the Christoph Gluck opera "Orpheus and Eurydice," performed by Newhall on flute.

 Also on the program, Baum's new ballet, "Ballerina Barbies," combines dark humor with classical vocabulary, as four Barbie characters make wry physical comments on the doll's unlikely anatomy and its effect on girls' self-images. In "Foodface," set to a collage of music that includes Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" and the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar," Baum reflects on "all of the obsessions we have about food, and all the things we do that are cloaked in food." On another note, "Sometimes in My Mind, Always in My Heart," a series of four solos and a quartet that Baum choreographed in 2003, addresses women's identities and their places in society.

 Yule says the event will help the Palace gauge local interest in modern dance performances as it transitions from a "rock 'n' roll palace" to a multifaceted venue staging everything from Albany Symphony Orchestra concerts to children's performances. Baum's arts-in-education company, called everything but anchovies, is scheduled to perform its play "Henry Hudson and His River" at the Palace on May 11.

 Baum hopes the event will spread awareness among local audiences of the riches in their own back yard; she says there are close to 30 arts and arts-in-education companies in the area.

"I'm hoping that this will really encourage the community to support all the local and regional artists," Baum said. "We should be letting people know what's available here."