By Karen Hauge, KCMetropolis.org
The Owen/Cox Dance Group presented their spring performance this weekend at Union Station. It was a lively and touching performance full of their signature collaborative spirit.
The Owen/Cox Dance Group’s Saturday night performance of A Good Missouri Song began with the ensemble ruminating on fragmented themes from the traditional song “Cross The Wide Missouri.” Eerie chromatic instrumental sighing imitated the word “away,” from the familiar verse “Away, we’re bound away, ’cross the wide Missouri.” Broken lines of the folk song were sung in layers by the three singers, and the disunity of the music was echoed in the soloistic dancers, who mingled among each other, lost in their own worlds. This plaintive original material was interspersed with other music, and each mood shift back to the haunting opening material was signaled by sighing figures in the lap steel guitar. The gradual, unpredictable entry of each new tune in small pieces made listening a game—what will come next? And how long will it take before the melody finally comes together? Brad Cox’s artfully woven arrangement made the arrival of new themes exhilarating, especially the joyful, quirky bits of Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag at the end.
Chris Mullins, The Pitch
When composer Brad Cox met dancer Jennifer Owen 11 years ago, their chemistry went beyond romantic attraction. They inspired and challenged each other on an artistic level. And so, the jazz-minded musician and the ballerina with directorial aspirations decided to collaborate on a short performance project.
Don Dagenais, KCMetropolis.org
The Owen/Cox Dance Group’s zany and thoroughly entertaining “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” contains inspired arrangements of Tchaikovsky’s traditional "Nutcracker" score by Brad Cox and others, and also new music for scenes from the original E.T.A. Hoffmann story that do not appear in the Tchaikovsky ballet. This review focuses on the production's music.
First, let’s be clear: this is not your grandfather’s Nutcracker. The 18-piece People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City, led by Brad Cox, offers a wild and often hilarious “take” on the traditional Tchaikovsky tunes, and the instrumentation is, well, a little different from what the Russian master probably had in mind.
Traci Angel, Special to The Kansas City Star
Professional dancer Jamal Story took to the air to demonstrate a grand jeté à la seconde, a split leap. His body sailed high as his legs straightened.
As Paseo Academy students watched, their eyes widened. Their jaws grew slack.
Then a voice piped up.
“I want to be just like you."
Laura Vernaci, KCMetropolis.org
Roxy Paine's "Ferment" on display on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has become a favorite subject of local composers and choreographers. Owen/Cox Dance Group is the most recent to interpret the massive stainless steel sculpture into dance.
On a steamy Sunday afternoon, art-hungry prospectors graciously gathered inside The Nelson-Atkins Museums’ quaint and intimate Atkins Auditorium to observe Owen/Cox Dance Group’s interpretation of Roxy Paine’s Ferment. Inspired by this 56-foot stainless steel sculpture, which in April took permanent residence in the Kansas City Sculpture Park, Jennifer Owen and Brad Cox created a collaborative and unique 20-minute work, A Tree That is a Tree is Not a Tree.
Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
It's common for dance companies to be named for choreographers, such as Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham. But the Owen/Cox Dance Group takes things an additional step.
Founded in 2007, the Kansas City-based company reflects the vision of choreographer Jennifer Owen as well as her husband, composer Brad Cox. As its co-artistic directors, Owen says, they're as much concerned with music as with movement.
Laura Vernaci, KCMetropolis.org
In honor of Owen/Cox Dance Group and newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble merging their talents, our two reviewers, Laura Vernaci and Lee Hartman, offer a he said/she said of their own.
Laura Vernaci’s Dance Take:
Owen/Cox Dance Group and newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble combined forces in front of a full house Friday night at the H&R Block City Stage Theater at Union Station. Chromatic Collaboration, the first performance for this partnership, brought together Owen/Cox’s fresh choreography and unique concepts with newEar’s eccentric and colorful instrumental compositions. Two of the six works in the mixed program spotlighted individual musical selections while the other four showcased the groups’ unified presentations.
Bill Brownlee, Special to The Kansas City Star
“Chromatic Collaboration,” the title of a joint venture between NewEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble and the Owen/Cox Dance Group, provided artistically rewarding thrills Saturday at the H&R Block City Stage at Union Station.
The pairing of the longtime purveyors of forward-looking classical music and the acclaimed dance company accentuated the strengths of both Kansas City-based ensembles. Dance accompanied music on four of the program’s six pieces. The daring combination contained a stimulating level of suspense.
Laura Vernaci, KCMetropolis.org
It was fun to say goodbye to the traditional and expected concepts for a night, and embrace this classic tale with a delightful and touching twist.
After seeing The Nutcracker & the Mouse King, presented by the Owen/Cox Dance Group Friday night to a sold out house at the H&R Block City Stage Theater, the visions in my head will be of slightly different characters. Rather than sugar plums and the accustomed Nutcracker, I might instead dream of a hot pink burlesque Sugar Plum, danced by the ever-so-amusing Jennifer Owen. Or Mark Southerland’s version of the seven-horned Mouse King, aptly named for his bounty of instruments, and not to be confused with protruding head growths. It was fun to say goodbye to the traditional and expected concepts for a night, and embrace this classic tale with a delightful and touching twist.
Ann Spivak, The Kansas City Star
If the “Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by the Owen/Cox Dance Group and the People’s Liberation Big Band were simply a twisted take on the classic ballet, I doubt there’d be much to savor.
But this production has it all — great jazz reworkings of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky melodies (a delight to listen to), top-notch dancers (Christopher Barksdale makes a splendid and scary Drosselmeier), a suspenseful story and fanciful costumes and designs by Peregrine Honig, Peggy Noland and Mark Southerland, which make the stage at Union Station pop with color and life.