Vox Dance Theatre
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Vox Dance Theatre

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
Band Comedy



The best kept secret in music


"FRINGE REVIEW – Booking Dance, Rock It! @ Venue 150, EICC"

FRINGE REVIEW – Booking Dance, Rock It! @ Venue 150, EICC
August 19, 2010 - The Edinburgh Spotlight- By Danielle Farrow

Booking Dance, billed as a dance “festival within a festival”, showcases artists from the US in ‘bite-sized festival format’. Rock It! is the third in this programme of four and features seven companies, two of whom present works that also appeared the first programme entry, Beautiful (previously reviewed).

These two, among the strongest in Beautiful, were: Body Stories / Teresa Fellion Dance with Fault Line, again offering a harmony and connection which brought a depth of feeling to the stage in a piece that looks to be connected to contact improvisation; Michael Mao Dance’s Weaving – a ritualistic piece, including bird and beast elements, to Japanese drumming, colourful and dramatic.

The strength of these companies was met by Vox Dance Theatre in another dramatic group presentation, an excerpt from the work Fimmine, performed to Concerto for Violin and Orchestra by Philip Glass. Clad in white wedding gowns, with beams of light playing behind them, the Vox dancers filled the space with symbolism and pattern, and intrigued with a touch of red which presumably comes into the dance in the full length version.

Perhaps the strongest presentation, for this reviewer, was that of project: Smith & Peluso, whose three shorts included story, gesture, humour, and strong partnership in very clear, clean, controlled lines – without the control blocking connection to each other or the audience. Smith also appears in Freespace Dance’s Butt Rock, which is presumably what inspired the title of this programme (the others only loosely connect to it). Butt Rock’s idea is based on a rock concert, with mini stories, including crowd surfing, and it has a fun, rocky element, with impressive partner work, but here the controlled choreography does keep the energy from exploding fully.

There are also two very contrasting contributors adding unique character to Rock It! Ballroom Dancing for Tough Guys presents three shorts which explore ballroom dance within elegance, self-parody and film noir frames, again with humour and story, though also with a touch of ham. Ragamala Dance’s Indian music and dance impressed with the detail of precise beat, gesture and expression – beautifully offered to the audience – and was one of the first to benefit from the golden lighting design that cast dancing shadows. There was also a welcome change into a piece with pathos, but its overly-dramatic voiceover translation spoilt the purity of the dance moves.

Rock It! is the most varied in presentation of the Booking Dance programme so far, and this adds to its appeal for non-dancing viewers. The final of the four programmes in this mini-festival is Athletic, and includes work by the enterprising Michael Mao, entertaining Ballroom Dancing for Tough Guys and experimental Freespace Dance – it seems likely to impress again.

[photo of Vox Dance Theatre]
Rock It!
- Edinburghspotlight.com


By Marcela Danemann, translation by Rebeca Ramos
Photos by Olivia Paredes

October Festival 2011

The 10th Annual October Festival 2011, organized by the Cultural Institute of Baja California, Mexico (ICBC), is approaching its conclusion. Like many people, I long for this Festival and I have voraciously consumed its artistic programs season after season. In this festival, audiences have no input on who or what is to be presented, so all we can do is wait and see when the curtain goes up. This is how we approach our connection with each one of the contemporary performances that we see. A clear example was the wonderful surprise of conceptual design and esthetics by the performance on Thursday, the 20th of October, at the The City Theater.

I attended with a minimum of information provided in the season flyer distributed by the ICBC. Vox Dance and Musicántica in Concert was announced as a contemporary dance show with a small reference to the company coming from Los Angeles, California, directed by the choreographer Sarah Swenson, with a group of live musicians.

Why I was totally surprised? The show was a union of music and dance in which one discipline fed the other in such an intelligent and original way. That night I learned something about the work of the Italian duo Musicántica, who opened the program, giving us cadences that seemed to be rescued from the heart of the Mediterranean. They then accompanied the first dance piece, called Brigantesse (female outlaws).

Roberto Catalano and Enzo Fina presented an artillery of original instruments from their native Italy, which would have pleased any researcher or musicologist; not only for the sounds that they produced, but for the variety and also the sense of cultural rescue that went with their musical selection. Some of the pieces played included poetry and original compositions, with dialogue and Sicilian texts sung by the musicians. Also to my surprise, there was unprecedented choral singing by the dancers.

I had the opportunity to speak with Enzo Fina at the end of the performance, who said that in a city like Los Angeles, where the show was conceived, anything is possible: two Italian musicians who sustain the oral tradition of Southern Italy using a century of traditional music, meet an Italian-American choreographer, and together form a contemporary dance expression. In my opinion, this has proved to be a very successful result, which premiered at the October Festival, showing contemporary innovation and renewal of the past. This was a wonderful discovery within the Festival’s program, besides seeing an exhibition of impeccable dance technique and subtlety on the stage.

There were two dance pieces presented, one being Brigantesse, based on stories of women fighters who were part of Italian history. The other was the three-movement Fimmine (Women), in which the dancers and their undulating white dresses let us have a glimpse at the relationships that women create; from dancing a polka together, to the edgy bonds that are implicit in the commitment of marriage. They spoke with their dance - it was a display of metaphors and feelings that put a stamp of penetrating emotion on the evening.

The program asked us to stay in the house for a session of Q and A at the conclusion. It was evident that the audience of Ensenada was thankful and showed their appreciation.

The work of the program staff of the October Festival is something we cannot take lightly. I am thrilled that they have discovered the artistic scene of Los Angeles, this program, and that it was included in the Festival of October, so that it can tour our state.
- La Ventana

"Presenter Letter: 24th Street Theatre"

Sarah Swenson and the Vox Dance Theatre Company both taught and performed at 24th Street Theatre for our esteemed Saturday Explorer Series. Both their art and their pedagogy is superb. The program Vox was a part of was a dedicated family series. But their work, even though very sophisticated with rigorous human themes, was very accessible to the children because it was excellent art. They conducted a movement workshop the day before their performance with neighborhood children from the community. The teaching was so engaging, clear and connected that Vox was able to take a select group of them and include the children in what was a very specific and disciplined dance piece the following day. It was very impressive how the children had such confidence and were successfully able to be part of a professional performance in such a short time.

Vox explores important human struggles in their material and this beautiful disciplined movement matched with rigorous thematic work transcends gender and age. A very diverse audience, children and adults together, were able to share in this lovely experience. And 24th Street Theatre was proud to have them on our stage.

Debbie Devine, Artistic Director, 24th Street Theatre - Debbie Devine, Artistic Director

"Presenter Letter: Toronto International Dance Festival"

Dance Festival
55 Mill Street
Distillery Historic District
Case Goods Bldg. No. 74
Suite 311
Toronto, ON M5A 3C4
email: dance@ffida.org

March 20, 2006

To Whom It May Concern:

Vox Dance Theatre performed at the fFIDA International Dance Festival in 2005 with great energy and focus. Performing on our outdoor stage in front of thousands of onlookers can be daunting at best but their work stilled the entire audience each time they performed. Some people even returned in the evening to see the work under the lights.
Vox Dance Theatre’s performance was deeply moving. They transformed the historic Distillery District with a magical work that has led to a return invitation for 2006 in our main stage. I would highly recommend the work of Artistic Director Sarah Swenson and her dancers. They were ready for any and all challenges presented and performed with a strong sense of professionalism.


Michael Menegon
Artistic Director
- Michael Menegon, Artistic Director

"Biography Sarah Swenson"

Sarah Swenson, Artistic Director, is a self-defined neo-modernist, and works from a fusion of American modern dance techniques, theatre, and improvisation. Joyfully committed to the values of classical modern dance, Swenson is known for her stunning use of visual counterpoint, marrying modern dance classicism with a variety of musical forms and traditions. Her deep appreciation and love of music has launched much of her repertoire of the past decade, as has her multi-ethnic heritage. Her spirited, all-female company performs a diverse body of work with themes of universal appeal that possess a clear, emotional voice, and whose content often illuminates the feminine experience. She has recently developed a repertoire specifically for teenaged girls and boys. Vox Dance Theatre consistently connects to its audiences, deeply engaging them in both thought and feeling.

Sarah received her early training at New York University, later studying at The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, where she danced leading roles in Ailey III. She became Rehearsal Director of Ailey III in 1990, teaching and coaching repertory work for seven years, including the 2nd and 3rd company roles in Ailey’s beloved Memoria.
Sarah is a fourth generation teacher of the Lester Horton Dance Technique and taught in the Professional and Junior divisions of The Ailey School, as well as Horton for Actors, Ballet, and Pilates. She was also an Assistant Teacher in the New Visions Dance Project, a dance and music class for visually impaired adults, and has worked with the hearing-impaired, cerebral palsy, and head and spinal cord injury victims. Sarah was on the faculty of AileyCamp/Baltimore for three years, and also taught at Ballet Hispanico before leaving New York in late 1996. She is the former Director of Dance Education at The Wooden Floor of Santa Ana, CA, a ground-breaking after-school dance program for low-income youth, whose innovative approach has become a national model.

In addition to the concert stage, Sarah has choreographed for film, opera, and musical theater. A professional repertory and movement coach, she has conducted residencies and workshops across the US, and in China, Thailand and Israel. Sarah is currently on the faculty of The Colburn School and California State University/Fullerton, and has taught at Loyola Marymount University, Orange County High School for the Arts, and California State University/Long Beach, where she received her MFA in Performance and Choreography in 2000. She is currently collaborating with New Zealand Arts Laureate composer John Psathas, Italian musical artists Enzo Fina and Roberto Catalano of Musicantica, and Israeli composer Yuval Ron of The Yuval Ron Ensemble.

Straddling the modern and post-modern worlds, Swenson remains a hybrid independent dancer/choreographer, with ties to American post-modern mavericks Simone Forti and Rudy Perez in Los Angeles, with whom she has been working since 2004.

Michael Menegon, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Dance Festival called Swenson’s signature work, Fimmine, “…deeply moving…a magical work…”
- Vox Dance Theatre

"Lacking power, SOLA is still pleasant"

November 15, 2004 DANCE REVIEW
Group performances dominate at the troupe's festival while a John Pennington solo shines.

By Victoria Looseleaf, Special to the Times

The Sola Contemporary Dance Festival, celebrating its fourth year over the weekend at Torrance's James Armstrong Theatre, featured nine emerging choreographers and 40 dancers in a program of old and new works. The passing parade promised a potent palette but instead blurred into mild pleasantries, several bright voices notwithstanding.

Large group dances dominated the evening, two making use of chairs — but weren't always successful, while of three solos, John Pennington's "Hearing Change," stunningly danced by Denesa Chan, proved one of the evening's highlights.

Pennington designed the set for this short work, a large white bull's-eye splashed with Mondrian-like red and blue planes, the squares echoed in Karen Weller's two-piece costume. Alternately ebullient and reflective, Chan scooped the air with swirling arms, her etched pliés and balancing feats perfectly attuned to Thuja and David Karagianis' percussive soundscape.

Sarah Swenson, who dances with Rudy Perez, wedded her lyrical choreography, "Ancestors," an homage to modern dance pioneers, to the music of Philip Glass. Punctuated with fugues, Swenson and eight other women beckoned with lovely arms, collapsing into powerful lunges and weaving intricate line formations as the swirling-gowned damsels called to mind a garden of Greek statuary.

Six women didn't fare as well in "Origin," Traves Butterworth's frenetic opus featuring the gals in tribal mode, their power-rolling, crawling and quivering bodies an exercise in aimlessness. Hilary Thomas' Lineage Dance, another female group in flailing mode, offered "The Breath That Reminds Me," where skittering and the occasional handstand failed to command attention.

Elsewhere, Albertossy Espinoza performed his strange solo, "Trapped." Angst-ridden, the dancer initially brandished two panels of fabric as he veered from neo-flamenco moves with rhythmic hand-clapping to floor gyrations in which he isolated various body parts. Pamela Debiase's articulated kicks and crab-walking amped up her dynamic solo, "What Filters Through," with a vocal collage lending a hallucinogenic air to this party of one.

Laurie Cameron's musical-chairs-like octet, "Diminishing Returns," was sprinkled with an absurdist text as a red dress provided showy gender-bending moments. Jennifer Backhaus McIvor's previously reviewed "Sitting on January," also built around chairs, fell flat this time.

The evening was produced by the Regina Klenjoski Dance Company, and excerpts from Klenjoski's reworked "Streetscapes" completed the program that, however flawed, is still a gift to Los Angeles.
- Los Angeles Times

"Booking Dance Festival 3: Rock It! @ Edinburgh International Conference Center"

Booking Dance Festival 3: Rock It! @ EICC
Posted by Laurin Campbell, 8-18-2010

(scroll to paragraph 3 for VOX)

Drawing on talent from across the USA, Booking Dance Festival’s Rock It! showcase provides a platform for seven diverse companies to stage their work. From ballroom to Bharatanatyam, a dance form from southern India, the programme is stylistically varied to cater for an array of tastes. Meanwhile, its combination of virtuosity, grace and character ensures that the bill lives up to its punchy title.

Michael Mao Dance opens the show with Weaving, a strikingly powerful modern dance quartet with a tribal edge. Here, both men and women display their power as they command the stage with their physicality and athleticism. The dancers kick, spin, leap and cartwheel to create a frenzy of strength and technique. The energy exerted by the company is tangible and, as the piece reaches its climax, the audience is left eager for more.

Also of note is Vox Dance Theatre’s Fimmine. The all-female troupe, clad in bridal-wear, cavort barefoot together in a show of sisterhood. Like the alluring sylphs of the Romantic era, they demonstrate the playful yet headstrong nature of young women bound together by their situation and sex. It is a visual treat with beautifully crafted choreography by Sarah Swenson.

Character-driven work takes the fore in Ballroom Dancing for Tough Guys’ set, including a particularly humorous look at narcissism in which Lou Brock partners his own reflection in a hand-held mirror. Project: Smith & Peluso then delves further into the psyche with three pieces engaging in emotion through physicality before BodyStories/Teresa Fellion Dance explores the complexities of human relationships.

Ragamala Dance captures the essence of India before we are transported to the 80’s in the rocking finale by Freespace Dance. Engaging throughout, Booking Dance Festival delivers a programme with energy, vibrancy and overwhelming generosity of spirit.

- Theskinny.co.uk

"Programma Italiano"

*Vox Dance Theatre & Musicántica presentano Brigantesse*

La Vox Dance Theatre, compagnia americana di danza composta esclusivamente da ballerine, si unisce ai musicisti Enzo Fina e Roberto Catalano di MUSICàNTICA per la realizzazione di un progetto inedito di danza moderna e musica della tradizione orale. Le due ensemble eseguono per la prima volta “Brigantesse” con le coreografie dell’italo-americana Sarah Swenson durante l’anno celebrativo del centocinquantesimo anniversario dell’unità d’Italia.


Sette ballerine – 26 min.
Coreografie di Sarah Swenson (2005)
Musica: Concerto per violino e orchestra di Philip Glass

Indossando vesti nuziali e accompagnate dallo spartito polimetrico di Philip Glass, sette spose fanno fronte a uno dei riti più significativi della società. Nell’impiego di un simbolismo visuale di grande effetto e con spiritati attacchi ritmici, Fimmine esprime la devozione, comunanza e la spavalda passione che queste donne sono capaci di evocare nel loro cammino verso l’altare.


Enzo Fina e Roberto Catalano

Musica dell’Italia mediterranea magistralmente eseguita con profonda carica emotiva e padronanza vocale impiegando una varietà di strumenti sia tradizionali che originali. Musicàntica.org

Sette ballerine – 20 min.
Coreografie di Sarah Swenson (2011)
Musica: brani della tradizione orale e originali MUSICàNTICA

Astrazioni di episodi tratti dalle vite delle feroci compagne dei briganti nella seconda metà del diciannovesimo secolo. Attraverso arrangiamenti originali dei suoni senza tempo della tradizione eseguiti da MUSICàNTICA, lo spettacolo è ricco, fiero, drammatico, dai movimenti elettrizzanti e densi di vitalità ritmica.

SPETTACOLI: Spettacoli di durata normale o dimezzata

CLASSI SULLE TECNICHE DI DANZA HORTON O CUNNINGHAM PER STUDENTI E PROFESSIONISTI: Classi sulla padronanza tecnica basati sul metodo creato da Lester Horton, pioniere californiano della danza moderna, condotti da Sarah Swenson e classi basate sulla tecnica di Merce Cunningham condotti da Tamsin Carlsson, membro della compagnia e alunna dello stesso Cunningham e ballerina del RUG.

La Vox Dance Theater offre seminari sul proprio repertorio passato e corrente col fine di concludersi nella realizzazione di spettacoli informali. Sarah Swenson, esperta in sviluppo artistico, abilità di esibizione e tecnica, insegna a giovani ballerini e pre-professionisti.

Classi specificamente ideate per tutte le età e abilità. Un vero divertimento accessibile a tutti.

DANZA DEI BASTONI: Gioco per bambini ispirato dalla danza scherma salentina

LETTURE DIMOSTRAZIONE E PROVE LIBERE: La compagnia offre cenni storici e dimostrazioni sulla tecnica creata da Lester Horton e sul particolare training fisico necessario ai ballerini moderni. Nelle prove libere vengono eseguiti in maniera informale estratti del repertorio della Vox Dance Theater dando spazio a eventuali domande.

INTRODUZIONE PRE-SPETTACOLO E DOMANDE E RISPOSTE POST- ESIBIZIONE: Sarah Swenson e i membri della sua compagnia discutono in anteprima lo spettacolo e accettano volentieri domande, commenti e discussioni a esibizione conclusa.

Seminario/dimostrazione sugli strumenti tradizionali e originali suonati da MUSICàNTICA e sul loro stile di arrangiamento e composizione di musica tradizionale.

Laboratori sui ritmi e sulle tecniche esecutive per il tamburieddhru (tamburo a cornice salentino), sui clarinetti di canna sardi (benas), sullo scacciapensieri e costruzione di strumenti musicali usando materiale riciclabile.


Sarah Swenson si autodefinisce una neo-modernista che lavora sulla fusione tra tecniche di danza classico-moderna con teatro e improvvisazione. Entusiasticamente dedicata ai valori della danza classico-moderna, Swenson è conosciuta per il suo magistrale uso del contrappunto visuale, sposando il classicismo della danza moderna con una varietà di forme musicali e tradizioni. Il suo profondo apprezzare e amare la musica, così pure la sua matrice multietnica, hanno fatto si di lanciare gran parte del suo repertorio del decennio passato. La vivace compagnia composta esclusivamente da ballerine esegue un corpus di lavori dai temi di interesse universale con una una voce chiara ed emotiva, sottolineando al tempo stesso l’importanza sia dell’individuo che del gruppo, ovunque coinvolgendo il pubblico nel pensiero e nel sentimento.

La Swenson ha ricevuto la sua prima istruzione alla New York University e, più tardi, all’Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, dove ha danzato ruoli di rilievo nel balletto Ailey III. È stata direttrice delle prove di Ailey III nel 1990 allenando e insegnando lavori di repertorio per sette anni, inclusi i ruoli della seconda e terza compagnia nel lavoro più caro allo stesso Ailey il suo Memoria. Sarah Swenson rappresenta la quarta generazione di insegnanti provenienti dal Lester Horton Dance Technique insegnando nelle divisioni sia professionali che junior della Ailey School, così come alla Horton per Actors, Ballet, and Pilates. Inoltre ha lavorato come assistente istruttrice alla New Vision Dance Project, una classe di danza e musica per adulti non-vedenti, paralitici, e vittime di traumi alla spina dorsale e al capo. Sarah Swenson è stata membro della facoltà all’Ailey Camp di Baltimore per tre anni e, nel tardo 1996 prima di lasciare la posizione ha anche insegnato al Ballet Hispanico di New York, È stata ex direttrice di educazione alla danza al Wooden Floor, un dopo scuola all’avanguardia nella creazione di un programma di danza per giovani meno abbienti il quale approccio innovativo è diventato un modello nazionale. Correntemente la Swenson insegna alla California State University di Fullerton e alla Colburn School di Los Angeles. Il suo Vox Dance Theater è annoverato nell’albo del National Boutique Roster di Jody Kaplan & Associates.

MUSICàNTICA è stata fondata a Los Angeles nel 1994 da un trio di musicisti italiani, Enzo Fina, Luciano Miele e Roberto Catalano con l’intenzione di suonare la musica della tradizione orale del sud del paese. Dopo alcuni cambiamenti di personale all’interno dell’ensemble, dal 2000 MUSICàNTICA è un duo formato da due dei fondatori originali, Enzo Fina e Roberto Catalano. Il gruppo ha suonato estensivamente in California e negli Stati Uniti, imbarcandosi inoltre in tours in Canada e Italia. La loro attività non si limita solo ai concerti ma anche a seminari, laboratori, letture e dimostrazioni dedicate a disseminare la cultura e la musica tradizionale italiana nelle scuole elementari, nei colleges e nelle universittà. MUSICàNTICA svolge anche programmi alternativi combinando cucina e musica. Dal 2004 il duo è affiliato al Music Center di Los Angeles, Educational Division, portando i valori della musica tradizionale nelle scuole elementari. MUSICàNTICA è stata selezionata come il gruppo più rappresentativo del Getty Villa dal 2003 al 2008 e, nel 2006, ha ricevuto una onorificenza dal IOHI (Italian Oral History Institute) in riconoscenza del ruolo straordinario di trasmettitori e traduttori delle tradizioni Italiane in America.
Enzo Fina è nato a Salice Salentino ed ha ottenuto la laurea/diploma in pittura presso l’Accademia di Belle Arti di Lecce concentrando i suoi studi verso la relazione tra colore e suono. Sin dall’inizio della carriera di musicista, la sua sensibilità verso la natura acustica dei suoni e l’approccio interdisciplinare tra musica e arti visuali, lo hanno portato alla creazione di propri pezzi d’arte pinto-scultorico-musicali che ha chiamato fina. Da polistrumentista e costruttore di strumenti musicali, Enzo Fina ha lavorato con vari gruppi di musica e di teatro preponendosi obiettivi diversi che vanno dalla ricerca sulla musica di tradizione orale alla composizione di musiche per film, dal teatro di strada al teatro antropologico. I gruppi musicali “Canzoniere di Ricerca Popolare”, “Carmenzo”, “Ancient Grooves” e “MUSICàNTICA” di cui con Roberto Catalano ne è il cofondatore; i gruppi teatrali e di danza “Teatro Infantile di Lecce”, “Mediterranea”, “Teatro la Pupa de Sevilla” e “VOX Dance Theatre”; le proprie composizioni/performance per installazioni di land art oltre alle colonne sonore come quella del film “Maangamizi the Ancient One” creata in collaborazione con Cyril Neville, hanno voluto si che viaggiasse in Italia, Spagna, Portogallo, Olanda, Marocco, Canada e negli Stati Uniti dove ora risiede. Oltre a insegnare musica, arti visuali, costruzione e uso di maschere e strumenti musicali in scuole pubbliche e private, dalle elementari a università, Fina ha lavorato anche come musico-terapeuta in residenza presso il Children Hospital di Los Angeles così come in altre istituzioni specializzate in riabilitazione giovanile. “Science of Sound” è il nome di uno dei programmi che ha insegnato con grande successo per la Pasadena Pops Orchestra.

Roberto Catalano è nato a Catania dove ha iniziato la sua carriera di chitarrista da autodidatta. Ha conseguito il dottorato di ricerca in etnomusicologia alla University of California di Los Angeles (UCLA). Come accademico si interessa alle culture musicali del Mediterraneo con speciale attenzione alla musica del Medio Oriente arabo e alla musica di tradizione orale del meridione italiano così pure alla cultura musicale statunitense e all’organologia. Insegna musica e culture musicali presso vari colleges e università nell’area di Los Angeles ed è compositore e polistrumentista con oltre trent’anni di esperienza durante i quali ha suonato in Italia e in città estere come Londra, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco e Los Angeles. Tra le esperienze di rilievo si annoverano il lavoro svolto con il gruppo siciliano Ammaruvaja, l’apertura come gruppo spalla per il duo jazzistico formato dal pianista Michel Petrucciani e il chitarrista Jim Hall, suonando con il chitarrista jazz John Scofield, e formando con Enzo Fina MUSICàNTICA a Los Angeles, dove risiede da oltre venti anni. Roberto Catalano ha scritto arrangiamenti in vari stili contemporanei, tra questi il più significativo rimane un brano della tradizione vocale sarda conosciuta come canto a tenores che ha arrangiato per il celebre quaretto d’archi americano Kronos Quartet. Roberto Catalano è un organologo costruttore di clarinetti e flauti di canna della tradizione sarda e ricercatore di strumenti musicali in possesso di una collezione di circa 180 strumenti da tutto il mondo.

- Musicántica

"Vox Testimonials"

Vox Dance Theatre performed at the fFIDA International Dance Festival in 2005 with great energy and focus. Performing on our outdoor stage in front of thousands of onlookers can be daunting at best but their work stilled the entire audience each time they performed. Some people even returned in the evening to see the work under the lights. Vox Dance Theatre’s performance was deeply moving. They transformed the historic Distillery District with a magical work that has led to a return invitation for 2006 in our main stage.
~Michael Menegon, Artistic Director, Toronto International Dance Festival (aka fFIDA)

Sarah Swenson spans the fields of Modern Dance and Post-Modern Dance Improvisation. Her choreography, as in her work Fimmine, is beautifully clear. Her stage presence has balanced dignity. Interested in exploration, Sarah is a central collaborator in my semi-improvisational dance/theater projects. A passionate caring for humankind is her artistic motive force.
~Simone Forti

"After witnessing the beautifully evocative Fimmine, choreographed by Sarah Swenson and performed by her company of women, Vox Dance Theatre, I felt transported into a deep and sacred place, a place that harkens back to ancient ritual and theater. The choreography, grounded in the classical modern dance tradition, yet contemporary and edgy, was impeccably crafted with many layers of imagery, nuance, emotional textures, and an ongoing stream of expressive and richly dynamic movement. The seven performers created a powerful ensemble, sharing in the intimacies of womanhood. Yet, all stood out as individuals with their own unique expression. The work touched me in an emotional and kinesthetic way, and was pleasing visually to experience, as the dancers, costumed in their voluminous bridal gowns, swirled, coiled and unfurled themselves through the space. I was blown away and totally satisfied."
~ Cheryl Banks-Smith, Dance Educator/Choreographer

Sarah Swenson is one of the best choreographers on the West Coast. Her work is full of beautiful movement, drama and unexpected twists and turns. Her dancers are dedicated to her, and her own amazing dancing only adds one more wonderful dimension to the work. It was a great honor for me to work with Sarah on the solo, Crossing. A choreographer cannot ask for a more fulfilling experience than the one I had during our rehearsals, and then watching her perform the work. Vox Dance Theatre should be celebrated everywhere dance is presented. Adding to her choreographic talents, Sarah Swenson is also one of the finest teachers of modern dance that I have seen in a very long time. Her style of teaching builds strong dancers who can continue to work in many different styles. She has a wonderful way of nurturing the artistic side of her students as well as strengthening their technique. A rare combination indeed.
~Jeff Slayton

On a warm summer afternoon in Toronto, I stood entranced as Fimmine's dancers floated effortlessly and silently above the stage as part of the 15th annual Fringe Festival of Independent Artists. Glass' score at times chased them ahead of its bold and forceful energy, while in the blink of an eye they were demurely pulling it behind them, in both graceful and surprising stop-time movements. I clung to the stage in hopes of absorbing some of their energy and form. Surely this was the way to move through life. Swenson’s choreography was honest and clean, stripped of unnecessary encumbrances. Their performance was enthralling, infused with both tenderness and strength - the element of surprise invigorating. Robert Frost's couplet seemed apt this afternoon: "We dance round in a ring and suppose/But the Secret sits in the middle and knows." This troupe, and its founder Sarah Swenson, seems to have found their Secret. I, for one, eagerly await their return to Toronto!
- Vox Dance Theatre

"Vox Quote Sheet"

“Also of note is Vox Dance Theatre…the all-female troupe, clad in bridal-wear, cavort barefoot together in a show of sisterhood. Like the alluring sylphs of the Romantic era, they demonstrate the playful yet headstrong nature of young women bound together by their situation and sex. It is a visual treat with beautifully crafted choreography by Sarah Swenson.” ~ Laurin Campbell, www.theskinny.co.uk

“[Fimmine]…deeply moving…a magical work…” ~ Michael Menegon, Toronto International Dance Festival

“…glorious gazelles…” ~ Victoria Looseleaf, Dance Magazine

“…wonderful rollicking, hunkering wildness…” ~ Jennifer Dunning, New York Times

“…an outstanding outlier…” ~ Kris Eitland, San Diego Arts Online

“Sarah Swenson…a passionate caring for humankind is her artistic motive force.” ~ Simone Forti

“…Swenson has a good ear for music, and her three-movement "Fimmine" -- set to a Philip Glass score --is an emotionally effective take on wedding rituals: Swenson and another sextet, clad in an array of nuptial gowns, manipulated the dresses' trains, the swooshing sounds a boon before the skirts were doffed. Rife with metaphoric suggestions, the piece also featured the bridal brigade leaping, running and pairing off, their mouths sometimes open wide and their unison moves a counterpoint to Swenson's solo swirling.”
~ Victoria Looseleaf, Los Angeles Times

"...Sarah Swenson…wedded her lyrical choreography, "Ancestors," an homage to modern dance pioneers, to the music of Philip Glass. Punctuated with fugues, Swenson and eight other women beckoned with lovely arms, collapsing into powerful lunges and weaving intricate line formations as the swirling-gowned damsels called to mind a garden of Greek statuary..." ~ Victoria Looseleaf, Los Angeles Times

“…solidly rooted in the feminine soul…” ~ Marie de la Palme

“Sarah Swenson is one of the best choreographers on the West Coast. Her work is full of beautiful movement, drama and unexpected twists and turns…Vox Dance Theatre should be celebrated everywhere dance is presented…” ~ Jeff Slayton

"… Swenson’s choreography was honest and clean, stripped of unnecessary encumbrances. Their performance was enthralling, infused with both tenderness and strength - the element of surprise invigorating…”
~ David Waite

"...Sarah Swenson is hypnotic…her dance is refined and heartfelt. Her countenance is radiant."
~ The Seal Beach Sun
- Vox Dance Theatre

"New Ailey Center Celebrates With 9 Works and Money"

Review/Dance; New Ailey Center Celebrates With 9 Works and Money
Published: June 14, 1990 New York Times

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The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center celebrated itself with spirit and that special Ailey warmth on Wednesday at its handsome new headquarters near Lincoln Center. Part of the celebration included the announcement of a $300,000 matching grant from the Ford Foundation and a $500,000 grant from Philip Morris, with an additional $25,000 to help match the Ford grant - all badly needed by the school and company.

The program of nine new and familiar dances, well staged by students at the center, was a little over-generous. The close-up view in a studio is not an ideal way to see dance. But the program had some interesting new dances as highlights.

''The Road,'' choreographed this year by Sarah Swenson, is an inventive dance journey that captures much of the wonderful rollicking, hunkering wildness of its score by Lloyd McNeill. The dance was created for Suleiman Rifai, a young dancer who is legally blind. Mr. Rifai moves with impressive freedom and style and a compelling modesty. Ms. Swenson, who danced with Mr. Rifai, is a teacher in the New Visions Dance Project for the visually impaired at the Ailey school. But one of the best things about the duet was that it was simply a good dance performed by good dancers, and it never looked like a learning experience.

''Hello Alvin'' was a fond and nicely upbeat homage to Ailey, who died last year. Choreographed and danced by Freddie Moore, a former member of the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, to spiritual and pop music, the solo began on a somewhat sad elegiac note, with slow walks and stretches that suggested Ailey's choreographic influence on Mr. Moore. The mood was of loss, but soon Mr. Moore drew close to the empty chair that symbolized his mentor and danced as if for that unseen presence, bubbling with playful spins, then growing looser and freer in a performance of compelling physical control.

''Roots,'' a piece for nine dancers that was created by Mr. Moore this year, is less personal. Performed by Ailey students and members of the ensemble, ''Roots'' says nothing new about the behavior of groups, which is its subject, or about jazz dance. But it suggests that its young choreographer is able to put together lithe, lush jazz dance movement - in this piece to an odd and interesting collection of popular and jazz music.

The program's premiere was ''Fugue,'' a quartet for women choreographed by Celia Marino, who teaches ballet at the school, to music by Bach. Though slightly academic and musically literal, the dance was a showcase for the clear, pulled-up look of its well-trained dancers. They were Janine Jones, Juliana Bates, Jennifer W. Cook and Penelope Freeh.

Mr. Ailey's ''Isba'' received a strong performance by members of the Repertory Ensemble, led by Laura Rossini, Troy O'Neil Powell, Bryna Bidinger and Ali Dixion . The program also included performances of Jennifer Muller's ''City.''
- New York Times

"Touring Programs 2011-12"

Choreography by Sarah Swenson
Scroll to end for Residency Activities

Program A (Tours with 6-7 Dancers and 2 Musicians):

Fimmine (Women) - 2005 World Premiere Toronto, Ontario
Seven dancers, 26'
Music by Philip Glass, Concerto for Violin & Orchestra

Using only their gowns and Glass’s thundering polymetric score, seven brides face down one of society's most loaded rituals. Employing potent imagery and a spirited rhythmic attack, Fimmine exhibits the devotion, sisterhood, and fierce passion these women summon on their way to the altar. Swenson’s signature work. "...deeply moving...a magical work..." ~ Michael Menegon, Toronto International Dance Festival/fFIDDA

The Unique Sound of Musicántica - 15-20'
Live musical set by Enzo Fina & Roberto Catalano

A fresh, innovative offering of the music of Mediterranean Italy,
skillfully performed with thrilling vocals and over 20 different traditional and contemporary instruments. Musicántica.org
segues into
Brigantesse - 2011
6 dancers, 23', Music performed live by Musicántica

Powerful episodes abstracted from the lives of the ferocious
women of the legendary Briganti outlaws of 19th century Southern
Italy. Rich, dramatic and fiery, with electrifying movement. Uniquely arranged traditional music and potent rhythms by Musicántica, recalling the folk music of the legendary Briganti.

Program B (Tours with 7 Dancers):

Auriga - 2009 World Premiere, Riverside, CA
Quintet, 18’
Music by Paul Hindemith, The Four Temperaments, Mvts. I, III, II
Costumes by Claire Townsend

This sparkling abstract work is named for a prominent cluster of stars
in the northern sky. Auriga is a constellation of relationships ~ quirky, staid, bubbly, and commanding.

Llorando (Crying) - 2006, World Premiere, Toronto, Ontario
Trio, 16’
Music by Lhasa de Sela

This suite of sensual dances set to four passionate Spanish songs by
the late Canadian vocalist, Lhasa de Sela, looks at three women’s heartfelt stories of love and destiny, beautifully partnered by 200 silk flowers.

Fimmine (Women) - 2005, World Premiere, Toronto, Ontario
Seven dancers, 26'
Music by Philip Glass, Concerto for Violin & Orchestra

Using only their gowns and Glass’s thundering polymetric score, seven brides face down one of society's most loaded rituals. Employing potent imagery and a spirited rhythmic attack, Fimmine exhibits the devotion, sisterhood, and fierce passion these women summon on their way to the altar. Swenson’s signature work.
RESIDENCY ACTIVITIES customized to community interest
*Performances: Evening length or half-program performances

*Technique Classes in Horton or Cunningham Techniques ~ for dance students and professionals. Vox Dance Theatre gives Master Classes in the dance technique of Los Angeles modern dance pioneer Lester Horton, taught by Sarah Swenson, as well as classes in her own fusion of classical modern styles, or classes in the Merce Cunningham technique taught by senior company member, and former Cunningham faculty member and RUG dancer, Tamsin Carlson.

*Repertory Workshops for Dancers in Training
Vox Dance Theatre conducts workshops in the company’s current and former repertoire, leading to informal showings or formal performances. Sarah Swenson is a professional performance coach and is experienced in developing artistry, performance skills, and technique in young dancers and pre-professionals.

*Contemporary Dance Classes ~ for children or adults
Custom designed recreational dance classes for all ages and abilities. Fun for beginners - accessible to all! Also…

*Club Dance Game for Children (Danza dei Bastoni): inspired by Danza Scherma

*Lecture Demonstrations/Open Rehearsals
Vox Dance Theatre offers history and demonstration of the Lester Horton technique, and the particular physical training required for modern dancers. In open rehearsal style, excerpts from Vox Dance Theatre’s repertoire are performed in an informal setting, with time for Q & A.

*Pre- and Post-performance Discussions
Vox Dance Theatre & Musicántica enjoy discussing the program, answering questions, and hearing commentary from viewers.

*Seminar on Musciantica’s wide variety of traditional and contemporary instruments, including demonstration of mandolin, chittara battente, and their special arrangement and composition of traditional songs.

* Workshops in tamburrieddhru (frame drum), rhythms and technique

*Workshops in cane clarinet or jaw harp

*Community Performance Opportunities: join Vox Dance Theatre and Musicántica on stage!

*Choreography Commissions
Sarah Swenson is available for choreographic commissions at all levels from professional companies to young adult students and children. Some repertoire is available for licensing and re-staging. - Vox Dance Theatre

"Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble ~ A Tribute to Rudy Perez"

Dance Magazine Online - June 6, 2009
Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf

Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble ~ A Tribute to Rudy Perez
Intimate Theatre ~ Cal State Los Angeles

Displaying a knack for spinning everyday movement into
gold when he was a member of the experimental Judson
Dance Theater during the 1960s, postmodern icon Rudy
Perez has lost none of that luster—even as he turns 80 in
November. His creative mojo was on solid display in an
evening entitled “A Tribute to Rudy Perez".

Performed by a core group of dancers who’ve been with
the choreographer for years, as well as members of Sarah
Swenson’s Vox Dance Theatre, the program, directed by
Perez, was a brilliant mash-up of the old and new. Its four
works blended seamlessly into 60 intermissionless minutes.
Also upping the artistic ante was the pulsating music of
minimalist composer Steve Moshier, who, with his
venerable Liquid Skin Ensemble, provided live,
rhythmically rich accompaniment.

The concert’s centerpiece was the premiere, Surrender, Tamsin Carlson, Anne Grimaldo, Sarah Swenson,
Dorothy!, Perez’ trenchant take on the writings of the in Alligator Variations. Photo Jeanette Harshbarger.
late Dorothy Parker. While guest soprano Linda Brown
lacked heft with her musical renderings, 19-year-old
phenom and guest artist Daniel Dorr, seemed to channel
Parker through his wry recitations, insouciant manner,
and charismatic presence.

It was, though, the dancers who decidedly spoke volumes—with their bodies. Perez veterans, husband-and-wife team Anne and Jeff Grimaldo (a.k.a. Naked With Shoes), delighted with thigh-slapping, hip-swiveling, and unison arabesques, moves that bled into their own premiere, Without. Playfully aggressive (Anne towers over Jeff),
their height discrepancies made for arresting visuals-cum-power-struggles.

Back in Parkerland there was an Edward Hopper-like atmosphere of brooding isolation as the Grimaldos were joined by Tamsin Carlson, Jamie Benson, and another Perez stalwart, Swenson. Silent screams, clenched fists, and backbend-walking predominated, until a canon of hops was unleashed by the vibrant quintet.

A series of balancing poses, quarter-turns, and leaps (think glorious gazelles) punctuated Swenson’s 2006 work, Cuatro. Rededicated to Perez for the occasion, this fierce segment featured Carlson, Courtney Meadows, Katrina Obarski and Swenson as a kind of prelude to Perez’ 1964 classic Alligator Variations (originally the duet Take Your Alligator with You). Fashioned anew by Perez for an ensemble, this Alligator still teemed with preening, sparring, and cavorting with umbrellas, the dancers gleefully retro (cocktail dresses by Claire Townsend), yet totally today.

Dorr then reappeared, bobbing around the merry prancers before concluding the performance with pure Parker: “Guns aren’t lawful, gas smells awful—you might as well live.”

Perez, by bending and twisting time through his signature pedestrian moves, proved once again that his art remains timeless.
- Dance Magazine

"Rebellious brides top final day"

Day Three: Celebrate Dance Festival at the Casa del Prado Theatre, Balboa Park

Rebellious brides top final day
By Kris Eitland San Diego Arts Online - Posted Wed, Aug 26th, 2009

Dancer/choreographer Sarah Swenson says her company, the neo-modernist Vox Dance Theatre, recognizes the gifts of each dancer. So it was fitting that her accomplished company should perform on the final day of the Celebrate Dance Festival, an event that celebrates the gifts of all dancers and styles.

Based in Long Beach, Swenson formed her company in 2004, so she could perform her own work and the work of others, and continues to work with modern dance pioneers Simone Forti and Rudy Perez. Her style merges classical and modern techniques, theatre and improvisation.

Her signature piece "Fimmine," which explores the contentious ritual of marriage, was the pinnacle of Sunday's lineup at the Casa del Prado Theatre. Emotional, provocative, and professional, it was an outstanding outlier within a very diverse program.

Set to a booming polyrythmic score by Philip Glass, "Fimmine," is filled with powerful imagery and intense focus. Seven brides appeared in wedding gowns with sharp arms and splayed fingers. They whipped the trains of their gowns, and offered the billowing fabric to Swenson, who obviously did not share in their joy. The sequences that followed were not a rejection of wedlock, rather they focused on the courage and alliances that women forge as they prepare for it.

One minute the women were innocent debutantes, all leaping with open arms. They lay on their backs with feet spiraling as if on a bicycle and did a polka dance in a circle. But they pivoted, their gowns swirling like a storm - one women seemed to fly away - and all eyes were on Swenson, who stood with her back exposed, motionless and vulnerable. It was a striking moment that alluded to the historical aspects of marriage, such as women as property, the on-going abuse of women in our country, and the horrific treatment of women in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

But Swenson also conveyed the intense devotion and sisterhood of women. In solidarity, the brides stripped down to bras, merry widow corsets and petticoats, as if to say, "We are brides, but underneath we are proud and will not relinquish our friends."

A final scene further illuminated Swenson's artistic skill and the belief that women must enter marriage with a fierce sense of self. The brides grabbed the air, kicked and galloped in waltz rhythms, then eased into a solid runner's stance before bursting into grand jetes. They looked out into the crowd and danced with the red sashes that had been tied at the waist. It was a wow moment that made you want to cheer out loud.

Swenson's Vox Dance Theatre was one 28 groups that performed at the festival on Sunday. I was able to view a total of six groups in the final three hours, and their range brought new meaning to the phrase, "variety is the spice of life."

The Celebrate Dance Festival almost didn't happen this year because of a strained economy and subsequent funding problems, but Eveoke Dance Theatre, the intrepid organization that has presented the festival for 13 years, made it work. Instead of cutting artists, they cancelled the outdoor stage, and many people and organizations stepped in with support.
* - San Diego Arts Online


Vox Dance Theater repertoire
Choreography by Sarah Swenson:

Brigantesse (2011) 22'
Auriga (2009) 18'
Pavane for an Iraqi Girl (2007) 15'
Mitakuye Oyas'in (2007) 20'
Llorando (2006) 16'
Cuatro (2005) 9'
Fimmine (2005) 26'
Lament in the Cosmos (2001) 11'
Ancestors (2000) 10'
Vox Balaenae (2000) 20'
Blessing (1999) 4'
The Road (1990) 5'



TO VIEW OUR TOURING PROGRAMS & RESIDENCY ACTIVITIES, please click SET LIST above. Programs can be customized for budget, venue, and audience. Also visit


to instantly view promo reel.

Vox Dance Theatre is Los Angeles' only all-female classical modern dance company, now in its seventh year of performing unique works of dance theatre. Since it's founding by Artistic Director Sarah Swenson in 2004, the company has been enthusiastically greeted everywhere it has traveled, beginning with the world premiere of Fimmine at the 2005 Toronto International Dance Festival, where they “…stilled the entire audience each time they performed…" ~ Michael Menegon, and they most recently received a 5-star review at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Scotland. Vox Dance Theatre is continuously engaged in the creation and presentation of unique works of dance - the element of theater is central. A company of individuals, the gifts of each woman are recognized and used in the development of new work, with a strong focus on illuminating the feminine experience. Swenson is known for her stunning use of visual counterpoint - she and her spirited company of women perform the extremely varied repertoire with themes of universal appeal. Vox Dance Theatre has proven to profoundly engage, move, and transport audiences worldwide, inspiring deep feeling as well as thought.
"Rooted in the feminine soul." ~ Marie de la Palme.