Rogue 2018: Under new artistic leadership, NOCO dances in a different direction

Preview: For the Fresno Dance Collective, festival represents a big transition and a new beginning

By Selina Falcon

The Fresno Dance Collective (NOCO) premieres “Nothing is Beautiful; Everything is Fine” at the 2018 Rogue Festival this weekend at Dianna’s Studio of Dance. This is the first show since the departure of NOCO founder Amy Querin – who just a few months ago moved to Wisconsin – and the pressure is on.

NOCO performs through Sunday, March 4, at Dianna’s Studio of Dance. Photo / Rogue Festival

Alexandra Tiscareno, NOCO’s new resident choreographer and the creator and director of the new show, is well aware of the shoes she has to fill.

“When you hear the word NOCO in the Fresno dance scene, you immediately think of Amy,” Tiscareno said. “You think of her creative genius, her drive, and her passion … It is a lot of pressure.”

Tiscareno, 24, is from Fresno and never had any formal dance training growing up. She said it wasn’t until the spring of 2013 that she started taking dance classes at Fresno City College and Clovis Community College.

Editor’s note: Author Selina Falcon is a senior print journalism major at Fresno State. To celebrate the Rogue Festival, I’m excited on The Munro Review to include work from students in my advanced editing class at the university.

“That’s when I met Amy, and boy, did she not like me at first,” she said. “I think about it now and laugh, but back then, it was absolutely terrifying.”

Tiscareno was introduced to NOCO that spring when she took a class from Querin. She officially became involved with the company in 2015 when Querin needed help with NOCO’s aerial program.

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Star-crossed dancers will take the stage in ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The Valley Performing Arts Council presents the professional State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara at the Saroyan Theatre

Sometimes the staff of The Munro Review forgets something important. Such is the case this weekend, when I neglected to include in my coverage the Valley Performing Arts Council’s presentation of “Romeo and Juliet” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Saroyan Theatre.

This annual collaboration between the VPAC and the renowned State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara is one of the dance highlights of the year. It’s an opportunity for professional ballet dancers to perform with students on the same stage.

Photo / David Bazemore

State Street Ballet Artistic Director Rodney Gustafson uses the classic Prokofiev score and “intensifies the drama by highlighting the most emotional and romantic moments of the world’s most treasured love story.”

The title roles are being danced by some big names. Romeo is portrayed by Aaron Smyth, an Australian, who is soon to be a movie star. He will appear as the Snow Cavalier, opposite Misty Copeland in Disney’s upcoming feature film “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” with a scheduled release date of November.

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From boozed-up Shakespeare to autocorrect hell, my picks for the 2018 Rogue Festival

Every year it happens without fail as I’m perusing the Rogue Festival program: A show leaps out and screams, “Come see me!” What kind of act am I drawn to? You might think that because I often go to the symphony and opera that I’d only be drawn to the highfalutin events. Not true. My No. 1 show to see at the 2018 Rogue … drum roll, please … is:

“S’Will,” a theater piece that its producers describe as a “blending of Shakespearean text, modern pop culture, and copious amounts of alcohol.”

rogue swill

Fresno’s very own fringe festival kicks off Friday, March 2, at various venues in the Tower District. As a longtime audience veteran, I look forward to it every year. The following list of five picks is based on nothing more than my own hunches. Who knows? I could be recommending acts that are terrible. But that’s kind of the fun of Rogue: There’s a sense of travelling mostly blind in unchartered waters. You might discover the Northwest Passage, or you might sail off the edge of the world.

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Fresno State’s ‘Epistêmê’ offers a whirlwind of motion and emotion

You can win a pair of tickets to any of the final three performances of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble


The Contemporary Dance Ensemble at Fresno State continues its run of “Epistêmê,” every night this week through Saturday. There was a very small audience in the John Wright Theatre at the Sunday matinee I attended, which is a shame. These hard-working dancers deserve a bigger spotlight.

A moment from the Contemporary Dance Ensemble concert “Episteme.” Photo / Fresno State

A few thoughts from the show:

The opening: “Project Solo,” which introduces each dancer individually, is a clever appropriation of the tropes we’ve come to expect from “Project Runway”: the focus on personality (we’re bombarded with multiple images of each dancer as he or she gets a moment onstage alone to shine); the confident, fashion-strut-style of interaction with the audience (each move telegraphing “Look at me!”); the music putting a pep in everyone’s steps (with an overall techno-beat feel). Stephanie Bradshaw’s idiosyncratic costumes help pump up that sense of individuality, and Liz Waldman’s projections have a nice, grainy feel, with complexions and hair colors posterized almost to abstraction. Most important, the dancers, guided by choreographer and CDE artistic director Kenneth Balint, exude a sense of basking in our attention — which is what the “Runway” is really about, right?

Win two tickets to any remaining performance of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble’s “Episteme.” To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling us why you’d like to go. Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21. If you win, you can choose from any of the following three performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23; or Saturday, Feb. 24.

The student choreographer: Kudos to Nathalie Quiros for her weird and transfixing “Esoteric Flux,” which began with some of the dancers huddled squarely under a white sheet, like a shuddering ice cube, moved to ribbons of fabric flinging bodies around, and ending with a kinetic, twitchy sense of disrupted time. I liked the fearlessness of the choreography and the impatience of it all, with dancers at times literally being yanked off one side of the stage or the other. Brisk, unsettling and infused with a sort of jittery zombie menace, I found myself drawn to Quiros’ distinct visual language.

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For Fresno State student choreographer Nathalie Quiros, time flies in special ways

Quiros debuts her piece “Esoteric Flux” in the annual Contemporary Dance Ensemble concert

Nathalie Quiros is sitting a few feet across from me in a room next to Fresno State’s theater box office. We’re chatting about the dance she choreographed for the annual Contemporary Dance Ensemble concert. To demonstrate a move, she flings out her arm in a razor-sharp motion.

“I call that an outward flick,” she says.

I like that word: flick.

A scene from Nathalie Quiros’ “Esoteric Flux,” part of Contemporary Dance Ensemble’s lineup. Photo / Fresno State

So does Quiros.

It sounds quicker than a brushing motion. It’s more abrupt than a sweep or a graze. To flick is to dart — to pounce and then retract. The word makes me think of a motionless frog whose tongue suddenly snaps out to catch a fly.

Quiros is the designated student choreographer for the concert, and she’s poured heart and sole into the creation of “Esoteric Flux,” an 11-minute work she calls “very abstract.” To her, the piece is about how time can skip and start.

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My Top 20 cultural events of 2017

I offer my picks for the best of the year in theater, classical music, dance, opera and visual arts

For more than 15 years, I’ve written a year-end piece I refer to simply as my “Top 20.” The full title, I guess, would be “Donald’s Top 20 Cultural Events of the Year in the Central San Joaquin Valley.” Or, because there’s only one of me and far more offerings each year than I could ever attend (even if I went out almost every night), the most realistic way to describe this yearly endeavor would be “Donald’s Top 20 List Out Of All the Stuff He Manages To Get To.”

“Cultural” is a pretty broad term, and I have to narrow that down a bit, too: In this case think of it as shorthand for “theater-classical-music-opera-dance-poetry-visual-arts.” As in years past, I declare up front that I cover more theater events than anything else because they’re the most likely to be repeat performances, meaning that my reviews can be useful to readers trying to decide whether to go to a future show.

In the end, does love prevail? Laurie Pessano, as Mrs. Tottendale, and Charles Rabb, as Underling, in “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Photo / Good Company Players

I’ve also fiddled a little this year with the structure of this list: Rather than a hodgepodge of 20 events, I’m grouping my shout-outs by three categories: theater (with 10 entries); and music/dance and visual arts (with five each).

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5 things to know about ‘Shen Yun’

As the Chinese cultural arts performance returns to Fresno the day after Christmas, here’s some background


The advertising is relentless. If this touring show’s marketing campaign were an ocean-going vessel, it’d be a dreadnaught — one of those massive warships with large-caliber guns, circa World I, that could obliterate on-shore targets miles away. The “Shen Yun” team floods a market with any means at its disposal: billboards, TV and radio, direct mail, vastly expensive wrap-around newspaper ads that easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars (and perhaps even more, in the largest markets). And “Shen Yun” seems to be everywhere — I was driving through McAllen, Texas, and, boom, there was the familiar billboard. The advertising is so pervasive, in fact, that I half expect a dancer or two to pop up at my front door and press a leaflet into my hands.


All this marketing must take a lot of money, even with the deep-pockets support of the Falun Gong movement. Which brings me to my next point:

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In ‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze,’ more than reindeer fly

Win a special prize package that includes tickets for opening night and dinner for two at Cosmopolitan Tavern

UPDATE: Congratulations to winner Heather Rhodes!

ORIGINAL POST: Jill Winters is scared of heights.

But that doesn’t stop the creative and music director for Cirque Dreams from tracking down performers who are most definitely unafraid of heights to appear in her shows. From thousands of audition tapes she receives each year from circus artists, Winters travels the world seeking out a select few, from Russia to Ethiopia. The aim is to recruit these stellar professionals into one of her “Cirque” shows touring the United States.

The cast of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.”

You’ll get to see some of the best of those performers in “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” which plays Tuesday, Dec. 19, and Wednesday, Dec. 20, at the Saroyan Theatre as part of the Broadway in Fresno series. (Scroll down for a chance to enter my ticket giveaway, which includes dinner for two at Cosmopolitan Tavern and free parking for the evening.) I got the chance to chat with Winters by phone about the show. Here are Five Things to Know:

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