‘Hit the Road Jack!’ to Showcase Ray Charles

By Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

UTEP’s dance department will bring the songs of Ray Charles to life with “Hit the Road Jack!” The show also will feature other unique dance works that demonstrate a range of styles and themes.

“‘Hit the Road Jack!’ celebrates stimulating musical works made popular by Ray Charles,” said dance professor Myron Nadel, who created the title work. “The dance suite references the kinds of male/female relationships, instantaneous attractions and despondent endings that Charles knew about and wrote about. If the audience wants to celebrate his songs with dancing as much as the 13-person cast, nobody will stop 'em.”Sarah Escobedo and Max Canion perform the highs and lows of love to Ray Charles’ timeless music in “Hit the Road Jack!” Photo by Adriana Dominguez.Sarah Escobedo and Max Canion perform the highs and lows of love to Ray Charles’ timeless music in “Hit the Road Jack!” Photo by Adriana Dominguez.

Eleven of Charles’ songs have been combined into a musical suite with lyrics reminding audiences of the experience of falling in love and the devastation when a relationship ends, whatever the cause. Nadel’s choreographer’s note reads: “Although its main thrust is for the audience to remember, enjoy, or possibly become familiar with the music of this great popular artist, the experience should make people want to join in the dancing. There are times when the audience will be invited to dance as their own tribute to the music. It is not a biography of the musical artist, but references his relationships, lifestyle, and desire for popularity and control.”

Additional performances choreographed by UTEP dance faculty members Lisa Smith, Andrea Vazquez, and Ila Conoley Paladino will round out the evening. They will present five separate works with entirely different ideas and styles of dance that will treat audiences to amazing movement and thought-provoking story lines.

"This concert brings a wide variety of dance styles to the stage,” said Smith, head of dance in UTEP’s Department of Theatre and Dance. “From comedy, to abstract ballet and contemporary dance, to the wonderful energy of Myron's choreography to Ray Charles' irresistible music, there really is something for everyone on this program. The students are dancing so well this year. They really bring a new sense of maturity to the stage. We are also very fortunate to have such a strong artist in our new faculty member, Andrea Vazquez, bringing her wonderful talents to the mix."

Smith choreographed two pieces for the show: “Tea,” which gives a farcical look at Baroque manners and features Megan Aizipuro, Tania Mendoza, Max Canion, Emma Butler, Jocelyn Lara, and Sussette Kenney; and the ballet “4,3,2,1,” featuring Sarah Escobedo, Jose Barraza, Nick Loweree, Rafael Chavez, Anna Marie Barrueta, and Edna Ibarra.

“This is my second semester here and I'm really excited to be part of this wonderful community,” said Andrea Vazquez, visiting assistant professor of dance. “As a new faculty member and choreographer for this show, I've been enjoying working with the students of the dance program. They are very talented and committed to growing as artists. I choreographed a piece with 12 dancers, ‘Laugh Like d'Loudest Whale.’ I have been working with them on the nuances of the movement as the medium to express their uniqueness. It is a piece that requires a sense of connectedness among them, but also individuality, allowing them to reveal an obscure, funny, quirky, tender, or serious aspect of their personality. The other piece I choreographed, ‘Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs,’ is a duet inspired by two of my favorite cartoon characters, 'Calvin and Hobbes' by Bill Watterson. Calvin is embodied by two sensitive and unique movers that give Calvin that playful and mischievous personality. Hobbes is portrayed with sincerity by Jose Barraza. Chelsea Shugert and Maira Montes will be alternating in the role of Calvin.”

Ila Conoley Paladino, professor of dance, choreographed the piece “No Reality Between Us,” which features music by composer John Zorn as performed by Kronos Quartet. “What concerns me is the fragility of sanity,” she said. “Think of your everyday. Remember that thing that hides in your dark corners. We are all delving, daily, through the fog of our own minds, sinking, at our own speeds, to a level of insanity most fitting to us.

"It has been an absolute joy resetting my work on three talented UTEP dance majors,” Conoley Paladino continued. “Mariana Castañeda, Ana Nieto Dickens, and Maria Jose Portillo all bring a unique and interesting flavor to this work rout with fluctuation, confusion, connection and triality. They discover and convey precisely the three people who live within us all: the one who pretends it's all OK, the one who questions what is happening, and the one who has given into insanity."

“Hit the Road Jack!” will be performed at 8 p.m. Feb. 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 at the Wise Family Theatre (2nd floor of the Fox Fine Arts building) and at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 17 and 24. Tickets are $9 for UTEP students and children ages 3-12; $12 for adults; and $10 for UTEP faculty/staff, seniors, military, groups of 10 or more, UTEP alumni, and other students. For more information, call 915-747-5118.