It’s here – Fringe starts today! Here at Geva, we have one more day for shows to rehearse before our first performances tomorrow. Today, director, choreographer, and Rochester native Daniel Gwirtzman shares the story of creating his show Encore and bringing it to theatres, schools, and outdoor stages around New York City, the state, and the world.

The Road to Geva/ENCORE at The Fringe

A history of Encore in the words of its creator, Rochesterian Daniel Gwirtzman

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When talking about Encore I like to go through the chronology. The dance has always remained active in the repertory since its premiere in 2007. It has been performed without pause by the Company, other professional companies, pre-professional training programs, and university and arts high school dance departments. This photo, taken by famed dance photographer Lois Greenfield, is of the solo Character, choreographed and presented at The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 2005. I did not know at the time that this brief solo would become the kernel of the evening-length dance show! But I did know that I was following my instinct and heart. The music of jazz has long pulsed in this dancer’s veins. The connection to the music, which informs the score of Encore, is a deep one. Character has become a signature solo and is the dance I have performed the most throughout my career. I refer to these versions from the premiere (2007), the New York Musical Theater Festival run (2009), Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (2012, cue to 2:30), and Manhattan’s Bryant Park (2015). August 16, a few weeks ago, it was presented by Battery Dance Festival to some lovely media attention. Yes that’s the Statue of Liberty under my ankle! The solo is the essence of Encore, its heart. These two photos are more than twelve years apart! What a thrill to be bringing the solo to Rochester.

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Photo by Marc De George/Muse Marc Studio

In 2006 the piece was performed at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. for the American College Dance Association’s National Gala. Also in 2006, I developed In The Good Old Summertime and Indiana, the finale. These are the other two dances from the over 20 in Encore to have been performed and set the most on other companies. In October 2006 the final scenes of Encore were presented at Long Island University. This image below along with the special hand-made font, with each light bulb photographed by the designer Greg Silverman, came from that first performance, and became the iconic look of the show.

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The ensemble in the finale, Indiana. Photo courtesy of Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company.

Chronology of Encore

2007: Before the work had even premiered, dances from the show were set and performed at Fordham University/The Ailey School BFA students in New York City. The Company performed the opening twenty minutes of the show, then titled The Rehearsal, at the West End Theater on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In June, Encore premiered at Joyce SoHo to tremendous critical and public praise:

Encore is both the title of Gwirtzman’s new dance suite and the response it’s likely to inspire. The name refers to the repetitions of rehearsal, as a fictional troupe of Broadway dancers prepares to go on the road, but there’s little tedium in Gwirtzman’s choreography, set to classic jazz recordings. Executing his tricky syncopations and intricate patterns at breakneck tempos, the dancers can’t help but smile.

-The New Yorker

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The ensemble in the finale, Indiana, at the premiere. Photograph by James Washburn.

That summer the finale from Encore was presented by Dancers Responding to AIDS/Broadway Cares’ Dancing at the Crossroads in Times Square. The image looks like its photo-shopped, but it’s not! We were there! Within the premiere year, the show was presented by The Joyce Theater for their 25th anniversary season, at The Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts, Long Island University campus, Brooklyn, and at The University of Michigan’s Department of Dance in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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The ensemble in the finale, Indiana. Photo courtesy of Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company.

2007-2008: Encore Tour. Public school performances with Dept of Cultural Affairs grant, NYC

2008-2009: Encore is presented four times as part of a month-long public lecture-performance series, In The Studio, at New York City Center Studios.

2009: Encore performs a sold-out run as an official selection of the New York Musical Theater Festival (NYMF) in NYC. This photo shows the updated production with new custom costumes.

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The ensemble in the finale, Indiana. Photo courtesy of Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company.

2009-10: Encore set at the LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, the “Fame” School in New York City; Encore presented by The YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood, NYC: the professional Michigan-based Eisenhower Dance Ensemble licenses Encore.

Dances from Encore first come to Rochester!

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2011: Encore is revived at Joyce SoHo for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) in NYC. I’m with Stefanos Milkidis at the Company’s booth at the Sheraton. We were excited to unveil our life-size banner! Excerpts from Encore comes to Rochester at Nazareth College Summer Dance Festival at the Memorial Art Gallery. Encore is also set and performed by students at Rochester’s School of the Arts (SOTA).

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2011-2012: Rochester City Ballet licenses Encore, which is performed at Nazareth Performing Arts Center, Rochester, NY. An open rehearsal before the show attracted a large audience. Here I am clarifying directions with the professional troupe. Encore is set on high school dance students at Talent Unlimited High School (Manhattan) and on dance students at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (Queens), the school Tony Bennett built and named for his friend Frank! Character is performed at Edinburgh International Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland and excerpts from Encore are presented by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts.

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Rebecca Chaleff, Daniel Gwirtzman, and Jeff Davis perform Encore. Photo: Christopher Duggan

2013-2014: Encore set at The Joffrey Ballet School, performed at Salvatore Capezio Theater, NYC. This film was produced by the Company as part of our 15th Anniversary Season: Joffrey Does Encore.

2015-2016: Encore presented by Bryant Park Presents and Inception to Exhibition, Bryant Park, NYC. Encore set on Terspichord, a more than sixty-year old student dance troupe at Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga, TN; on University at Buffalo State University of New York students, who additionally performed at the American College Dance Association’s regional conference at Ohio University in Athens, OH.Georgia Metropolitan Dance Theater, a 60-year old pre-professional and professional company licenses Encore, Marietta, GA.

THE ENCORE PROJECT: 2017/2018

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Derek Crescenti and Daniel Gwirtzman perform at The Wassaic Festival. Photo: Tony Turner.

In celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the show the Company engaged in a year-long plus tour, presented by The Wassaic Festival, Wassaic, NY; was a featured guest company by YourMoves Festival in the historic Landmark Lowe’s Theater in Jersey City, NJ; presented by The Studios of Key West in Key West, Florida. The work was performed by the professional Charlotte Dance Festival Repertory Ensemble in various performances in Charlotte, NC.

Additionally Encore was set and performed on students at University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; Florida School of the Arts, Palatka, FL; PICTA Movement Collective, Beloit College, Beloit, WI; Georgian Court University, Lakewood, NJ; and Troy University, Troy, AL.

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Beloit College’s PICTA Movement Collective took Encore to the streets. Photo: Beloit College
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The cast of Troy University students performed eight times. Photograph by Steve Stubblefield.

The Company also celebrated with a series of live streamed performances from Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, Pier 25 in Tribeca, and the historic Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.

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Justin Keats and Brittany Posas perform Ain’t She Sweet from Encore. Photo: DGDC.

If this image, below, looks familiar it’s because it’s the one on our KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival poster, which designer Lori Larusso expertly created.

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Derek Crescenti, Vanessa Martinez de Banos, Daniel, and Aslan Rolston. Photo: DGDC

This takes us to the present. At the time of writing this the Company is rehearsing daily, going over the dances again and again and again, encore. Growing up in Rochester I often attended Geva, with memories of school field trips from middle school or earlier. Most indelibly I remember the robust production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ during its acclaimed 1985 season. It has been a lengthy and focused road, graduating from Brighton High School, studying dance, dancing with Garth Fagan Dance, forming my own company in New York, that has led me to Geva and to the Fringe.

I hope you can come see us perform. Rochester made me the dancer that I am!

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The Company rehearsing for The KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival. Photo: Lauren O’Brien

No matter how many dark pieces Daniel Gwirtzman has turned out since starting to choreograph in 1995, he’s clearly a not-so-secret jazz baby who’s also a fan of Broadway…I’m a pushover for dancers who can play themselves in unaffected ways-as these do extremely well. –Deborah Jowitt, The Village Voice

I found myself grinning from one of the piece to the other. Gwirtzman has made a spring fling, showing us the underside of the dancer’s world, letting us feel the sensuality of the studio and glory in the music of the first half of the 20th century. –Elizabeth Zimmer, Gay City News

The Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company pulled out all the stops with its performance of Encore, a riotous new full-evening piece of razzle-dazzle entertainment. –Lisa Jo Sagolla, Back Stage

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