STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Dance is a universal language, says Southwest Philly native Mark Francis Caserta. And it has allowed him to “speak” all over the world. Now, the member of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal returns to his hometown to perform with the company. The group will offer three premieres by world-class choreographers Jan. 13 through 17 at the Prince Theater in Philly. It’s part of the NextMove series presented by Dance Affiliates.
The troupe is one of Canada’s most popular touring companies. They use the vocabulary of classical ballet while embracing other forms of dance at the same time, according to the press release. The company has performed for more than two million spectators in 66 countries since its founding in 1972.
At the Prince Theater performance, viewers will see three works. “Rouge” by Rodrigo Pederneiras, who is the choreographer for Brazil’s Grupo Corpo, is an ensemble piece set to original music by The Brothers Grand that pays tribute to native peoples and their cultural legacy. “Mono Lisa,” danced to the sounds based on the noises of a typewriter, will be performed by Celine Cassone partnered by Caserta. That work, choreographed by Israel’s Itzik Galili, explores the relationship of a modern couple. And “Kosmos,” choreographed by Greece’s Andonis Foniadakis and set to drum music by Julien Tarride, is a 35-minute company work inspired by the frenetic pace of everyday life.
“If you know dance, you’ll appreciate our show in Philadelphia and if you’ve never been to a dance performance you will thoroughly enjoy it,” said Artistic Director Louis Robitaille in an email interview. “This is the most physical performance we have ever done. We are artists and athletes. This contemporary ballet puts the pedal to the metal with high energy. The audience is transformed.”
Caserta thinks performing this show and touring with the company is a thrill.
“It’s amazing and a great opportunity to see the world,” he said in a telephone interview.
This is his second season as a company member. He can’t wait to dance with the group in his hometown.
“I love coming back to Philly,” he said. “When I come home, I feel so comfortable. I’m close to my family and friends. There’s just something about being in the city.”
At the Philly show, he’ll partner with one of the dancers in a pas de deux. The show also features two additional group pieces – “one is very in unison and powerful and the other is free,” he said. “All are so different.”
Caserta, who studied dance since he was a child and performed as a member of a company in New York, knew someone who danced with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal and saw videos of their work. He was impressed and soon found himself a member of the group. When the director first asked him to be in the company, he didn’t take it seriously.
“I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m moving to Canada,’” he said. “But I went on a whim for fun. Three weeks later, I moved to Canada. ‘I’m going to do this,’ I said.”
In addition to being able to perform with world-class dancers, he just had to take the job.
“I thought it would be fun to live in another country,” he said. “It was so intriguing. And I thought that if I didn’t do it, I would always think ‘What if?’”
It all worked out. He loves that “Montreal is beautiful and such a cultured city,” he said. “There’s so much art and everyone’s so creative.”
And the company is amazing, he said.
“Everybody’s so different — entertaining and full of expression and art and versatility,” he said.
Caserta’s inspired by watching other dancers and hope audiences will be, too. He’s going to enjoy dancing with his newest friends, in this Canadian company, in his hometown of Philadelphia. He couldn’t ask for more than that. It’s just another day in which he gets to do what he loves to do.
“I love music. I love moving my body,” he said. “It’s something that’s inside of me. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”