Spring Arts Guide

Friday, May 2

Movin' Around the World
For a decade and a half, Dances of India has organized and presented the St. Louis Dance Festival Showcase. Every year, more companies join and more styles of dance are represented. How much bigger the showcase can get remains to be seen, but at this point it requires three consecutive nights to give every group its moment in the spotlight. The 2014 installment features the modern dance of the Slaughter Project, the modern ballet of Patzius Performing Arts and Tozan-ryu's traditional folk dances of Japan. Also unique to this year is Gerard Charles of the Joffrey Ballet, who choreographs the finale piece for the festival. The St. Louis Dance Festival Showcase takes place at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (May 2 through 4) at the Edison Theatre on the Washington University campus (6445 Forsyth Boulevard; 314-534-1111 or www.dancesofindiastlouis.org). Tickets are $20 to $25. — Paul Friswold

Thursday, May 8

Slatkin returns to Powell Symphony Hall.
Steve J. Sherman
Slatkin returns to Powell Symphony Hall.
Patzius Performing Arts performs at the St. Louis Dance Showcase.
Patzius Performing Arts performs at the St. Louis Dance Showcase.

Borscht Belt Flashback
Thank God for comedy. What's more, thank God in a heaping extra measure for the Jewish variation on humanity's blessed (and necessary — don't even try to think how crazy a species we'd be without humor's safety valve) instinct: the one for cracking jokes. While every culture has its native sense of humor, it's the Jewish people who've refined the trait into a beautiful and sturdy art form. And now, to augment a priceless comedic lineage that encompasses the Marx Brothers, Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Woody Allen and Myron Cohen, right on up to Sasha Baron Cohen, we have Daniel Okrent and Peter Gethers' Old Jews Telling Jokes, a play with subject matter that's made evident by its title. But there are also staged gags, musical numbers, and character-driven monologues and scenes. It's good medicine, laughter; get yourself some here. The New Jewish Theatre presents Old Jews Telling Jokes at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday (May 8 through June 1) in the Wool Studio Theatre at the Jewish Community Center (2 Millstone Campus Drive, Creve Coeur; 314-442-3283 or www.newjewishtheatre.org). Tickets are $35 to $39. — Alex Weir

Saturday, May 17

When Henry Met Henry
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has staged comedies and tragedies in equal measure in Forest Park for the past decade. This year the group takes an ambitious tack, choosing not one but two of Shakespeare's histories — did we say ambitious? We meant Olympic. Henry IV and Henry V are on the bill, and they tell nothing less than the development of a boy becoming a man and the man becoming a king. The younger Henry is known as Hal when we first meet him, and he's something of a rake. He pals around with heavyweight carouser Falstaff, who practices casual brigandage when short of funds — and the big man is always short of funds. The older Henry is Hal's father, and he's about to pit the future of his newly won kingdom on the successful quelling of a baronial revolt, but the old man is riven by doubt about the nature of his boy. When will his son take life seriously? Hal needs a push, but he gets there in the end. He has to, because by the start of Henry V he's the King of England, and he's ready to invade France and claim the throne there as part of his inheritance. Now a much more serious and commanding figure, as befits a king, Hal delivers one of the great "go out and give 'em hell" speeches in the English language. The boy who would be king is a choice role, and our town's Jim Butz is a great fit for the part. He's joined by a host of top local talent — look for Kari Ely, Joneal Joplin, Reginald Pierre, Antonio Rodriguez, Chauncy Thomas and Jerry Vogel in this big two-parter. The schedule this year is a little different. Henry IV is performed at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 17. Henry V then begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, at which point the shows alternate nights through Sunday, June 15. There are no performances on Tuesday. Admission is free, and all shows are in Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park, just off Art Hill. Call 314-531-9800 or visit www.sfstl.com for more information. — Paul Friswold

Thursday, May 22

Dance, Dance, Dance
The performing arts are a subjective human endeavor; the individual performance matters more than the quantity of performances. The Emerson Spring to Dance Festival challenges that belief, however. Thirty companies from across the country assemble at the Touhill Performing Arts Center (1 University Boulevard at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-4949 or www.dancestlouis.org) for three nights of dance. Participants include Aerial Dance Chicago, Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Grand Rapids Ballet, as well as local favorites the Big Muddy Dance Company and Saint Louis Ballet. There's something for everyone here, whether you're into the latest hip-hop (check out COCA's Hip-Hop Crew) or traditional West African folk dancing (courtesy of Afriky Lolo). The only thing that's small about Spring to Dance is the price: Tickets are just $15 per night. Main stage performances begin at 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (May 22 through 24), but get there early enough to see the 5:30 p.m. performances that take place in the lobby. — Paul Friswold

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