Contemporary Ballet, Blues Brothers Revue, South African Gospel and more at GMU

Contemporary ballet, a Blues Brothers musical revue, a South African gospel choir and more at George Mason University this weekend.

Where can you see a rockin’ Blues Brothers musical revue; a Grammy Award-winning South African gospel choir that has shared the stage with Bono and John Legend; an electrifying contemporary dance company that’s been featured on the hit television show “So You Think You Can Dance”; and a critically acclaimed one-woman play starring an Off-Broadway Theater Award-winning (OBIE) actress?

At George Mason University.

The university brings an impressive collection of diverse performances to Fairfax this weekend, with appearances by:

  • Complexions Contemporary Ballet;
  • The “All New” Original Tribute to the Blues Brothers™;
  • Soweto Gospel Choir;
  • Theater of the First Amendment’s Helen Hayes Award Recommended© production of "Can’t Scare Me, the story of Mother Jones."


From Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to “So You Think You Can Dance”

Complexions Contemporary Ballet is the brainchild of former Alvin Ailey dancers Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, who founded their gifted ensemble in 1994 to celebrate and honor diversity and multiculturalism and demolish cultural and artistic boundaries.  

In addition to presenting their work at prestigious venues and festivals across the globe, Rhoden and Richardson have introduced their company to the entertainment world through appearances on PBS, VH1 and E! The pair has also appeared as guest performers and choreographers on the popular dance competition show “So You Think You Can Dance.”

The performance at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall begins with Rhoden and Richardson’s 2009 work, “Mercy,” performed by the company. This stirring piece is dedicated to the memory of actor Patrick Swayze, with whom Rhoden and Richardson collaborated on the film “One Last Dance.”

After intermission comes a series of duets by Rhoden, including excerpts of 2007’s “Choke,” performed to music by Vivaldi; 2011’s “Testament,” performed to traditional song; 2008’s “Dear Frederic,” performed to music by Chopin; 2010’s “On Holiday,” performed to a collection of jazz numbers; and 2005’s “Showman’s Groove,” performed to music by George & Ira Gershwin and Cindy Walker & Eddy Arnold recorded by vocalist Michael Bublé.

The performance concludes with Rhoden’s 2008 work, “Rise,” an energetic and invigorating piece performed by the company to the music of U2.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet performs at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Friday, Feb. 17, at 8 p.m.

Grab your hippest shades and pork pie hat and get ready to boogie!

Born from the comic genius of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, the Blues Brothers became an international phenomenon with their pork pie hats, black suits, cool shades and fresh interpretations of classic R&B songs. The hilarious music and comedy act got its start on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1970s and spawned a hit film, several acclaimed albums and entertaining live performances.

More than 20 years later, The Original Tribute to the Blues Brothers™ musical revue first premiered in a small seaside pub in Brighton in Great Britain and quickly moved to London’s West End, where it became a smash hit. The show won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award (BAFTA) and its run was extended from six weeks to 46 weeks, playing to more than 150,000 people.

After a successful European tour, the creators of the show are now bringing an “all new” production to the United States, featuring some of the best blues you will hear this side of Chicago. With backing from the three “Bluettes” and a hip seven-piece band, Jake and Elwood Blues perform some of the greatest R&B hits of all time, such as “Shake a Tail Feather,” “Think,” “Respect,” “Gimme Some Loving” and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.”

The “All New” Original Tribute to the Blues Brothers™ comes to George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Saturday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m.

Songs of peace, love, hope and joy from South Africa

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Grammy Award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir has appeared alongside some of the biggest names in rock music, including Bono, Queen, Peter Gabriel and John Legend.

After an inspiring performance at the Center for the Arts in 2007, this dynamic 26-member choir returns to Fairfax, bringing a program filled with traditional and contemporary songs of peace, love, hope and joy, sung in South Africa’s many languages.

Founded in 2002, this radiant choir from South Africa quickly captured the world’s attention with performances at a number of prestigious events, including President Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Concert in Cape Town in 2003; a birthday celebration for its patron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu; a New Year’s Eve concert hosted by Oprah Winfrey, which was attended by Mariah Carey, Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle and Sidney Poitier; and an appearance at an event for President Bill Clinton.

The ensemble has earned numerous accolades in the last decade, including several American Gospel Music Awards and Gospel Awards. Its debut album, “Voices From Heaven” reached number one on the Billboard World Music Chart within three weeks of its release. Soweto has also earned Grammy Awards for its 2007 album, “Blessed,” and its 2008 album, “African Spirit.”

In addition to music, Soweto is committed to fighting illnesses such as AIDS and poverty in its homeland. Among other charities, the choir raises funds for Nkosi’s Haven Vukani (named after young AIDS activist Nkosi Johnson, who died in 2001) to support families and orphans in South Africa affected by HIV and AIDS.

Soweto Gospel Choir appears at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 4 p.m.

A riveting and relevant one-woman play about America’s leading labor and community organizer

This weekend, Theater of the First Amendment, Mason’s professional theater company-in-residence, brings its Helen Hayes Awards Recommended© production of “Can’t Scare Me, the story of Mother Jones” to Fairfax for the first time. 

Written and starring Kauilani Lee and directed by TFA’s artistic director, Rick Davis, this one-woman play received rave reviews after its world premiere at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C., last October.

Called “the most dangerous woman in America,” Mary Harris Jones, or “Mother Jones,” “educated, agitated and organized” on behalf of child laborers, coal miners, steel workers and all working people. This remarkable work artfully blends history, biography and a liberal dose of Mother Jones’ famous wit, which combine to create a riveting, passionate and fiery solo performance.

Lee has starred in more than a dozen plays on and off-Broadway and has been nominated for the Drama Desk Award on Broadway and won the OBIE Award for outstanding achievement off-Broadway. She is an adjunct professor in Mason’s Department of Theater.

“Can’t Scare Me, the story of Mother Jones” appears in TheatreSpace on Mason’s Fairfax Campus on Friday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 18 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 19 at 2 p.m.

If you can’t make it out to the Fairfax Campus this weekend, there are plenty of exciting performances coming up at George Mason University in the next few weeks:

  • Northern Virginia’s own Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra brings a program called “Woody, Buddy and Stan” honoring the music of great bandleaders Woody Herman, Buddy Rich and Stan Kenton, on Feb. 25;
  • Philadelphia’s acclaimed Walnut Street Theatre brings David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play, “Proof,” starring Fairfax native Alex Keiper, on March 2;
  • The colorful Ballet Folklórico de Antioquia, Colombia brings authentic music, ritualistic dance and physical theater accentuated by brilliantly-colored and scintillating costumes, on March 3;
  • The illustrious Nordwest Deutsche Philharmonic performs a program under Maestro Eugene Tzigane that includes Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” Suite No. 1 and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, as well as Victor Herbert’s Cello Concerto No. 2 in E minor with guest cellist Amit Peled, on March 4; 
  • The Department of Theater’s Mason Players presents Kenneth Lonergan’s coming-of-age play, “This is Our Youth” on March 1-4;
  • The School of Music’s Mason Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra perform a concert featuring Alan Hovhaness’ Symphony No. 4 for Wind Orchestra, David R. Gillingham’s Concertino for Four Percussionists and Wind Ensemble and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, on March 7.


For tickets, please call 888-945-2468, visit cfa.gmu.edu or stop by the Center for the Arts Concert Hall box office, open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Patricia Mandes February 18, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Jill, I am so pleased to see the announcements of Mason's Center for the Arts programs. Thanks for postming them. Trish
Jill Graziano Laiacona February 23, 2012 at 01:51 PM
You're welcome and thank you, Trish!


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