City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
CRICKETS TAKE FLIGHT ATOP TRAMPOLINES. Spiders spin silky threads. Red ants juggle kiwis and corn and a dragonfly balances along the slender stalks of a plant.
Together, the graceful actions of all this energy in motion depicts an ecosystem bursting with life and the basis of the Cirque du Soleil show “OVO,” which takes the stage for six performances at the Times Union Center Jan. 29 - Feb. 2.
“I find the show very colorful and great for all kinds of audiences, especially for kids,” says Alexander Grol, who in his guise as a beetle in OVO’s Russian Cradle act has a unique point-of-view of the awestruck “insects” whose intense curiosity is heightened when a mysterious egg appears, representing the enigma and cycles of their lives.
“The show is quite good in its balance of the different things and I’ve heard people saying some very nice things about many of the different acts,” Grol says. “There are very strong acrobatics and when I have overheard people talking about their favorite acts, it’s usually about the slackwire performance, which is absolutely insane. There are very few people I’ve ever seen who can do that kind of act. Top-of-the-notch acrobatics,” he says. “Personally, I like what I do! I would say it’s my favorite, haha.”
Grol’s job description of his role in the flying act segment? “I throw and catch people for a living,” he says, with a laugh. “I’m the one throwing and catching the acrobats.”
Originally from Kiev, Ukraine, Grol was born into a traditional circus family. “Much of my life has been on the road, from the time with my parents when I was a boy. I grew up quite fast and they kind of integrated me into the show, which was the Moscow State Circus, traveling the U.K. for a while. That was the first circus I started in.”
He joined Cirque du Soleil in 2008 with the stage production of “Zaia,” which was based in Macau and represented the company’s first resident show in Asia. In 2011 he joined “OVO.” He says he’s on the road with the show a few months at a time, interrupted by occasional two-week breaks, and when not performing he enjoys reading, keeping in shape and exploring cities where the tour takes him.
“Every time we move to a different city, we have a day or two to go out and explore,” Grol says. The loudest crowds? Latin America. “We had full houses every day and they were screaming their heads off! That was fun.” He is partial to the west coast - California and Oregon specifically, the rich landscapes of Colorado, and the cultural sophistication of Japan.
OVO, which first premiered in Montréal in April 2009, celebrated its 2,000th show in February 2015 in Fukuoka. “Japan I like very much. The politeness is one reason. And it’s super-clean there; neat and tidy. I found it very different from the rest of the world.”
The name OVO, which means “egg” in Portuguese, represents a timeless symbol of the life cycle and birth of numerous insects and depicts the underlying thread of “OVO” the show – which marks the 25th live production from Cirque du Soleil. With an international crew representing 17 nationalities, “OVO” has visited more than 30 cities in six different countries as a Big Top show before transforming in an arena show in 2016.
The seeds of Cirque du Soleil were first planted in the early 1980’s, when a troupe of performers took their talent to the village streets on the shores of the St. Laurent River near Quebec City with a crew jugglers, dancers, fire breathers, and musicians. In 1984, the show traveled on a province-wide tour and three years later crossed the Canadian borders for the first time, with a tour of the U.S.
Today, it sites its headquarters - “a laboratory of imagination”- in Montreal where 1,300 artists hailing from 55 different countries form the current Cirque du Soleil team. Since 1997, all shows have been created at Cirque du Soleil’s International Headquarters.
One wing of the headquarters includes three acrobatic training rooms, a dance studio, a studio-theater, and a gym where preparatory training – which can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months – is conducted before joining a shows cast.
Each individual show features anywhere from 50 to 100 artists. The cast is nearly evenly divided between those who come from sports disciplines such as rhythmic and acrobatic gymnastics, those from circus arts disciplines, and those who come from various artistic backgrounds such as dance, music, physical theatre and street arts.
Every year the costume workshop uses more than 6.5 kilometers of fabric from around the world to create intricate stage outfits and sets, and the musical score is written by company composers, creating shows that feature original music
Cirque du Soleil “OVO” will perform the following dates at Times Union Center, 51 S. Pearl St., Albany: Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 7:30 pm; Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 pm; Friday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, Feb. 1 at 4 pm and at 7:30 pm; Sunday, Feb. 2 at 1:30 pm. Ticket prices range from $38 adult/ $29 child to $129 and are available at the arena box office, or online at ticketmaster.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city’s Land Use Boards are this week reviewing the following possible agenda items and applications under consideration. Planning Board and Design Review Commission meetings are held at the city Recreation Center, 15 Vanderbilt Ave.
Ballston Ave Townhouses: 96-110 Ballston Ave. Site Plan Review for 18 multi-family residential units.
Weibel Avenue: 68 Weibel Ave. Permanent Special Permit Use for office, retail, storage, golf driving range.
Jefferson Street: 41-45 Jefferson St. Extension of subdivision approval of a 4-lot residential subdivision; 188 Jefferson St. Coordinated SEQRA Review for final subdivision review of a proposed 6-lot residential subdivision.
Station Lane Apartments: Station Lane. Architectural Review of a new 3-building, 39-unit apartment complex.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Singer-songwriter, actress, and activist Holly Near performs at Caffe Lena Sunday, Jan. 19.
Near’s discography spans five decades and includes arguably the greatest cover version committed to vinyl of Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty,” which Near performed as a duet with the Weavers’ Ronnie Gilbert.
Tidbit to impress your friends: Near (playing the role of student body president Phyllis Goldberg) debated David Cassidy (playing the role of Keith Partridge) when the two opposed one another in a campaign for student body president, during an episode of “The Partridge Family,” which aired in 1973.
Near’s show at Caffe Lena begins 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $35 general admission, $32 cafe members, $17.50 students and kids. A pre-show talk takes place 6 p.m. with a $5 admission.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – It’s been a long and winding road to Adelphi Street since a community of residents, clergy, business leaders, politicians and everyday folks first came together to create a space where people without a home can find shelter during frigid nights, get fed a warm meal, recharge their bodies and head back out into the light of the next day to try and secure a more stable standing.
Motivated to action in the wake of the death of a city woman exposed to a winter’s elements on a December night in 2013, a temporary homeless emergency shelter was launched that Christmas Eve at St. Peter’s Parish Center.
A series of temporary winter shelters, sited at a variety of venues across town, have followed: the Salvation Army building west of Broadway and Soul Saving Station Church east of Broadway, among them. The latter, having a 41-bed capacity, required the addition of the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church also open for extended periods to care for the “overflow” of guests.
Last month, Shelters of Saratoga - which oversees the Code Blue shelter program – opened the latest temporary venue at 4 Adelphi St., just west of South Broadway. In 2016, an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo directs emergency shelters to operate when temperatures drop below 32 degrees.
Many hands were needed to transform a previously vacant Adelphi Street warehouse into a suitable shelter space in time for the winter season.
“On behalf of Shelters of Saratoga, I extend my heartfelt appreciation to the incredible generosity of all the businesses that helped bring Code Blue to Adelphi Street a reality,” said S.O.S. Executive Director Karen Gregory.
The locally based Bonacio Construction firm led the way, transforming the 4,000 square-foot of industrial space into accommodations for people during cold temperatures, at cost. The work included fitting up the existing building with new electrical, HVAC, and plumbing, painting floors, adding bathrooms with showers, and donating shelving.
“We worked hard to get this project on schedule after running into asbestos in the building in November,” Bonacio says. “After working through the weekends, we were able to make up valuable time and got them up and running for opening on December 9.”
“We’re very grateful to them for completing the project at cost, foregoing profit and being very generous with their expertise,” Gregory said.
During the 2017-18 winter season – the latest figures available - Code Blue was open 162 nights, served more than 8,000 meals, and provided sleeping quarters for a total of 6,480 overnight stays – or on average, 40 nightly guests.
The new location houses a 61-bed facility – many more than in previous locations - and as such, Gregory said an “overflow” shelter is not anticipated at this time. “I think the new location is working well. We’re working with people to get them to and from different appointments they need to be at. We’re in Saratoga Springs, so realistically anywhere in the city would have worked well,” she added.
The lease on the new location runs until November 2021. An entirely new staff and leadership has been hired providing more people than in years past working each shift, and just over 107 new volunteers have also been added this year, pointed out Gregory, who said the search for a location to host a permanent site continues. “That’s something I’m truly committed to and is something in the conversation and on my agenda every single day. Two years is going to go by quickly, so we can’t take our eye off of that. That has to be a priority on my agenda, the city’s agenda, and hopefully the county’s agenda as well,” Gregory said.
Finding a permanent shelter location has proved to be a challenge. A permanent shelter location was thought to be found in 2017 on Walworth Street, where a Code Blue structure would be built on property belonging to Shelters of Saratoga after local business owner Ed Mitzen, and his wife Lisa announced they would pay the costs for the new, permanent shelter to be built. In September 2018, however, following a lawsuit filed by local residents challenging the proposed shelter expansion as not being in accordance with zoning regulation, a Saratoga County Supreme Court judge nullified previously granted approvals by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board which would have allowed the shelter to be built.
Regarding the new temporary spot, the city of Saratoga Springs provided $50,000 towards the upkeep of the building as well as for paying rent in the off-season for the next two years, as well as supporting the S.O.S. outreach program.
As far as need, Gregory says the best way for people to help is to make donations directly to Shelters of Saratoga to aid in the continuation of the organization’s providing of services.
“We haven’t been reimbursed by the county or the state at all yet, so we’re carrying this tremendous financial responsibility forward,” Gregory said. “We’re not exactly sure what the county and state are going to reimburse us for and there’s always a risk of the unknown. That makes it difficult on a small non-profit like us because we can’t afford to incur those expenses and not get reimbursed, obviously. In the interim, we have applied and been approved for a bridge loan for $200,000 by a non-profit bank just in case reimbursement continues to be prolonged. At least that would not put the agency in a tough spot and cover some of the costs, until we get some kind of reimbursement.”
Finding a long-term solution to address the city’s homelessness issue – specifically including a permanent Code Blue facility - is listed among the city’s outlook of priorities in 2020.
“I’m so thankful to be working in this incredibly generous community - the amount of expertise and support and humanity - just coming together when there are needs and putting people first,” said Gregory, who was named executive director of S.O.S. last year. “We really do care about our homeless neighbors, keeping them safe, and I’m very appreciate of having a community that’s so behind S.O.S. It’s been a wonderful experience so far.”
Statement from Bonacio Construction Inc.: The temporary Code Blue shelter in Downtown Saratoga Springs required transforming this 4,000 square foot industrial space into accommodations for people during the cold temperatures. Thank you to our incredible team of local businesses who helped out on this project: Allerdice ACE Hardware for donating materials. B&B Plumbing & Heating for donating both its plumbing and HVAC services. CT Mail for providing its air monitoring services during asbestos removal at a discount. Kyle Fillion of Evolve IT for donating his services for video conferencing. Granite & Marble Works, Inc. for donating granite countertops. NRC NY Environmental for working on the asbestos abatement at a discount. Prediletto Electric for donating its time and supplies. Tom Roohan of Roohan Realty for donating the showers. Stone Industries for providing its services. Thermally Yours, Inc. for installing the insulation. Tuff Kote Flooring LLC for installing the epoxy flooring at half price. Winsupply of Saratoga Springs & Bath Expressions Showroom for donating the plumbing fixtures. Project Manager: James Ackerman.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Performing Arts Center resident companies -- New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center – return this summer to present a 2020 season highlighting a continued commitment to SPAC premieres of both new and classic works and a landmark celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.
New York City Ballet returns from July 14 – 18, with its roster of more than 90 dancers under the direction of Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford and Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan, accompanied by the New York City Ballet Orchestra, led by Music Director Andrew Litton.
The Company will present four captivating programs including the full-length story ballet Swan Lake, marking its fourth appearance at SPAC and the first time since 2006, an evening dedicated to 20th Century Masters highlighted by Merce Cunningham’s Summerspace, returning for the first time since 1967, and a program showcasing three SPAC premieres, including Lauren Lovette’s The Shaded Line, a new work by Justin Peck set to a commissioned score by composer Nico Muhly, and the SPAC premiere of Balanchine’s Haieff Divertimento from 1947. The annual New York City Ballet Gala, on Saturday, July 18, will showcase Jerome Robbins’ In G Major, and Balanchine’s The Man I Love Pas de Deux from Who Cares? with music by George Gershwin.
Specifically, NYCB will perform:
- Swan Lake at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 14 and Friday, July 17, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 18.
- SPAC’s 20th Century Masters program will pay homage to iconic choreographers Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine, and will stage 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 15, and 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 16.
- SPAC Premieres - which including new works by Lauren Lovette, Principal Dancer with NYCB, and Justin Peck, NYCB Resident Choreographer and Artistic Advisor – will stage 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 16.
SPAC’s NYC Ballet Gala, the finale to New York City Ballet’s 2020 residency, will take place 8 p.m. Saturday, July 18.
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s three-week residency runs Aug. 5 – 22 and will feature thirteen SPAC premieres including the East Coast premiere of the Triple Concerto by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts composed for the genre-crossing ensemble Time for Three, and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in concert conducted by Marin Alsop. SPAC’s popular “Cinema Series” will return to delight audiences of all ages as the Orchestra accompanies, live to picture, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert and Bugs Bunny at the Symphony 30th Anniversary Edition.
Highlighting the Orchestra’s residency is Beethoven 2020, a season-long celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. The festival will include an unprecedented four-night traversal of all nine symphonies alongside four New York premieres by contemporary composers in dialogue with Beethoven under the baton of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Aug. 12–15). Superstar soloists performing with the Orchestra include violinist Joshua Bell, cellist Steven Isserlis, and pianist Jeremy Denk for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto (AUG 7), and pianist Jonathan Biss in Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto (Aug. 20).
The Chamber Music Society Of Lincoln Center returns Aug. 9 - 25 to the Spa Little Theatre with an exploration of Beethoven, his influences, and the composers who were inspired by his work. Curated specifically for the SPAC residency, the six programs will feature 19 works that have never before been performed by CMS at SPAC. In addition to performances by David Finckel and Wu Han, Co-Artistic Directors of CMS, in residency for all three weekends, audiences will experience the SPAC debut of the critically acclaimed Calidore String Quartet, works never before performed at SPAC by female composers Joan Tower and Amy Beach, and debut appearances by cellist Inbal Segev and violinist Francisco Fullana.
Tickets will be available online at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at: www.spac.org. Prices vary. For specific performance details and ticket prices, go to spac.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Following on last season’s success of the debut professional production of Agatha Christie’s The Stranger, iTheatre Saratoga will stage the world premiere of Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit, adapted by Mary Jane Hansen.
Anne Beddingfeld’s whole world is turned upside down when her father dies. She accepts an opportunity to relocate to London, redefine her life, and experience the freedom she has longed for. But she may have found adventure beyond her wildest dreams. When a man dies in front of her, Anne finds parallels between the accident and another suspicious death. The clues take her all the way to Africa, accompanied by an eccentric cast of characters, where a revolution is simmering, and danger is waiting around every turn.
Performances: Jan. 24, 25, 31 & Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m., and Jan. 26 & Feb. 2 at 2 p.m. At Saratoga Arts, 320 Broadway. Tickets: $15 students / $25 adults. Ticket Link: https://dameagathac.brownpapertickets.com/.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – New for 2020: Saratoga Arts presents a new group of Art in Public Places exhibitions on view for the month of January.
Works include: Frozen, photography by Susan Meyer at Saratoga Springs Public Library; photography Molly Bingham in Saratoga Arts' Members' Hall Gallery; Sculptural Painting, mixed media works by Betsy Masters Cannon at The Saratoga Springs Train Station; Life, acrylic paintings by Ya Li at Clifton Park – Halfmoon Public Library (Site A); Heaven and Earth, paintings by Marina Petro at Clifton Park – Halfmoon Public Library (Site B); Oil paintings by Jim Brearton at Saratoga Springs Visitors Center; The Places I've Been, Paintings by Caitlin Sweet at Saratoga Community Federal Credit Union; Harbors, acrylic and water based oil paintings by Neil Muscatiello in The Reception Area Gallery at Saratoga Arts.
Saratoga Arts’ Art in Public Places Program features monthly or bi-monthly exhibits of artists' work in various locations around the region. The goal of the program is to present original artwork in easily accessible spaces throughout the Saratoga Region. Participation in the APP program is a benefit open to all members of Saratoga Arts from new and emerging artists who might be presenting their first exhibition to veteran artists with lots of experience presenting exhibitions.
Top photo: Post-demolition photo by Thomas Dimopoulos on Dec. 30, 2019.
Bottom photo: Spa City Diner – as it was.
SARATOGA SPRINGS —The Spa City Diner, which closed in 2012 and has stood vacant on South Broadway since that time, was demolished last week.
In late 2018, a proposed mixed-use project for development was to include 101 multi-family dwelling units – 68 of those units targeting a family of four having a household income of $51,840 or less – as well as another 14 units specifically designated for veterans. Those initial plans appear to have changed, however, according to an article published in the Daily Gazette last week, with the group of partners who have an agreement to buy the property instead focusing on more market-rate rentals.
The horse sculpture which had stood atop the diner was removed for safekeeping by the family who had owned the diner.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The highly anticipated grand opening of Universal Preservation Hall is set for Saturday, Feb. 29.
Following a multi-million-dollar renovation to transform the 19th century hall into a flourishing 700-plus seat performance space, UPH also looks to fill a half-century-long need in Saratoga Springs. The city’s downtown district has lacked a year-round, mid-sized venue since the 5,000-seat Convention Hall on Broadway was destroyed by fire in 1966.
UPH was built in 1871 and served as a Methodist church and a gathering place. Teddy Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass and William Howard Taft to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg have each taken a turn atop the main stage during the building’s 146-year history.
A century after its construction, the Victorian Gothic structure on Washington Street began to fall into disrepair and the church sat empty for several years. In 2000, the city condemned the building and members of the community rallied to save the structure from demolition. In 2015, UPH got an added boost when it became an affiliate of Proctors.
Proctors CEO Phillip Morris says he envisions UPH as a welcoming place to gather, and as a cultural heart of the city. After the Saratoga Springs venue reopens with its 45-foot-tall ceilings, bell tower and walnut and ash staircases that feed into the main hall, it is anticipated it will stage 200 or so annual events.
Opening Night features an appearance by singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash, the eldest daughter of country legend Johnny Cash.
Tickets are available by phone at 518-346-6204, online at universalpreservationhall.org and in person at the Box Office at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady.
Tickets to the following shows are now on sale:
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29. The Great Hall at UPH, $65 - $150.
Sounds of the Hall
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4. The Great Hall at UPH, $20.
An Evening with Chris Botti
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6. The Great Hall at UPH, $79.50 - $179.50.
The Marvelous Marquise Family Circus
2 p.m. Sunday, March 8. The Great Hall at UPH, $10.
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 13. The Great Hall at UPH, $32.50 - $109.50.
Howard Jones Acoustic Trio
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14. The Great Hall at UPH, $29.50 - $69.50.
Irish Hooley with the Screaming Orphans
7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 15. The Great Hall at UPH, $25.
Rochmon Record Club: Paul Simon’s Graceland
7 p.m. Tuesday, March 17. The Great Hall at UPH, $10.
One Night in Memphis
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 20. The Great Hall at UPH, $30 - $65.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 21. The Great Hall at UPH, $19.50 - $39.50.
7:30 p.m. Friday, March 27. The Great Hall at UPH, $39.50 - $89.50.
PB&J Café: The Stinky Cheese Man
11 a.m. & 1:30 p.m. Saturday. April 4, The Great Hall at UPH, $15.
THE HIT MEN…Legendary Rock Supergroup & Musicians Hall of Fame
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9. The Great Hall at UPH, $30 - $65.
Bakithi Kumalo & The Graceland Experience
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23. The Great Hall at UPH, $19.50 - $39.50.
The Okee Dokee Brothers
6 p.m. Friday, April 24. The Great Hall at UPH, $15 for students with ID, $25 for adults.
The Steep Canyon Rangers
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 29. The Great Hall at UPH, $20 - $79.50.
Top of the World – A Carpenters Tribute
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 9. The Great Hall at UPH, $25.50 - $59.50.
Yogapalooza with Bari Koral Quartet
2 p.m. Saturday, May 16. Great Hall at UPH, $10 students with ID, $20 Adults
Bee Gees Gold
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 22. The Great Hall at UPH, $20 - $55.50.
SARATOGA COUNTY — The source of last Sunday night’s “loud explosion that shook homes and lit the sky green" was likely caused by a meteor entering and burning up in the atmosphere, Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said Thursday.
Statement from Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo:
The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office has concluded our investigation into the loud explosion and green flash which occurred in the skies over Saratoga County on Sunday evening. Although we received over 30 reports of this event on Sunday evening, our social media post of this event has been viewed over 250,000 times and generated over 1,200 comments. Based on initial reports and the comments posted there are reports of this event from Broadalbin South to Charlton and East to Ballston Spa but no witnesses to the cause of the event or location of the source.
After discussions with all of our law enforcement partners, government agencies including the FAA, FBI, ATF, National Weather Service and NASA as well as discussions with scientists and scholars it is our determination that the likely cause of the event was a meteor entering and burning up in the atmosphere.
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