Artistry & Athleticism: LehrerDance brings modern dance to Amp

Members of LehrerDance perform “Pantheon Rising” at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. (Photo by Jamie Kraus | Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival)

Members of LehrerDance perform “Pantheon Rising” at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. (Photo by Jamie Kraus | Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival)

Chautauqua Institution audiences have become accustomed to seeing the Charlotte Ballet dancers gliding across the Amphitheater stage. Tonight, the pointe shoes are coming off for a performance by LehrerDance.

The company, which focuses on modern dance, will combine athleticism and artistry for their first-ever Chautauqua performance at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amp.

Director Jon Lehrer founded the Buffalo-based company in 2007. With his extensive background in modern and jazz dance, LehrerDance’s style emerged from three elements of movement: circularity, three-dimensionality and momentum.

The company’s work integrates the approach and fluidity of modern dance with the excitement and energy of jazz dance.

LehrerDance has toured in Russia for the past three years, and it will embark on its second European tour, performing 25 shows over four and a half weeks, in February 2016.

Lehrer has taught classes at Chautauqua’s School of Dance and gave a Chautauqua Dance Circle lecture in 2012, titled “From Athlete to Dancer: The Story of LehrerDance,” but this is the first time his company will be performing in the Amp.

The ensemble will present six pieces, including “A Ritual Dynamic,” the first piece Lehrer choreographed for the company in 2007.

The company’s signature piece gives the audience a idea of what they will see throughout the entire performance, Lehrer said.

“A Ritual Dynamic,” choreographed to music by Hovannes K and DJ Disse, is athletic, fast paced and energetic.

“This piece is LehrerDance,” Lehrer said.

“Here is this Eden” is a duet to music by Gerrard and Bourke and the Balanescu Quartet that shows a softer and more lyrical side of the company. The piece is the only duet in tonight’s program, and it features more partnering than the company’s other pieces.

Choreographed in 2012, “Murmur” also shows the company’s more elegant side. The piece, performed by four dancers, demonstrates fluid and circular movements, which are a stark contrast to the piece “Pantheon Rising,” a composition of sharper and more aggressive movements.

The performance will also include another one of Lehrer’s favorite pieces, “Bridge and Tunnel.” This “crowd favorite,” set to music by Paul Simon, is an homage to Lehrer’s childhood growing up in Queens, New York, he said.

Some of LehrerDance’s pieces take on a humorous tone, such as “Loose Canon.” The work is danced to Pachelbel’s Canon in D major by five dancers.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the piece is “humorous without being hurtful, it expanded into a feast of body contortions and lush physical dexterity.”

Lehrer’s dancers have a large impact on the pieces he choreographs, he said. With only eight performers, Lehrer relies on his dancers to bring their own ideas to the table.

“I can’t just rely on my skills — I have to utilize their skills and abilities as well,” he said. “We are a real tight-knit family. The dancers know my style and where I am going with the work, and they take it in a whole new direction.”

The company has been working on three new pieces over the summer that will premiere in the fall in Buffalo and on tour in Europe.

A Chautauqua Dance Circle lecture will precede the performance at 7 p.m. in the Hall of Philosophy.

Lehrer hopes Chautauquans will appreciate LehrerDance’s athletic style and choreography.

“Our style of dance and what we put out there will really blow the roof off the place,” he said. “In this venue, the pieces we chose are really going to shine.”