In 2007, when choreographer Jon Lehrer moved his young dance company from Chicago to Buffalo, he set a lofty goal. One day, he said at the time, he wanted LehrerDance to appear on the prestigious M&T Bank Dance Series at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts.
At 8 p.m. Saturday, Lehrer will get his wish. For the first time in the series’ 15-year history, a Buffalo-based company will appear as part of the program known for bringing the world’s top dance companies to Western New York. Lehrer’s ambitious company, now 5 years old, will present a program that includes the world premieres of three new pieces.
“We just thought it was time to show a little pride in the fact that Buffalo has a professional dance company that is being successful on its own and is growing,” said Thomas Burrows, who has worked with Lehrer for many years on projects like last year’s MusicalFare collaboration “Something So Right.” “I’m impressed with how much he does and his energy, even after being very pleased with what I see onstage.”
For Lehrer, the company’s inclusion on this year’s series, along with renowned companies Pilobolus, Dance Theater of Harlem and River North Dance, is proof that his work to build his company and foster a local appreciation for contemporary dance is paying off.
“For us at LehrerDance, it’s such a special moment. One of our goals in moving to Buffalo was to really raise the dance awareness bar in Buffalo and really showcase that there’s such great dance in Buffalo. This is such a step in the right direction for that,” he said. “It blows my mind, because these are all companies that, when I was a dancer, I looked up to. The dance series has been really responsible, along with the CFA, for exposing Buffalo to these great international dance companies.”
Along with many popular pieces from the company’s ever-expanding repertoire, Saturday’s concert will feature three brand-new works: “Murmur,” a quartet inspired by flocking birds; “Like 100 Men,” a showcase for the four male members of LehrerDance that riffs on masculinity; and “Skeleton,” Lehrer’s first full-company comedy that he said is “based on all those things that we want to do but know we can’t.”
The concert will also feature Lehrer’s dark and striking full-company piece “The Alliance,” his Paul Simon-inspired romp “Bridge and Tunnel” and the ever-popular concert-closing piece “A Ritual Dynamic.”
As for the M&T series and the CFA’s dogged efforts over the past 15 years to build a dance audience, Burrows says the program is in a healthy place. The same goes for Lehrer and his company, which has just been booked on a tour of three Russian cities later this year and a European tour in 2013, along with its regular schedule of appearances across the United States. Its appearance on the CFA series, long dreamed of by Lehrer, is another bright feather in the company’s cap.
“It’s been a good year,” Lehrer said.