Norton Center’s reinvented 2011-12 season

Steven A. Hoffman just announced the first season he has programmed as director of the Norton Center for the Arts. © Lexington Herald-Leader photo by Rich Copley.

Steven A. Hoffman just announced the first season he has programmed as director of the Norton Center for the Arts. © Lexington Herald-Leader photo by Rich Copley.

DANVILLE — In his first year as director of Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, Steven A. Hoffman has noticed what’s around him in the student body.

It’s the iPod generation, as New Yorker magazine music critic Alex Ross once dubbed it: young adults who load wide varieties of music into their MP3 players from rock to classical to hip-hop to county to jazz and traditional music, and they let it all mix together.

The kind of audience that appreciates that variety is reflected in the Norton Center’s 2011-12 season, the first one programmed entirely by Hoffman, who came to Danville in July 2010.

Violinist Hahn-Bin will lead off the Club Weisiger series. © All artist photos courtesy of the Norton Center.

Violinist Hahn-Bin will lead off the Club Weisiger series. © All artist photos courtesy of the Norton Center.

Highlighting the lineup are hip violin virtuoso Hahn-Bin, bluegrass stars Dailey and Vincent, a ballet version of Moulin Rouge from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, jazz star Stanley Jordan and his trio, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw singing a brand-new work by Maria Schneider.

Hoffman points out that 20 of the 21 acts playing the center’s 1,400-seat Newlin Hall and 350-seat Weisiger Theatre are Norton Center debuts. (A touring version of Fiddler on the Roof will return, and Hoffman says Upshaw has played the center before, but not with that program.)

“I may not have intentionally programmed that many debuts,” Hoffman says. “But I think I was trying to make a statement.

“People were really asking for new shows because the No. 1 piece of feedback I was getting was, ‘We want fresh and new programming.’

“From a college element, it can be like a Performing Arts 101 because you have a lot of different elements.”

The new lineup is geared toward performing arts connoisseurs.

The most notable departure from previous Norton Center seasons is the absence of blockbuster classical music talent like the New York Philharmonic or conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Gone along with them are three-figure ticket prices, which used to come with those shows. The top ticket this year is $75.

The Nov. 4 concert by Dailey and Vincent is already attracting calls to the Norton Center.

The Nov. 4 concert by Dailey and Vincent is already attracting calls to the Norton Center.

“We’ve scaled back on some of the star power so we can charge prices that will allow people to see more shows,” Hoffman says. “Instead of just one, maybe you can come see two or three. If you used to go to five shows, maybe you can afford seven or eight.”

The season is also structured into just two series: the Newlin Hall Series and “Club Weisiger.” From those, patrons can build series in any number and combination of six or more shows they want. The benefit to people who buy more will be better prices and seat selection.

“We realize people have soccer games and trips and don’t necessarily want to see everything,” Hoffman says. “And people may be interested in seeing combinations we may have never thought of putting in a prepackaged series.”

Ballroom with a Twist will bring the action of dance competition shows to the Norton Center stage.

Ballroom with a Twist will bring the action of dance competition shows to the Norton Center stage.

The “reimagined” season, as publicity materials call it, is a departure and risk for the center.

A positive sign Hoffman has already seen is that though the Norton Center did not release its lineup until Thursday, Dailey and Vincent posted the Danville date on their website a couple months ago. The center has been receiving a steady stream of calls about it.

Hoffman is also optimistic that the reimagined Weisiger Theatre programming, which used to lean on small classical ensembles, might yield some big response with artists such as Jordan, Hahn-Bin and former Mavericks frontman Raul Malo and his band.

“I didn’t budget to sell out every show,” Hoffman says. “But I’m thinking that when people see that they can see some of these stars in a 350-seat theater, they’ll say, ‘I’ve got to go.”

Guitarist Romero Lubambo, vocalist Luciana Souza and percussionist Cyro Baptista appear on the Viva Brazil program, Oct. 5.

Guitarist Romero Lubambo, vocalist Luciana Souza and percussionist Cyro Baptista appear on the Viva Brazil program, Oct. 5.

Here’s the season:

All shows Mon.-Thurs. will be at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday shows at 8 p.m.; and Sunday shows at 4 p.m.

Newlin Hall series

Sept. 9: Robert Cray Band and Shemekia Copland Band, blues

Sept. 23: The Hills Are Alive by the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orchestra, music from The Sound of Music mashed with rock, hip-hop, gospel and country

Shemekia Copeland and her band join the Robert Cray Band to open the season. © Photo by Carol Friedman.

Shemekia Copeland and her band join the Robert Cray Band to open the season. © Photo by Carol Friedman.

Oct. 5: Viva Brazil with the Luciana Souza Trio, Brazilian music

Oct. 22: Actress Cloris Leachman, one-woman show about her life and career

Nov. 1: Yamato: The Drummers of Japan

Nov. 4: Dailey and Vincent, bluegrass

Nov. 18: Ballroom With a Twist, featuring performers from Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance?

Dec. 2: Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie, folk

Jan. 13: “Tschaikowski” St. Petersburg State Orchestra

Feb. 10: L.A. Theatre Works presents The Rivalry, a dramatization of the Abraham Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debates

March 4: Fiddler on the Roof, musical

March 10: Diavolo Dance Theatre

March 27: Moulin Rouge: The Ballet by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet

April 5: Brentano String Quartet

April 13: Australian Chamber Orchestra featuring Dawn Upshaw, soprano

April 17: We Are What We Eat, lecture by author-researchers Marion Nestle and Dr. Daphne Miller

Club Weisiger

Sept. 30: Hahn-Bin, violin

Nov. 30: Raul Malo Band

Jan. 28: Stanley Jordan Trio, jazz

March 15: Geri Allen and Timeline, jazz, featuring tap dancer Maurice Chestnut

May 7: Portland Cello Project, eclectic string music

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