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Darn They Were Good!

I’ve praised James Santos and the Dance Project many times before. But after watching the full production of the company’s most recent show, "Steppin’ Out," on Saturday at the Cascade Theatre, I have to say it again — what an incredible artistic venture in Redding.

A scene from the Dance Project’s "Steppin’ Out."

Somehow, Santos and his cast and crew have outdone themselves yet again. I’ve seen every show they’ve produced and I believe this was the best one yet.

At the core, Santos has his best group of dancers ever. There’s an even disbursement of talent with almost no drop-off anywhere you look on stage. Santos himself is incredible of course, but now the rest of the group is right there with him.

If you were in this show you were great, but I have to mention the primary cast dancers by name because they blew my mind — Tiffany Rodrigues, Leaha Hernandez, Sarah Leavers, Colleen Stankey, Ashley Adishian, Marissa Kinneavy, Jana Parker, Shayna Schulz, Brian Catanio, Louie Licon, Nic Rockwell and Josh Mitchell.

Catanio gets special merit for fighting through a pair of injuries (performing with a cast of all things), but also because it’s been fun to watch him progress so much as a dancer over the years. Also, a special nod to Jana Parker, who in addition to being an absolutely sublime dancer, choreographed three fantastic pieces in the show.

In addition to the dancers, the company’s vocal group was also the largest and strongest cast I’ve seen from the Dance Project. The vocalists performed outstanding as group and individually — they possessed such great balance and wonderful tone throughout the evening. (They also danced well.)

The vocal cast included Jana Leard, Lisa Redden, Trish Harris-Spinner, Melissa Gulden, Eilyne Davis, Josh Brazo and Scott Sumsion.

Newcomers and apprentices in the show (both singers and dancers) included Schyler Rice, Kim Norden, Matt Goodman, Tricia Gunter, Kelsey Rondeau and Max Friedman.

Almost goes without saying, but also incredible were Cindy Sumsion’s costumes, Louis Hudson’s light design and the technical direction of Todd Tracy.

Congratulations to the Dance Project. "Steppin’ Out" is a good enough production to tour the country. We’re lucky to have had the run right here in Redding.

••••••••••••••••

It’s never a bad idea to honor veterans, but there was a moment during Saturday’s Welcome Home Veterans event at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall in Redding that was pretty transcendentally special. Some 60 Vietnam era veterans came to the front of the room for special recognition and there was just something so solemn about them standing up there.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Vietnam War, it’s that the men and women who serve during any war or conflict deserve our respect. They should never be made to feel like many veterans did after Vietnam. We can argue about the merits of the war, but as for those who serve, they’re heroes.

At the event was the formal announcement of March 30th being Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day in Shasta County. In attendance at the event was Redding mayor Patrick Jones, county administrator Larry Lees, council members Leonard Moty and Linda Hartman and former state assemblyman Doug LaMalfa.

At one point during the afternoon, it was interesting to hear LaMalfa discuss the November measure in California that would legalize marijuana. He doesn’t support it and was outspoken about that, but acknowledged that there should be a place for the medical use of THC.

I forgot to mention to him what I feel is a truly unfortunate trend that I’ve heard about recently — veteran’s losing a portion of their medical benefits because they turned up positive for marijuana. Pot is legal for those with a doctor’s recommendation in California (and several other states) and vets shouldn’t be getting denied medical benefits as a result of being legal users (or frankly — come on — for being marijuana users of any variety).

••••••••••••••••

Playing at the Veteran’s benefit rally was drummer Tony Armsdon and his War Buddies Band. Tony’s been all over the place lately. He had a jam session going at Pio Loco on Thursday and also played later Saturday night at the Post Office Saloon. I’ve seen him performing with bassist Bruce Calin and pianist John Gonsalves recently.

On Saturday night, Armsdon was joined by the excellent jazz pianist Cleveland B, harmonica player Thom Berry and bassist Steve Huff. There was also a blues-based guitarist I didn’t know playing some nice lines. Then drummer Tony Garcia and keyboardist/songwriter Rick Larsen also got in on the action.

The crowd was loving the jam.

Look out area musicians, Armsdon’s heading your way, too! Hey, fresh energy IS appreciated.