Being a victim of this arduous winter I have seen little dance, in fact I’ve seen little of anything being too cold to venture out into the arctic freeze. Yet, hearing that Alan Obuzor and his Texture Contemporary Ballet were performing at the Ailey Citigroup Theater I wrapped myself an a couple of coats, several scarves and thick gloves then venture forth into the frigid world.
I was very interested in both the choreography as well as the dancing of Alan Obuzor, the Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer for Texture Contemporary Ballet. He was named by Dance Magazine as one of the “Top 25 to Watch” in 2013, no small feat in itself.
Mr. Obuzor presented the premiere of his latest work Take… Taken… Taking…, a 25 minute contemporary ballet set to music by Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto, for five dancers, four women and one man. The work was fast paced, innovated, possessed a certain moodiness and a sense of personal introspection.
Mr. Obuzor full utilized the music of Philip Glass, expounding on the fullness of the score. His choreography is not flashy but a dancer must be technically gifted to do it justice. He melded his choreographic choices with the sense of anticipation found in Mr. Glass’s 1987 piece, allowing the ebb and flow of the melody to guide him. Tackling this score could have gone horrible wrong for a choreographer so young in his career but when youth is bolstered by talent only success can follow.
The choreographer stays true to his classical training for the piece, but because of his modernity of the movement used, the close attention to line and retention of the pointe shoe aesthetic, it could easily be considered more neo-classical than contemporary.
The second movement of the music was a solo for Mr. Obuzor. His dancing perfectly blended with the emotional tones found in the music. He expertly created a visual tapestry of movement by flowing with and through the melody of the music.
Mr. Obuzor is a superb dancer, faultless technician and has a natural lyricism that is mixed with the soul of someone who was born to dance. His long legs and powerful feet propel him about the floor in a manner that forces you to set-up in your seat and take notice. He executed a double pirouette, but before landing he extended his leg into second position then arcs his torso to the side while still turning, this created such a demanding image that it literally robbed me of breath.
In his choreography he closely adheres to the classical vocabulary while at the same time experimenting, stretching and exploring the movement, finding new ways to execute steps that are the fundamentals of classical ballet. This is where I find the work more Neo-classical than Contemporary, for he is unafraid to marry classicism with innovation much as Balanchine did.
In the third movement we find a trio of women moving in a manner that sustained a suspenseful energy, the piece as a whole exhibited virtuosity and daring, but not in a manner that is showy, it is just part of the choreographer’s vision.
Texture Contemporary Ballet and especially Alan Obuzor gave strong evidence as to why he was named by Dance Magazine as one of the “Top 25 to Watch” in 2013. But I say that he should be in the top ten to watch for 2014. Bravo to all…
Originally from Pittsburgh, Mr. Obuzor trained primarily with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School (PBTS), where in 1998 he was a recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Foundation Dance Honorarium. He went on to dance seven years with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and in 2011 Mr. Obuzor founded the Texture Contemporary Ballet.
“Conversation With Myself”
Written and choreographed by Adrien Ouaki
Directed by Cristina Mameli and Sami Benyoucef
Music By Olafur Arnalds
Film shot a “Les Chaudronneries de Montreuil”
“Dust of Life”
Written and choreographed by Adrien Ouaki
Directed by Fernando De Azevedo
Light design by Vincent Canal and Arthur Vitorino
Music: Armand Amar – To warn the world
Armand Amar and Levon Minassian – Ar intch lav er
Film shot in “Theatre du Jardin”
Ivan Nagy was artistic director at Cincinnati Ballet for a short few years but his tenure was critical to the Ballet’s development. He brought talent to Cincinnati, elevated women’s salaries to match men’s and conceived Cincinnati Ballet as an independent, professional company.
By David Lyman, Enquirer contributor
Ivan Nagy, the charismatic and globally famed dancer who was Cincinnati Ballet’s artistic director from 1986 to 1989, died Saturday in Budapest, the city where he began his rise to global prominence in the dance world. He was 70 years old.
Nagy’s career would include the artistic leadership of three ballet companies on three continents. But he remained best-known as elegant and regal partner to many of the world’s greatest ballerinas, including Dame Margot Fonteyn, Natalia Makarova, Cynthia Gregory, Carla Fracci and Gelsey Kirkland.
His dancing never had the technical pyrotechnics of Mikhail Baryshnikov or Rudolf Nureyev, two of the more popular male ballet luminaries of his time. But for all their popular fame, neither of those dancers could compare with Nagy’s extraordinary skills as a partner.
“I danced my first ‘Giselle’ with him,” Cynthia Gregory reminisced Sunday. Regarded as one of the United States’ finest ever ballerinas, Gregory was, like Nagy, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT). “It’s a performance that is still emblazoned in my head and in my heart. I felt I was floating with him. That’s when I fell in love with him. He was so dreamy.”
It’s the sort of refrain heard over and over again from women who danced with him. To dance with Nagy was more than just to perform side by side with him. It was to be consumed by an intimate relationship, if only for the few hours a ballet might last.
Though Nagy created roles in many new ballets, he was best known for his work in the “white ballets” that many audiences gravitate to: “Swan Lake,” “Les Sylphides” and, as Gregory noted, “Giselle.”
But at the age of 35, at what many regarded as his peak, Nagy announced he was retiring. He said he knew far too many dancers who danced so long that they did permanent damage to their knees or backs. He wanted to avoid the physical ailments that plague so many dancers as they get older.
Four years later, in 1982, Nagy and his wife, ballerina Marilyn Burr, took over the artistic leadership of the Ballet de Santiago in Chile. Nagy’s dashing looks and flamboyant style — he was rarely seen in public without a long flowing scarf – made him a favorite of Chilean President Augusto Pinochet.
Within three years, Nagy had raised the stature of the company markedly, bringing in a host of noted guest choreographers, recruiting gifted international dancers and even bringing the company to New York to show the world what the company – and he – had achieved. It was a triumph.
A few days after his company’s American debut, Nagy announced he was leaving to become artistic director of the Cincinnati/New Orleans Ballet.
Cincinnati a curious choice for star
It was a curious decision. Cincinnati isn’t the sort of high-flying, worldly city that you might expect for Nagy. But the relationship with New Orleans clearly fascinated him. The real appeal, though, was Nagy’s connection with Cincinnati Ballet’s then-acting artistic director Frederic Franklin, a former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo member. Franklin, who died at the age of 98 in May 2013, assumed leadership of the company after the death of longtime artistic director David McLain in 1984.
It was Franklin who had “discovered” Nagy at a ballet competition in Bulgaria in 1965 and offered him a contract with the National Ballet in Washington, D.C., where he was artistic director. Franklin understood Nagy’s star power and he had the dance world connections to give it the boost it needed.
Kevin McKenzie was a student at the Washington School of the Ballet when Nagy arrived at the National Ballet. Today, McKenzie is artistic director of American Ballet Theatre, but he still has vivid memories of the dashing young Hungarian dancer.
“He was one of my heroes and I count myself lucky that I actually came into his personal sphere,” McKenzie emailed from Tokyo, where ABT is currently performing. “He was a big influence on me. He was one of those personalities that played a significant role in shaping the identity of ABT. Gone too soon from this earth.”
The moment he arrived in Cincinnati, Nagy set out to reinvent his new company.
Just as he had done in Santiago, Nagy brought in new repertory and recruited dancers from around the world.
Within a single season, he had hired dancers from Italy, Brazil, Spain and Hungary and accomplished the previously impossible feat of wresting away dancers from larger, more-established American companies.
DeLeone: ‘A Golden Era’ / Bernstein Wilt: ‘The new Cincinnati Ballet’
“Ivan presided over a ‘Golden Era’ in the history of the Cincinnati Ballet,” says the company’s longtime music director Carmon DeLeone.
“Really, when Ivan and Marilyn got here, it was the beginning of the new Cincinnati Ballet,” says current artistic associate Johanna Bernstein Wilt, who joined the company as a dancer in 1981. “They changed everything.”
Nagy and Burr severed the company’s ties with the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. Nagy wanted Cincinnati Ballet viewed as an independent professional company, not one that might be perceived as an adjunct to a university dance program.
He elevated the women’s salaries to match those of the men.
At the beginning of his second season, he instituted a traditional system of ranks within the company; corps de ballet, soloists and principal dancers. His predecessor, David McLain, objected to such distinctions, believing that American ballet companies should be ensembles made up of equals rather than be defined by class-based rankings imported from European companies with imperial roots.
“Ivan was fantastic to me,” recalls Suzette Boyer Webb, currently the manager of Cincinnati Ballet’s second company, CBII. She was one Nagy’s first three female principal dancers. “I felt that he really had my back. We had a really good artistic connection. And he gave me opportunities that other artistic directors might not have.”
Audiences loved what they saw onstage. Nagy added ballets by a host of internationally noted choreographic superstars like John Cranko, Vicente Nebrada, Paul Taylor, Ben Stevenson, Mauricio Wainrot, Kenneth MacMillan and André Prokovsky.
But by the beginning of Nagy’s second season – 1987-1988 – the honeymoon was already wearing thin. Not onstage, mind you, where the new and expensive productions continued to attract better dancers and larger audiences.
Nagy brought a new level of glamour to the company and its performances. But behind the scenes, those onstage highs were tempered by equally wrenching lows.
A new roster of dancers, breaking rules
Every new artistic director reshapes the roster of dancers to suit his own image. But Cincinnati Ballet’s turnover became so great that it was a little like trying to follow the roster of a modern-day professional sports team. In Nagy’s second season, fully a third of the dancers were new to the company, a number that would grow to 45 percent in his third season.
Nagy’s ability to attract gifted dancers was undeniable, though.
However excellent his judgment about dancers may have been, Nagy’s management style was painfully archaic. He often said that he was spoiled by his time in Chile, where Pinochet had helped him get anything he wanted.
“All I ever had to do was ask for something and it was there for me,” Nagy said in a 1988 Enquirer interview.
Company dancers had contracts governing rehearsal time, frequency of breaks, travel rules and so on. But Nagy paid little mind too many of the rules. After a series of particularly heavy-handed incidents, the dancers adopted union protection by voting to join the American Guild of Musical Artists in 1988.
Meanwhile, a global recession had seized the economy and the company’s New Orleans partner was unable to pay its bills. With Nagy continuing to stage expensive productions, the company’s deficit ballooned to more than $500,000.
After Cincinnati, dancing with Princess Diana
This was not the sort of atmosphere Nagy was accustomed to. In May 1989, he announced he was leaving to become artistic director of the English National Ballet in London.
His directorship began with a grand flourish, with Nagy doing a fox trot onstage with the company’s royal patron, Princess Diana. It was the sort of glamorous spectacle that Cincinnati had not been able to give him. But the bliss was short-lived. With the ENB’s board consumed in a power struggle, “technical and artistic standards fell and he (Nagy) was dismissed in 1993,” Sanjoy Roy wrote in a brief history of the company in The Guardian newspaper.
Nagy returned to the helm of the company in Santiago where, despite Pinochet having left office, he met with some major success. But in 1999, the company’s dancers went on strike. And, in January 2000, Nagy resigned.
Nagy retired to his home on Mallorca, a Spanish-ruled island 160 miles south of Barcelona in the Mediterranean. He occasionally stepped into the world outside to stage a ballet or attend a company reunion. In October, he made an appearance in New York City at an ABT-sponsored memorial for Franklin.
It was obvious that life without the harsh battles of the increasingly commercial world of the arts suited him. Tanned, his grey-green eyes still flickering impishly, he still looked every bit the star he was 40 years earlier. Yes, his hair was whiter and thinner and he had added a bit of girth over the years. But Nagy never lost his matinee idol good looks or his effortless way of being the center of attention. Ivan Nagy could charm with the best of them.
Nagy is survived by his wife, Marilyn Burr and two daughters, Tatjana Harper of Austin, Texas and Aniko Nagy of London.
His daughter Aniko Nagy said in a telephone interview that Mr. Nagy had felt unwell after a flight from Majorca on Friday. He was visiting a cousin in Budapest for lunch when he died suddenly, she said. No cause was given.
Clive Barnes, the dance critic of The New York Times, summed up Mr. Nagy’s special gifts in 1976, writing, “He has such style and elegance — his manner is at once ardent and self-effacing — that any woman would just have to want to dance her debut with him.”
Ivan Nagy was born on April 28, 1943, in Debrecen, in eastern Hungary. He began studying dance as a child, with his mother, a ballet teacher. At 7 he entered the school of the Budapest State Opera Ballet (now the Hungarian State Opera House Ballet) and trained there until he joined the Budapest company in 1960.
In 1965, as a young soloist, Mr. Nagy was sent to the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, where he won a silver medal. Frederic Franklin, the former star of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, was on the jury, and as artistic director of the National Ballet of Washington he invited Mr. Nagy to make a guest appearance with his company.
Filmed in NY, the short movie “Passage” is a creation of three Italian artists working there: director Fabrizio Ferri, dancer Roberto Bolle and choreographer Marco Pelle. Roberto’s partner is ABT Principal dancer Polina Semionova.
Choreography by Benjamin Millepied
Music by David Lang
Costumes by Karen Young
Lighting by Brad Fields
Danced by American Ballet Theatre
Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once was given its World Premiere by American Ballet Theatre on October 2, 2009 at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, led by Stella Abrera and Marcelo Gomes.
I was invited to a screening for the 2014 Dance on Camera – Short Program, co-presented by Dance Films Association and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, at the Walter Reade Theater. My experience with dance on camera has been limited to dance documentaries, videos on You-tube and the occasional feature film such as Black Swan or Nijinsky. So to be witness to the twelve shorts films that made up the program was an exciting and eye-opening experience.
The first shown was the North American premiere of Healah Dancing. Commissioned by Scottish Ballet for the critically acclaimed Dance Odysseys programme at Edinburgh International Festival 2013, this short film is the center piece of a trilogy, featuring Principal Dancer Erik Cavallari and Soloist Eve Mutso, cut to a contemporary folk soundtrack from artist Keaton Henson.
In darkness is hear “I place a huge demand on myself to dream” before we see extreme close-ups of the bodies of Ms. Mutso and Mr. Cavallari as they move in slow motion allowing us to witness the beautiful classical lines of these two dancers . Director Eve McConnachie used lighting and varying camera angles to play off the musculature of the dancers’ bodies. We see Mr. Cavallari scapula create a valley of shadow while Ms. Mutso’s hand becomes a living entity of expression onto itself.
Unfortunately, Anne Elveday of Norway’s The Perfect Dance I did not get. A woman tries to find a rhythm in different dance styles with different partners but never seems successful. Whatever sentimentality the nine minute film hoped to evoke I did not feel. I have seen similar statements but in a more eloquent manner.
Paul Sarvis’ Rooms begins abstractly, an overhead shot displays a woman in black moving rapidly on the floor. An older woman who now lives in an assisted living facility reminisces about her home that she had to leave behind. As the older woman voices her longings of her days of independence, she reflects with longing on such simple things as in how her furniture was arranged or the beauty of door in a hallway, all things she then took for granted. The younger woman is seen exploring the white walls and corners in which she is confined as if seeking an exit. The six minute film I found incredible touching, it was a strong statement about the ravages of age and the fleeting moments of youth.
Kathy Rose’s No More Worry, No More Blue was more of an art film then truly dance. Was it lovely, in many ways yes, but I felt it lacked depth and context. There was little actual dance, very little actual movement but it did possess some beautifully and oddly manipulated imagery.
Rick and Jeff Kuperman, also known as the Kuperman Brothers are a force to be reckoned with and their nine minute film, Rules of the Games is an example of why. Trust between factory workers is severely tested when management turns a watchful eye on what is occurring in the work place. The film is an expression of the loss of privacy found within today’s environment of surveillance of every aspect of our society. It’s a great short film with sudden breaks from color to black and white that adds a grainy realness to the film. The Kuperman Brothers use movement as if a language, a form of communication. Jeff Kuperman circles his face with his hand then almost slaps himself and looks at the others is if asking “do you now understand”….It’s a great film created by two very talented young men.
From the United Kingdom, Harry Amies’ Carly’s Exist was a moving and emotional seven minute film exploring the self-destructive tendencies of some and how the people that care for them can find themselves powerless when trying to protect them from themselves. A young woman pens a note that she leaves to be found by her father. After reading the note you see and feel the father’s sense of panic as he races out the door in search of her. Mr. Amies cleverly cast identical twins to portray the troubled young woman so it is as if she is struggling and fighting with herself. It’s a powerful film with a powerful message.
John T. Williams’ 2412 is a film based on G. Edward Griffin’s 1984 interview with ex-KGB agent Yuri Bezmenov as he discusses ideological subversion or psychological warfare. This is a film that is both thought provoking and somewhat controversial. The imagery is disturbing as male bodies in suits and ties are suspended to poles wearing plague masks (worn by Doctors during the Black Plague (1348-50) to treat patients). A more mature woman but with a very youthful body wearing a skimpy bodysuit is seen en point as she bourrées atop a raised platform, her face is half hidden by a veil tied around her head. A 1950-60’s style television is seen in the background as the voice of Mr. Bezmenov states that “the time bombs ticking”. This is a film that should be seen to truly appreciate.
Baruch Performing Arts Center
55 Lexington Avenue
(enter on 25th St. btw Lexington & 3rd Aves)
Due to a prior commitment at the Joyce (…which turned into a BIG disappointment…that’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back…) I was unable to make Program A of the 2014 APAP showing at Peridance Capezio Center, but I was able and determined to make Program B.
But, even able and determined, I was a tad late; well not really, I got there at exactly 4 pm and how was I to know that they would start the performance on time, exactly at 4 pm. I mean who does that…so, to whom ever that punctual person in charge of production was, I say grumble, grumble, gripe, gripe…
I missed Mettin Movement | Sarah Mettin’s Allegory: Aeon which I was looking forward to as I am a big admirer of her work. I did just catch the Mark Foehringer Dance Project’s emotionally charged performance of Mark Foehringer’s Another Time, of which I now want to see more of his work.
Unfortunately Natalie Deryn Johnson’s KEYp me (Excerpt) performed by Ms. Johnson and Nikki Holck I just did not get. The two women wore nude colored tunics with holes cut in them and over that a harness with a myriad of keys attached by long strings that clinked as they moved. A poorly recorded sound track of mixed voices talking at the same time was heard in the background. It was basically two solos performed at the same time with little or no interaction. The work was just way over thought, less is more…
From Connecticut Goran M. Subotic’s Mystic Ballet performed Lauren Edson’s Imaginary Love. Ting-Yu Tsai wearing a red dress is surrounded by four men bare-chested in black pants and red jackets. Ms. Edson’s choreography flowed smoothly and had a balletic overtone. The trio for three men was very athletic with one jumping and the other two catching him. Ervin Vallecillo must be mentioned for his passionate stand-out performance. Bravo Mr. Vallecillo…
It is no secret that I am a major fan of Takehiro Ueyama and Take Dance. Though I was not overly fond of the company’s fall performance at Symphony Space it did not dampen my fervor for Mr. Ueyama’s work and Breaking News, an excerpt of Salaryman, is a prime example of why. The choreography is some of Take’s best. It is a controlled chaos that borders on the verge of manic. Suspense is felt from the opening moments of Breaking News as the dancers run hectically across the stage wearing casual business attire while reading the newspaper. It’s like Penn Station at rush hour…an excellent work and a must see for anyone unaware of Take Ueyama and Take Dance…
The choreography for Yoshito Sakuraba’s Lullaby to Mr. Adam (Excerpt) was fast paced and very athletic. I passed up the opportunity to see this work in its entirety and after seeing this excerpt I must say that I now regret doing so. Violence, death by violence, loss and regret haunt the work. Guanglei Hui dancing was expressive and you feel his powerful presence the moment he steps on stage. He is the type of dancer that can say so much with his body and even when perfectly still. The choreography is complex and fully utilizes the whole body. It’s an interesting work and compelling to watch. Tsai-Hsi Hung must be mentioned for her outstanding performance.
Kaitlyn Gilliland and Alfredo Solivan performed a duet from Emery LeCrone’s Divergence. It was performed en pointe and beautifully danced. Ms. LeCrone’s merger of her choreography with Joby Talbot’s Falling, for electric cello was hypnotic and the way she approaches the body in space gave true evidence of her incredible musicality. Ms. Gilliland and Mr. Solivan were both superb technicians and both gave expressive performances.
Peridance performed Igal Perry’s Infinity. Mr. Perry’s choreography displays a maturity lacking in some of the other pieces. His devotion to his craft and his attention to music is evident in Infinity and together, created a sense of serenity, a nod to the divine.
Complexions Contemporary Ballet is one of my favorite companies for a reason and that reason lies not just in the company’s selection of choreography but also the brilliant execution that the company dancers always deliver in each performance.
So it was of no surprise to me that the evening’s pièce de résistance was Terk Waters’ performance in Jae Mon Joo’s Flight. To witness Mr. Waters on stage, his every move, his every gesture is a glimpse into perfection. I have said it before and I shall say it again, I truly believe there is greatness in Terk Waters. Throughout the history of dance, in each succeeding generation of dancers you will find those ultimate artists that when on stage their performances are inspired, a witness of the divine and Mr. Waters is among that group….
Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq
Premieres in NYC on February 5th, 2014,
at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center
This is two weeks prior to the New York City Ballet’s scheduled performances of “Afternoon of a Faun”, choreographed by Jerome Robbins. These performances will be dedicated to Tanaquil Le Clercq, for whom the ballet was originally created.
Of all the great ballerinas, Tanaquil Le Clercq may have been the most transcendent. With a body unlike any before hers, she mesmerized viewers and choreographers alike. With her elongated, race-horse physique, she became the new prototype for the great George Balanchine.
Because of her extraordinary movement and unique personality on stage, she became a muse to two of the greatest choreographers in dance, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. She eventually married Balanchine and Robbins created his famous version of Afternoon of a Faun for her.
She had love, fame, adoration, and was the foremost dancer of her day until it suddenly all stopped. At the age of 27, she was struck down by polio and paralyzed. She never danced again. The ballet world has been haunted by her story ever since.
Directed by Nancy Buirski
Produced by Nancy Buirski, Ric Burns
Editor: Damian Rodriquez
Director of Photography: Rick Rodgers