In some of Mat Ek’s former choreographies, the traditions of Kurt Jooss and of his mother, Birgit Cullberg may be apparent. He uses classical as well as modern dance techniques. Social engagement of psychological dilemmas combined with subtle humor, form the basis of his choreographies. For Ek, movement is a means of individual expression. Aesthetic value is not his first priority.
In 1983 Ms. Guillem won the gold medal at the Varna International Ballet Competition, which later in the year earned her her first solo role, dancing the Queen of the Dryads in Rudolf Nureyev‘s staging of Don Quixote. In December 1984, after her performance in Nureyev’s Swan Lake, she became the Paris Opera Ballet’s youngest-ever étoile, the company’s top-ranking female dancer. In 1987 she performed the lead role in William Forsythe‘s contemporary ballet In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated with one of her favorite partners, Laurent Hilaire.
In 1988 she was given the title role in a production of Giselle staged by the Royal Ballet to celebrate Nureyev’s 50th birthday. Her performance was a success, and in the following year she left Paris for London, to become a freelance performer and one of the Royal Ballet’s principal guest artists. Her desire to work independently from a company gained her the nickname “Mademoiselle Non”. In 1995 Ms. Guillem created the dance television program, Evidentia, which won several international awards. In 1998 she staged her own version of Giselle for the Finnish National Ballet, and in 2001 restaged the ballet for La Scala Ballet in Milan.
In 2001 she became the first winner of the Nijinsky Prize for the world’s best ballerina, although in her acceptance speech she criticised the “supermarket culture” of such awards. In the same year, she controversially appeared nude and without make-up in a photo-shoot for French Vogue. In 2003 she directed the central section of a Nureyev tribute program, but was criticised for having the dancers perform in front of a giant projected backdrop of Nureyev, which the audience found distracting. By 2006 she had moved from ballet to contemporary dance, working with such performers as Akram Khan as an Associate Artist of the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, England.
I was not aware of the work of Eryc Taylor or of his company Eryc Taylor Dance until I was invited for a showing of his new work in progress, The Exhibit, at the Alchemical Theater Laboratory on W. 14th Street . The piece was a narrative told in five short dances, The Zone (Prelude), Lumen, The Time, The Box and The Hunt.
The piece was performed in very interment White Box, which I am new to and it took some getting used to. The problem with a White Box is that it reduces shadow and colors tend to be lighter.
The first piece, The Zone began as one by one four dancers entered thought doors onto the stage area, we the audience are setting just feet from the dancers which leant the work an air immediate intimacy.
The dancers incorporated the doors and the walls of the space into the performance. The dancers wore black briefs with the women in black tops; each with a black mask that added a sense of high drama.
Mr. Taylor’s approach to the body in space is with wide encompassing movements, a leg full extended or an arm reaching outward. He manipulates the dancer’s torso, contracting and elongating their spines, pulling it tight and then like a spring lets it release outward.
There was not a lot of travel in this work and this was probably limited to the size of the stage. When a dancer would perform a choreographic phrase the dancer’s body would be in full use but the phrases would be forced to occur in small areas of space. What movement occurred was usually in groupings or dancers stepping forward for solos or duets.
What was interesting in these stationary phrases was the way the torso would contract, especially the upper torso, ribs folding in with shoulders following and accentuated by a rippling of the spine. The outer body seeming to protect the vulnerable core of each dancer’s being.
With quick flashes our retinas glimpsed sculptural imagery reminiscent of a Rodin or a Camille Claudel. But as suddenly as these images appeared they were erased with sudden body jerks, tremors of frantic movement, as if Mr. Taylor had used an Etch-A-Sketch and created something of profound beauty then shook it to erase all evidence of it existence, forever denying us its beauty.
Caroline Brethenoux and Samuel Asher Kunzman performed Lumen, an emotionally beautiful duet set to the music of Freida Alban. The chemistry between these two dancers was undeniable. Each supported and flowed in and around one another. It was an all too brief moment of intensity that I greatly enjoyed…I am richer for having seen these two perform.
Now with that said this production was not without its problems. The work seemed more of a series of movement studies than a finished piece. From my point of view that is a good thing for it allows Mr. Taylor room to experiment and to allow the piece to grow organically.
Disappointedly I found the score lacking. I found the supposed five separate pieces of music much too similar in style. All five pieces possessed the same rhythms or predictability to the sound as well similar instrumentation. There was no adagio to allow Mr. Taylor to truly play with his shapes and placement within a duet, nothing saccadic to entice and draw the audience in.
I would like to see Mr. Taylor be a bit more adventurous with his choreographic choices…as as in how he uses the body in space…encourage him to explore and experiment…
It is evident he has the talent and the vision but I just would like to see him push himself a little farther. I am in no way implying that he is playing it too safe but he is a young choreographer and this is the time to really push the envelope, stretch the imagination, to jump from the frying pan into the fire….
José Limón Dance Company is approaching its 70th Anniversary and in celebration the José Limón Dance Foundation are bringing to New York professional companies and important schools from abroad and the U.S. for a Grand Celebration of the works of the legendary choreographer, for two weeks, October 13 – 25, 2015 at the Joyce Theater.
Program A began with José Limón’s 1958 work, Mazurkas, set to the music of Frédéric Chopin and performed live by Pianist Michael Cherry. Is Mazurkas destined to become one of my favorite works by Limón? No, it is not…Simplicity in a dance can be wonderful especially as today’s young choreographers have begun exploring new ways to use the body in space, expanding and reinterpreting the body’s reaction/relationship to music, redefining the concept of what is a score for a dance…I have come to refer and see this as the budding of a post-contemporary phase of dance.
Mazurkas were just too simple in its composition, repetitive in the way that the body was used in space and to the point it became predictable as the dance progressed. Also, the 47 minutes it took to perform the dance, I think would have been much more powerful in both content and message at 20 minutes…and according to the lobby buzz at intermission; I was not alone in that thought.
Mr. Limón composed these dances after a visit to Post-war Poland in 1957 and as a tribute to the heroic spirit of the Polish people. So, with that said and being aware of what tragedy and the turbulence of that error I expected a dance that had more passion, something more expressive, something more rebellious, something a little angry.
The Moor’s Pavane is perhaps one of Limón’s best known works. The work was first performed in 1949 at the American Dance Festival and is subtitled Variations on the Theme of Othello. The dance is not intended to be seen as a choreographed version of the Shakespeare play. Presented in the form of the Pavane and other dancers of the high Renaissance, the legend is told of the hapless Moor, his wrongly suspected wife, the Moor’s treacherous friend and the treacherous friend’s wife. The four characters portray the tragedy of Everyman, and the ballet, is timeless in its implications. The work has been cited by critics the world over as Limón’s “masterpiece”.
There is timelessness to this work that transcends in and of itself. My introduction to The Moor’s Pavane was in 1984 at the Gershwin Theater with Rudolf Nureyev as the Moor and joined by Stephanie Saland and Jean Guizerix. I remember being held transfixed by both the work and the dancers’ performances…
Francisco Ruvalcaba gave a superb performance as The Moor and Durell Comedy played well The Moor’s Friend. Mr. Comedy let us know at the start that he had his own agenda and his real friendship with Mr. Ruvalcaba was questionable.
The brilliance of The Moor’s Pavane is seeing the interplay between the four dancers. Kathryn Alter as The Moor’s Friend’s Wife portrayed a character torn between being truthful to her husband’s wishes and her friendship with The Moor’s Wife, Logan Kruger. Ms. Kruger was truly bewildered by her husband’s charges of betrayal and his refusal to believe her account that both of them were being deceived.
It is just a great dance and valuable piece of dance history. It has often been referred to as a theater-dance piece than an actually dance or ballet because of the actor skills it requires. The dancers give subtle nuances and quick side glances, the tilt of a head as well as who or what is the dancer’s focus. It has been 66 years since its premiere and the work is still being seen around the world. The Moor’s Pavane has been in the repertoire of the American Ballet Theater since 1970.
José Limón’s Missa Brevis was first performed in 1958 at The Juilliard School of Music. Missa Brevis is Latin for “short Mass”. The term usually refers to a mass composition that is short because part of the text of the Mass ordinary that is usually set to music in a full mass is left out, or because its execution time is relatively short.
The score for this work is, Missa Brevis in Tempore Belli (“A Short Mass in Time of War”), written by the Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly in 1945. The work takes a large cast so guest dancers performed alongside the Limón’s company dancers.
Mr. Limón played with geometric arcs and lines in the piece as groups of dancers moved in precise straight lines cross the stage while others would form arcs around them. Dancers would step into these arcs, 3 or 4 dancers at a time jumping with joyful full body movements, each with a sense of exhilaration. At other times the bodies would collapse to the floor as if an unseen weight has inexplicably descended upon them.
Strongly evident is the idea of rise and fall found in the Humphrey/Limón’ technique. The concepts of the Humphrey/Limón technique explores the natural movement patterns of the body and its relation to gravity.
Being given the opportunity to see both José Limón’s Missa Brevis and The Moor’s Pavane was indeed an embarrassment of riches to any dance lover and fan of dance history. I cannot recommend strong enough for you to try to make it a priority to attend part or all of the programs being offered by the José Limón International Dance Festival which will be running for two weeks, Oct. 13 – 25, 2015 at the Joyce Theater.
“Take me to Church” by Hozier
Directed by David LaChapelle
Choreography by Jade Hale-Christofi
Program 3 of New York City Center’s 12 Annual Fall for Dance was perhaps my favorite program I’ve witness in this year’s two week festival. New York City Center’s Fall for Dance is an annual two week festival in which tickets are only $15. Each program gives the ticket holder the opportunity to witness diverse choreographies in an eclectic assortment of dance styles.
The evening opened with Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança performing Eu Danço – 8 Solos No Geral, which translates to ‘1 dance, 8 solos overall’. Co-founded in 2004 by Tiago Sousa and choreographer Sonia Destri, the company is composed of Brazilian street performers, many of who grew up in the favelas of Rio
The nine dancers took a bare stage and filled it with a youthful energy and a sense of excitement. There were dancers spinning on their heads, performing helicopters on their backs and other typical hip-hip moves. The styles of dance were nothing new, well, not to New Yorkers who are exposed to various street performers on a daily basis.
There was little innovation or anything new in respect to the choreographer and how it was performed. I often wonder how often the dancers were actually improvising their own moves. It was exciting, but unfortunately that excitement began to wane rather quickly.
Fang-Yi Sheu and Herman Cornejo presented the N.Y. premiere of Ms. Sheu’s 2014 work, Pheromones. Ms. Sheu is a former principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company and Mr. Cornejo is a principal dancer with American Ballet Theater. Pheromones was commissioned by the Vail International Dance Festival.
The duet was a tender exploration of one dancer for the other as they moved with the melodies of Philip Glass’s Facades. Their bodies were always within arms’ reach of each other they as they formed a symbiosis of movement with little to no physical contact. I think very few dancers in the world could have carried off this work but these two. It was beautiful, emotional and intelligient…Bravo to both Ms. Sheu and Mr. Cornejo.
Originally created for the San Franciso Ballet in 1996, Stanton Welch’s Maninyas is an abstract work that mixes classical and contemporary ballet in a series of pas de deux and pas de trois. Set to the Australian composer Ross Edwards’ Maninyas Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, the work features five couples who move in and out of a series of soft luminescent veils that serve as a backdrop to the piece.
The work possessed a beautiful simplicity in both its construction and how Mr. Welch used the body in space. The work flows with difficult lifts and with moments that are exquisitely sculptural, all while retaining a sense of freedom.
The Paul Taylor Dance Company closed the evening’s program with Paul Taylor’s Brandenburgs. The dancers wove through Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos #6 (movements 1 & 2) and #3 with both sensitivity and grace. The musicality of the dancers is unmistakable. It was a fitting end to a wonderful performance.
Where I left the New York City Center a little disappointed after the 12th Annual Fall for Dance, Program 1, Program 2 more than made up for it. New York City Center’s Fall for Dance is an annual two week festival in which every tickets is only $15. Each program gives the ticket holder the opportunity to witness diverse choreographies in an eclectic assortment of dance styles.
The evening began with What the Day Owes to the Night by La Compagnie Hervé Koubi, a company composed of twelve Algerian street dancers under the guidance of the artistic director and choreographer Hervé Koubi, Mr. Koubi combines his Algerian roots with his French classical training to merge capoeira and martial arts with urban and contemporary dance.
When the curtain rises we see twelve very fit bare chested men wearing loose fitting white pants. They start to casually move in silence and then explode into wild feats of amazing strength and agility. A couple of dancers start to spin on their heads, another dancer started to spin one-handedly, occasionally a dancer would run and carelessly jump into a knot of dancers who would then toss him in to the air as the audience gasped. Simply put the dancers created an energy that was so powerful if was almost animalistic.
Now, all that it was exciting, the mechanics of the work was sorely in need of structure. The dancers seem to meander around the stage seemingly without direction. Some of those death defying tricks became almost repetitious. But I am nit-picking for the performance truly was magically. Would I be willing to spend money to see them perform…absolutely!
I hate tap dancing, for me it’s the equivalent to nails being drawn across a chalk board…except when performed by Steven McRae. A principal dancer with the Royal Ballet I was first introduced to his tapping skills when I attended the 8th Annual Fall for Dance in 2011. For me it was a jaw-dropping experience…I mean I hate tap and I loved everything about that performance.
So I was quite excited for the U.S. premiere of Czardas, a five-minute solo, choreographed and performed by Mr. McRae and set to a composition by Italian composer Vittorio Monti. Mr. McRae piece was fast paced blend of tap, ballet and Hungarian folk dancing that was somewhat light hearted and fun.
Wearing jeans and a tank-top, he never missed a beat in his creation of saccadic rhythms with impressively complicated patterns. He whipped around the stage in chaînés turns and leaped effortlessly through the air…then he would look at the audience with a somewhat innocent but still smug expression . At the end everyone was on their feet. Bravo Mr. McRae…
The evening ended with an impeccable performance of Ronald K. Brown’s 2013 work, Four Corners by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Set to a score inspired by house music and gospel by Carl Hancock Rux and various artist, there was a sense of heritage and a sense of the celebration of that heritage.
The choreography explored Mr. Brown signature style of Horton technique and African dance mixed with contemporary and balletic moves. I had not seen the work and I am richer for having done so…as always the Alvin American Dance Theater gave a smooth, heat felt performance that was a fitting end to the evening…
Eryc Taylor Dance
Presents the U.S. Premiere
Choreography: Eryc Taylor
Oct. 15-18, 2015
Alchemy Theatre Laboratory
104 W. 14th St.
“How to Create A Monsterpiece” Show
A Collaboration with Avant-Garde Artist Scooter LaForge
October 7, 2015
Howl! Happening Gallery
6 East 1st St.
(BTW Bowery & 2nd Ave.)
Oct. 15 – 18, 2015
$20 for Students
The overall goal of New York City Center’s Fall for Dance is to introduce dance to new and younger audiences. Since its inception eleven years ago, Fall for Dance has presented 190 companies and artists and introduced more than 275,000 newcomers and dance enthusiasts to an eclectic mix of choreographers and performers. It has become one of the most anticipated events for the year.
The 12th edition of the 2015 Fall for Dance festival opened last Wednesday with the Miami City Ballet’s performance of George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante. Premiering in 1956, Balanchine referred to this work as “everything I know about ballet – in thirteen minutes.”
Now I have not seen Miami City Ballet since the ouster of Edward Villella in 2012 and I was disappointed to see that the magic that Mr. Villella had brought of the company somehow missing. The dancers’ technique seemed not as sharp as I remembered, their performances not as crisp. I expected so much more from a company with such an expansive budget.
Patricia Delgado gave an arresting and emotionally charged performance. The manner in which she is able to flow through space with such elegance and grace was indeed a delight.
Doug Elkins’ Hapless Bizarre is perhaps one of the most strange and fascinatingly weird pieces of choreography I’ve recently seen. Six performers, including a vaudevillian clown explore the intersections between physical comedy, choreography, flirtation, and romance in ways that are sometimes hapless and bizarre.
As the clown Mark Gindick was bullied, pulled and pushed. Mr. Gindick is a bit, shall we say diminutive, in comparison to the rest of the the company. Despite his constant protestations he was again and again forced into partnering with the much taller Cori Marquis. Together they were both delicious to watch.
There was a hat, first black and then suddenly purple that Mr. Gindick seemed rather attached too. This hat became a focus for the other dancers who would swipe, snatch and yank off his head as he desperately tried to protect it.
Now was this hat and Mr. Gindick’s reactions symbolic of lost or stolen love….I have not a clue…but was this piece highly entertaining…without a doubt…bravo to all…
LA Dance Project performed Justin Peck’s Murder Ballades with music by Bryce Dessner and a visual installation by Sterling Ruby. For me the work seemed oddly out of context with the music selected and though beautiful, I did not understand how Mr. Ruby’s installation related to the work as a whole.
Murder ballads, as expressed in the title of the piece, are songs brought to America by the Scandinavian, English, and Scottish immigrants of the 19th century. The ballads tell the true story of violent deaths in which a murdered victim’s family dispenses justice to the murderer. With this said Mr. Peck’s piece seemed to be rather joyful and a bit light-hearted for such a dark subject.
I was also disappointed in Mr. Peck’s use of the body in space. I am aware of the choreographer’s classical background and his association with the New York City Ballet but I truly expected to see more innovation in the overall approach to movement both from him and from the LA Dance Project.
In fairness it must be stated that the performance itself was impeccable; the dancers are exceedingly talented and very well trained, a joy to watch. I just expected more from a company with such renown as the LA Dance Project.
Malambo is a centuries old dance traditional practiced by gauchos or South American cowboys. The Argentina based company Che Malambo, directed by French choreographer and former ballet dancer, Gilles Brinas, takes this unique tradition and transforms it into a spectacle of drums and dance.
The stage is filled by fourteen dark haired men wearing all black, standing in a group, each with a drum, the bombo criollo and also called bombo legüero, suspended across their bodies. They go from absolute stillness to explosive power in a matter of seconds.
They created passionate rhythms on the bombo and then would duel one another, either individual or in groups ,each trying to outdo the other’s impressive footwork, their heels hammering a cadence of complicated patterns. When they started whirling their boleadoras (lassos with stones on the end) it was intoxicating, hypnotizing …No matter how I try or what words I use I will never be able to capture the sheer energy displayed on stage by this company.
It was dynamic, thrilling a fitting end for the evening. If you ever have a chance to see Che Malambo in performance do so…they are one company you do not want to miss….
So be warned, this is not the Disney version of Cinderella, but rather an adult re-envisioning of the 1697 baroque fairy tale by Charles Perrault. The production is billed as a theater experience, a thrilling fusion of nightlife and theatre with a unique blend of live opera, circus, burlesque, vaudeville, baroque dance and design. Company XIV’s Cinderella was conceived, directed and choreographed by the Drama Desk Award nominee Austin McCormick.
The score is a blend of popular tunes such as Irving Berlin’s Sisters, Daddy by the Andrew Sisters and Lorde’s “Royals” which I pretty sure part of was sung in German. Marcy Richardson gave a brilliant rendition of Faust’s Ah! Je ris de me voir – Allegretto, all the while turning in an upside-down position know in pole dancing the Rainbow Marchenko.
Zane Pihlstrom’s costume and sets just added to the whole. The costumes were sparse, spangled G-strings and corsets, extravagant wigs and the men and women both in baroque style shoes with a pronounced heel. The set itself, while colorful, was minimalist by nature but with just enough oomph to allow your imagination to soar.
Mr. McCormick choreography was thrilling from the get-go. As in most Off-Broadway productions I had assumed there would be some dancing but nothing overly difficult. But the intricacies of the choreography combined with the abilities of these performers made me really sit up and take notice. These were polished professionals with impeccable technique.
Allison Ulrich gave us a superb performance as the beautiful Cinderella. Ms. Allison is a Juilliard graduate, a former member of Cirque Du Soleil’s Viva Elvis. Another bright presence on stage and who was often just his G-string was Jakob Karr, the runner-up to Russel Ferguson in the 6th season of So You Think You Can Dance. (…FYI, I loved him on SYTYCD and after seeing him perform in person I am somewhat in awe…)
Davon Rainey, one of Company XIV’s founding members, won our hearts as the somewhat lusty and ever-so-evil stepmother. His star quality undeniable, his antics were larger than live and he made sure the entire cast new exactly who the star of the show was. He would sometimes come out of character to remind the performers of anything he felt was lacking in anyway. During a scene where the dancers had gather center stage behind Mr. Rainey and had seemed to have lost focus he had to remind them, “guys, this is the dramatic fall.”
Steven Trumon Gray was the handsome prince, though sadly somewhat flawed. As the evil step-sisters …as well as the rather randy step-mother…tried their best to fool him into believing one of them was the perfect fit for the fabled slipper…well, let’s just say he had to struggle with his libido on more than one occasion….
The pièce de résistance for the evening was the duet between Mr. Gray and Ms. Ulrich. Mr. Gray, a noted aerialist, used a hoop to sweep Ms. Ulrich up and intro his arms. Together, both on the floor and in the air, they melded as one to create sublime imagery.
The world premiere of Cinderella runs from September 22 – November 15 in a limited 8-week engagement. Previews begin September 22 for a September 30 opening.
Company XIV’s 2015-2016 Off-Broadway season will include three adult only shows: the world premiere of Cinderella, a revival of their sexy hit holiday show Nutcracker Rouge, and the world premiere of Snow White, all conceived, directed and choreographed by Drama Desk Award nominee Austin McCormick.
Shows take place at the Minetta Lane Theatre, located at 18 Minetta Lane between MacDougal Street and 6th Avenue in New York City. Performances are Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 5pm. The shows contain partial nudity – 16 & over admitted.
Tickets for Cinderella and Snow White from $40 to $65 with premium and VIP seating from $75 to $105. Tickets for Nutcracker Rouge from $50 to $85 with premium and VIP seating from $100 to $175.
Visit www.ticketmaster.com or call 1-800-745-3000.
For info visit CompanyXIV.com.
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