Skip to content

Daniel Ezralow’s “Pearl” at the David H. Koch Theater

Leona Morimune & Kelsey Landers in a scene from Daniel Ezrarow's "PEARL"

Leona Morimune & Kelsey Landers in a scene from Daniel Ezrarow’s “Pearl.” Photo: Jim Cox

Daniel Ezralow directed and choreographed Pearl, a multimedia extravaganza inspired by the life of author, Pearl S. Buck. Pearl appeared at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater for a limited run of four nights only, Aug 27 – 30, 2015.

Ms. Buck is the first woman to win both the Nobel and the Pulitzer Prizes. She spent most of life before 1934 in China. Her parents, both Americans, were missionaries who went to China when Ms. Buck was only three months old. Her first language was Chinese. She grew up along Yangtze River which allowed her a unique perspective into the life of the Chinese peasant. This was the subject of Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Good Earth, a best-seller for both 1931 and 1932.

To say that Ms. Ezralow’s Pearl was a multimedia production is just a nice way of saying that he pulled out the bells and whistles. The dance play is told in an abstract manner, each section defined by a combination of lighting, sound and the positioning and movement of the set. The stage was divided in two sections by a 150’ by 6’ river of lazily flowing water. As the story unfolded a dancer would periodical stand on a small raft while the river transported them across the stage. The reminiscence of rice fields is unmistakable in the flooring’s design; a rich brown color with curving lines as if the rows of a freshly plowed field waiting to be planted.

The cast of "PEARL" at The Koch Theater

The cast of Daniel Ezralow’s “Pearl” at The Koch Theater. Photo: Jim Cox

Christopher Akerlind created a masterful lighting design that wove color and drama into an imaginative place of startling beauty and mysticism. He applied lighting that was bold, rich and luminance. Mr. Akerlind’s choices in the manner in which he applied lighting were enhanced by his choosing to work with a palette rich in bold colors. Without a doubt it was Mr. Akerlind’s brilliant lighting design that was the glue that held this story together. The lighting was more than inspired…it was sheer genius!

Ms. Buck’s return to the United States is marked by the sounds of Ragtime, a party or gathering seems to be commencing, everyone happy. But mixed in with the Ragtime are haunting melodies played on Chinese instruments, a reminder that though she is American by birth, China will forever be a part of her heart.

Special Guest Artist Margie Gillis portrayed a more mature Pearl who was transitioning into her writing career.  Ms. Gillis would intersperse her movements with short choppy motions utilizing her arms and upper torso. The unmistakable sound of a manual typewriter is heard. Behind her is seen several long and wide white fabrics unfolding from the rafters. As Ms. Gillis dances letters and then later words could be seen floating up the fabrics.

The cast of PEARL at The Koch Theater

The cast of Daniel Ezralow’s “Pearl at The Koch Theater. Photo: Jim Cox

Pearl, though visual beautiful, was not without its flaws. Daniel Ezralow’s choreography seemed lacking in imagination. Nowhere in the production did I witness innovation in his manner of movement phrasing or toward his approach to use of the body in space. His movements and choreographic phrasing seemed dated and predictable. Mr. Ezralow, who danced in Paul Taylor’s company, perhaps sticks to closely to Mr. Taylor’s movement choices and choreographic style.

The musical score, though clever enough seemed at times a bit cliché. The score in hindsight was what you would expect from a production such as Pearl, a blend of Eastern and Western music. Missing greatly was a character(s) playing a traditional Chinese instrument such as an erhu or qinqin, Sadly the score was taped; a live orchestra could have enriched the productions in ways unimaginable.

Thought Daniel Ezralow’s Pearl is not without its fault it is still a beautiful production and well worth seeing. I felt it could easily be made into a Broadway production, the story line and concept are both rich enough

“Paul Taylor: Creative Domain” To Screen Nationwide….

patTheatrical premiere at The Film Society of Lincoln Center September 11-17

Interviews with Taylor dancers, alumni and the film’s director follow certain screenings

Der Untermensch (The Subhuman) | Nominee for Best Canadian Short Film at Toronto International Film Festival….

Staged against minimalist backdrops and accompanied by a hypnotic original score, this highly cinematic contemporary dance film abstractly depicts the persecution of homosexuals at the hands of the Third Reich.

Director: Kays Mejri
Executive Producer: Simon Vermeulen
Choreographer & Performer: Simon Vermeulen
Original Score Composer: Christian Thomas
Cinematographer: Simon Lamarre-Ledoux
Artistic Director: Jessica Surendorff
Production Director: Claudia Rodarie
Editor: Benoît Rocheleau


Initial release: Sept 9, 2013


Performance for New York International Ballet Trainee Program Sept 2, 2015….


“The mission of UnderTheRainbow’s New York International Ballet Trainee Program is to provide opportunities for young, talented artists to access high quality ballet training to enable them to cultivate their talents to the highest level”

Our goal is to help young artists obtain scholarships and apprenticeships in our program and in other international dance programs that would allow them to continue pursuing their dreams. Under the guidance of renowed Principle dancer and Creative Director Ramon Thielen and former Belshoi ballerina and Artistic Associate Tatiana Berenova our program offers intensive training with some of ballets most respected professionals who will guide them in developing their technique while broadening their understanding of ballet as an artform.

Under the Rainbow will collaborate with all sectors and groups that share our common vision of creative expression, advocacy and education.

Sept 2, 2015 @ 8 Pm

Alvin Ailey City Group Theater

405 W 55th St

New York, NY 10019


…On Dancing with Robots | Robot: A Show by Blanca Li at BAM….

Spectacle: ROBOTS ! ChorŽgraphe: Blanca Li, Avec danseurs et robots, Dans le cadre du Festival Montpellier Danse, ScŽnographie: Pierre Attrait, Lieu: OpŽra ComŽdie, Montpellier, le 3/07/2013

Gaël Rougegrez performing with a NAO robot in “Robot: A Show by Blanca Li” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Photo: ©Laurent Philippe

The Spanish born choreographer Blanca Li does not live on the same plane of existence as the rest of us, she simple can’t…why you ask? Well, all you have to do is see Robot: A Show by Blanca Li and you will quickly come to the same concussion that I have. Robot: A Show by Blanca Li which had its premiere in 2013 at the Montpellier Dance Festival in France, had its American debut June 9-14, 2015 at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House.

I was greatly disappointed at the number of empty seats on the night I attended. Well, too bad for them for they have no idea what they missed! This was one of the most brave and courageous works I have ever seen. (If this work does not a least get nominated for a Bessie Award then justice no longer exist…).

The 90 minute multimedia piece, that took three years of research before the rehearsal process even began, employed eight dancers that were living, breathing humans. (…Or at least I think so…) The work used humor and just plan zaniness to explore the relationships between robots and humanity as well as placed a focus on the continual automation of our society.

The choreography is a rather brilliant display of how kinetic energies flow through the human body. Moments of elegant choreographed phrases were intermingled with pedestrian movement that would proceed into a zany chorus of blue frocked crazy people.

Gaël Rougegrez performing with an NAO robot in “Robot: A Show by Blanca Li” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Photo: ©Laurent Philippe

Gaël Rougegrez performing with an NAO robot in “Robot: A Show by Blanca Li” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Photo: ©Laurent Philippe

The eight dancers were accompanied by a ten piece orchestra of unique sculptural as well as musical gadgetry. Imagine a sculpture somehow escaping the confines of the Museum of Modern Art and then appearing on a NYC subway platform playing a violin and there you have it. These gadgetries came in a multitude of styles, shape and color. There was a yellow and green boxy thing that played the drums as well a metallic humanesque object that played the violin and these were just two. The music and these imaginative creations were the joint product of the Japanese design team Maya Denki and composer Tao Gutierrez.

What stole the show were seven toddler sized NAO robots, (manufactured by the French company Aldebaran) that, through preprogramed, still tended towards the unpredictability of a toddler. Pointed in one direction yet suddenly deciding to go in another. They tended to fall but like toddlers  who often display a certain single-mindedness of purpose, would stand up on its on and continue on its chose path.

To say these little creations stole out hearts is an understatement. But the moment that seals the deal was when Gaël Rougegrez proceeds to teach the robot ballet steps and then performs a rather touching duet.

Robot: A Show by Blanca Li was one of the most wonderful original and exciting performances I have seen. I say bravo to everyone involved for a job well done.

For more than 20 years, Ms. Li has choreographed works for her company, as well as for film. She choreographed the flight attendant dance in “I’m So Excited” for Pedro Almodóvar as well runway shows and fashion events for designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Stella McCartney.

Spellbound Dance Company in Mauro Astolfi’s “downshifting”….

Spellbound Dance Company was established between 1994 and 1995 by Director Mauro Astolfi in Rome.


Choreography: Mauro Astolfi

Lighting: Marco Policastro

Music: “Innocent” by Pust


Maria Cossu, Marianna Ombrosi, Alessandra Chirulli, Giuliana Mele, Gaia Mattioli,

Sofia Barbiero, Marioenrico D’Angelo, Giacomo Todeschi, Michelangelo Puglisi

Created for Mittelfest 2009

"downshifting" Chorography by Mauro Astolfi Spellbound Dance Company

“downshifting” Chorography by Mauro Astolfi Spellbound Dance Company

Spellbound Dance Company

Satellite Collective at BAM Fisher, Sept. 3-5, 2015….



Seven World Premiere Interdisciplinary Works

at BAM Fisher

September 3-5, 2015

 Esme Boyce in “A Pair of Ideal Landscapes" Photo: Lora Robertson

Esme Boyce in “A Pair of Ideal Landscapes” Photo: Lora Robertson

In its 2nd season at BAM, Satellite Collective seeks to secure its role as a leading voice of interdisciplinary art in New York City. Created specifically for the Fishman Space, Satellite Collective’s Sept. performances will employ the collaborative visions of 29 artists from across the nation.

The evening will premiere post-classical music by four composers, ballet and modern dance works by three choreographers, a new animated set, two new short films, and a spoken work.

Damian Smith, former principal of San Francisco Ballet, is artistic advisor for the program.

Satellite Collective – Photo: Lora Robertson

Satellite Collective – Photo: Lora Robertson

The Evenings Include:

  • “I Can Help You” – spoken word by Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers
  • “SOLO” – a dance work by Devin Alberda of the New York City Ballet
  • “A Pair of Ideal Landscapes” – Dance + Film by Esme Boyce & Lora Robertson with a score by Richie Greene
  • “Water” – a new cello composition by David Moss with soundscape by Richie Greene
  • “Music for Dance” – earthy, dynamic music of the Satellite Ensemble
  • “Edie Leaves Twice” – a short film by Lora Robertson, score by Ellis Ludwig Leone, Libretto by Kevin Drape
  • “Walls Are Here to Fall” – Dance + Multimedia by Manuel Vignoulle , Kevin Draper, Brandon Stirling Baker & Nick Jaina




Sunset, o69 Hours | BalletX during the Joyce Theater’s Ballet Festival, Aug. 11 & 12, 2015….

Ballet X. Sunset o639 Hours. (c)Alexander Iziliaev

Ballet X. Sunset o639 Hours. (c)Alexander Iziliaev

The only thing that can be said, or at least I can say of BalletX and Sunset, o69 Hours, a Co-production by Matthew Neenan and Rosie Langabeer, is that it was odd, strange, puzzling and sometimes perplexing …but without a doubt downright brilliant.

Everything about the production was an unexpected and a very well received surprise, and not just for me. I have been attending performances of at the Joyce for over 30 years…way back when the theater was home to the Eliot Feld Ballet…but I have never witnessed such a standing ovation as was given to BalletX after their performance of Sunset, o69 Hours…literally every single person in the audience were on their feet, applauding, yelling, a few even hooted…

Sunset, o69 Hours, is the tragic tale of the first airmail service flight between Now Zealand and United States that took place in 1938 …air travel in the early parts of the 20th Century were fraught with peril hence the tragedy of the tale. Known for his meticulous attention to safety Captain Edwin Musick and a crew of six were surprised to find that shortly after their departure from Pago Pago an oil leak was discovered. Deciding to dump the fuel and return to Pago Pago for repairs the plane unexpectedly exploded in mid-air, killing all.

Ballet X. Sunset o639 Hours. (c)Alexander Iziliaev

Ballet X. Sunset o639 Hours. (c)Alexander Iziliaev

Now it sounds a bit dreary but the production is anything but. Lighting Designer Drew Billiau and Set Designer Maiko Matsushima must both be commended for creating a world that allows one’s imagination to soar. You experienced the thrill of that period’s cabaret and the crews welcoming after landing in America Samoa and Pago Pago.

The music and/or soundscape was the brilliant invention of Nick Kourtides and Neil Feather. While the New Zealand composer and musician Rosie Langabeer portrayed a cabaret chanteuse whose enchanting voice was a delight…

Interwoven throughout the work are read love letters from that period as well official administrative correspondence concerning the flight and its significance mail delivery world-wide.

Matthew Neenan’s genius shines in his choreographic choices. His approach and use of the body in space is anything but ordinary. The dancers would one moment be moving with assured elegance and then unexpected become birdlike, heads jutting forward, one should raises while the other is lowered. Arms start to swing like propellers of an airplane then bodies lie prone on the floor with the spine arched, arms extended to the side with feet raised as if in mimicry of an airplane in flight.

There is a delightful childlike quality, a seeming innocence if you will, that was found in the piece as if the creators were reminding the audience not to take this too seriously, to just sit back and enjoy. (…I kept expecting a cart to come rolling down the aisle with stewardesses offering beverage choices…)

Ballet X. Sunset o639 Hours. (c)Alexander Iziliaev

Ballet X. Sunset o639 Hours. (c)Alexander Iziliaev

The music is colorful, full of life in and of itself. It is the sounds of the an age, melodic yet percussive and with a hint of Tango here and there.

Everything about the performance of BalletX was superb. Edgar Anido and Richard Villaverde must be commended on their outstanding performances as well as Caili Quan who moved with such delicious lyricism and strength.

Bryan Arias| Solo from Jiří Kylián’s Gods and Dogs….

Dancer: Bryan Arias

Choreography: Jiří Kylián

Music: Alban Berg Quartett

 “String Quartet No.1 in F Op.18 No.1

(1985 Remastered Version):

II. Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato (extract)”

The Joyce Theatre’s Ballet Festival | MOVE: The Company Joshua Beamish & The Chamber Dance Project…

Joshua Beamish, MOVE the company. Joshua Beamish (c)David Cooper

Joshua Beamish, MOVE the company. Joshua Beamish (c)David Cooper

The Joyce Theatre’s Ballet Festival (Aug 4th-16th) presents six young companies that are changing the face of ballet. Each of the six companies will be given two nights to present their work. The festival is a follow up of the highly successful Ballet 6.0 from 2013.

Move: The Company Joshua Beamish opened the performance with excerpts from Mr. Beamish’s 2012 work Pierced. There were two sections shown. First was Little Eye which was a solo for Mr. Beamish and then Pierced, a duet for Sterling Baca and Luciana Paris from American Ballet Theater.

From the onset of Mr. Beamish’s solo you become aware of his unique approach to the body in space. He marries elongated moments, a leg’s prolonged extension, an arm extended as if reaching for infinity, with angular forms. His emotionality is written with in the script of his every movement. His does not expose those inner feelings easily though but only allows a brief momentary glimpse into his inner soul.

But it was the performances of Luciana Paris and Sterling Baca that was the highlight of the evening. The duet is an intelligent and creatively crafted work. The work allowed Ms. Paris to explore and express such deep emotion in her movement. With every breath and exquisitely extended limb you felt her presence. This duet was so remarkable that I can recall it in my mind’s eye with such ease. I felt this work so strong that we, the audience, could have  gone home aware that we had just witnessed a sublime moment in time. Bravo to all involved…

I have only experienced one other work by Mr. Beamish and that was his Conditional Sentences, a duet he created and performed with Ms. Whelan as part of  “Restless Creature” Wendy Whelan I was so startled by the duet between Mr. Beamish and Ms. Whelan that I purposefully did not include it my critique of the evening’s performance. I felt I lacked the proper words to do it full justice.

Joshua Beamish is an artist to watch for he is at the forefront in expanding and redefining what is our concept of ballet. I think his work is post-contemporary, so fresh is his vision. I can only say I look forward to more of his work.

Now, about the Chamber Dance Project.  I so wish I had glowing words to share about their performance. Headed by Diane Coburn Bruning and founded in 2000 the Chamber Dance Project is billed as a summer project company, a renaissance organization of dancers, musicians, and choreographers dedicated to redefining the experience of contemporary ballet.

The program featured a live string quartet, six soloist dancers and three acclaimed choreographers. Ms. Bruning, Darrell Grand Moultrie and Jorge Amarante as well as five New York premieres.

The most memorable event of the evening was by violinists Claudia Chudacoff and Chaerim Smith and their performance of Sergei Prokoviev’s Sonata for Two Violins in C Major, Op 56, Movement IV. Both women are Marines and perform with the White House’s United States Marine Band. I am in no way qualified to critic music but I can say that it was a brilliant performance by both women.

Chamber Dance Project, dancers and musicians. Sur. (c)Paul Wegner

Chamber Dance Project, dancers and musicians. Sur. (c)Paul Wegner

The rest of the performances were just ok, except for the string quartet whose talents I felt somewhat wasted for this performance. The dancers were all exception artists so it was not them that weakened the performance but the choreography presented.

As much as I found Joshua Beamish Move: The Company Joshua Beamish  such a delightful memorable experience, sadly there is little, aside from the appearance of Ms. Chudacoff and Ms. Smith, that I found of great interest for the Chamber Dance Project.