writers on dancing


In brief

A Step

Eva Yerbabuena (b. 1970), the Spanish Flamenco diva, is a small dumpling of a woman, who, when the spirit possesses her, can look anywhere from 18 to 68, according to the meter and mood of the dance. The night at City Center recently when I saw her ambitious “5 Mujeres 5” (“5 Women 5”) program—essentially, a 90-minute virtuoso display of Flamenco’s most painful dramatis personae for a woman, unpacked in the presence of eight other dancers (four women and four men), three musicians, three cantaors, and a perambulating soprano—the spirit seemed to have stepped out for the evening, leaving the bailaora to manufacture the look of being possessed entirely from teeth-gritting perseverance. It is on evenings like this, when inspiration has left the building, that technique, alone, has to save a show. Yerbabuena’s technique, especially her footwork, is a wonder of tonal subtlety and rhythmic surprise. Even when her figure and features looked sodden, her steps filled the eye with pristine shapes and the ear with complex percussion. One step I especially loved, from the “Hoyo de la Agujas” section—a Seguiriya (one of the most difficult of Flamenco dances)—looked like the little pawing step that in ballet is called a flic-flac, except that 1) each flic and flac seemed to deliver at least three beats on the floor to ballet’s one, 2) the sound wasn’t a brisk tap, as in ballet, but rather a kind of susurrus, and 3) the heel of the dancer’s supporting leg was drumming a princely tattoo in a different rhythm at the same time. My companion told me that this Flamenco step is called an “escobilla,” a brush. Later, on line, in Oscar Nieto’s Flamenco glossary (, I found a definition of “escobilla”: “a dance step which resembles the sweeping motion of a broom.” In that earnest program about the miseries of a woman’s life, this light-hearted and deliciously fanciful step, for me, was the moment when Cinderella got to go to the ball.—Mindy Aloff

Polly Motley

What goes around, comes around—the navel-gazing performance practices of the seventies, and also, the fascination exerted by the numerical sequence called "The Fibonacci Numbers" (a leaf's elliptical curve explicated in an elegant numerical formula).Polly Motley bases the timing and form of her "Dancing the Numbers" on the numbers, which count among those ingenious and alluring conceits that seem equal parts irrefutable description and philosophical invention. Presented in New York City by Danspace Project as part of the City/Dans series, the slow motion solo piece lasts about 45 minutes, with the slender choreographer performing what transpires as an extended incantatory meditation, with the timing of each section based on the length of the previous sections. (A black knotted rope curved along the floor serves as her path to enlightenment—in this case, the stairs of the beautiful sanctuary of St. Marks Church in-the-Bowery.) There are some interesting tensions exerted—for instance, that between the private ritual and public performance, and between priestess and performer. Motley hails from Nagodoches, Texas, and spent some time in Houston and Austin (also home to Deborah Hay, the leading exponent of this groovy genre) before moving to Colorado, home of the Naropa Institute. She dresses in a simple tank top and cropped black trousers with legs of different widths (lending an Asian flavor, somehow), and a cool blonde haircut, and she looks really fabulous. Thus you conclude that what she does—a Butoh meets Buddha meets Rocky Mountain High species of flexed foot, orchidaceous Tai Chi-looking exotica, with a certain erotic undercurrent and a lot of recurrence–is probably good for you. I tried it when I got home, and afterwards fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.—Nancy Dalva

photo credit: Dania Pettus

Carla Körbes

When Peter Martins created “Concerto for Two Solo Pianos” for the 1982 Stravinsky Festival it was seen as a study of his muse at the time, Heather Watts. It showed Watts at her best—thorny, intelligent and oddly vulnerable. Alexandra Ansanelli stepped into the role in last year’s revival and the work came off less convincingly. The angular quality of Watts was there, but so were coquettish looks and gestures that seemed out of place. Carla Körbes, who missed most of the winter season, replaced Ansanelli in the New York City Ballet’s Saturday matinee at the New York State Theater and the piece again became a portrait of a very compelling woman. Körbes is on the other side of the spectrum of the wiry Watts. The blonde Brazilian is often mentioned in the same breath as American Ballet Theatre’s Veronika Part and Monique Meunier as three of the most beautiful but underused ballerinas in town. Like those two, Körbes, whose costume was changed from a revealing white unitard to a more flattering one in black, is all rounded edges. In "Concerto," she's a woman on the verge, but a woman on the verge of something exciting, interesting and thoughtful. While she tried the quirky steps on for size as she danced alone or with partners Ask La Cour and Amar Ramasar, Körbes highlighted the dance hall music elements hidden in the Stravinsky score, shimmying her shoulders as if in a nightclub. At the end, she collapsed in the arms of La Cour and Ramasar, tired from her self-exploration.—Dale Brauner

Volume 3, No. 6
February 7, 2005


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Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
Mary Cargill
Christopher Correa
Clare Croft
Nancy Dalva
Rita Felciano
Marc Haegeman
George Jackson
Gia Kourlas
Alan M. Kriegsman
Sali Ann Kriegsman
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Meital Waibsnaider

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The Autumn Issue of DanceView is OUT! (Our subscription link is working again, so it's easy to subscribe on line!)

Robert Greskovic reviews two new DVDs of Fonteyn dancing "Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella"

Mary Cargill on last summer's Ashton Celebration

Profile of Gililian Murphy, reviews of the ABT Spring season, springtime in Paris, reports from London and San Francisco

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last updated on February 7, 2005