writers on dancing


In brief

San Francisco Ballet

Repeat visits to SanFrancisco Ballet confirmed the feeling that Mark Morris's "Maelstrom" is a mysterious and beautiful ballet, perhaps the greatest new ballet of the last ten years. The relation of the movement to the music is profound, intimate, and strange—the dancers seem to be swimming in it. Sarah van Patten was only one of many who seemed to be ennobled by it.

The ballet has a fascinating relatoin of tension and quiet; the phrases are allowed to come to rest, which gives a sense of satisfaction, of completion, but there is also a good deal of disturbance. In the adage the violin, cello, and piano echo and amplify a melody which contains a small lacy ornament, and as they stretch it a whole world of emotion unfolds. In the stage picture there is a distinctive way the dancer's body "breaks" on an "odd" note just after the ornament. Morris has two ways of doing it, for a dancer without a partner, they do a double ronde-de jambe en l'air and on the extension suddenly flex the foot, breaking from ecarte to efface; for dancers with partners, they're on pointe, the standing knee bends and the angle changes (is it to efface? I can't remember, I just remember the way hte light hits them changes suddenly as the configuration changes, and then that position gets promenaded)—it is SO beautiful, and SO appropriate to the quality of the music.

The other news is that Nicolas Blanc danced the Bugle Boy in Taylor's "Company B" better than any of us have a right to see it. I am lost in admiration. Blanc has the requisite hilarity in his own temperament, which none of our other exponents have had, that make his gaiety seem both natural and god-like. Every throw-away gesture was just as clear as the big steps; it was as though he was making the dance up himself as he went. Danilova could not have been more fun.—Paul Parish

2005 Choreographer's Showcase

For this 22nd iteration of the Maryland/National Capital Park & Planning Commission event, two adjudicators looked at 60+ entries and selected seven for the showcase. The current adjudicators, Purchase College's Kevin Wynn and Ailey/Juilliard dance educator JoAnna Mendl Shaw, had been chosen by NCPP&PC's Chrystel Stevens. Four of the seven works were fairly familiar to DC dance audiences: "In the Blink of an Eye" by videographer Gail Scott White and choreographer Jane Franklin; the semiballetic, mimetic "Suitcase" duo by Vladimir Angelov; "Greetings from Goshen Pass" by Arachne Arts's aerialists Andrea Chastant and Sharon Witting; and one portion of "A Deafening Joy", Ruben Graciani's cheeky Dvorak marathon. New hereabouts were two solos and a sextet. Jeanine Durning's "Part One: Parting" pointed a spotlight at someone grotesque. The soloist, Sandra Lacy, appeared totally misdressed: drooping red dress with wilted corsage on her solid torso and klutzy orange shoes with ankle socks on her muscular legs. Undoubtedly, her hairpins showed too. She looked shell-shocked yet angry, like a visitor from Dogpatch who has tried to crash a cocktail party and been barred by the butler. Tight knit muscular movement and emphatic phrasing intensified Durning's portrait of this woman who is hopelessly out-of-place. Yet, as Lacy strode and stopped to thrust what seemed gigantic hands into a hostile beam of light, the misfit gained a sort of dignity and finally evoked sympathy. The other solo, "all I could do ..." (to a bluesy Etta James vocal) was about the shy opposite of the Durning/Lacy character, but the reticence grew gimmicky for Elisha T. Clark, who is an agile mover. In the group work, "In Plaster", Meisha Bosma took off from poet Sylvia Plath's concept of the alter-ego, the sibling rival, the changeling twin. Three pairs of women—gymnastically clad, and placed and moved in a manner lightly reminiscent of the Greek games—established, developed and, as the Philip Glass music surged, partly liberated themselves from the duality idea. Both Durning and Bosma dealt seriously with choreographic development, often neglected these days.—George Jackson
Dance Theatre, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
The University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
February 26, 2005
Photo of Ruben Graciana by Stan Barouch


Christopher Wheeldon's dark, brooding "Shambards" (NYCB, February 26 matinee) is hardly an obvious choice to open a matinee, but it is such an authoritatively made, thought-provoking ballet that it can grab the attention at any point on a program. With the spare intensity and coiled tension of his most recent work, "After the Rain," still resonating in my mind, I was eager for a second look at "Shambards," which made a strong but curious impression when NYCB introduced it last May. His first work to a commissioned score, it seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder, thanks to the wildly changing moods of James MacMillan's score. It ranges from jaunty evocations of Scottish reels to dense, haunting passages suggesting tragedy and doom—sometimes shifting back and forth between them arbitrarily. The barely discernible scenery—a blurry view of what looks like think heather in the mist—at times emerges more clearly, with its tint shaded to match the dominant costumes onstage, and for the verging-on-melodrama finale, it glows blood red. I can't quite figure "Shambards" out yet, but I'm fascinated by its mysteries. Why is Miranda Weese, in the haunting extended second-movement duet with Jock Soto, wearing a tulle skirt, when everyone else in the ballet is in sleek attire that announces "this is a contemporary ballet"? She seems to be a woman approaching—or perhaps yearning for—death, and Soto, in a particularly sharply focused performance, seems to be its emissary. The culmination of the duet certainly is reminiscent of "La Valse," so perhaps the magenta layer of tulle is an homage to that work. The third movement is usually a showcase for two springy couples, but on this occasion an injury to Joaquin de Luz, shortly before the performance, meant that it featured a solo couple, Ashley Bouder and Daniel Ulbricht. Instead of opening with a male duet, it had Ulbricht emerging alone out of the darkness and seizing the stage with incredibly powerful but buoyant leaps, carving through space with knife-edge precision, in what became, by default, an applause-generating solo turn. Whatever rearrangements were necessary had been made so that the ballet proceeded smoothly to its conclusion despite the absence. Hopefully, there will be plenty of future occasions to see this intriguing, sophisticated work with its full cast.—Susan Reiter

Volume 3, No. 9
February 28, 2005


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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 January31, 2005