writers on dancing


In brief

Dancing in Westminster Abbey

For a service commemorating the life and work of Alicia Markova at Westminster Abbey on 8 March, the church authorities suggested including a couple of dances—the first time this has happened in the Abbey. The duet from "Giselle" Act 2 and the Prelude solo from "Les Sylphides" were chosen, and so that the whole congregation could see, both were given by different casts on two separate stages. Ballet in the aisles is a first for this national church; will it be the last?—John Percival

In the Russian Tradition

20th Century Russian Paintings from Moscow's State Tertyakov Gallery and Minneapolis's Museum of Russian Art. Smithsonian International Gallery, Washington, DC, USA. December 15, 2004 - March 20, 2005. For the record, since the exhibit is closing, this assembly of paintings refutes the notion that Russian easel art was all uninspired realism during the Communist era. True, the Soviet bureaucracy (and even its Czarist predecessor) supported only realistic work that could readily be seen as pro-State, i.e. paintings that served as propaganda. However, quite a few artists knew how to have their way and yet conform. Some, such as Igor Popov, practiced realism not in a rote manner but exuberantly, flagrantly. Others, like Sergei Gerasimov, were subversive. Gerasimov's 1950 "Evening" is a luminous expanse that could be seen as abstract expressionism except for the minimal indication across a lower portion of the canvas of a horizon with trees and what might be a building. Folk art and folk architecture, because they were unassailable, provided a cover for the experiments of still other painters. There were also artists who produced "public" works to earn a living and "private" ones in order to make life worthwhile. Russian painting during the 20th Century set precedents for stage design, including that which served the Bolshoi and Kirov ballets.—George Jackson

"Dear Bird"

“Dear Bird” (March 19, 848 Divisadero) is a project of two dancer friends, Marielle Amrhein and Christiana Axelsen, who went to college together and now live in San Francisco and Seattle, respectively. Keeping in touch via letters, they co-choreographed what they call “an evening of dance and letters” long distance. Its dozen or so scenes intersperse readings of letters (by Quinlan Corbett) with dance, letter writings, video images and a collaged score that included, among others Puccini and Etta James.

These young women are neither great dancers, nor great choreographers. However, they have imagination, pay attention to detail and know how to use the stage. The piece beautifully captures the kind of friendship that can develop in college as one discovers a kindred spirit just at the moment when the whole world opens up, and life seems full of endless possibilities. “Bird” is sweet but not cloying, simple but not simplistic.

The choreographers divided the stage into two equal parts from down to upstage. On one side everything was kept in blue, the other was in yellow. Letterboxes contain not only letters but props—bits of costumes, flower pots, tiny fish tanks, gift packages—which complemented the simple movement language. Each of the dancer had a solo; Amrhein’s recalled a trip to a nightclub in (I think) Berlin; Axelsen’s was a meditation within a circle of bottles with letters inside them. The idea that separation was natural and necessary for growth was gently reinforced by the accompanying text of Axelsen’s filmed images of migrating birds and fishes. The last image, in which the two women kneeled in front of each other and communicated with delicate but expressive gestures, was the work’s loveliest. It spoke of separateness but also commonality.—Rita Felciano

Alvin Ailey - Love Stories

Saturday afternoon, Rennie Harris' contribution to 2004's "Love Stories" (Robert Battle and Judith Jamison also choreographed) expressed African American cultural genius through a hip hop beat and inflamed an already fiery audience. It was divine, and it was precisely what I wish he did with Puremovement-spoke through the body first and last and allowed theater to follow the movement. When I first saw the Ailey company as a teenager the troupe presented a world where not only the separation of high and low, purity and sex, white and black were banished but were shown to be specious divisions-Ailey, like a brilliant philosopher, demonstrated through dance that those partitions in society were often little more than long-held biases, not truths. The truth as he showed it was electric, beautiful, sexy, multicolored, sometimes dangerous, and never dull. So was Harris' hip hop.—Ann Murphy

Volume 3, No. 12
March 21, 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
Sandi Kurtz
Alexander Meinertz
Tehreema Mitha
Gay Morris
Ann Murphy
Paul Parish
John Percival
Tom Phillips
Susan Reiter
Jane Simpson
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Lisa Traiger
Meital Waibsnaider

Kathrine Sorley Walker
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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 March 21, 2005