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writers on dancing


 Volume 1, Number 2   October 6 , 2003            An online supplement to DanceView magazine

The American Forsythe

Ballett Frankfurt
Brooklyn Academy of Music
September 30-October 5, 2003

By Nancy Dalva
Copyright ©2003 by Nancy Dalva

Native son William Forsythe returned to New York City this week, to warm acclaim. The four performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music were the last here for the Frankfurt Ballet, which will disband next summer after a final American tour. Having fallen out with the city burghers, the maverick Forsythe, who has for some twenty years directed his troupe under Frankfurt's sponsorship, will then move on. (Though perhaps not far. At press time, he had any number of balls in the air, including regrouping under a new banner in Frankfurt itself.) Like that other prodigal, Mark Morris, who made rude remarks about Belgian royalty and Bejart and was booted out of Brussels, Forsythe has only gained in American affection from his recent political difficulties abroad. With interesting synchronicity, the program he brought here, four works new to New York, was distinctively American looking, while usually what one sees of Forsythe here looks European.
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Letter from New York

6 October 2003
By Mindy Aloff
Copyright ©2003 by
Mindy Aloff

William Forsythe has been here all week with the Ballett Frankfurt, for performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and talks around town. The program at BAM was a surprise, at least for me: all-dancing, from curtain to curtain; no harangues in a fractured polyglot tongue; scores from Thom Willems, Forsythe’s longtime composer, that were completely appropriate to the stage action; and choreography that seemed to have themes and a focus that even a lumpkin like me, who gave up trying to penetrate the works of Jacques Derrida and Theodor Adorno 20 years ago, could grasp. It may be that the concentration on dancing to put over the theatrical ideas made it possible to see what those ideas are and to appreciate the relationship between the individual phrases that the dancers contribute to the work and the larger editorial shaping and control that Forsythe exerts in the studio and through his customarily brilliant lighting designs. These were works that didn’t look as if they had to prove anything, or compete for something, or impose themselves in order to be recognized. They were dances in the presence of skillfully-designed particles of sound, performed by brilliant movers, and it was pleasant to be in their company for an evening.
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Monk by Sara Shelton Mann
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
October 2, 2003

By Rita Felciano
© 2003

If you are a fan of Contraband, be prepared, Contraband is dead. The rowdy, rough-not-only-at-the edges ensemble that starting in the 80s tried—and succeeded—to create powerful dance theater pieces, is gone. In its stead, there is a new Contraband, though still under the aegis of founding artistic director Sara Shelton Mann. Yet it has almost nothing to do with that gloriously daring, nothing is impossible group of artists that rocked the Bay Area for more than a decade. I wish this was a case of “Contraband is dead, long live Contraband.” It’s not.

The new Contraband is more like pick-up ensemble of independent, very diverse dancers most of whom have their own ensemble, who got together to work with Mann on her latest project Monk. Yannis Adoniou is a ballet dancer; Ramon Ramos Alayo trained in Afro Cuban; José Navarrete among others is a tango dancer; Marintha Tewksbury, Kathleen Hermesdorf and Leslie Seiters express themselves through release and contact improv. They bring their own skills to this project but conceptually this Monk belongs to Mann.
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Monk by Sara Shelton Mann
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
October 2, 2003

By Ann Murphy
copyright Ann Murphy

Twenty years ago I was wildly irritated by dance experts who said dance was dead. How arrogant, I thought. Cycling, yes; dance, like history, has cycles, and in the 80's it was leaving its phase of full houses and hot tickets—part of a dance mania that accompanied the spandexification of America—for a more desultory, confused period. Life is like that. And yet, it's also true that certain dance styles can die, trends turn moribund, eras come to an end.

Monk, Sara Shelton Mann's multi-year choreographic project, which opened in its final form Friday at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, was an evening of dance composed of serialized fragments I feel I've already seen dozens of times in dozens of places—and never in the same place twice. With Monk Shelton Mann reaches for something epic, something to encapsulate our age, but instead comes up with a dozen threads that together never find their weave, never enlighten, and never lead us to that underground river, whether of the unconscious or of time, on which all the flotsam and jetsam of life flows. She believes in the river and she doesn't, and in the end it is her inability to trust that something transcendent binds life, which leaves us with the same kind of undigested fragmentation that constitutes life's daily grind.
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Something For Everyone

Washington Ballet
October 2-5, 2003
Eisenhower Theater
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

By Alexandra Tomalonis
© 2003

The ballet audience is becoming more and more fractured, one reads. It’s difficult for companies to come up with repertory that will please many different tastes. Washington Ballet has its older fans, who remember the Choo-San Goh years and would like to see some of Goh’s works again. The company also wants to reach out to a new audience, too, and, it seems from recent offerings, to balletomanes and families as well. Artistic Director Septime Webre chose a line up of ballets for the company’s season opener that hit all the bases, then threw in a couple more for good measure: a Choo-San Goh revival; one of William Forsythe’s most popular works; a story ballet with a ballerina in a tutu and kids in the crowd scene; a new pas de deux (by Webre); and a solo choreographed and danced by company member Jason Hartley. It all seemed put together from an audience response survey, and so it’s not surprising that the program didn’t jell. Perhaps because the dancers were pulled in so many directions, the program lacked the powerful wallop of last season’s opener, but there was much good dancing from different casts on Thursday and Friday nights.
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Reunion on Ice

15th Anniversary Reunion Celebration
Mt. Pleasant Ice Arena, Baltimore
September 27, 2003

By George Jackson
© 2003

For those with faith in figure skating as art, not just sport, these are lean years. It seems just yesterday that every ice skater wanted to become an "ice dancer"—the term favored by John Curry, who set the example. Today, there's not enough of an audience for what Curry envisioned—substantial companies presenting serious choreography performed by balletically trained skaters. His own company lasted only a few seasons. Afterwards, on occasion, he appeared with The Next Ice Age, a small but elegant group established 15 years ago in Baltimore by two of his former ice dancers—Nathan Birch and Tim Murphy.
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A: Carlotta Sagna's inside-out dance-theater

Choreography and text by Carlotta Sagna
The Kitchen
October 1-4, 2003

By Meital Waibsnaider
Copyright ©2003 by Meital Waibsnaider

Part rehearsal-on-display, part modern-dance performance and part late-night confessional, Carlotta Sagna's A explored performers' psyches while humorously toying with audience expectations. In a jumble of a show that touched on many aspects of performing and living, small kernels of truth shone throughout.
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Controlled Complexity

Dance Place, Washington, DC
Saturday, October 4, 2003

By George Jackson
© 2003

The audience for LEVYdance's visit differed from the one which had come to Dance Place's Washington women's program a week earlier. This was a younger public, college age and casually dressed. Women and men were about equal in number, and the ambience was easy, not competitive at all. I was there the second of the two nights but was told that the opening night crowd was similar, a bit more charged perhaps because it was the opening. This engagement wasn't the San Francisco Bay Area based Benjamin Levy's DC debut. He and his work, though not his full company, have been seen here before and already had attracted something of a following.
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Mindy Aloff
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