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writers on dancing


 Volume 1, Number 6   November 3, 2003            An online supplement to DanceView magazine

[A red headline indicates that an article has been added since the Monday edition went on line.]

Living History

A Lifetime in Dance; Frederic Franklin
Barnard College
New York, NY
October 22 and 26, 2003

By Dale Brauner
copyright © 2003 by Dale Brauner

The preservation of choreography is still mostly dependant on the passage of information from one dancer to another. Ballets go in and out of fashion, sometimes disappearing from rotation after only a few performances for reasons other than the merits of the work. Choreographers have a habit of moving on to the next work and those who have seen forget or die. For this and many reasons, ballet is lucky to have Frederic Franklin.

Franklin, now 89, was both witness to and participant in ballet history. Known for his 30-year association with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and his partnership with prima ballerina Alexandra Danilova, the Liverpool, England-born dancer not only performed almost all the prestigious roles in ballet, but was there at the creation of works by Leonide Massine, George Balanchine, Frederick Ashton, Agnes de Mille and Bronislava Nijinska. Franklin’s talent was such that 45 principal roles were created on him, including the Baron in Gaite Parisienne by Massine and the Champion Roper in Rodeo by de Mille.
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"Oh, Brad. They're dancing in the galleries!"

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

October 25 2003

By Lisa Traiger
Copyright ©2003 by Lisa Traiger

"Oh, Brad! They're dancing in the galleries!" And why shouldn't they? Dance, that is. In the galleries. In the streets. On stages. Off stages. Anywhere there's a space for people to gather and move, to create a community of body and spirit, there should be room for dance. That's what I've learned from Liz Lerman.

Saturday one of Washington's august spaces for contemporary art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, opened its doors and its galleries for Lerman's Dance Exchange to dance in, to explore the art and the art spaces. And, oh my, what an hour it was.
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Letter from New York

3 November 2003.
Copyright © 2003 by Mindy Aloff

Jinx Falkenburg, one of the pioneers of live talk on television, estimated that, during the 1940s and ‘50s—when she was producing two radio shows and a live t.v. show daily, five days a week, with her husband, Tex McCrary—she conducted over 16,000 interviews. Many of them were with political figures, such as Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon. Some were with intellectuals, such as Albert Einstein. And thousands were with entertainers, among them, Fred Astaire, whom Jinx interviewed while dancing with him. Among the youngsters on the production crew for these programs were William Safire and Barbara Walters, who closely studied Jinx’s interviewing style and went on to incorporate it into her own way of approaching subjects on camera.

Journalist; cover girl; movie starlet (she played a bit part in the Gene Kelly-Stanley Donen movie Cover Girl, whose script was based on her own career); champion swimmer, tennis player, and golfer—Jinx only danced for pleasure. She was never formally trained. However, her lanky frame (5’9” or so), intense athletic discipline, perfect posture, and lush, high-boned beauty gave her the look of a dancer. Had her life taken a different turn, she might well have been a great one. Two weeks before her death, on August 27th of this year, she excavated several publicity photos taken of her on the set of Tahiti Nights, a hapless movie from 1945. One shows her in a vivid leap, somewhere between a saut de chat and a grand jeté; another shows her poised in sous-sus on high, 7/8th point, her legs pulled up like the stems of martini glasses—each producing one smoothly continuous line that might have been drawn by Al Hirschfeld.
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Catch up on past Letters you may have missed.

Fragile—Engaging, but Slow

K. Kvarnstrom & Co.
San Francisco Performances
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
San Francisco, Caliifornia
October 30, 2003

by Rita Felciano
Copyright ©2003 by Rita Felciano

Watching Fragile, Kenneth Kvarnstrom’s engagingly physical quintet from 2001, felt like entering a public space full of people whose language you did not understand. While perfectly civil, they were so completely focused on each other that they turned a public into a private event.

In this hour-long discursion of movement possibilites, the Finnish-born Swedish resident, who, starting this January will dissolve his company to take on the directorship of Stockholm’s renowned Dansens Hus, invites you to watch but does not seem particularly interested in projecting a unified whole. Given the fact that the performance takes place in a proscenium theater, this may sound like a contradiction in terms. But the work doesn’t roll along an identifiable trajectory. Loosely structured, it meanders with the dancers looking to each other for cues, for feedback, for energy. One gets a sense that this process would be going on even if we were not there. There is but the barest sense that Fragile has a beginning and an end. The piece ends with the light (discrete but excellent design throughout by Maria Ros) coming down on a single dancer as if she was trying to finish a phrase not yet completed.
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"I Am, and Will Always Be, a Hoofer"

Career Transition for Dancers' Ninth Annual Gala
City Center
New York, NY
October 27, 2003

By Susan Reiter
Copyright © 2003 by Susan Reiter

Coherence is not usually a term one associates with gala evenings, with their hodge-podge of specialty acts and their dominance by star turns. But this year's Career Transition for Dancers annual gala took the theme of paying tribute to dance in Hollywood films and stuck to it in a smooth-running, intelligently organized program that covered all the bases—without showing a single film clip.

The clever premise was to introduce each program segment with a Hollywood veteran (or two), whose career had a connection to the ensuing number . This worked very well when, for instance, Russ Tamblyn and George Chakiris—the Riff and Bernardo of the 1961 West Side Story film—came out to reminisce about the making of the film, leading into an excerpt of from New York City Ballet's dynamic West Side Story Suite.
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Emotional Highs

Joyce Theater
New York, NY
October 26, 2003

By Susan Reiter
Copyright © 2003 by Susan Reiter

The underlying sense of impassioned spirituality that underlies Ronald K. Brown's work tends to evoke a powerful response in audiences, but it can also be problematic. He creates dances that allude to a higher purpose, using a blend of African-inspired movement and club-dancing sensuality, and they make a strong impact on an emotional level. His Grace (1999) for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater tends to leave audiences ecstatic, but while it a rich display of luscious movement, it creates what amounts to a cheap high, greatly buoyed by some luscious music.

The latest program his company brought to the Joyce offered a great deal of wonderful dancing, earnestly presented and propelled by noble or spiritual intentions. But it revealed the weaknesses of Brown's choreography, which assembles some blazing and thrilling passages of movement but doesn't always have a structure or coherent plan behind it.
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McKerrow's Powerful Hagar, and an Extraordinary Debut

Master Works Program
Diversion of Angels/Symphonic Variations/Pillar of Fire/Raymonda
American Ballet Theatre
City Center
New York, NY
November 5, 2003

by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2003 by Mary  Cargill

The center piece of the ABT season is the revival of Antony Tudor’s Pillar of Fire, staged by Donald Mahler. Three Hagars shared the six performances, and Amanda McKerrow gave her first New York performance (and next to last one, too, if rumors of her retirement are true; she repeats the role Friday night) on November 5. McKerrow had worked extensively with Tudor on the part of the Younger Sister, so her performance was greatly anticipated by the eager audience. It was, I would suspect, one of the last chances to see a dancer who had actually worked with one of the great 20th century choreographers.
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ABT's Innovative Works Program is a Popular Hit

Innovative Works
American Ballet Theatre
City Center
New York, NY
November 4, 2003

by Eric Taub
copyright © 2003 by Eric Taub

I suppose if I were running a big, world-class ballet company, I might be tempted to put on an evening much like ABT's "Innovative Works." Let's show the world that ballet isn't all tutus and tiaras, that ballet can be deconstructed, unconstructed and reconstructed to appeal to a "younger" crowd, preferably in settings that allow the dancers to show off how powerfully they can contort themselves, and how enticingly they can fill out a unitard. I might even succumb, and would that necessarily be a bad thing? The big, and very enthusiastic crowd at City Center Tuesday night wouldn't have thought so. As Kevin McKenzie has seemed so far quite intent on borrowing the Joffrey Ballet's very successful "old-new-borrowed-blue" repertory formula, I was a little surprised at the homogeneity of ABT's programming this season—all the slinky moderne works on one night, all the Old Masters on another, etc. This is clearly a departure from the Joffrey formula, yet, in an age where the three-ballet evening tends to be Programming Death, McKenzie might be onto something. Or perhaps anything works if you have enough guys who can jump and turn.
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Flying Panthers and Other Wonders

Family Friendly Matinees
American Ballet Theatre
City Center
New York, NY
November 1 and 2, 2003

by Eric Taub
copyright © 2003 by Eric Taub

There were so many big, dramatic stories last weekend at ABT it's hard to know where to begin. With Craig Salstein's wonderful last-minute substitution for an injured Angel Corella in Fancy Free, after having danced the difficult role of the Devil in Three Virgins and a Devil not once, but twice that day? With Ashley Tuttle bouncing back from a near-mauling at the hands of Herman Cornejo in Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with a strong and gutsy rendition of her solo? With Gillian Murphy settling down a skittish David Hallberg in his debut in Theme and Variations, and, perhaps not coincidentally, delivering the best performance I've seen from her in Theme? With Paloma Herrera's somnolent Theme, and her Aurora-like awakening in Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with the pantherish (if panthers could fly) Carlos Acosta? Or perhaps with Irina Dvorovenko's never-to-be-forgotten send-up of every diva-ballerina-assoluta curtain call you've ever seen, dreamed or had a nightmare about, after a side-splitting performance of Le Grand Pas de Deux (about which I'm about to eat some crow) with Maxim Belotserkovsky?
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ABT City Center Season

Week Two

Dorian—Not Quite Wilde Enough

Contamporary Works Program
American Ballet Theatre
City Center
New York, NY
October 30, 2003

by Gia Kourlas
copyright © 2003 by Gia Kourlas

If nothing else, American Ballet Theatre’s fall season proves that when critics declare that William Forsythe is the antichrist of ballet, they really mean Jiri Kylian. It’s always better to try something and fail, as Forsythe is apt to do. Kylian, however, invents serviceable dances that include the same basic traits: Mickey Mousing the music note for note; the addition of props, however incongruous; Martha Graham contractions; and meaningless gesture as a way to jazz up classical vocabulary. I’m not sure when covering the eyes with the fingertips became accepted as a part of the ballet idiom, but judging by Kylian (and that of his adoring imitators, Nacho Duato and Stanton Welch) it is as crucial as the arabesque.
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Settling in to the Master Works
[reprinted from the midweek Extra]

Master Works Program
American Ballet Theatre
City Center, NYC
October 26 evening, 2003

by  Eric Taub
copyright ©2003 by Eric Taub

On paper, ABT's Master Works program sounds fantastic, given the choreographic masters represented: Sir Frederick Ashton, Martha Graham, Antony Tudor and Marius Petipa. Not too shabby, as they say. It is a bit odd, however, that the company looked more at home in Graham's Diversion of Angels than the three "real" ballets. Not that the dancers looked particularly ill at ease in the other works, but rather that, while one might reasonably expect that a ballet company must find its own path with a modern dance work, particularly such good, old-fashioned idiosyncratic modern dance as Graham's, the same can't really be said for works by ballet choreographers, even ones as diverse as these, and here, although the ABT dancers usually gave clear and strong renditions of the overall choreography, they were less consistent in presenting the unique, subtle perfume of each of these distinctive and truly masterful works—not that ABT, and Kevin McKenzie, shouldn't be commended for trying.
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Borris Willis Moves
(Presented by Dance Place and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)
Dance Place
Washington, DC
October 25-26, 2003

By Mary Tisa
Copyright © 2003
Mary  Tisa

Boris Willis is an intensely physical artist. His work explores physical relationships, his unique movement vocabulary pushes the limits of the human body, and his duets are held together by a compelling physical attraction that is especially effective when he dances with founding member Cynthia McLaughlin. While Willis’s physical power is what distinguishes him as a performer, his young company is not yet at his level. At times, underneath the flying foot work and the daring contact improv freezes, a distracting lack of cohesion mars the flow of the pieces and the connections between the dancers. At present, the company's strength is that it brings a much needed voice of immediacy to contemporary issues of the world and matters of the human heart. .
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This weeks' articles


Mindy  Aloff's Letter from New York

The Balanchine Celebration
New York City Ballet:
A Veteran and a Raw Recruit
by Mindy Aloff

Heart and Soul
by Mary Cargill

Kid Stuff
Cas Public's If You Go Down To the Woods Today
by Susan Reiter

San Francisco Ballet:
New Wheeldon (Rush)
by Rita Felciano

New Tomasson (7 For Eight)
by Paul Parish

Possokhov's New Firebird for OBT
by Rita Felciano

Moscow Festival Ballet and Scott Wells
by Paul Parish

Hamburg Ballet's Nijinsky:
Nijinsky—Lost in the Chaos
by Clare Croft

NijinskyMadness and Metaphor
by Alexandra Tomalonis

Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes
by George Jackson

Batsheva: Breaking Down Walls
by Lisa Traiger

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence
by Clare Croft

Choreographers Showcase
by Tehreema Mitha

Zoltan Nagy
by George Jackson






Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
Mary Cargill
Clare Croft
Nancy Dalva
Rita Felciano
Lynn Garafola
Marc Haegeman
Rachel Howard
George Jackson
Gia Kourlas
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Jean Battey Lewis
Alexander Meinertz
Tehreema Mitha
Gay Morris
Ann Murphy
Paul Parish
Susan Reiter
Jane Simpson
Alexandra Tomalonis(Editor)
Lisa Traiger
Meital Waibsnaider


The Autumn DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's Spring 2003 season reviewed by Gia Kourlas

An interview with the Kirov Ballet's Daria Pavlenko by Marc Haegeman

Reviews of San Francisco Ballet (by Rita Felciano) and Paris Opera Ballet (by Carol Pardo)

The ballet tradition at the Metropolitan Opera (by Elaine Machleder)

Reports from London (Jane Simpson) and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano).

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last updated on October 27, 2003 -->