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 Volume 1, Number 7  November 10, 2003            An online supplement to DanceView magazine

ABT's City Center Season

Letter from New York

10 November 2003.

American Ballet Theatre is winding up its fall season at City Center as I write, and although the company still looks imbalanced in favor of its men, it does seem to be trying to strengthen its repertory for the women, and one could discover a host of brilliant performances on both sides of the gender gap. To my eye, the most memorable ballerina triumph was Amanda McKerrow’s debut as Hagar in Tudor’s Pillar of Fire. McKerrow didn’t perform steps; she built a character. From the opening moments, sitting alone on the steps of her house, her limbs trapped shut as her face began to open, her dance-acting sustained a subtle tension and an animal intuition that gave the impression she was living the role. It isn’t clear how long McKerrow will stay with A.B.T.: she has publicly voiced dissatisfaction that she isn’t given enough to do there, and the programs bear her out. This season, in addition to two performances as Hagar, she danced one performance of the adagio from Tudor’s The Leaves Are Fading with her husband, former A.B.T. soloist John Gardner. (Tudor, himself, coached her in this role.) McKerrow is the finest stylist in the title role of Giselle the company has, yet she rarely gets to dance that at the Met, where A.B.T. programs its evening-length classics. At City Center, where it can take more chances with new works and older repertory that would be swallowed up in the vastness of the Lincoln Center theater, McKerrow’s name is still rare on the bill. Among recent guest choreographers, only Mark Morris, in Gong, has seemed willing to use her; he did so with insight, presenting her in a landscape of snowy reverence that showcased her meditative spirit and crystalline execution of the classical vocabulary. As her Hagar showed, McKerrow speaks more dance languages than that of pure classicism, however it is true that she has to be presented in a special context, where her silvery style and filament silhouette register as positive qualities. At this point, A.B.T. offers few ballets of any kind in which the aristocratic elements of McKerrow’s mastery wouldn’t get lost. Balanchine’s Theme and Variations and Ashton’s Symphonic Variations would seem obvious candidates. Both enjoyed marvelous productions this season, all casts triumphant. However, she wasn’t chosen for either of them. (For comments by A.B.T. ballet master Kirk Peterson, who restaged Theme and Variations for the company this past summer, please scroll down.)
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past Letters by Mindy  Aloff

ABT Winds Down with Fireworks, But Dorian Still Seems Silly

Contemporary Works and Family Friendly Matinee
American Ballet Theater
City Center
New York, NY
November 6 and 9, 2003
by Eric Taub

You have to love kiddie matinees. At last Sunday's Family Friendly matinee (the last of ABT's very successful season at City Center), I couldn't help but overhear (along with half the people in my row) the tyke behind me exclaim to her mother as Marcelo Gomes danced the pas de deux in Fancy Free with Julie Kent, "Mommy, he's wearing a thong under his pants. I can see it!" During Gomes' rendition of the third sailor's rhumba, this budding dance critic delivered the verdict: "That's disgusting!" (Considering what kids are exposed to on TV every night, this seems a bit extreme.)

In Theme and Variations, Michele Wiles danced with the strength and generosity she's shown throughout this season. She's not a retiring waif, and this ballet calls for a dancer with presence and brilliant technique, both of which she has in spades, as shown in her big pas de chats and her emphatic stabbing of her toe into the stage in her second solo.
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[Reprinted from last week's midweek updates:]

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

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

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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Quick links to previous reviews:

Opening night - Fall Gala by Eric Taub

First Master Works Program - Mindy Aloff

First Innovative Works Program - Gia Kourlas

Family Friendly Matinee - Eric Taub

Master Works - cast changes - Eric Taub

Contemporary Works Program - Gia Kourlas

Staging Martha Graham's Celebration

An Interview with Yuriko

By Mindy Aloff
Copyright ©2003 by Mindy Aloff

Among Barbara Morgan’s very greatest images of the Martha Graham Dance Company are the handful of her ensemble, rocketing in synch, from Celebration (given its première in 1934, photographed sometime between 1936 and 1941). Graham, herself, is nowhere to be seen; she never performed in the dance. Some of those who did, though, have recorded their experiences, which might lead one to think that the dance consisted of jumping from beginning to end. (Various estimates put the number of jumps in it at around 150.) “It was sensational because we jumped the whole time,” May O’Donnell told critic Tobi Tobias in 1981. In Robert Tracy’s Goddess: Martha Graham’s Dancers Remember, Pearl Lang recalls that “the technique is very difficult. They used to teach the difficult jumps from Celebration in class.” Jane Dudley, also interviewed by Tracy, remembered: “When I was asked to join Martha’s company, I had to learn Martha’s dance Celebration, which nearly killed me. The fact is, enthusiastic as I was, and with as well-endowed a body [as] I had, I wasn’t prepared for the stamina a dancer needed for Celebration.” An especially vivid account is Bonnie Bird’s, in her memoir Bird’s Eye View: Dancing with Martha Graham and on Broadway:

“In 1933 Martha choreographed Celebration, a marvelously energetic dance suggestive of atoms and molecules rebounding to and fro, being propelled in space. We ran backward with tiny steps on half-toe, knees straight, similar to bourrées, which created a feeling of vibratory momentum. I jumped in the center of the group until my legs ached. Others split off like frecrackers spewing out in different directions. The dance was impersonal, yet exciting, and we all loved it. The fact that we danced Celebration with impassive faces was puzzling to people in the audience. Martha had expunged smiling long before this.”
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[The following articles originally appeared in last week's midweek Extra edition and are republished here.]

Living History

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

"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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Daria Pavlenko triumphs at Covent Garden

La Bayadère
Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
London, U.K.
31 October 2003
By Marc Haegeman

The Royal Ballet opened its 2003-2004 season - the first under the autonomous directorship of Monica Mason - with a revival of Natalia Makarova’s production of La Bayadère. As the first full-length version of Marius Petipa’s timeless chef-d’oeuvre seen in the West, this Bayadère, complete with Makarova’s conjectural reconstruction of the 4th Act, acquired a certain status of historical significance. First performed by American Ballet Theatre in 1980, the Royal Ballet acquired La Bayadère in 1989 and has now danced it almost 80 times at the Royal Opera House.
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Plucky Oakland Ballet Snaps Back

Program II
Oakland Ballet
Paramount Theater
Oakland, California
November 7, 2003
By Paul Parish

Although it was not a great evening at the ballet, there were several truly beautiful moments at last Friday's performance at the Paramount Theater of Oakland Ballet's Program II. This was a mixed rep show that had been postponed, due to weak ticket sales—it had been scheduled to run in October—and was doubled up with Program III, which finished out the weekend. Everything that was lovely happened before the intermission.

Three short pieces formed the first half—a pas de quatre, a pas de trois, and a pas de deux, each one interesting, distinctive, musical, and beautifully danced. The finale was a deconstruction of Revelations, to deconstructed Gospel music that had only a fabulous lighting system (by Michael Korsch) and some sexy costumes going for it. THe dancers knocked themselves out trying to do Dwight Rhoden's thankless choreography, but they didn't get the hang of it—if there is a hang to get. More of that anon.
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A Sensual Intellect at Play

Nejla Y. Yatkin / NY2 Dance & Guests
Dance Place
Washington, DC
Saturday, November 8, 2003
by George Jackson

Nejla Yatkin brings to the stage an exotic air, an erotic note and an artistic intellect that's stiletto sharp. Even in something so modern dance classical as Chaconne, the solo to Bach violin music that Jose Limón choreographed for himself in 1942, Yatkin's qualities were apparent. Surprisingly, they didn't seem impositions in this context but functioned in harmony with the human nobility and sense of duty to art that Limon likely wanted to convey. After all, back when Chaconne was new, Limón himself was an unusual import and, for a male, an exceptionally sensual figure on the American stage. When Baryshnikov danced this solo here a couple of seasons ago, one became aware of his superb precision, phrasing and dynamic but the only life traits were the nobility and duty
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Ice Moves

Ice Theatre of New York
Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers
New York, NY
November 7, 2003
By Susan Reiter

Usually it is a premiere that attracts primary critical interest, but on the occasion of Ice Theatre of New York's 2003 Home Season, it was a 25-year-old work that was the most notable, successful and newsworthy item on the briskly-paced hour-and-a-half program.

Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux created Ice Moves for John Curry's 1978 "Ice Dancing" program, a forerunner of the John Curry Skating Company, the full flowering of his vision that existed for two brief, magical years, 1984-85. Ice Theatre of New York was founded by Moira North in the same year as Curry's troupe, with a shared aim of extending the artistic possibilities of figure skating.
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Stylish Remakes of Famous Scores

Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre
Presented by Cal Performances
Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley Campus
November 8, 2003
By Rita Felciano

Last year Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre introduced itself to Bay Area audiences with a program of emotionally engaging and attractively styled choreography set to Ravel. This year the company is back with Rioult's take on some of Stravinsky's best-known scores: The Firebird, Duo Concertant and Pulcinella Suite. In Rioult's hands Duo became Black Diamond; Pulcinella, Veneziana. The evening closed with Rioult's crowd-pleasing but excellent interpretation of Ravel's bestseller, Bolero.
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Tracing a New Version of The American Dream

Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Co.
Terrace Theater
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
November 6, 2003
By Alexandra Tomalonis

Say "American immigrants" and the picture that's ingrained in our collective brain is one of people crowded together on the deck of a ship, or standing, numbed and exhausted, in Ellis Island's endless lines. That's the long shot. The close up is a black and white photo, perhaps from a history text, perhaps from our own family album. When we see their faces, we see worry, expectation, pride and (perhaps because we've been told it's there) hope. The overwhelming color is black. Black dresses, black hair, black caps, black suits, black suitcases. A sea of darkness, befitting people who had fled political oppression, pogroms, famine or grinding poverty to find a new life in the New World. The stories that go with those photos are often ones of cruelty and terror. Hope, yes, but anger too at what had caused the journey.
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The Ballet Boyz:

Athletic Dancing, Thoughtful Dances

George Piper Dances
The Joyce Theater
New York, NY
November 7, 2003
by  Eric Taub

It is hard not to sigh a bit reading of the vast success of Michael Nunn's and William Trevitt's venture after they left their careers as principals with the Royal Ballet to strike out on their own just a few years ago. In addition to launching their own ballet troupe, George Piper Dances (there is no George Piper--it's a combination of both men's middle names), they produced two seasons of a "video diary" for the BBC, as the "Ballet Boyz." I arrived at the Joyce Theater a bit envious of a country where any sort of dance series could be a hit on network television (or even get on network television), and a bit apprehensive of just what sort of popularized panderings to the Great Unwashed Nunn and Trevitt might be presenting.

Not, as they say, to worry. Although one might quibble with one part or another of the program, it was an evening of mostly lively and thoughtful choreography, superbly danced by Nunn and Trevitt, as well as Oxana Panchenko, Monica Zamora and Hubert Essakow, extremely capable dancers all.
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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
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 November 10,, 2003 -->