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 Volume 3, Number 41  November 7, 2005     The weekly online supplement to DanceView magazine

History Mystery

Paris Opera Ballet
Opera Garnier, Paris
October 21 – November 14, 2005
by John Percival
copyright ©2005 by John Percival

“Little booties” they called him (“Caligula” in Latin), after his preferred footwear when a child keen on the military life; more formally he was Caius Julius Caesar Germanicus, Emperor of Rome from AD37, when he was 25, until his assassination four years later. Nicolas Le Riche, star dancer of the Paris Opera Ballet, has been bold (or do I mean misguided?) enough to make a 90-minute ballet about him, in collaboration with Guillaume Gallienne as dramaturg, a friend who has acted at the Comedie-Francaise ever since graduating from the Conservatoire National seven years ago and was this year appointed a Societaire. In a programme note Le Riche explains that he became fascinated by Caligula some six years ago when reading “The Lives of Twelve Caesars” by the Latin writer Suetonius. He did not at that time think of making a ballet but did ask Roland Petit (who was then creating “Clavigo” for him) to think about perhaps making a solo. Petit turned this down and suggested Le Riche should tackle the subject himself, which after long consideration, and encouraged by ballet director Brigitte Lefèvre, he has now done.
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Ounce of Truth

"Stravinsky Evening"
Compagnia Aterballetto
Center for the Arts, George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia, USA
Saturday, November 5, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright ©2005 by George Jackson

Maurio Bigonzetti, Aterballetto's artistic director and chief choreographer, spoke of Igor Stravinsky warmly, as if the great composer had been a family friend. In his pre-performance chat, Bigonzetti told the audience that he had grown up with Stravinsky's ballet scores because his father loved that music and it often filled their home. Relating this circumstance, Bigonzetti made clear his admiration for not just the composer but also the choreographers with whom Stravinsky had worked—Fokine, Nijinska and Balanchine. Bigonzetti demonstrated insight into the evening's double bill of Stravinsky ballets, "Les Noces" and "Petrouchka", in a program note he had written with his dramaturg, Nicola Lusuardi. They point out that such a bill is "a combination not to be taken for granted". Although both ballets were made in the Diaghilev period and draw on Russian folk traditions and, yes, both deal with love that is intense, close to violence and yet limited, they are profoundly different works. "Petrouchka" has narrative flow about a "personage" whereas "Les Noces" is expression abstracted, as allegorical as in an "immobile icon". Why then re-set,  re-choreograph the two ballets, why not leave "Petrouchka " in its Benois/Fokine version and "Les Noces" in that of Gontcharova/Nijinska? Bigonzetti's answer: to make them new, to re-make them for a new day.
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Half and Half
Michael Clark Dance Company
Barbican Theatre, London
November 1 – 5, 2005, and touring January – March 2006
by John Percival
copyright ©2005 by John Percival

I was amused by the number of writers who used the word comeback apropos this production. Michael Clark actually “came back” seven years ago. Let me remind you of his tumultuous life story as an amazingly gifted dancer and highly original choreographer:

1979:  Aged 17, had a leading role created on him by his teacher at the Royal Ballet School, but refused a contract at Covent Garden and instead joined Rambert Dance where Richard Alston made several roles for him. Danced also with other small companies in Britain, America and France (including Karole Armitage’s), and began showing work of his own at Riverside Studios in west London, then a centre of new dance.
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Brute Beauty

Levydance 2005 East Coast Tour
Dance Place
Washington, DC, USA
Sunday, October 30, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright ©2005 by George Jackson

Four visions of hell and only one exit! Levydance's 2005 collection gives a view of existence that's grim but, by program's end, powerfully gripping. "Holding Pattern" starts where Sartre's play, "No Exit", did—with the difference that the dance's eternal triangle consists of two men and one woman. This is the most civilized of the four dances as the protagonists engage each other competitively and sensually through "conversation"  i.e., recognizable choreography. The movement is emotionally charged and often appears realistically passionate, yet dance is discernible under the smoldering surface and patterns emerge from the action.
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Manipulative Encounters

Grupo Corpo
Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House
Brooklyn, NY
October 25, 2005

By Susan Reiter
copyright ©2005 by Susan Reiter

The actual title happens to be "Lecuona," but I keep thinking of the first of the two works Brazil's Grupo Corpo brought to BAM as "12 Lecuona Songs." The concept is similar to what Twyla Tharp did for Frank Sinatra: celebrate some distinctive popular music by setting one individualized couple dancing to each song, and bring them all together for a finale. But whereas Tharp's work was a dreamy, insightful apotheosis of ballroom dancing, conveying both affection and nostalgia for, as well as ironic commentary on, the swoony old-fashioned simpler world it evokes, "Lecuona" consists of strenuous, manipulative encounters in which supple bodies entangle in confrontational ways, with an emotional component of less than zero.
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American Ballet Theatre
at City Center

Golden Oldies

“Les Sylphides”, “Apollo”, “The Green Table”
American Ballet Theater
New York City Center
New York, NY
November 2, 2005

by Mary Cargill
copyright ©2005 by Mary Cargill

ABT gave a rock solid program to a rock solid audience (the season has been selling very well) on Wednesday night. Although each of these ballets is an acknowledged masterpiece with a capital “M”, the performances didn’t look precious or fragile, they looked alive.

None more so than Ethan Stiefel’s “Apollo”. Last year, the Guggenheim’s invaluable Works and Process series included a session with Peter Martins coaching Stiefel in “Apollo”. The insights were fascinating and generous—Martins insisted that Balanchine saw his god as a demi-caractère role, not the effortless perfection that Martins couldn’t help but convey. Martins stressed the wild, free, passionate angle, the unclassical feet forward, no classical turnout, position. The Balanchine Apollo that Martins described had an awkward, raw youthfulness that blazed through Stiefel’s performance from the very beginning.
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ABT Winds Down A Satisfying Season
"Gong," "Dark Elegies," "In the Upper Room"
American Ballet Theatre
City Center
New York, NY
November 3, 2005

by Susan Reiter
copyright ©2005 by Susan Reiter

It was exciting to see the repertory for ABT's City Center turn out to be as consistently rewarding in actuality as it had seemed on paper, when the schedule was first announced. A program like this one, with exceptional works by one of the great choreographers of the first half of the 20th century plus two of the undisputed geniuses of our era, provided an evening of dance that inspired admiration, reflection, and sheer gratitude.

I was struck by how both Mark Morris' "Gong" and Antony Tudor's "Dark Elegies" present us with very democratic societies, in which the individual keeps being absorbed into the larger picture. Principal dancers in "Gong" don't necessarily have the biggest roles; here was Julie Kent, surging through the intricate lines and circles of Morris's ingenious athletic/exotic inventions, graciously sharing the stage, and only in the final few minutes getting a brief solo moment.
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Baseball, Butoh and the Imaginary Ballroom

Akemi Takeya
Japan Society
Japan Society
New York, NY
November 4, 2005

By Tom Phillips
copyright ©2005 by Tom Phillips

Akemi Takeya has been called a “post-Butoh” artist, and it makes sense in that her choreography goes beyond the elemental and visceral, and explores the roles and artifacts of civilized life.  Among her five “Bodypoems” she played a shopper with a head cold, a baseball pitcher, and a high-strung fashionista with a toy dog.  But the best of her pieces—the two that opened and ended the show – defied any neat definitions.

In the opening segment, called “Semidream,” she is a sleeper who rises in fits and starts, then discovers the bow of a stringed instrument. This she uses to carve the air, as she crosses the stage in loops and circles, a slow-motion ritual that might be drawn from Japanese Kendo, the sword-fighting martial art.  Whatever she is doing in this half-sleep, it is creating art out of the primal conflicts of the mind.  The accompaniment is slow plucked arpeggios on the guitar, the basic exercise of harmony.    
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Another "Sleeping Beauty" For Our Times

"The Sleeping Beauty Notebook"
Donald Byrd/Spectrum Dance Theater
Dance Theater Workshop
New York, NY
November 4, 2005

By Susan Reiter
copyright ©2005 by Susan Reiter

Donald Byrd apparently likes to examine, speculate about, taunt and at times undermine the nineteenth-century classics, and in "The Sleeping Beauty Notebook" he wants to get us thinking about that Petipa perennial—to question its premise, imagine a backstory for Carabosse, investigate a broader idea of what "beauty" is. But while his theatrical imagination is clearly revved up to full throttle in this two-hour work, much of the actual dancing we see slows the experience down to a slog.
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Like Old Times

Limon Dance Company
America Dancing Series
Terrace Theater, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC, USA
Wednesday, November 2, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright ©2005 by George Jackson

A nice, old fashioned evening of modern dance. Once that might have sounded like a contradiction in terms, but today it is a rarity. All four works shown had beginnings, middles and endings that could be sensed. The programming consisted of excerpts from a classic (Jose Limon's "A Choreographic Offering"), a premiere (Jonathan Riedel's "The Ubiquitous Elephant"), a production number (Lar Lubovitch's "Remember") and an import (Jiri Kylian's "Evening Song"). The dancing was personable and proficient, with some of the women more than that although of star turns, such as the Martha Graham company showered us with last season, there were none.  
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Mindy Aloff
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Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
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The Summer Issue of DanceView is OUT!
(our subscription link is once again functional, so it's easy to subscribe on line)


ABT's Spring Season, reviewed by Mary Cargill

"On Frederick Ashton's Brand of Classicism," by Michael Popkin

NYCB's Spring Season, reviewed by Tom Phillips

Miami City Ballet's spring season, reviewed by Carol Pardo

National Ballet of Canada's 2005-2006 season, reviewed by Denise Sum

Reports from London (Jane Simpson), New York (Gay Morris) and San Francisco (Rita Felciano)

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last updated on November 7, 2005