writers on dancing

Letter from New York

"Evening Stars" Dance Festival at Battery Park

As a memorial concert for the destruction of the World Trade Center on Saturday evening, the “Evening Stars” dance festival at Battery Park programmed three works of lament and, in the case of Paul Taylor’s incendiary and spectacular "Promethean Fire" of 2002, also outrage. The two other dances on the bill were a 2002 reconstruction, by Carla Maxwell, of José Limón’s 1967 suite "Psalm," and Jacqulyn Buglisi’s "Requiem," “dedicated to peace, Newsweek photojournalist Bill Biggart and all those who lost their lives on 9.11.01, the extraordinary community of New York City, our brave soldiers and all victims of war.”

All the dancers, in all the dances, were wonderful and brave. An event of this kind is not the place for a critical review of the choreography: the performance was free to the public, and the generosity of the superb artists involved is the thing to be remembered. Less generous were some members of the audience who decided to pack it in during each of the dances and left in the middle, stepping on feet and spilling over drinks. When events are free, I guess, no one feels a commitment to respect other people. That comes with $50 tickets—commitment, respect.

I will say that, in terms of weather, it was among the finest days of late summer: 60 degrees or so, with a slight wind, and no mosquitoes in evidence. As an outdoor event, the audience was, of course, also treated to an aural environment of sirens, racing motorcycle engines, and a few screams from the street that hadn’t been programmed. And, when the performance was over, a fire engine, manned by fire fighters in uniform, stopped in front of the entrance to the lawn: on the truck were huge lights, a video of 9/11, and fire fighters waving huge American flags. They urged everyone to remember the fire fighters and the policemen who had served and lost their lives on September 11th, 2001 and to remember the importance of patriotism. After the intermissionless hour and a-half of restrained, unspecified lament on the stage, this was a new energy crashing into the evening. I happened to think of some orchestral works by Charles Ives, where different music competes for attention. Other colleagues brought other associations.

The José Limón Dance Company, incidentally, will be performing two programs at the Joyce 21 September-3 October. The schedule includes a world première by Susanne Linke; company premières of works by Lar Lubovitch, Daniel Nagrin, and Donald McKayle (Artistic Advisor and Choreographer-in-Residence since 1995); and revivals of Limón’s "Psalm" (which, in 2002, acquired a new score by Jon Magnussen) and Jíri Kylián’s "Evening Songs." Also, if you missed "Moving into the Future," the fine, half-hour documentary about the company on PBS earlier this year, look for it next time around. The way Carla Maxwell has decided to plan the Limón company’s path following the founder’s death, in 1972, is a template for how these things should be done. –Mindy Aloff

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 34
September 13, 2004

Copyright © 2004 by Mndy Aloff



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last updated on July 19, 2004