writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, New York edition

Volume 1, Number 4   October 20 , 2003            An online supplement to DanceView magazine

Letter from New York

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

For at least the past two decades, dancegoers have been told so often that the reason the magic seemed to go out of the art was our own fault. We were too old, and in wondering why cherished works had eroded we were really just trying to hold onto our youth. Nothing is forever, and change is inevitable. Young dancers have no idea about what the past was like and certainly have no interest in finding out. Dances are made for particular individuals, and once they retire, their qualities can never be restored to the choreography. The great choreographers really found us worthy of disdain, since they, themselves, were never interested in revisiting where they’d been. Dancing made for one era will never have any appeal for subsequent eras. One by one, the voices of protest were quieted, with illness and mortality completing the job that, during the 1990s, a new generation of newspaper and magazine publishers began. During the 1990s, nearly every major dance critic in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. who was old enough to have seen and remembered theatrical dancing from the 1950s and early ‘60s was either fired, forcibly retired, or died in harness; for those who retained their positions, either the number of their reviews that were actually published, or the length of them, or both, were markedly decreased. This was no one’s best scenario, of course. Print news was in trouble, and, the rationale goes, dance writing is never read. In the same spirit, trade book publishers, seemingly overnight, stopped publishing new, serious dance books and dropped their dance backlists entirely: dance books don’t sell. And it’s true. They don’t: why would anyone want to buy a history of The Sleeping Beauty in the U.S. if the only interesting live productions of that ballet are in Russia?
full article

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Letter 2
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Letter 4

Stravinsky redux

Stravinsky Triple Bill
Le Rossignol, Le Sacre du Printemps,
and Oedipus Rex
Metropolitan Opera House
New York, New York
October 13, 2003

By Susan Reiter
Copyright ©2003 by Susan Reiter

The drop curtain for the revival of the Metropolitan Opera's revival of its unusual 1981 Stravinsky triple bill features an abstract design and reads "Stravinsky 1882." This is presumably from the original production, which was timed to be unveiled on the eve of the composer's centenary, I found myself thinking that this time they could have had a curtain that read "Ashton 1904" given that the central portion of this triptych, Le Rossignol, features choreography by Frederick Ashton, whose centenary we are about to observe.

Since we see far too little of Ashton's choreography in New York these days (although ABT has greatly improved that situation the past two years by adding two of his greatest works to its repertory), this opportunity to renew acquaintance with a piece of choreography from his later years was most welcome. Ashton choreographed the central roles of the Nightingale and the Fisherman on Natalia Makarova and Anthony Dowell, who had repeated them the only other time this triple bill was revived, during the 1983-84 season. This time around, they were performed by Julie Kent and Damian Woetzel.
full review

A Spunky Don Q from the Cubans

Don Quixote
National Ballet of Cuba
City Center
New York, NY
October 15, 2003

by  Eric Taub
copyright ©2003 by Eric Taub

Remembering the grand productions the National Ballet of Cuba once brought to the Metropolitan Opera House in decades past, and even knowing that Cuba's economy has fallen on hard times since then, it's still a bit of a shock seeing the meager production of Don Quixote which the Cubans brought to City Center on their most recent visit, which concluded on the 19th. The skimpy sets and cartoonish drops looked beneath the standard of a second-string regional company here, and the costumes, with their overly bright colors and fussy, overwrought details made me wonder whether a big-budget Cuban production would be much of an improvement. It also didn't help that the Alicia Alonso has reworked the ballet's story: here, in a prologue, the oppressed Spanish masses of the early 19th Century beg for aid from the statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, which come to life, presumably to help free Spain from the invading French. Here, Gamache, the bumbling suitor of Kitri, is Camacho, a French aristocrat whose amatory whims are enforced by a pair of equally bumbling French soldiers. And, while the Don's new provenance as a prayer answered doesn't prevent him from being the recipient of the occasional "don't mind him, he's crazy" gesture from the happy-yet-oppressed townfolk, here he is much more central to the ballet's story—for example, Kitri and Basil (not Basilio, here) don't sneak off in the general pandemonium at the end of Act I, but, rather, the Don himself fights off Camacho and his soldiers, so that the would-be lovers can make a peaceful exit on a peasant-drawn wagon.

But enough of Money, Literature and Art; what about the dancing? The dancing is quite fine, thank you. Really fine, in fact.
read review

An Unsettling Journey

Akram Kahn Company
New York, New York
October 14-19, 2003

By Susan Reiter
Copyright ©2003 by Susan Reiter

Having been unaware of Akram Khan, whose reputation has apparently been growing in dance circles for some time, before this past summer when his company performed at Jacob's Pillow, and having only the most superficial knowledge of the subtleties and complexities of Kathak, the Northern Indian classical dance tradition that Khan studied intensively and integrates into his choreography, I entered the theater for his company's New York debut at the Joyce theater feeling at a disadvantage.

A London-based choreographer born in England of Bangladeshi parentage, Khan brought his 2002 hour-long work Kaash, which is performed by his five-member company. While perhaps missing some of its implications and associations—the way it invokes the Hindu God Shiva, for example—I was struck by the authority and sense of visual presentation this young (29) choreographer displays. This is a serious, disciplined choreographer, one who knows how not to over-extend his material. At a time when so much work is over-amplified and shapeless, Khan's highly developed sense of craftsmanship and command of the overall stage picture is impressive.
read review

(Originally published as an Extra on Saturday, October 19, 2003.)

Breathtaking Virtuosity, Unabashedly Itself

National Ballet of Cuba
City Center,
New York, NY
October 15, 2003

by  Eric Taub
copyright ©2003 by Eric Taub

It's a rare delight in these days of bland and blurry International-style ballet to see a company which is so unabashedly itself as the National Ballet of Cuba. The Cubans dance with a rare attention to detail and homogeneity, and revel, unapologetically, in their muscularity, even among the women. No reed-thin waifs here! At least, none were in evidence at City Center Thursday night.

The evening began with artistic director Alicia Alonso's staging of bits of the second act of Swan Lake, a last-minute substitution for Les Sylphides, caused by an amazing fit of peevishness by the Fokine estate and American Ballet Theatre (who had purchased a three-year "exclusive" license for the ballet from said estate). After the unfortunate beginning, where the curtain rises (and mercifully falls) on the corps of swan-girls glaring at the audience and all-but-hissing, this is a fairly traditional production, and one which showed off the great strength of the Cuban women. Perhaps the corps of the Kirov, Paris Opera Ballet or even ABT are as strong—perhaps—but where these companies, indeed, most companies, these days work to mask this strength behind a carefully cultivated appearance of lightness and ease, the Cubans, while never graceless, don't take particular pains to hide their strength.
full article


Chances Are

Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Howard Gilman Opera House
October 14, 16-18, 2003

By Nancy Dalva
Copyright ©2003 by Nancy Dalva

Rolling the dice gives a moment of wonder, the imagination conjuring. A split-second later, the dice at rest, the mind becomes active.— Merce Cunningham

Of all of the multiple innovations in the work of Merce Cunningham, the use of chance is the most confusing. Such a clear thing, this toss of a die, or a handful of pennies, and yet chance is the Holy Ghost of Dance—the part of the Cunningham Trinity taken on faith, and dimly apprehended. The independence of dance as an art form–the notion that dance does not need music, but may simply coexist with it—still may seem heresy to some, but as an idea it is well understood. The separation of dance from story is now old hat, or old enough, though still giving rise to the notion that Cunningham's dances are "abstract," when dance, because it is done by people, can never really be abstract. But chance! Chance makes people think of randomness, of disorder, of improvisation, of fate and fortune, of things made up as they are happening, or just before. Nothing, though, could be further from the Merceian truth, which is quite the opposite. His is not the unhinged Miltonic world of Paradise Lost, where "Chaos umpire sits," and "Chance governs all." Not in the slightest. In his world, Merce governs all, even when by a kind of non-doing, this latter being neither benign nor malign, but a kind of sovereign absenting of ego. Even when Cunningham does not make choices—as when, for instance, he leaves the decor to the art director, or some similar personage, who chooses the artists; and likewise hands off the music—he has chosen the chooser. The truth is that in his world, Cunningham is God. Every choice, or non-choice, is made by him.
read review

What's On This Week

October 22-November 1
Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group
Black Umfolosi, Noble Douglas Dance Company
Dance Theater Workshop, Bessie Schonberg Theater
New York-based choreographer Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group joins forces with Trinidad’s legendary Noble Douglas Dance Company and the a-cappella world music stars Black Umfolosi from Zimbabwe in the world premiere of "Black Burlesque (revisited)."
219 W 19th St.

October 21-25
Susan Marshall & Company
Sleeping Beauty and Other Stories

Marshall brings two pure-dance works to Brooklyn. "Sleeping Beauty," is a new twist on the well-known fairytale, while "Other Stories," explores physical encounters that "enhance our complicated lives."
Brooklyn Academy of Music, BAM Harvey Theater
30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Pl. Fort Greene, Brooklyn

October 21-26
Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE

Ronald K. Brown blends modern dance and rhythm movements from African to form spirited, earthy and sensual compositions. The season features "Come Ye," inspired by the music of Nina Simone and "For You," a solo danced by Brown.
175 Eighth Ave. at 19th St.

October 22
A Lifetime in Dance: Frederic Franklin - dancer, Choreographer, Director
The legendary ballet dancer discusses his career that included with performing with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, dancing with Alexandra Danilova, and working with choreographers George Balanchine, Frederick Ashton and Leonid Massine.
Barnard College – Julius S. Held Lecture Hall
304 Barnard Hall, Broadway at 116th St.

October 22-November 9
American Ballet Theatre
ABT expands its fall season to three weeks and showcases four programs that include classics such as George Balanchine's "Theme and Variations" and Jerome Robbins' "Fancy Free", the return of Frederick Ashton's "Symphonic Variations," Anthony Tudor's "Piller of Fire," and Agnes De Mille's "Three Virgins and a Devil," and company or world premieres by Jiri Kylian, Robert Hill, and William Forsythe. The company also previews its new production of "Raymonda." And Cuban superstar Carlos Acosta makes his second appearance with troupe.
City Center
55th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves.

October 23, February 18 and 21
Stravinsky Triple Bill
Metropolitan Opera
A triple bill of works by Igor Stravinsky. Le Sacre du Printemps, with choreography by Doug Varone opens the program, followed by Le Rossignol, a tale by Hans Christian Andersen, choreographed by Frederick Ashton and danced by New York Cit Ballet's Damian Woetzel and American Ballet Theater's Julie Kent. Oedipus Rex rounds out the evening.
Metropolitan Opera House
Columbus Ave. and 64th St.
(212) 362-6000

October 23
VerNooy Dance Theatre
Joyce Soho
155 Mercer St. between Houston and Prince Sts.

October 23-26
Curt Haworth
Hawroth, known for his athletic dancing, premieres two works "Glass Box" and "Amnesia."
Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery
East 10th St. at Second Ave.

October 23
Noemie Lafrance
Noemie Lafrance's Bessie Award-winning Descent" is a homage to New York created since the terrorist attacks of September 11. It is performed over 12 floors of stairway with a score by Brooks Williams.
City Court Building Clock Tower
108 Leonard St. between Broadway and Lafayette St.

October 24-26
Randy James Dance Works
10th Anniversary Season
The group marks its 10th anniversary season with three performances of three programs that includes premieres and repertory works, alumni dancers and live music.
John Jay College Theater
899 Tenth Ave. between 58th and 59th Streets

—Dale Brauner



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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
Nancy Dalva
Gia Kourlas
Gay Morris
Susan Reiter
Alexandra Tomalonis(Editor)
Meital Waibsnaider
Leigh Witchel
David Vaughan


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 20, 2003 -->