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American Ballet Theatre: La Fille mal gardée

June 1, 2016

Leading this bucolic tale of amor interruptus were Gillian Murphy (her usual strong technique subsumed in girlish sweetness) as the farm girl, Lise, the “badly guarded girl” of the title, and Cory Stearns (at his lyrical best) as Colas, her young farmer swain. In the drag role of Lise’s mother, Widow Simone, was Marcelo Gomes, the still vibrant classicist perhaps just having a bit of fun in a character role, or keeping an eye on the future—distant future!—when character roles will be the natural progression for this great artist. [more]

Ariel Rivka Dance’s Ninth Season Festival

May 28, 2016

Ms. Grossman’s three works were all world premieres: “Hallelujah Eva” to the famous Leonard Cohen song, “Beatrice’s Rainbow” to the Yip Harburg/Harold Arlen classic “Over the Rainbow,” and “Variations on a Box” to music by Ms. Grossman’s husband David Homan (who also did the beautiful arrangements of the first two works). Each was a study in relationships and community. [more]

American Ballet Theatre: Shostakovich Trilogy

May 19, 2016

His Shostakovich Trilogy may have been too much of a good thing, somewhat weakened by too many overlapping themes, generally dark moods (with some bright moments, of course) and a sameness of choreographic technique. However, these three ballets displayed his talent for moving dancers around the stage with musicality and dramatic expressiveness and a good ear for Shostakovich’s quick-changing musical themes which often go from ponderous to lighthearted within a few measures. [more]

Still Standing You

May 16, 2016

The duo that makes up and has created 'Still Standing You" consists of the charmingly suave Guilherme Garrido from Portugal and the dour, heavily bearded Pieter Ampe from Belgium, neither of whom appear to have ever set foot in a dance class. Skinny, but out of shape, they nevertheless proved that they certainly were not weaklings, supporting each other in odd lifts, tucks and all sorts of interlocking of body parts. [more]

Ballet Preljocaj: “Empty Moves”

April 27, 2016

Testing the patience and understanding of both the audience and the dancers, Ballet Preljocaj, Angelin Preljocaj’s modern troupe from Aix-en-Provence, performed the complete version of his “Empty Moves” at the Joyce Theater. Two of the three parts were previously seen in New York City. Set to John Cage’s “Empty Words,” a deconstruction of a text by Henry David Thoreau, the work put four terrific dancers through their paces for nearly two hours. [more]

Miami City Ballet

April 20, 2016

I cannot remember the last time a ballet company so completely blew me away as the Miami City Ballet did during its recent, depressingly short season at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center. The explosive metaphor is entirely apt. This is a stylish classical ballet troupe that is definitely a company whether they are dancing works by Alexei Ratmansky, Twyla Tharp or George Balanchine. They exude a lushness of style that allows them all to be individuals, yet cohere into an exciting artistic unit. [more]

Dance Theatre of Harlem 2016

April 14, 2016

The four works on the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s program revealed a troupe that loves to entertain and show off but one that also hasn’t quite reached a secure level of technical achievement. Fervor and personality can take a dance company only so far. Nevertheless, this is definitely a ballet company with most works featuring solid point work. [more]

Ballet Hispanico

April 11, 2016

The Ballet Hispanico wants to be meaningful while at the same time entertaining. It is a difficult course to chart—just look at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater—and, so far, the entertainment element seems to have taken charge. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to please an audience, but, let’s face it, others do it better. Mr. Vilaro has kept the technical level of the dancers and the productions at a very high level and shouldn’t be afraid to shock, move and confound his audiences—along with making them happy. [more]

From the Horse’s Mouth Celebrates Gus Solomons jr

April 6, 2016

Nearly thirty speakers glorified Solomons, but none quite as well as himself who appeared in three bits that deftly paid tribute to—and simultaneously gently poked fun at—his two choreographic mentors. Watching Solomons’ Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham hand puppets debating their individual philosophies of the art of dance, while getting their personality foibles down perfectly, was the highlight of the program. This was the rare Horse’s Mouth in which the object of the show performed. [more]

Julliard Dances Repertory 2016

March 29, 2016

This was a particularly satisfying showing by the Juilliard Dances Repertory. It’s good to know that there is hope for the future of dance represented by these students, all of whom displayed fine technique and understanding of the different works. Also, the respect and care paid to these three choreographic geniuses makes it clear that they won’t soon be forgotten. [more]

Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble

March 17, 2016

“Ride the Culture Loop” (1975) to dark, percussion-heavy music by long-time Sokolow colleague, Teo Macero, pitted small groups of dancers against each other, all seemingly trapped in a nightmare of frustration symbolized by jutting elbows, pained expressions and tense pile-ups that led inevitably to one dancer being lifted high and slowly rotated only to be subsumed back into the flailing bodies a second later. Dressed in hippy-ish jeans and colorful tops, they seemed more concerned with their inner turmoil than communicating with each other. The tense movements gave the work a thick, emotional veneer. “Ride the Culture Loop” was staged by Samantha Geracht. [more]

Angel Reapers

March 6, 2016

The audience for "Angel Reapers" is immediately immersed in the Shaker world, forced to cross the set—simple board floors, ladder-back chairs, a couple of windows and doors—en route to the seats. Several cast members are already in place. As more characters saunter on and take their seats, men and women on opposite sides, an infectious laughter spreads improbably through the cast before hymns are sung and a long list of proscribed activities is chanted. They also express delight in the “gifts” they contribute: “I have the gift of gathering eggs;” “I have the gift of reaping hay;” etc. [more]

New York Theatre Ballet: Legends & Visionaries 2016

March 5, 2016

“Song Before Spring,” to a vibrant and pulsating steel band score by Philip Glass is an exciting addition to the NYTB repertory. Choreographed by Zhong-Jing Fang and Steven Melendez, “Song” caught the rambunctiousness of the score while telling many poignant and funny stories about the characters’—the entire company—lives. Dressed in Ms. Nolan’s incredibly witty street clothes, these young dancers became a community, a microcosm of urban life as they interacted. There were a sullen youth (Mr. Melendez), three flirty young ladies (Alexis Branagan, Carmella Lauer, Mayu Oguri), two aggressive young men (Joshua Andino-Nieto and Michael Wells) and a panorama of telling activities that combined ballet, modern dance, mime and very fine acting. “Song Before Spring” is a real forward leap for Ms. Byer’s troupe of dedicated dancers. [more]

Pacific Northwest Ballet

February 29, 2016

The second Balanchine masterpiece was “Prodigal Son,” the final work that the great impresario Serge Diaghilev commissioned. Prokofiev’s moody, rough-hewn score and colorful, scenery and costumes by Georges Rouault which evoke a fanciful, ancient biblical era give Balanchine’s story heft. The clever scenery includes wildly colorful backdrops and features a large wooden structure that ingeniously becomes a pathway away from the Prodigal’s home, a dining table, a stage and even a poignant place of crucifixion as the Prodigal writhes against it. [more]

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo’s Cinderella

February 25, 2016

Maillot decided, however, to set his version in a distorted fantasy realm, with no identifiable time period or place, distancing the story’s emotional impact. It is difficult to identify with the group of highly stylized, caricatured characters he presents and the tortured, though imaginative, path he takes them on. [more]

Alwin Nikolais Celebration

February 16, 2016

A constant criticism of Nikolais’ work is that he “de-humanized” his dancers by putting them into odd, sculptural costume constructions and giving them “mechanical” movements. This program of four major works disproves this, hopefully once and for all. All the choreography, music, lighting and costumes were by Mr. Nikolais—with Frank Garcia assisting on the costumes—and, yes, at times the dancers were hidden under masks and props, but always—always—they were clearly humans expressing human emotions and relationships. [more]

Soaking WET 2016

February 11, 2016

There are relatively few venues, even in dance crazy NYC, where fledgling choreographers can work on their craft in a totally professional environment.  Soaking WET at the West End Theater is one of them.   Curator David Parker and producer Jeffrey Kazin run a tight, but open-minded, ship.  The dances I saw, flawed as they were, had inklings of wit and inspiration. [more]

Company XIV’s Snow White

February 4, 2016

Company XIV founder, director and choreographer Austin McCormick recycles his stylistic techniques that include a having troupe of physically attractive and dynamic dancers in skimpy costumes, pop tunes interspersed with classic music and standards, and circus flourishes. [more]

Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake

February 4, 2016

In the course of a single hour, Ms. Masilo managed to tell the basic story of Swan Lake—albeit a reconfigured version in which the Prince, Siegfried (a wiry, stalwart Songezo Mcilizeli) wants to run off with a male Odile, the black swan (Thamsanqa Tshabalala, tall, languid and quite agile in his pointe shoes) rather than marry the female Odette (Ms. Masilo, combining strength and fragility in equal measure). [more]

Alison Chase/Performance

January 22, 2016

Chase put extreme physical demands on her dancers in some works, relied on their acting ability in others, most often combining these elements. She also—as the Pilobolus creators did—collaborated with her dancers on virtually all the choreography, so where she leaves off and they begin is difficult to ascertain. [more]

Newsteps: a choreographers series

January 19, 2016

Question: Why are these five young choreographers so unhappy, so full of angst and disquietude? There’s nothing wrong with exploring the darker side of life, but virtually all of the works presented in the 22nd anniversary chapter of Chen Dance Center’s Newsteps were either dreary or darkly agitated which probably should be taken as a sign of the psychological state of today’s younger artists. Even the one piece that seemed to have a dreamy quality quickly turned sour. [more]

American Dance Platform: Fist and Heel Performance Group & Martha Graham Dance Company

January 16, 2016

Reggie Wilson has been combining dance and cultural anthropology for many years. His troupe, Fist & Heel Performance Group, is a living testament to his passion with “Moses(es), Moses(es),” his full-company work, a living and breathing example of his philosophy. In his program notes, Mr. Wilson explained that this work was based on “the many iterations of Moses in religious texts, and in mythical, canonical and ethnographic imaginations,” a big subject that, unfortunately, doesn’t lend itself to a dance interpretation. In fact, Mr. Wilson’s description, not withstanding, it would be difficult to find any reference to that Jewish Biblical giant in “Moses(es), Moses(es),” except when the entire company sang a song whose only word was “Moses.” [more]

The Hard Nut

December 22, 2015

"The Hard Nut" is certainly beautiful to behold, its production design based on the work of Charles Burns whose graphic novels feature vividly surreal and haunting images. But, it’s also frustratingly erratic—slow at some points, confusing in others—and shtick-laden, with silliness too often overriding beauty and romance. The brilliantly witty sets and inventive costumes by Adrianne Lobel and the late Martin Pakledinaz, respectively, are totally in synch with Morris’ wickedly camp mentality. Indeed, they are a show in themselves, beautiful and witty in equal measures. [more]

Nutcracker Rouge

December 4, 2015

Bejeweled codpieces, sequined thongs, taut bustiers, powdered wigs, elaborate masks, frock coats, tutus, and leather harnesses, are among the eye-catching elements of Zane Pihlstrom’s lavish costume designs. Mr. Pihlstrom’s dazzling set is composed of spiral staircases, ramps, old-fashioned footlights, mirrors, a miniature carousel with a pole on top used for dancing, and a period-looking curtain. [more]

Twyla Tharp 50th Anniversary Tour

November 24, 2015

Twyla Tharp is a choreographer who can infuriate and charm audiences in equal measure. (Paul Taylor also comes to mind.) Her choreography is clearly the result of an intensely fertile mind, but her very personal, quirky movement style often seems arbitrary and unmusical. Her program at the David H. Koch Theater, marking the end of her 50th Anniversary Tour, was filled with her quirky idiosyncratic, non-stop movements, beautifully danced, but finally becoming an onslaught of just too many ideas—some corny, some brilliant—flung at the music and the audience. [more]

Sylvie Guillem: Life in Progress

November 18, 2015

On a portal shaped screen, films of Ms. Guillem (by the very clever Elias Benxon) are soon substituted by Ms. Guillem in the flesh. She disappeared behind this doorway, only to reappear in the video. When she got away from the screen, rolling and tilting, raising her great legs with soft expressiveness, the projected images changed to a group of people and a dog. She slowly danced her way back to the doorway, joining the filmed community and wandering off into a bare, white space. What a transcendent way to say good-bye. For once, all the technical, choreographic and story elements gelled into a lovely whole. [more]

Circa: Opus

November 12, 2015

The sobriquet “tricks” is probably not a fair or adequate description of the acrobatic feats these fourteen gymnasts displayed. Their tours de force included: balancing upon each others’ shoulders like giant totem poles; forming arches in backbends upon which others balanced; hanging precariously from ropes and stretches of cloth; and forming impossibly balanced sculptures. They hung off each other. They rolled on the floor and on each other. They formed lines and circles that communicated a certain sense of communal camaraderie, but little else. Gender didn’t seem to matter: women did as much lifting as the men. [more]

José Limón International Dance Festival

October 29, 2015

The Limón Dance Company celebrated its 70th Anniversary by presenting the José Limón International Dance Festival at the Joyce Theater. The Limón dancers joined forces with several other companies in six programs of works by this master modern dance choreographer who died in 1972. His legacy has been tended to by subsequent generations of dancers, directed since 1978 by the indefatigable Carla Maxwell who was herself a pre-eminent Limón interpreter. [more]

H.T. Chen & Dancers: “South of Gold Mountain”

October 23, 2015

"South of Gold Mountain," the latest dance work from the iconic Chinatown-based H.T. Chen & Dancers, is a warmhearted, historically-based piece that illuminated the experiences of the hardy Chinese immigrants who settled in the Deep South during the nineteenth and twentieth century. (“Gold Mountain” is a reference to the Gold Rush area, and subsequently the U.S.A., which attracted immigrants of all nationalities.) It is a corner of American history barely acknowledged, let alone studied or dramatized. [more]

Eryc Taylor Dance: “The Exhibit”

October 23, 2015

Mr. Taylor, who was the “stylist” on all works, shared this credit with Mr. Patterson and Andy Corsten. Often the choreography looked like slow-motion Vogue-ing, with faces either glaring or emotion free. It’s easy to see the appeal of his work which is sexy, exhibitionist, vaguely mysterious and undemanding to the eye or mind. Mr. Taylor clearly has a vision and philosophy and sticks with it. [more]

General Mischief Dance Theatre: Up and Away

October 20, 2015

The choreography, mostly by Emily Smyth Vartanian, tends toward the musically unsophisticated, combining ballet (piqué turns, little jumps, attitude and arabesque poses), jazz (sassy turned in knees and jazz hands) and Latin American influences (hip waggles and shimmying shoulders) all punctuated with giant smiles and an appealing air of merriment. The dancers are steady and personable and jolly performing the steps joyfully. They all relate to each other—and the audience—beautifully. Costumes are colorful versions of dancewear and street clothes. [more]

Career Transition for Dancers: 30th Anniversary Pearl Jubilee

October 1, 2015

Ann Marie DeAngelo, the longtime producer and director of the Career Transition for Dancers: 30th Anniversary Pearl Jubilee, has outdone herself this year with a smooth and satisfying program, balancing entertaining dance numbers with just the right amount of speechifying. Adding appearances by Broadway and TV star Bebe Neuwirth, prima ballerina Cynthia Gregory and Hollywood royalty, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas and (Rolex honoree) Shirley MacLaine to the mix, resulted in a gala that out-gala-ed the previous ones. [more]

Balanchine’s Harlequinade: Commedia dell’arte Explored

September 27, 2015

Dance historian Doug Fullington of the Pacific Northwest Ballet was the expert who, using slides and excerpts from both the Balanchine and Petipa versions, showed how each choreographer envisioned the interactions of such Commedia stalwart characters as Harlequin, Colombine, Pierrot, Pierrette, the Doctor and Pantalone, each with their own idiosyncratic personality quirks and historically recognizable costumes. Commedia dell’Arte has had enormous influence on painters (Watteau, Picasso), theater and even films (Chaplin, the Marx Brothers) with its pratfalls and slapstick and colorful personalities. [more]
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