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Dance

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]

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan: Rice

September 22, 2015

Opening this year’s Next Wave series at the Brooklyn Academy of Music was the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan’s "Rice," a ritualistic ballet conceived and choreographed by Lin Hwai-min. Though not the usual cutting edge, avant-garde event that the words “Next Wave” imply, Cloud Gate did provide an excuse for a gala opening. [more]

Whistleblower

September 18, 2015

Dendy uses his fertile imagination to tell Manning’s story beginning with his repressed childhood, on through enlisting in the Army where he was trained in computer technology. He brings in homophobia, prejudice of the transgendered, legal bureaucracy, the propaganda machinery, etc., with a wit and a cartoony, over-the-top sensibility, all with a core of sadness and anger, particularly at the absurdly long sentence that Chelsea received. [more]

Solo For Two

August 11, 2015

Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, two brilliant Russian ballet stars, have assemble an ad hoc mini-ballet troupe of like-minded dance artists who are unafraid to face the challenges of new work, eschewing the classics that made them famous. Although the three new ballets weren’t all successful—and were a bit overlong—the dancing throughout was superb. [more]

BalaSole Dance Company: Salmagundi

July 21, 2015

Roberto Villanueva describes BalaSole as “a diverse dance company,” and it is just that. He provides opportunities for dance artists who would otherwise find it difficult to find artistic homes. Villanueva, himself, is a short bundle of energy, hard to place in most companies. Certainly, his "Salmagundi" at the Ailey Citigroup Theater exemplified his philosophy with a series of solos choreographed by ballet, tap, jazz and modern dancers. The word “salmagundi” means a mixed salad, clearly a metaphor for his talented dancer/choreographers. [more]

Momix: Alchemia 

July 21, 2015

The suite of discrete scenes, distinguished by quasi-poetic lines in the program notes and a series of obvious theatrical gimmicks—tall columns that become ancient weapons; ultra-violet light revealing intricate patterns of blood vessels; women gliding about in floor-length gowns that later cocoon them; young lovers floating about each other; mirrored booths that confuse who is where; etc.—paints a vivid portrait of a constantly shifting land populated by gorgeous creatures dressed in astounding costumes by Phoebe Katzin. [more]

The Royal Ballet 2015: Program B

July 3, 2015

he Royal Ballet’s second program of its ridiculously short season at the David H. Koch Theater was disappointing as much for what was on it as for what wasn’t. What wasn’t there were any classical works. Among divertissement-type short works making up the second part of the show, there was not one classical Pas de Deux. Instead, the program opened with an abstruse modern ballet and ended with an equally abstruse new version of an old one with six very short works of varying quality and appropriateness sandwiched in between. [more]

ZviDance: Escher/Bacon/Rothko

July 1, 2015

Certainly, the ceaseless energetic intertwinements of the Escher section could allude to his eye-popping, busy canvases and the large rectangles of white light just might allude to Rothko’s famous wide bands of impeccably applied colors. In the Bacon section, dancers kept distorting their faces and bodies in modest approximations of the bizarre images in Bacon’s portraits: unsymmetrical, shockingly colored and ugly. [more]

The Royal Ballet: “The Dream” and “Song of the Earth” 

June 26, 2015

The Joyce Theater Foundation is presenting a short season of the Royal Ballet at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center, the Royal’s first visit to New York in 11 years. After a gala opening night, the Royal showed its regal stuff in a program consisting of Frederick Ashton’s The Dream and Kenneth MacMillan’s Song of the Earth, two works which couldn’t be less alike. In fact, the only thing they had in common was excellent, stylish dancing. [more]

Polish National Ballet 2015

June 20, 2015

Judging from this program only, the PNB is firmly in the mainstream of the world’s modern ballet troupes, almost indistinguishable one from the other (viz. Netherlands Dance Theater, Sydney Dance Theater, National Ballet of Spain, Houston Ballet, etc.) Mr. Pastor’s ballets are part and parcel of the international ballet style which I like to call “fun house ballet,” in which classical ballet steps and poses melt into twisty, angular shapes only to coalesce into and be punctuated by recognizable classical vocabulary. William Forsythe, a real iconoclast, began this in his purposely ugly “in the middle somewhat elevated.” The watered-down copies permeate the repertories of many dance companies. [more]

Pontus Lidberg Dance 2015

June 11, 2015

Swedish modern dance choreographer, Pontus Lidberg is a master of the quietly eerie. His works invade your brain slowly with their deliberate pacing and strange imagery. Mr. Lidberg showed his mastery of mood and the nuances of relationships in his recent program at the Joyce Theater. [more]

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet: Program A 

June 9, 2015

The Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet has had the good fortune to have had financial security during its twelve-year existence; that is, until this year when its patron withdrew her support. The troupe’s short season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music was its swan song, but a spectacular one. Alexandra Damiani, CLCB’s artistic director, assembled two programs, the first of which I attended. It was typical of the work identified with the company: slick, technically demanding and impeccably danced. [more]

The Victory Dance Project: First Anniversary Celebration

June 8, 2015

To celebrate The Victory Dance Project’s first anniversary, an inspiring and spirited program was presented at The Ailey Citigroup Theater. There was a selection of the company’s dazzling dances and their First Annual Artist for Peace award was presented to Renee Robinson. The personable and entertaining comedian Grant Cooper hosted the event. Mr. Cooper did a funny routine about an imaginary audition for The Alvin Ailey Company with clunky movements. Though humorous, as befitting the occasion he was often serious. [more]

The School of American Ballet 2015 Workshop Performances

June 4, 2015

The annual School of American Ballet Workshop performances are more than occasions for fundraising. They are a chance to see the next generation of classical ballet dancers in what we hope will soon be their native habitat, the stage. The programs are optimism incarnate, an opportunity to believe in the future of dance. [more]

The Deborah Zall Project: “In the Company of Women”

May 26, 2015

Deborah Zall has been a presence in the modern dance scene, specifically in the Martha Graham orbit, for decades. Recently, after years of relative obscurity, she has emerged as an important choreographer, the keeper of the dramatic Graham tradition. Several current and former Graham dancers, wanting new experiences and challenges, asked Ms. Zall to stage some of her dramatic solos for them. The result was an evening of intriguing small-scale works by Ms. Zall with the addition of a solo created by Graham veteran Kenneth Topping which provided a bit of comic relief, albeit sardonic comic relief. [more]

Street Singer – Celebrating the Life of Edith Piaf

May 17, 2015

Mr. Rioult, a French native, has Piaf’s music in his bloodstream. His "Street Singer" also using RIOULT Dance NY started and ended with the song most identified with her, “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” (Charles Dumont/Michel Vaucaire). The first time, as Piaf relates her poverty-stricken, backstreet upbringing, the Rioult dancers, did sexually suggestive apache dances (costumed by Pilar Limosner whose other outfits economically suggested the period). By the time the song is repeated at the very end, a worn-out Piaf can barely get out the words and these same dancers, in the same costumes, seem to be haunting her. [more]

Steps Repertory Ensemble 2015

May 8, 2015

The Steps Repertory Ensemble is full of beautiful dancers, refreshingly, of all physical types. Yet, they move like a company all on the same beam, which is to Mr. Shelver’s credit. But, for goodness sake, lighten up, guys. You’re young, beautiful and talented, why not enjoy it? [more]

Patricia Noworol Dance Theater: “Replacement Place”

May 6, 2015

Four intensively self-involved, but personable, performers meandered on and off the stage which was glaringly lit by the geometrically arranged fluorescent bulbs designed by Barbara Samuels, their paths only occasionally crossing. Each was given or created a simple movement theme: one a stomping walk, another a finger snapping hip sway and a third some steamy hip-hop movement, complete with the usual badly rhymed “poetry” and a plethora of N- and F-words. [more]

Christopher Wheeldon in Conversation with Rita Moreno: From Ballet to Broadway

April 30, 2015

On April 27, Symphony Space and Words on Dance presented “Christopher Wheeldon in Conversation with Rita Moreno: From Ballet to Broadway,” a delightful romp through the dancing career of one of Broadway’s brightest choreographers. The lecture was moderated and led by Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy winning actor-singer-dancer Rita Moreno. Moreno’s conversation with Wheeldon was prompted by a series of film clips featuring him as a young dancer as well as brief segments of his past choreographic work with the New York City Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, the Wheeldon Company, and his most current work in the new Broadway production of "An American In Paris" where he serves as both director and choreographer. It is the fusion of his classical European ballet training, his love for American music, American dance stars, and American dance that Wheeldon has established himself as a leading force in the world of dance. [more]

Ballet Hispanico New York Season 2015

April 24, 2015

The Ballet Hispanico has long been revered as a beacon of dance art in the Latino community. Its school and repertory have helped illuminate the Latino experience while instilling the discipline and joy of dance, particularly under the direction of its founder, Tina Ramírez. Eduardo Vilaro, the troupe’s artistic director, seems to be slowly turning the company away from ethnic exploration towards the generic modern dance aesthetic of companies like Complexions and the soon-to-be-defunct Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. Although the three works on this program were choreographed by Hispanic artists to music by Spanish-influenced composers with themes seemingly concerning the nature of Latino behavior, the impression was of a company working hard to find a choreographic aesthetic that can satisfy its identifying with both the Latino community and the newer ideals of modern dance, only partly succeeding. He may eventually find this balance between the two ideals. Certainly he has an absolutely brilliant company of good-looking, talented dancers to work with. [more]

Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance 2015

April 4, 2015

What became clear over the course of the four performances under review attended were the subtle changes in Mr. Taylor’s work over the years, how his works have become less deep and more oddball. This was a terrific way to see everything from his delightfully lovely “white” ballet, “Aureole” (1962), to his most recent opus, “Death and the Damsel,” a dark, distorted—sadistic, even—view of female sexuality. No matter what period the works come from, and no matter what one thinks of them, they are always models of craftsmanship, design and musicality. [more]
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