10 Minutes with Ann Liv Young
The controversial artist shares the stage with a pig in Elektra.
The performance artist Ann Liv Young is most notorious as her alter ego Sherry, a platinum-blonde provocateur who lashes out at audiences and gives free therapy (Sherapy) in her roving Sherry Truck. But she can do other characters, too, as her dark, deranged takes on Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty have shown. Turning to Greek mythology with her latest works—Elektra and its more portable companion piece, Elektra Cabaret—she offers a sympathetic portrait of the princess who plots with her brother to kill their mother for killing their father. This Elektra even has a pet: a live pig in the role of the Chorus. Both versions come to New York Live Arts, January 20–23 and 26–30, and both boast more dancing than much of Young's recent work.
One of our producers actually suggested it. I read as many versions as I could find, and loved the story. I can relate to Elektra's character, and I think a lot of people can, this woman who has dedicated her life to avenging her father's death. I'm interested in that intense will, to be so devoted that nothing can deter you from your goal.
Do you identify with that?
Sometimes I've felt super-strong and willful, and at other times I haven't cared as much about the path I'm on. I actually ended up exploring the other characters more, Elektra's mother (Clytemnestra) and brother (Orestes) and sister (Chrysothemis). How they operate gives you a lot of information about her. The show is fast and exhausting and has a lot of movement, which I haven't done in a while.
What kind of movement?
There's a lot of synchronization and singing while dancing, some improvisation and some set choreography. We do things that are very physically demanding. In the original version we have a fight scene, and we've hit heads before. That was scary. So we've had to figure out, How do we make this really terrifying but still safe?
Your work is often less physical, or at least less choreographed. What inspired the shift?
Around the time I started making Elektra, I was diagnosed with this rare inner ear disorder, superior canal dehiscence syndrome. It's basically like I have holes in the bones between my inner ear and brain, so I have constant vertigo. It's insane. Moving is one of the only things that alleviates the dizziness and stress. So that's why I wanted Elektra to have more movement. The disorder also makes you sensitive to loud noise, which is a huge part of my work. It's all very metaphorical. I just can't do what I've been doing. My body is like, “No."
I have to ask about the pig. Are you importing one from out of town?
We're getting it from my mom's farm in Virginia. We've only done the show in Europe, where they provide the pig and a pig handler and another pig in case the first doesn't work, because it's Europe and they have the capacity to do this. But here, we're just going to go get the pig. It will probably end up staying in my apartment.
It's the end of a long rehearsal day for the dancers of Abraham.In.Motion. They're reviewing phrases of a new work, Dearest Home. It's a pretty typical rehearsal scene. Some dancers cluster around a laptop trying to piece together steps learned long ago. Others review choreography together, working to figure out who remembered which arms correctly.
What isn't typical: The company's director and choreographer, Kyle Abraham, is nowhere to be seen.
That's because while the company is based in New York City full-time, Abraham spends most of his year teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he joined the faculty last September. It's an unconventional model for a single-choreographer–led troupe, almost functioning like a repertory company in which choreographers drop in for a week to set a piece, leaving it up to the rehearsal directors and dancers to keep the momentum going.
La Scala Ballet has a knack for snagging exceptional guest artists, and the company's rare West Coast appearance this weekend at Segerstrom Center for the Arts is no exception. Principal dancer étoile Roberto Bolle will partner both Misty Copeland and Marianela Nuñez in Giselle. And in an extra international twist, they'll be accompanied by the Mikhailovsky Orchestra for the engagement. July 28–30. scfta.org.
Serious dancers interested in musical theater face a difficult choice when applying to college: Should you major in dance or musical theater? "You can make a career following either pathway," says Lynne Formato, associate professor of performing arts at Elon University. If you choose to go the musical theater route, find a program that will challenge your dance technique:
The 2017 Princess Grace Award winners have just been announced! Over the years, the Princess Grace Foundation-USA has demonstrated a knack for picking out future stars in the dance world, so it should be no surprise that several of the honorees are familiar names.
It's well known that Robert Rauschenberg, one of the most famous American artists of the 20th century, made costumes and sets for Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor and Trisha Brown. What you may not know is that he also choreographed and danced in many performances of his own devising. You can see evidence of them among the vast amount of paintings, sculptures and collages at the exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art called Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends.