There was something very different about the Limón Dance Company last week during their season at The Joyce Theater. It was the costuming: For a long time, women just did not expose bare legs in the modern dance land of long dresses and long tights. But seeing the Limón dancers in Kate Weare's Night Light (2014)—suddenly they looked more like today.
Night Light costumer Fritz Masten dressed the dancers in loose tops and bare legs, giving the dancers a whole new look. The choreography transformed the elegant dancers into adventurous, even confrontational beings. With those bare legs, they sliced the space and entangled their partners. The dancers were restless rather than noble, human rather than heroic.
But here's the funny thing about styles that look new: Sometimes they hark back to the old. Take this photo of Betty Jones, brazenly bare-legged, with Limón in his The Apostate from 1959.
The Apostate (1959) with Betty Jones and José Limón, Photo by Matt Wisocki, Courtesy DM Archives
Of course there were classic Limón pieces at the Joyce too, in which his famous humanity was expressed in large, sweeping movements. But what I rediscovered is that, whether or not you like that aesthetic, his choreographic craft is a lesson in itself. In Concerto Grosso (1945), a trio, the architecture has a keystone in the male dancer, but the patterns are not predictably symmetrical. The clean lines and crystalline counterpoint give a sense of spiritual uplift. There's a nobleness to the dancers' stretched and etched lines.
Concerto Grosso with Elise Drew, Jesse Obremski and Kathryn Alter, Photo by Ben Licera
The Exiles (1950) takes this nobility and makes a story of it. Well…it's an old story: Adam and Eve and their cycle of attraction, intimacy and shame. There are no airborne lifts like in ballet. The partnering is grounded, with leverage, with effort—and startlingly inventive. Kristen Foote, one of New York's most magnificent dancers, passes through the changing emotions with honesty and dignity, while her partner, Mark Willis, is unwavering in his strength.
Mark Willis and Kristen Foote in The Exiles, Photo by K. Chang
Back to Kate Weare's work. Perhaps, under the direction of new artistic director Colin Connor, the definition of humanity in the Limón company is changing. Weare's angular moves and sharp interactions challenged the dancers to inhabit another mode of expression. In this "Choreography in Focus," she talks about giving roles to dancers that change them "psychophysically." But again, perhaps that's a clue to her ability to renew a kind of rawness that Limón had back in 1959.
"I don't cook for just one or two people," says James Whiteside, stirring a pot on his stove. "My mom taught me to cook and she had five kids. So when I do cook, I go in!"
Aside from breakfast (usually bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin), the American Ballet Theatre principal rarely cooks for himself during ABT's seasons. He prefers to "forage" for his lunch and go out or order in for dinner, saving the real cooking for when he has friends or colleagues to feed. "I like to have a lot of people tell me my food is delicious," he quips.
We're not sure what we did to deserve the livestream generosity the dance world is giving us these days, but this weekend, it's getting even better.
PC Joe Toreno
L.A. Dance Project, Benjamin Milliepied's trendsetting contemporary troupe, has been in residence at The Chinati Foundation for the past few days. This weekend, they're showing us what they've come up with—for three days straight.
To create great work, choreographers need the freedom to tackle difficult subjects and push physical limits. But when your instruments are human beings, is there a limit to how far you should go? Five choreographers open up about where they draw the line.
Restaurants have always been a great source of survival gigs for dancers. But today's top chefs aren't just looking for waiters to carry dishes to the table. They're hiring choreographers to give the staff dance-like skills and compose a sort of choreography for the dining room.
Leslie Scott, artistic director of dance theater company BODYART, is one of those choreographers. After working in more typical food industry jobs for 10 years, she's been tapped by top restaurants in both New York City and Los Angeles to lead workshops that finesse servers' non-verbal communication and navigation of tight spaces.
Back in 2002, dancer and choreographer Jonah Bokaer founded an art space in Brooklyn called Chez Bushwick. As Manhattan and Brooklyn were quickly becoming unaffordable, and many studio spaces were closing, Bokaer seized upon "creative placemaking"—the idea that the arts can play an integral role in community-building—before it became a buzzword. "We have been sustaining and maintaining one of the most affordable dance studios in New York State since the very beginning of my career," he says.
Fifteen years later, the challenges for choreographers in expensive urban centers continue unabated, and Bokaer has found his original mission magnified. While Chez Bushwick remains a haven for the next generation, there is also a growing number of young dancemakers who have been inspired to create their own residencies, communities and, ultimately, opportunities.
The New York City premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's sugary sweet story ballet, Whipped Cream, made for one of the most exciting spring galas at American Ballet Theatre yet. While we're usually in awe of the gowns the dancers sport on the red carpet beforehand, this time around, it was all about Whipped Cream's colorful and over-the-top costumes by Mark Ryden—and, okay, a few major dress moments, too. Ahead, check out what went on behind-the-scenes.