Funny dances are few and far between. I was reminded of that when I saw Alexander Ekman’s laugh-out-loud funny Tulle recently at the Joffrey Ballet. He had a horde of tutu-clad women clomping around—I think the floor was miked—so you heard an exaggeration of the thudding sound you usually politely ignore at the ballet. Another time they walked downstage and peered at the audience, then started whistling the Tchaikovsky theme of the swan corps—almost as if they were saying, “I’m looking right at you. Is this what you want from us?”
The Joffrey Ballet in Tulle by Alexander Ekman, photo by Kara Zimmerman.
We tend to get our dance giggles from YouTube these days, but it takes skill and courage to actually build the laughs into the choreography. So it’s worth mentioning some recent and upcoming examples.
Annie-B Parson’s absurdist The Snow Falls in Winter (2008) brought a surprise dose of laughter to the Graham audience, as pointed out by Siobhan Burke in The New York Times. A dancer bends down to press her face to a tabletop and comes up wearing a fake mustache. Another dancer balances a book on her lifted thigh and when it slips off we hear canned applause. But sometimes it was just the witty timing of reaching for, or pulling away from, an object that could make you laugh.
Another recent moment of humor was provided by Matthew Rushing’s Odetta, premiered by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in December. To a charming rendition of “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” recorded by Harry Belafonte and Odetta, two Ailey dancers act out the silliness implied by the lyrics with sassy timing.
Rachael McLaren and Marcus Jarrel Willis of AAADT in Matthew Rushing's Odetta, photo by Mike Strong.
A streak of humor always lightens a season of Paul Taylor’s work. In the Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance that opens this week, Cloven Kingdom reveals the animal instincts that underlie perfectly civilized people. It makes you guffaw just to realize how Taylor sees human behavior. For more on Paul Taylor’s funnybone, check out Alan Ulrich’s survey of humor in Taylor’s oeuvre.
Robbins' The Concert with Sterling Hyltin, aloft. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
"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.