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How Being The Met's Artist in Residence Has "Completely Changed" Andrea Miller's Approach
More than 2,000 years ago, the Temple of Dendur sat on the west bank of the Nile River in Egypt. Today it overlooks Central Park from a large, sunlit hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"It always hits me when I see the temple, what an incredible transition it's been through," says choreographer Andrea Miller, the museum's current artist in residence, a week before the premiere of her new work inspired by the ancient structure. "That lifecycle is something I can't avoid."
Standing behind a reflecting pool, she observes her 16 dancers—10 from her company, Gallim Dance, plus 6 students from Juilliard—swarming the large stone plaza in front of the temple during a run-through of the piece, Stone Skipping. Dramatic tableaux echoing the temple's engravings are juxtaposed with intricate solos and duets that highlight the grandeur of the site.
"This piece is very much trying to be in conversation with the temple and the space," Miller says.
Being in conversation with one of the world's great artifacts is one of the privileges of being an artist in residence at the Met. Miller is the fifth performing artist invited to create at the iconic museum as an artist in residence, and the first choreographer to do so with that title.
"I'm always looking for artists that have something very deep to say," says Limor Tomer, the general manager of MetLiveArts, who oversees the program. "Andrea is someone who brings a lot of depth and at the same time flexibility."
Tomer first invited Miller to create a 15-minute work at the temple in the fall of 2016. Afterward, she asked Miller: If you could do anything at the museum, what would you do? Miller said she wanted to further develop the temple work and then make a work that wouldn't respond to any other art but simply be a piece of art itself. Last spring, Miller was named artist in residence.
"One of my not-so-secret agendas is to change her process, to change her," Tomer says of the program's goals. In particular, "I thought the opportunity to break out of a traditional space would be an interesting challenge to her."
But a big part of the challenge is reconfiguring Miller's reference points, daring her, in a sense, to grapple with history and the highest levels of visual art. Or, as Tomer puts it, one objective was to "see the Met as a place of inspiration…a repository and source of ideas rather than a repository of a bunch of objects." In return, Miller takes what can feel like a static place and fills it with energy and a sense of momentum, helping visitors experience it in new ways.
Over the summer, Miller began shaping Stone Skipping, but when she brought in much of the material she had created in the studio, "it made no sense." She realized that she needed regular access to the temple, so she asked to rehearse on site, which the Met granted once a week during museum hours.
Suddenly, she had an audience, which helped her understand how movement can offer visitors a new layer of meaning to something as imposing as the temple. "I see their physicality change and the amount of time they spend in the space," she says.
The next piece that Miller is creating during her residency addresses the second part of her proposal: to make a work that stands alone, without playing off an existing sculpture, painting or artifact. That work, for eight dancers, is slated to premiere at the end of May and occupy the entire fifth floor of the Met Breuer, the museum's nearby contemporary outpost.
In keeping with Tomer's mission, though, Miller is taking inspiration from an upcoming exhibit called "Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300–Now)." Miller's work will similarly engage with the passage of time, performed without pause throughout museum hours.
"It's going to be grueling," she says. The durational aspect is a nod to one of Miller's heroes, the famed performance artist Marina Abramovíc. "I recognize myself in her approach and her humanity as a woman," Miller says, praising Abramovíc's urgency and risk.
Miller's opportunity to explore that aspect of her own creativity seems to be having precisely the effect Tomer intended. Miller says she feels the residency is "completely changing my approach as an artist," from her definition of performance to the way she considers sites and collaborators.
"I can't be more specific, but I know it's happening. I just need a little more hindsight."
Whether playing a saucy soubrette or an imperious swan, Irina Dvorovenko was always a formidable presence on the American Ballet Theatre stage. Since her 2013 retirement at 39, after 16 seasons, she's been bringing that intensity to an acting career in roles ranging from, well, Russian ballerinas to the Soviet-era newcomer she plays in the FX spy series "The Americans."
We caught up with her after tech rehearsal for the Encores! presentation of the musical Grand Hotel, directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes and running March 21–25 at New York City Center. It's another tempestuous ballerina role for Dvorovenko—Elizaveta Grushinskaya, on her seventh farewell tour, resentfully checks into the Berlin hostelry of the title with her entourage, only to fall for a handsome young baron and sing "Bonjour, Amour."
When Andrew Montgomery first saw the Las Vegas hit Le Rêve - The Dream 10 years ago, he knew he had to be a part of the show one day. Eight years later, he auditioned, and made it to the last round of cuts. On his way home, still waiting to hear whether he'd been cast, he was in a motorcycle accident that ended up costing him half his leg.
But Montgomery's story doesn't end the way you might think. Today, he's a cast member of Le Rêve, where he does acrobatics and aerial work, swims (yes, the show takes places in and around a large pool) and dances, all with his prosthetic leg.
Last week in a piece I wrote about the drama at English National Ballet, I pointed out that many of the accusations against artistic director Tamara Rojo—screaming at dancers, giving them the silent treatment, taking away roles without explanation—were, unfortunately, pretty standard practice in the ballet world:
If it's a conversation we're going to have, we can't only point the finger at ENB.
The line provoked a pretty strong response. Professional dancers, students and administrators reached out to me, making it clear that it's a conversation they want to have. Several shared their personal stories of experiencing abusive behavior.
Christopher Hampson, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, wrote his thoughts about the issue on his company's website on Monday:
When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.
"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."
Camille A. Brown is on an impressive streak: In October, the Ford Foundation named her an Art of Change fellow. In November, she won an AUDELCO ("Viv") Award for her choreography in the musical Bella: An American Tall Tale. On December 1, her Camille A. Brown & Dancers made its debut at the Kennedy Center, and two days later she was back in New York City to see her choreography in the opening of Broadway's Once on This Island. Weeks later, it was announced that she was choreographing NBC's live television musical Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, to air on April 1.
An extraordinarily private person, few knew that during this time Brown was in the midst of a health crisis. It started with an upset stomach while performing with her company on tour last summer.
"I was drinking ginger ale, thinking that I would feel better," she says. Finally, the pain became so acute that she went to the emergency room in Mississippi. Her appendix had burst. "Until then, I didn't know it was serious," she says. "I'm a dancer—aches and pains don't keep you from work."
A flock of polyamorous princes, a chorus of queer dying swans, a dominatrix witch: These are a few of the characters that populate the works of Katy Pyle, who, with her Brooklyn-based company Ballez, has been uprooting ballet's gender conventions since 2011.
Historically, ballet has not allowed for the expression of lesbian, transgender or gender-nonconforming identities. With Ballez, Pyle is reinventing the classical canon on more inclusive terms. Her work stems from a deep love of ballet and, at the same time, a frustration with its limits on acceptable body types and on the stories it traditionally tells.
The latest fitness fad has us literally buzzing. Vibrating tools—and exercise classes—promise added benefits to your typical workout and recovery routine, and they're only growing more popular.
Warning: These good vibrations don't come cheap.
My life is in complete chaos since my dance company disbanded. I have a day job, so money isn't the issue. It's the loss of my world that stings the most. What can I do?
—Lost Career, Washington, DC
Dance Theatre of Harlem is busy preparing for the company's Vision Gala on April 4. The works on the program, which takes place on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reflect on the legacy of Dr. King and his impact on company founder Arthur Mitchell. Among them is the much-anticipated revival of legendary choreographer Geoffrey Holder's Dougla, which will include live music and dancers from Collage Dance Collective.
We stepped into the studio with Holder's wife Carmen de Lavallade and son Leo Holder to hear what it feels like to keep Holder's legacy alive and what de Lavallade thinks of the recent rise in kids standing up against the government—as she did not too long ago.
The encounter with man-eating female creatures in Jerome Robbins' The Cage never fails to shock audiences. As this tribe of insects initiates the newly-born Novice into their community and prepares her for the attack of the male Intruders, the ballet draws us into a world of survival and instinct.
This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of Jerome Robbins' birth, and a number of Robbins programs are celebrating his timeless repertoire. But it especially feels like a prime moment to experience The Cage again. Several companies are performing it: San Francisco Ballet begins performances on March 20, followed by the English National Ballet in April and New York City Ballet in May.
Why it matters: In this time of female empowerment—as women are supporting one another in vocalizing injustices, demanding fair treatment and pay, and advocating for future generations—The Cage's nest of dominant women have new significance.