Bill Irwin: The Dancer Inside the Clown
Bill Irwin, right, with David Shiner in "Old Hats," photos © Joan
One of the best dancers in New York wears an old bowler hat and big floppy shoes. But when he starts moving, you’re transfixed. Whether he’s frantically sliding under the stage curtain, tapping out a rhythm, or playing a nerd trying to do a Charleston (as in this delightful YouTube clip) there’s a quality of movement that is as masterful and as poignantly human as that of any great dancer. He has a goofy waywardness that harks back to Ray Bolger or Dick Van Dyke. And when his legs suddenly release with a soft, circular energy, you could swear he’s studied Trisha Brown’s collapsing techniques.
Irwin, who is also an actor, writer, director and MacArthur fellow, has studied different forms of dance including modern, tap and hip hop. Back in the day, he was part of Oberlin Dance Collective (now ODC Dance) when it was still at Oberlin College.
Bill Irwin, left, with David Shiner
Irwin is well aware of the fertile ground for funniness when you juxtapose a clown and a ballerina. We saw the happy result of this in Time It Was/116, a duet collaboration with New York City Ballet star Tiler Peck that was developed by Damian Woetzel at the Vail International Dance Festival last summer and later performed at Fall for Dance. “Laughter is all about context,” Irwin said in our pages. “You juxtapose a corkscrew movement from vaudeville with a perfect développé, and one or the other is possibly going to be funny—and it might be the développé.”
In that duet, Irwin was ageless. Watching him with the scintillating Tiler Peck, you don’t think “young vs. old;” you think "clown training vs. ballet training." But eventually the categories break down and both performers are game to do both. Watch this delightful video of them working on the duet with Woetzel at Vail.
From now until April 3, you can see Bill Irwin at Manhattan’s Signature Theatre in Old Hats, a reprise of some of the hilarious performances he’s done with David Shiner, plus a new presence in the form of singer Shaina Taub. Click here for tickets.
Dance Magazine cover, Sept. 1989
Booking a gig on a cruise ship can feel like you're diving into the unknown—dropping everything to live in the middle of the ocean without family, friends or cell service. But cruise jobs can also offer incredible rewards, like traveling the world for free and delving into a new style.
Is ship life the right fit for you? Here are some elements to consider.
We knew that New York downtown dance darling Okwui Okpokwasili was a big deal. Critics and audiences have been raving about her dance-theater works for years, and the new documentary about her, Bronx Gothic, has attracted the attention of the larger arts community.
But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine she'd show up in a Jay Z video, along with flex dancer Storyboard P. Though we're slightly less surprised to see Storyboard in Jay Z's "4:44" video than we were to see Okpokwasili, we're jazzed that two of our favorites are featured on such a huge platform. (We're also feeling #blessed that we didn't have to subscribe to Tidal to watch this.)
Throughout the years, choreographer Seán Curran has worked with a diverse array of talented collaborators—from Kyrgyz music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus to the the Grammy Award–winning King's Singers. But perhaps none are as meaningful as his most recent group of co-choreographers: At-risk teens from the after school program and nonprofit The Wooden Floor.
Curran has been in residence with The Wooden Floor since June, where he's worked with students to build choreography based on their lives and communities:
Their creation will be shown July 20-22 at The Wooden Floor Studio Theatre in Santa Ana, California.
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."