People come from near and far to obtain tickets for New York City Center’s Fall for Dance festival. They know they will see an amazing array of dance—a total of 20 stellar companies in five programs—at only $15 a pop. Even for those of us familiar with the international dance scene, there is something new every night of this two-week festival.
Last weekend wrapped up another astounding display of radically different kinds of dance. Going the psychic distance from one to the next can be like planetary travel. For example, on the last night, kuchipudi dance artist Shantala Shivalingappa, with her sharp rhythms, spiraling fingers and slapping feet, cast a peaceful spell. Then, with barely a pause, we were thrust into the world of obsessively jabbing, combative extremities and shuddering spines courtesy of Marco Goecke’s Woke Up Blind for Nederlands Dans Theater. The difference in those two worlds gives a sampling of how vast the art of dance can be.
It’s also exciting to see a choreographer who has established a certain style, one that might seem forever indelible, do something entirely different. And so it was with Witness, a world premiere choreographed by Wayne McGregor for Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo. The pairing is an obvious choice. Their partnership in Romeo and Juliet at American Ballet Theatre last June was made in heaven. And before that, in Martha Clarke’s Cheri, they shared a dangerously addictive passion.
In Witness, a Fall for Dance commission, they had the same divine rapport but were more themselves. There was even a tiny fleck of diffidence from Ferri, which somehow made the diving, trusting lifts all the more touching. McGregor's choreography was as inventive as ever, but gone was the aggressiveness, the belligerence that sometimes turns people off. Instead these two exquisite dancers seemed to meet, entwine or surge together by chance rather than by force, surprising us with their shapes. With the spare, silence-studded piano music by Nils Frahm and the stark lighting by Clifton Taylor (inspired by the painter Agnes Martin), there was a feeling of tristesse within a very contemporary aesthetic.
Here are some other highlights:
Airslice, photo by Perron.
Elizabeth Streb’s Airslice, the only other Fall for Dance commission, elicited daredevil spirit from the dancers of STREB Extreme Action. Its giant tilting ladder had the dancers seemingly swinging and swaying from their fingertips, hanging on for dear life it. But what brought the piece into new territory was Zaire Baptiste, the “resident DJ/music producer,” who stoked the audience (“let's make some noise”) and gave Airslice a lively rhythmic context. The dancers were jiving with readiness, and the audience, at Baptiste’s urging, unleashed cheers and gasps at STREB's spectacular moves.
Wendy Whelan’s new project, a duet by Arthur Pita based on songs of Kurt Weill from Threepenny Opera, launches her into an entirely different role: the sexy temptress ready to kiss or kill her tango partner, Royal Ballet principal Edward Watson. In The Ballad of Mack and Ginny they are well matched; each is a unique creature onstage. Here’s what Whelan said about Watson when she was just planning their rep: “He’s smart and thoughtful and loves to try new things…I’d like to get crazy with Ed.” In Pita’s hands, they do get crazy, in the guise of these bawdy, irony-drenched characters.
Wendy Whelan & Edward Watson in The Ballad of Mack and Ginny, photo by Andrej Uspenski
Then there was Farruquito, third generation flamenco master. Although he’s an undeniably snazzy dancer, with heel work to die for, it wasn’t until his musicians got up to dance that you felt the gypsy soul of this group.
Other international fare included Cloud Gate 2 from Taiwan, Dada Masilo/The Dance Factory from South Africa, Richard Alston from London, and the Canadian Aszure Barton. Each one was mind-expanding in small and large ways. But the real expansion came from traveling the distance from the heart of one group to the heart of another.
"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.