Fall for Dance Ends on a High
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.
What if there was a way to get your dancing in front of the likes of Desmond Richardson, d. Sabela grimes and Vincent Paterson all at once? Just in case you needed another excuse to break out your best moves this week, the Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival is back, and Richardson, grimes and Paterson are among this year's judges.
Dancers and non-dancers alike are invited to submit short dance films to the international online festival, with one caveat: The dancing has to take place in a public space.
The dancers file into an audition room. They are given a number and asked to wait for registration to finish before the audition starts. At the end of the room, behind a table and a computer (and probably a number of mobile devices), there I sit, doing audio tests and updating the audition schedule as the room fills up with candidates. The dancers, more nervous than they need to be, see me, typing, perhaps teasing my colleagues, almost certainly with a coffee cup at my side.
When we're talking about the history of black dancers in ballet, three names typically pop up: Raven Wilkinson at Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Janet Collins at New York's Metropolitan Opera and Arthur Mitchell at New York City Ballet.
But in the 1930s through 50s, there was a largely overlooked hot spot for black ballet dancers: Philadelphia. What was going on in that city that made it such an incubator? To answer that question, we caught up with Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet founder (and frequent Dance Magazine contributor) Theresa Ruth Howard, who yesterday released her latest project, a video series called And Still They Rose: The Legacy of Black Philadelphians in Ballet.
Janie Taylor didn't know if she'd ever return to the stage. But that's exactly where the former New York City Ballet principal has found herself: Nearly three years after retiring, she is performing again, as a member of L.A. Dance Project.
Taylor officially debuted with the company at its December 2016 gala in Los Angeles, then performed in Boston, via live stream from Marfa, Texas, and at New York's Joyce Theater before heading off on tour dates in France, Singapore, Dubai and beyond.
"She is wildly interesting to watch—and not conventional," says LADP artistic director Benjamin Millepied. "There are films of Suzanne Farrell dancing, where you feel like the music is coming out of her body," he says. "I think Janie has that same kind of quality."
Last night was not your average Thursday at Bay Ridge Ballet in Brooklyn, New York. Studio owner and teacher Patty Foster Grado—a former Parsons Dance Company dancer—was teaching a boys class, when with only five minutes left, she heard commotion in the waiting area and someone yelled, "There's a lady giving birth in the bathroom!"
Where can you watch Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, The Nutcracker, Coppélia and Le Corsaire all in one place? Hint: It also has extra-buttery popcorn.
Yep, it's your local movie theater. Starting this weekend, theaters across the country will be showing Bolshoi Ballet productions of classical and contemporary story ballets.
When commercial dancer Danielle Peazer took on an ambassadorial role with Reebok in early 2016, she didn't realize the gig would also lead to a career shift. But while traveling with and teaching workshops for the brand, the idea for DDM (Danielle's Dance Method) Collective started to take shape.