Hofesh Shechter's Latest Hits North America, Plus Six Other Shows That Sparked Our Interest This Month
We are deep into the fall season, and the steady stream of great performances has yet to let up. Here are the shows we're keeping an eye on this month.
It's the End of the World as We Know It
Hofesh Shechter's Grand Finale. Photo by Rahi Rezvani, Courtesy Danse Danse
MONTREAL AND NEW YORK CITY Seductive yet unnerving, Hofesh Shechter's choreography is uniquely polarizing. His newest work, Grand Finale, a maelstrom of 10 dancers and 6 musicians sketching "a world in freefall," promises to be as dark, discomfiting and cathartic as any of his others. It lands in North America this month, appearing first at Montreal's Danse Danse Nov. 1–4 before arriving at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival Nov. 9–11. hofesh.co.uk.
His/Her/Their Moves Showcased by the Bridge Project
Monique Jenkinson. Photo by Arturo Cosenza, Courtesy Hope Mohr Dance.
SAN FRANCISCO For several years Hope Mohr's Bridge Project has connected history and the present moment, art and intellectual probing. Plunging into the burgeoning area of gender-nonconforming performance, this year's iteration, Radical Movements: Gender and Politics in Performance, asks the question: What does it mean to have a radical body? Radical Movements will be kicked off by a conversation between Monique Jenkinson (aka faux-drag performer Fauxnique) and gender-theory superstar Judith Butler. Other performers include Julie Tolentino, boychild and Miryam Rostami, all of whom walk on the wild side of gender innovation. Nov. 2–12. hopemohr.org.
Chaos=Hope for Threads Dance Project
Threads Dance Project. Photo by Alex Roob, Courtesy The Cowles Center.
MINNEAPOLIS Before she founded Threads Dance Project, choreographer Karen L. Charles made a living as a computer analyst and mathematician—and her latest work combines that dual passion. Taking chaos theory as a starting point, Uncertain Reality postulates that there is hope in chaos and humanizes an otherwise abstract construct. The Cowles Center, Nov. 3–4. thecowlescenter.org.
Nicolo Fonte and Ballet West dancers rehearse his Carmina Burana. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West.
SALT LAKE CITY In Ballet West's early years, one of the company's mainstays was a Carmina Burana staged by founding artistic director Willam Christensen. Now, resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte is tackling the iconic score. Fonte's new iteration is appearing on a program with George Balanchine's Serenade at both Ballet West and Cincinnati Ballet (in February), providing a stark contrast to the lush neoclassical masterpiece. Nov. 3–4, 8–11. balletwest.org.
David Dorfman Dance, Just Messing Around
David Dorfman Dance. Photo by Adam Campos, Courtesy BAM.
NEW YORK CITY David Dorfman Dance returns to Brooklyn Academy of Music with its signature blend of highly physical group tussles and existential inquiry. With Aroundtown, Dorfman explores what community means in these violently polarized times. Accompanied by electric folk music played live, Aroundtown includes a cameo duet between the choreographer and his wife, Lisa Race. BAM Harvey Theater, Nov. 8–11. bam.org.
An American in...Scotland?
Robert Fairchild. Photo by Matt Trent, Courtesy An American in Paris.
NEW YORK CITY Christopher Wheeldon is tackling another classic musical. But instead of postwar Paris, New York City Center audiences will be transported to a town in the Scottish Highlands that only appears one day every century: Brigadoon. The original 1947 production featured choreography by Agnes de Mille. With Wheeldon at the helm and An American in Paris alums Robert Fairchild and Sara Esty in the cast, the dancing should be in top form. Nov. 15–19. nycitycenter.org.
Bebe Miller Makes Some Dances About Making Dances
Bebe Miller Company. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy Bebe Miller Company.
COLUMBUS, OH For choreographer Bebe Miller's latest work In a Rhythm, she and her company turn their attention toward the dancemaking process itself. The hourlong suite of short dances explores the syntax of movement and how we absorb its meaning. Says Miller: "Process is fascinating. The product is whatever it turns out to be, but how we get there and who we get there with is really why I do what I do." Wexner Center, Nov. 30–Dec. 3. bebemillercompany.org.
Contributors: Courtney Escoyne, Wendy Perron, Steve Sucato
With her fearless demeanor onstage, it's easy to see how Washington Ballet apprentice Sarah Steele attracted the keen eye of former American Ballet Theatre stars Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel. Promoted mid-season from the studio company by artistic director Kent, Steele was cast by Stiefel as the lead in Frontier, his world premiere for The Washington Ballet, this past spring. For the space-themed piece, Steele donned a black-and-white "space suit" onstage, exhibiting dual qualities of strength and grace. Most evocative about Steele's dancing might be her innate intelligence—she was accepted to Harvard on early admission, and plans to resume her studies there in the future. But first, she'll dance.
Lots of college groups do stepping—a form of body percussion based on slapping, tapping and stomping—but Step Afrika! is the first professional dance company to do it. They are currently at New York City's New Victory Theater, presenting The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, a show based on the painting series by Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence about The Great Migration of the 1900s, when millions of African Americans fled the Jim Crow South and traveled by train to the North for a better life. The Great Migration transformed the demographics of the country, and Jacob Lawrence's paintings became famous for their bold color and evocative power.
As we approach Thanksgiving, there's much to be grateful for. Perhaps one of the most important things on your list is dance. Whether you're a full-time company member, an aspiring professional, an audience member, or you simply delight in dancing in your daydreams, this art form is a creative escape.
That's not to say that being a dancer is easy: Pursuing such a competitive career can be heartbreaking, especially when you're faced with rejection.
La Folía, a short dance film by director Adam Grannick that was recently released online, echoes these sentiments in under 12 minutes.
It took two years of intense nutrition counseling and psychotherapy to pull me out of being anorexic. My problem now is that I've gained too much weight from eating normally. Is there no middle ground? I can't fit into my clothes, but I don't want to go back to being sick.
—Former Anorexic, Weston, CT
We always figured that stretching made us more flexible by loosening up our muscles and joints. Some of us, ahem, might have even tried to fall asleep in our middle splits to get our stubbornly stiff inner thighs to let go.
But it turns out that might not actually be how stretching works.
A new review published in the Scandinavian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sports suggests that increased flexibility actually comes from your brain growing more used to the tension.
Efficient movement is easy to recognize—we all know when we see a dancer whose every action seems essential and unmannered. Understanding how to create this effect, however, is far more elusive. From a practical perspective, dancing with efficiency helps you to conserve your energy and minimize wear and tear on the body; from an artistic point of view, it allows you to make big impressions out of little moments, and lasting memories for those watching.
So much struggle and determination goes into your training that it can be difficult for early-career dancers to recalibrate their priorities toward simplicity and ease, says Laurel Jenkins, freelance performer and Trisha Brown Dance Company staging artist. "Your aesthetic might shift, and you might have to find new things beautiful." Mastering the art of effortless movement requires a new perspective and a smart strategy—on- and offstage.
Whatever your feelings about Wayne McGregor's heady, hyper-physical choreography, we can all probably agree on one thing: We'd really, really love to pick his brain. And tomorrow, Dance Umbrella, a UK-based dance festival, is giving everyone the chance to do exactly that.
"Women are often presented as soft, fragile little creatures in ballet," says Léonore Baulac. "We're not." The Paris Opéra Ballet's newest female étoile is discussing her unease at some of the 19th-century narratives she portrays. "It was real acting," she says with a laugh of La Sylphide. "James kills her by taking away her wings, yet she tells him not to worry and goes to die elsewhere onstage!"
Sitting in the canteen of the Palais Garnier, Baulac embodies some of ballet's contradictions in the 21st century. With her fair curls and dainty features, she could easily pass for a little girl's fantasy princess. As Juliet, she exuded a girlish ardor that felt entirely natural; her reservations notwithstanding, her Sylphide was committed and carefully Romantic in style.
Yet the 27-year-old is no ingénue. At Garnier that day, her sweater reads "I can't believe I still have to protest this s**t," a feminist slogan; last winter, Baulac proudly wore it over a Kitri tutu on Instagram. And her repertoire is as thoroughly modern as she is offstage. A versatile performer even by Parisian standards, she is equally at home in Nutcracker as she is in the works of Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
You know Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo as the men who parody your favorite ballet variations—and make it look good. But there's more to the iconic troupe than meets the eye.
A new documentary, Rebels on Pointe, goes behind the scenes of the company, and it's full of juicy tidbits about what it's like to be a Trock. These were some of our favorite moments:
After 30 years of pioneering work in physically integrated dance, AXIS Dance Company co-founder Judith Smith has announced plans to retire from the Oakland, California, company. Throughout her tenure, she strived to get equal recognition for integrated dance and disabled dancers, commissioning work from high-profile choreographers like Bill T. Jones. Her efforts generated huge momentum for expanded training, choreography, education and advocacy for dancers with disabilities.
By phone from her home in Oakland, Smith reflected on how far the field has evolved since the early days of AXIS, and what's yet to be done.