Sisters Forever in Trisha's "Spanish Dance"
I must’ve been grinning like a crazy lady all through Spanish Dance. It was such a blast to do that dance with other Trisha Brown alumnae last Friday during her 75th birthday/benefit/auction.
You may have seen the piece, or seen a photo of it. Five women in white, evenly spaced across front of the stage—or, in this case the Sikkema Jenkins Gallery—gradually accumulate to form a single organism, one at a time joining the sensual treading, all to the Gordon Lightfoot song “Early Mornin’ Rain” sung by Bob Dylan.
Between the end of the four-minute dance, when I reluctantly pulled away from the other women’s bodies, and the bow, I lost it. Maybe it was seeing Trisha in the audience, mouthing the words “I love you” to us; or maybe it was knowing I probably would never do this dance again; or maybe it was remembering how much I loved the three years I danced with Trisha in the 70s, but tears welled up and I couldn’t keep a calm face while taking a bow. Later, a number of people in the audience told me they had gotten weepy too.
YOu can see this rendition here.
Spanish Dance at the Sikkema Jenkins Gallery, Jan. 27, 2012, with Lisa
Kraus in front. Photo © 2012 Hal Horowitz, Courtesy TBDC
Spanish Dance is usually a funny dance. It’s so odd and delicious to see these women, one by one, pile up, with their torsos’ smashed together in hip-sinking unison, inching across the space. As a dancer, you have to be relaxed enough to feel the rhythm of the women behind you and and in front of you. Your gaze has to calmly travel over the audience. At the last beat, when the front girl hits the wall (or the proscenium, depending on the site), the audience usually laughs. It’s a good punch line, not because it’s a surprise but because it happens precisely on the last note of the music.
My four compatriots were Vicky Shick, Irene Hultman, Lisa Kraus, and Elizabeth Garren; all are juicy movers—still, after 30 or more years. At the rehearsal the day before, while getting into our “costumes” of pajama-like whites, we had what could be called over-the-hill, bawdy fun. We are bound together as sisters in our love Trisha—for her knowing us each in that intimate dancer way, for challenging us as artists, for her kindness, for her thought-provoking threads of genius.
One of the non-bawdy jokes was something that a younger, career-minded dancer probably would not say out loud. In Spanish Dance we each raise our arms in our own faux-Spanish way. After the first run-through, Diane Madden, rehearsal director extraordinaire of the Trisha Brown Dance Company, told us all that our arms were beautiful. OK, nice. Then Elizabeth Garren blurted out, “But whose were the best?” We all cracked up. Competitiveness never goes away, even after all these years.
Like the champagne and gogi berry vodka that were served to the donors, our nostalgia-laden version of Spanish Dance was used to loosen up the crowd. As soon as we entered the gallery space, a whoop went up among them. It was obvious that they knew and loved this dance. A treat. A paradoxical delicacy. A dip in the waters of female intimacy.
Meanwhile, more than 40 works of art, donated by the artists or their estates, hung on the gallery walls waiting to be auctioned, proceeds to go to the Trisha Brown Archive.
I had several wonderful conversations with guests. One man told me he had actually sent a DVD of Spanish Dance to Bob Dylan, because he felt it captured the melancholy of the wandering soul just as the song did. (Spanish Dance is many things to many people.) I am still wondering if Dylan ever watched it.
Spanish Dance c. 1977 with, left to right: Lisa Kraus, Mona Sulzman,
Trisha Brown, Wendy Perron, and Elizabeth Garren. Photo © Babette
Mangolte, Courtesy TBDC
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
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:
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.
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.
You know that how you care for your body before curtain can impact your performance. But with so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to nail down an exact routine. How much rest is enough? How close to showtime should you eat? We asked the experts.
How do you make your athleisure collection stand out from the pack? Get the ultimate studio-to-street seal of approval by having dancers star in your campaign, of course.
For his second collaboration with activewear brand Carbon38, ready-to-wear designer Jonathan Simkhai traded in his usual top models like Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss for the original Hiplet dancers—and the resulting video is as cool as we'd expect from such a fierce collaboration.
Again and again, dance teaches me that when the filters fall away between people—when the boundaries of geography, religion and politics soften—the beginning and end of our relationships is always human.
In March, I traveled with Keigwin + Company to Cote D'Ivoire, Ethiopia and Tunisia, on a tour sponsored by the US State Department and facilitated by DanceMotion USA/Brooklyn Academy of Music. Our mission was cultural diplomacy: Simply, to share ourselves with diverse communities, to promote common understanding and friendships.
Our last stop was Tunisia. Until that point, we had mostly been learning varieties of traditional African dance, and sharing American modern dance. But Tunisia was different. The dancers already had a solid grasp of contemporary movement invention. Though we didn't speak the same language, we could make movement vocabulary with surprising ease. Everything about our backgrounds was different, but there was this special intersection through dance that seemed to present an open door to collaboration.