Standing Ovations for Edwaard Liang at BalletMet
On October 22, I witnessed a smashing triple bill in Columbus, Ohio, that deserved its three standing ovations. The last and most immediate was for Edwaard Liang’s kinetically charged Murmuration, after which the whole audience sprang up to cheer this BalletMet premiere.
Edwaard Liang rehearsing BalletMet's dancers Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Gabriel Gaffney Smith
Liang, now in his fourth year as artistic director of BalletMet, was a soloist at New York City Ballet before going to Nederlands Dans Theater, where he started choreographing. He labeled this three-part program “Night and Day.” The first two works were both familiar: Balanchine’s dreamy Serenade and Val Caniparoli’s energetic Lambarena, a blend of classical lines and funky West African contractions. They were danced beautifully by the 25-member company (though Tchaikovsky would be turning over in his grave if he heard the overly loud recording for Serenade), and part of the audience gave them standing ovations too, though not as wildly enthusiastic as for Liang's ballet.
Inspired by the patterns of migrating starlings, Murmuration (which was made for Houston Ballet in 2013), creates a force field that commands you to look. Ezio Bosso’s music surges thick and fast, then suddenly thins out, creating an ebb and flow edged with danger. The flocking of Liang’s choreography frames four pas de deux that are rife with inventive lifts punctuated by tender gestures. One person’s head pushes up beneath a partner’s relaxed hand. There’s an animal comfort, a need for closeness, among these magical, nomadic creatures.
Liang's Murmuration, photos by Jennifer Zmuda
But it’s not just this one piece, or the “Night and Day” program that deserves an ovation. According to critic Steve Sucato, with whom I chatted at the Ohio Theatre that night, Liang has raised the quality of the dancing and choreography at BalletMet, and the shows are sold out more often than before. Liang also launched BalletMet 2, drawing from the top students of the BalletMet Dance Academy, and has increased outreach efforts.
Liang has come a long way since we filmed this “Choreography in Focus” in 2011. At that time he was about to embark on his first full-length work, a Romeo and Juliet for Tulsa Ballet. This spring he will bring that fine production to BalletMet. And by the way, the opulent Ohio Theatre is just right for Shakespeare.
Another upside of BalletMet: From what I gather, there are many links between the ballet company and the excellent dance department at Ohio State University, also in Columbus. (This is not new. As Sucato has pointed out in our pages, BalletMet and OSU have collaborated in the past.) When I was in Columbus last weekend working with Bebe Miller, master teacher at OSU, I met several MFA grads who have become teachers or administrators at the ballet. These connections are the mark of a healthy dance community.
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.
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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."