Susan Marshall's Cerebral Cabaret
I have to admit, I was a little bit skeptical of the Harkness Dance Festival’s “stripped/dressed” theme before seeing Susan Marshall’s Sawdust Palace, the final performance in this annual series at the 92nd Street Y, on Sunday afternoon. The idea, devised by curator Doug Varone, was for each of the festival’s artists to present a two-part evening: first, to discuss the creative process behind a particular dance (to expose its inner workings, “strip it down”) and then to “dress” that piece up, showing the final, polished version, fully costumed and lit.
I went into part one expecting the kind of banality I’ve endured at many a post-show talkback (vague answers to vague questions that too frequently dilute the power of what I’d just seen) or a spoon-fed explanation of what the piece was about (“…and this part is meant to represent…”). I was eager to plough through all that and get to the work itself. I had heard that Sawdust Palace was a collection of cabaret acts, a departure for Marshall, whose sensibility tends toward the serious and contemplative. Did I need to know anything else? Did I need to know even this much? (That whole question of, “How much should we need to know about the art to appreciate the art?”)
Maybe not. But regardless, Marshall’s “Stripped” presentation far exceeded my expectations. In a brief 20-or-so minutes, she gave us some useful context for Palace—how it fit into her trajectory of dance-making and into the broader New York dance landscape—without giving too much away.
Joseph Poulson and Luke Miller in "Body Music"
She offered, for example, a more nuanced way of saying what I just said two paragraphs ago. What I call “serious and contemplative,” Marshall characterizes as a particular “flow” of experience that moves from audience to performer. Typically, she said, her work invites the audience in, asking us to infer, derive our own meaning, figure out what’s going on there. As an example, she showed her five-minute “Book,” a quiet excerpt from her 2006 Cloudless, in which two performers gently page through an encyclopedia (assisted by an enormous fan), while two others whisper in their ears: a mysterious exchange of information, which tells no story but the one we choose to bring to it.
Palace, Marshall said, reverses the direction of that flow, with performers making a more concerted effort to entertain us. The work was commissioned in 2006 for Bard Summerscape’s Spiegeltent, a portable dance hall with a lavish interior, traditionally home to circus and cabaret. (Set designer Susan Zeeman Rogers admirably reproduced that rough-hewn sumptuousness in the Y’s intimate Buttenweiser Hall.) And indeed, Palace, which came after intermission, deals delightfully in reckless, fun exhibitionism, in silliness and sexiness for its own sake. The 15 acts include a gymnastic tea service, a sensuous ruse in which the unassuming pianist (Alexander Rovang) ends up shirtless with his hands tied in a knot, and a new vignette exploring what Marshall calls “the idea of a woman who could manipulate her breasts through puppetry.” (That woman was the brave Jacquelyn Landgraf.)
But the flow in Palace, as far as I perceived it, doesn’t just go one way, and while some moments are stronger than others, the combination of in-your-face humor and thoughtful repose makes for an enchanting whole. Marshall gives our minds plenty of space in which to roam around, asking “What’s this? What’s that?” Her beguiling performers get ensnared in perplexing scenarios that are Pina Bauschian in their absurdity. Objectively futile tasks—like Joseph Poulson and Darrin Wright smacking various body parts together in “Body Music”—seem driven by a definite, if indefinable, underlying logic. In “Belt Man,” Darrin Wright peels off his shirt to reveal multiple belts wrapped around his bare torso. He places one on the ground, lies down beside it, pops to his feet through a stealthy little flip, steps reluctantly over the boundary he’s created for himself, and begins again—and again and again. “What is he doing?” I wonder. But at the same time, his ceremonial focus convinces me that, whatever it is, it’s important.
Doesn’t sound unlike everyday life, actually: finding purpose—and joy—in the repetitive and ridiculous. Life, as they say, is a cabaret.
Kristin Clotfelter and Alexander Rovang in "Salute to Love"
Photos by Julie Lemberger, courtesy 92Y.
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.
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 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.
Last night, American Ballet Theatre held its annual Fall Gala at the David H. Koch Theater in New York City. To celebrate ABT's artistic director Kevin McKenzie's 25 years of leadership, dancers from ABT's company, apprentices, studio company members and students from the Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis School took to the stage in Jessica Lang's The Gift, Alexei Ratmansky's Songs of Bukovina and Christopher Wheeldon's Thirteen Diversions.
But we also love a good behind-the-scenes glimpse—especially when designer gowns are involved. And the dancers gave us plenty of glam looks to obsess over once the curtains closed. Ahead, see our favorite moments from gala straight from the dancers.
Last week Ballet West breezed into New York City's Joyce Theater from Salt Lake City. The dancers are excellent—especially the women (what else is new). The company brought five pieces including works by Gerald Arpino, Val Caniparoli and resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte.
Arpino's last work, made in 2004, is a duet called RUTH, Ricordi per Due ("remembrance for two"). It's about a man haunted by the memory of the woman he loved. Christopher Ruud is strong and sensitive as the man, and Arolyn Williams is riveting as the ghost of his beloved.
Val Caniparoli energizes his dancers with juicy movement, and always sticks to his theme. (He doesn't ramble, and let's face it, long rambling choreography is a problem these days.) In his premiere for Ballet West, Dances for Lou, he takes on the music of Lou Harrison, a composer known for his Eastern sounds and rhythms.
Photo by Filip VanRoe, courtesy Marquee
Your Saturday nights are about to go from "Netflix and chill" to "Marquee and chill." (Okay, maybe we'll need to coin a new phrase).
But seriously, the new streaming app Marquee Arts TV lets you curl up with Bolshoi Ballet's Swan Lake, Sylvie Guillem dancing Mats Ek's solo Bye, a dance film by Cullberg Ballet called 40 M Under, or a documentary about Alonzo King and LINES Ballet. Marquee unlocks a world of digital arts: dance, theater, opera, music, documentaries and film shorts that you can stream directly to your TV or mobile device.
When Simone Forti moved from California to New York City in 1960, she brought with her the improvisational approach of Anna Halprin. As one of the first five students in Robert Dunn's John Cage–inspired composition course (that led to Judson Dance Theater), she was a magnet for two others in that class: Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton. This month the three reunite for Tea for Three, an evening of moving and talking at Danspace Project, Oct. 26–28. It's a chance to see how dance mavericks grow and change and mellow. Forti will also give "Body Mind World" workshops Oct. 19–20. danspaceproject.org.
When you're dancing for what feels like eight days a week, it takes more than just stretching to put your body back in order. You need a good rub down. Unfortunately, most of us don't exactly have the money to afford an on-call personal masseuse.
The solution: Self-massage, with foam rollers, lacrosse balls, elbows and anything else that can help loosen up your muscles. We dug into Dance Magazine's archives to find the best pieces of advice we've published on the topic. Follow these rules to get what you, ahem, knead out of self-massage.