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.
This week American Ballet Theatre launches its fall season at Lincoln Center with an exciting lineup of performances. One last-minute addition to the program is a new work from Benjamin Millepied, which will be performed by ABT Studio Company and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School dancers in the theater's promenade during select intermissions. Although the specifics of the performance are hush hush, we stepped into the studio with Millepied for an inside look.
What has it been like to choreograph on younger dancers and how, if at all, did you change your approach?
To be honest, they're really good. Rhythmically, it's not easy at all and they've done incredibly well. The piece could be longer. It's really one movement but, for the first time, to use that space it felt right. Nothing says I couldn't add two more movements next season to make it longer.
What are your thoughts on bringing classical ballet outside the proscenium setting?
For me, it's great to think of spaces theatrically. We build sets with lighting and props, but there are also all these environments that are beautiful and theatrical, and with a little bit of work you can create something within them and that becomes site-specific. That's really fun because you create something really specific for the environment.
What would you like to see more of from young ballet dancers?
What I would want to see more of in ballet is just more interesting collaborations. These ballet dancers are great and they're ready and what they need is more interesting work. I feel people are playing it safe a lot. If anything, I think it's the choreographers and the directors who need to make an effort for these dancers who have made this art form their passion, and to really be as daring or at least as relevant as some of our peers were when they were commissioning pieces a long time ago.
With artistic director Andrea Miller as the Metropolitan Museum of Art's artist in residence this year, Gallim Dance will be debuting a new site-specific work exploring the museum's iconic Temple of Dendur October 28-29. We sat down with Miller to get a deeper look into her creative process and the challenges she's faced creating this piece.
What struck you the most about the Temple of Dendur?
I was really affected when I walked into the space where the temple is. It's impressive to see the way that they've placed this 2000-year-old temple so beautifully in a home in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. But it's also striking to understand that instead of a backdrop of the Nile, it's Central Park. So I felt like I became really sensitive that the temple had to go through a transition from being a temple in its home in front of the Nile to becoming an artifact in New York.
This work is extremely physical. What about the temple drove you to create a more abstract piece?
I don't want to be too heavy-handed in a narrative because I think what's really happening is this invisible momentum—something we can't even recognize or understand that's happening to us, or that maybe happened to the temple. As powerful as it is and as loud as it is. I'm trying to keep it more abstract so that it is more felt than told.
How much do you rely on your dancers input when it comes to the creative process?
It's very collaborative. We really depend on each other. We have complimentary roles and I'm most excited when I'm collaborating with my dancers and when we're speaking together about it and they're responding with movement to the ideas that I'm bringing to them. They also tell me from the inside what's working, what's missing.
As the sun beams into the beautiful John Cage & Merce Cunningham studio at the Baryshikov Arts Center, Roy Assaf and his dancers are exploding in the space preparing for their upcoming performance. The fact that Assaf grew up with no formal dance training would come as a surprise to anyone watching this rehearsal. Afterward, we sat down with Assaf to hear about his creative process and the fears he finds himself trying to overcome.
One of my favorite parts of working with Wendy Perron over the past 12 years has been listening to her talk about dance. More than anyone I know, Wendy can explain a piece of choreography or a dancer's approach in the most visceral, compelling way. She doesn't even always use words—sometimes she turns to sounds or body language to fully describe something she loves.
Having a casual chat with her can be like getting a master class in the most interesting dance going on right now. And as Dance Magazine's editor at large, she sees a lot. She's one of the most well-connected people I know in the dance world, so more often than not she's got juicy insights, strong opinions and fascinating background info.
We decided to share this with you by filming a short video clip each week, capturing Wendy talking about the dance events she's most looking forward to in our new series, "What Wendy's Watching." Or, as she puts it: "Just wind me up and make me talk dance."
In this episode of "What Wendy's Watching," I talk about Twyla Tharp as a dance hero, and that's no exaggeration. She pioneered "pure dance" with gonzo energy and innovation for decades. She was an inspiration to all dancers—both downtown and uptown—when I was a young dancemaker myself. Two years after her 50th anniversary tour she returns to the Joyce Theater with a mixed program, which runs through Oct. 8. If you go to see the old and new work, there's a surprise—a spontaneous, fun entr'acte that is neither old nor new. It's in the guise of a wacky lec-dem that gives a glimpse into Tharp's dancemaking methods, her camaraderie with the dancers, and yes, her own dancing. The woman has guts to reveal her dancing self in her mid-70s. Her wit and playfulness remain intact.
Martha Graham Dance Company leading lady PeiJu Chien-Pott has been turning heads ever since she joined the company in 2011. Nominated this year for the Outstanding Performer Bessie Award, Taiwanese Chien-Pott is known for her striking lines and visceral power in both Graham and contemporary works.
We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series, and she told us the surprising story of how she earned her spot in the Graham Company:
Every year the Fall for Dance festival presents such a rich array of dance at New York City Center that some people come from across the country just to see it. I try to see all five programs, because there is always something I've never seen before and also something I'm keen to see again. In this #WWW, I try to cram all 20 companies into two minutes. It went by so fast I didn't get a chance to say much about Michelle Dorrance and Kyle Abraham, both of whom are commissioned. So click here for my Choreography in Focus with Michelle, and click on our cover story on Kyle's last amazing work.
This year the festival runs Oct. 2-14. For tickets, which are only $15 a pop (don't blame me if it's already sold out), click here.