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Wendy Perron's First Blog
Why Is Naharin's Work So Mesmerizing?
After seeing Ohad Naharin’s Decadance performed by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, you don’t come out of it saying This part was good and that part wasn’t. You come out of it having experienced humanity in a raw state. When Ebony Williams in bizarre feathery get-up on stilts, lip synchs to a song of grunts, sighs, and yells, there is something both artificial and ruthless about the way she uses her whole body and face. The recorded sounds seems to come from her gut, spiced up by a touch of Eartha Kitt and Harpo Marx too. The scene is almost funny, but it’s too mesmerizing to laugh.
Cedar Lake invited Naharin to spend three months with them setting Decadance, which is a compilation of excerpts of previous works. The dancers (all of them technically fantastic) have journeyed deep into themselves to get to a place of rawness. His demands go beyond pretty or beautiful, an aesthetic that is shared with Graham. But the movement sometimes looks like krumping or butoh. I think the hypnotic effect has to do with the vulnerability he encourages in his dancers. It gets to something essential about being human—or even animal. In the beginning, when they line up downstage for an excerpt from Naharin’s Virus, their gloved hands look like paws—until each dancer explodes, one at a time, into their personal version of condensed fury.
Another aspect of Naharin’s work that draws you in is the inventive ways he pulls audience members onto the stage. This time, I was one of those led by the hand to the performing space. I don’t have to tell you that it is quite a mental and physical switch from sitting and watching to being under the lights. My personal guide looked at me with fierce eyes that told me what to do. And yet there was room to play; you felt an instant camaraderie with the other dazed souls onstage. My guide turned out to be Shani Garfinkel, who is actually from Naharin’s Israeli company, Batsheva, and had joined Cedar Lake temporarily as both dancer and his assistant.
The program continues until July 1.
The Mothers Made Me Cry
After seeing various casts of Peter Martins’ Romeo + Juliet and American Ballet Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty—and reading lots of reviews—I feel like the mothers have been overlooked. Everyone talks about the different Juliets and Auroras, but Darci Kistler as Lady Capulet really brought the tragedy home, and Susan Jaffe as the queen was the emotional center of the new Sleeping Beauty.
Kistler gave extravagant weight to her every gesture. She had to practically rond-de-jambe around her huge dress, and she did so with generous sweeping arms. Maybe because of her grandeur, when she reacted to the deaths—first of Tybalt, then of Juliet—you felt the tension between her position in life and her immediate grief.
Susan Jaffe was a noble and radiant Queen. When the King, in a fit of rage, ordered Catalabutte (his chief minister) killed, Jaffe went into slow-motion action to calm him. She took his hand and placed her check tenderly in his palm. That did it. The feeling of her cheek in his hand appeased him, and he could now forgive. It seemed like all is OK in a land where a wife’s touch can bring down a king’s ire. It’s like a little shadowing of the Lilac Fairy mitigating Carabosse’s vengeful death sentence.
My dance coach wants my word that I'll keep competing under his school's name for the next year and not audition. I'm 18 years old and already doing lead roles and winning medals. I love his teaching, but shouldn't I be ready to go out and get a job?
—Gil, Las Vegas, NV
How do we make ballet, a traditionally homogeneous art form, relevant to and reflective of an increasingly diverse and globalized era? While established companies are shifting slowly, Richard Siegal/Ballet of Difference, though less than 2 years old, has something of a head start. The guiding force of the company, which is based in Germany, is bringing differences together in the same room and, ultimately, on the same stage.
Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.
She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.
But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
Claude Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, emphasizes clarity and subtlety over high-flung drama as a deadly love triangle unfolds. Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet of Flanders are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer's death with a new production of the landmark opera that is sure to be anything but traditional: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet are choreographing and directing, while boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramović collaborates on the design. Antwerp, Feb. 2–13. Ghent, Feb. 23–March 4. operaballet.be/en.
Black History Month offers a time to reflect on the artists who have shaped the dance field as we know it today. But equally important is celebrating the black artists who represent the next generation. These seven up-and-comers are making waves across all kinds of styles and across the country:
When a new director began transforming Atlanta Ballet a couple of years ago, longtime dancer Alessa Rogers decided to finally explore her dream of dancing in Europe. "I always had this wanderlust," she says. She wasn't set on a particular city or company, but thought learning French would be fun. She began her research that September, making note of repertoire and the number of dancers as well as which companies employed foreign, non–European Union dancers. "I saw that Ballet du Rhin was looking for dancers," says Rogers. "They also had a new director coming in, so I thought it could be an opportunity." After sending a video, Rogers traveled during her layoff week to take company class. She was offered a job on the spot.
Uprooting and moving out of the country, far away from your support system, language and customs, is not something to take lightly. While it can push you as an artist and be an exciting opportunity for personal growth, working as a dancer in a foreign country comes with its challenges. Lots of research and an adventurous spirit are required.
Justin Lynch is surprisingly nonchalant about the struggles of being a full-time lawyer and a professional dancer. "All dancers in New York City are experts at juggling multiple endeavors," he says. "What I'm doing is no different from what any other dancer does—it's just that what I'm juggling is different."
While we agree that freelance dancers are pro multitaskers, we don't really buy Lynch's claim that what he does isn't extraordinary. In fact, we're pretty mind-boggled by the career he's built for himself.
At the annual Gala de Danza in Los Cabos, Mexico, the lineup of performers is usually pretty typical gala fare: You can expect celebrity performers like Lil Buck, reality stars like Ballet West's Beckanne Sisk and "So You Think You Can Dance" finalist Tate McRae, plus principals from top companies like New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht.
What's absolutely not typical? The venue.
At 5'10" I felt like an ant in the studio with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The San Francisco-based company is full of statuesque dancers whose passion is infectious. Every story was told not only through their movement, but through the expression on their faces and their connection to one another.
We talked to artistic director Alonzo King about his love of collaborations and why he thinks politicians need to dance more.