Sara Mearns & Jodi Melnick: Ballet Glamour Meets PostModern Glamour

When New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns got a hankering to work with a woman choreographer, she was tapping into a something that has become a big issue in the dance world. (Hey, if a woman can run for President, why can’t more female choreographers be hired by NYCB?) She didn’t want just any woman choreographer, but someone who could challenge her. That’s a tall order for a ballet superstar who has danced lead roles in more than 30 Balanchine ballets and 10 Robbins ballets.

But Melnick comes from another side of town. In our Feb. 2013 cover story, “Downtown Diva,” she said that, for her, ballet “was physically unenjoyable.” She’s danced with some of the most interesting, (post)modern dancemakers, including Twyla Tharp, Sara Rudner, Trisha Brown, Vicky Shick and Susan Rethorst. She has an uncanny ability to imbue movement with high style yet allow it to read in a plurality of ways. In her choreography, the impetus for movement starts from deep within; she can turn the subtlest kind of gesture into something fascinating. Her brand of charisma is inimitable. But then, so is Mearns’. In our cover story on Mearns, “No Holds Barred,” writer Astrida Woods called her dancing “explosive and passionate.” She is no ordinary ballet dancer.

The two worked together for Danspace’s “Platform 2015: Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets.” I remember Mearns was strewn on the floor in a decidedly unballetic pose as the audience filed in. She was wearing sneakers; I’d never seen her looking so….athletic. What Melnick and Mearns have in common is that, no matter how hard they try to shed their virtuosity, they both have a rock bottom kind of glamour.

When Mearns approached Melnick for this project, she was willing to explore but did not promise to make a ballet. But one thing leads to another, and she has made a ballet—for Mearns and NYCB dancers Jared Angle and Gretchen Smith. The working title is Working in Process/ New Bodies.

Melnick’s residency at the Guggenheim Museum’s Works and Process series culminates in performances Nov. 13 and 14. Claudia La Rocco, the dance critic who conceived last year’s Platform, will moderate. Original music is by Robert Boston, with additional live music for harpsichord and violin by György Ligeti and Heinrich Biber.

 

Get more Dance Magazine.

 

Dance on Broadway
Courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown

If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.

Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.

Keep reading... Show less
What Dancers Eat
Lindsay Thomas

Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.

So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?

Keep reading... Show less
News
Simon Soong, Courtesy DDT

When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Alice Pennefather, Courtesy ROH

You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)

Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of:

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox