Dance Matters

March 17, 2010

Nacho Duato, U.S.-Bound

Compañía Nacional de Danza returns to the U.S.


Known for its darkly passionate movement and luminous musicality, Nacho Duato’s work is ubiquitous in the U.S. and beyond. This month he brings his company, Compañía Nacional de Danza, to the U.S. and Canada for the start of a seven-city tour. It marks his 20th anniversary at the helm of the national ensemble, a record of unprecedented stability within Spain’s national arts institutions.


There is much for Duato to celebrate, considering that last year it seemed that he might need to find a new job. In 2008 Spain’s Minister of Culture announced that he would not renew Duato’s contract in 2010 and that directorship of CND and other cultural institutions in Spain would be awarded through an open application process. The 53-year-old Valencia native stated that he would not apply for the post he had held since 1990 and if he left he would take his ballets (about 45 percent of the repertory) with him. Several tours for 2010 were put on hold, and some dancers whose contracts were up for renewal decided to leave due to the uncertainty of Duato’s continued leadership. The conflict was resolved when a new Minister of Culture stepped in last spring and extended Duato’s contract indefinitely.


CND’s contemporary focus is still a source of controversy in Spain even as the ensemble has made a name for itself as one of Europe’s finest. Duato has been criticized for having so many of his pieces in CND’s repertory. Detractors argue that a national ensemble should reflect a wider perspective. Duato maintains that quality is the determining factor for a company that represents its country at home and abroad. His repertory lives up to his word: CND also performs work by Kylián, Forsythe, Naharin, and Mats Ek, among others. 


CND’s 25 excellent dancers hail from 16 countries and include Americans Randy Castillo, Kayoko Everhart, and Clyde Archer. “We now have a distinctive identity, tour worldwide, and have offered professional training to over 100 dancers through our junior company, CND2,” says Duato with satisfaction. However, he remains frustrated with the fact that CND often receives more recognition abroad than at home. “After 20 years, we still have no home theater in Madrid.”


While Duato’s work has been set on over 50 companies (including American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and the Pacific Northwest, San Francisco, and Washington Ballets), it continues to evolve and has, in his opinion, deepened in subject matter. “It’s darker and more introspective,” Duato says. “When I began, my choreography was a window opening out to the world. Nowadays it is a door that opens into myself. It’s technically more complex and I prefer to make new work with my own dancers, who have developed my vocabulary with me.”


CND will present a slew of his ballets on the tour, including the full-length Multiplicity, Forms of Silence and Emptiness, inspired by the life and work of J.S. Bach, in Chapel Hill, Washington, and Ottawa. Others include the lyrical Arenal; Cobalto, a dreamlike reflection on eroticism; Castrati; and Kol Nidre, a reflection on the children of war.


“American audiences are generous and enthusiastic,” says Duato. “We always look forward to performing in the U.S.” —Laura Kumin



Keigwin Plays at DANCEworks

The choreographer takes a month’s residence in Santa Barbara.


Larry Keigwin’s choreography is often breathlessly brisk, and his rapidly rising career has been equally on the move. In recent years, the frequently naughty, always witty dancemaker has turned around commissions for the Martha Graham Dance Company, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and the Juilliard School. But this month, on the heels of Keigwin + Company’s first solo season at New York’s Joyce Theater (March 16–21), the puckish and provocative creator of Keigwin Kabaret will have a rare opportunity to settle into a more tranquil atmosphere with his own company, as the second artist commissioned by a new annual residency program, DANCEworks.


The program gives choreographers and their dancers four consecutive weeks of unfettered time onstage at the 680-seat Lobero Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara, California. In addition to receiving room and board near the beach, the artists and dancers are encouraged to make the most of the Lobero’s technical capacities. Last year’s commissioned choreographer, the prolific Aszure Barton, brought in a lighting designer and a costume designer to collaborate on the earliest stages of Busk. In Santa Barbara Aszure Barton & Artists created 50 minutes of the piece, which made its official premiere at the Ringling International Arts Festival in Sarasota, FL. “It was one of the most exciting experiences that my group has ever had,” Barton says. “It’s so rare to work in a theater for four weeks.”


“We realized a month onstage could be game-changing for some dance companies,” says DANCEworks executive director Dianne Vapnek. With David Asbell, executive director of the Lobero Theatre Foundation, Vapnek founded DANCEworks after presenting the Summerdance Santa Barbara festival from 1997–2006. Initial DANCEworks residents have been drawn from the roster of past Summerdance choreographers, who also include Doug Elkins, Doug Varone, Tamango of Tamango Urban Tap, and Brian Brooks. There is no formal application process. “We wanted to make this as easy on the choreographers as possible,” Vapnek says (but future residencies will reach out to dancemakers unaffiliated with Summerdance).


Vapnek says Keigwin’s smart, urban sensibility exemplifies what DANCE­works supports. “The companies that appeal to us seem to tap the pulse of contemporary life. Larry’s work has a ferocious energy, wit, and humor. And I like companies that work collaboratively, where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.”


In Santa Barbara, Keigwin will rebuild his collaborative process with a fresh group of performers—three of his six company members are relatively new.  He’ll also work with commissioned music by composer Chris Lancaster, who along with a small instrumental ensemble will perform the score live at the end-of-residency performances on April 23 and 24.


“Working with composers is relatively new for me,” says Keigwin, whose breakout piece, 2004’s Mattress Suite, sent couples costumed in their skivvies bouncing off a bed to moody radio tunes. “Chris has a pop aesthetic, which speaks to me, and we may use some sampling.”


As to what influence the Southern California atmosphere might exert on his work, Keigwin says, “It’s definitely slower in Santa Barbara. In New York, we’re running everywhere and I have a tendency to make pieces that are hyperkinetic. Maybe this new work will be calmer.” He pauses mischievously. “But I doubt that.” —Rachel Howard