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Dancing at the Other Met
Does dance belong inside a museum? Fine art institutions have recently become the venue of choice for today's trendiest choreographers (see: Benjamin Millepied, Jonah Bokaer, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker). Writer Elaine Stuart even wrote a thoughtful piece in our January issue about how this fad is impacting the dance world.
Curious to see a museum dance piece firsthand, last night I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to watch Twinned, featuring Dance Heginbotham and a band called Alarm Will Sound. The program included a piece that was previously created for a conventional proscenium stage, as well as a premiere choreographed specifically for the Met's Charles Engelhard Court.
Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere gave the choreography a certain weight. The Met is a prestigious, reverent place, and you expect to see something deep and profound inside of it. But I hadn't anticipated how much the movements themselves would matter. I found myself taking every step and gesture very seriously—until I was completely thrown off by booty popping, shimmies and jazz hands. These motions were probably fun in a their original setting, but here they felt silly, even a little awkward.
I also found it took a group of dancers to feel sufficient enough to stand up next to the larger-than-life statues they were dancing around. An opening duet seemed thin, but once the "stage" was flooded with performers, the movement made sense, and finally proportionate to its surroundings.
Throughout the program, I kept wondering whether the dancing would have been more or less effective in a traditional theater. My answer changed depending on what that section of the piece was doing. A group of five dancers imitating jockeys might have gone over better if they hadn't had to compete with such imposing architecture and stained glass windows. (Oddly, this was the section that was specifically choreographed for the site.) But there was also a moment where the performers were filling the space, with a group slowly circling a central golden statue. The solemn mood was so completely fitting that in that instant, the Met's grand court completely elevated the choreography, and there was nowhere else I could have imagined it being performed with such breathtaking impact.
Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she'd been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.
But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica's history.
On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.
Ever wonder why some dancers' port de bras appears to be disconnected from their body? It typically comes down to how they stabilize their shoulder blades, says Marimba Gold-Watts, Pilates instructor to dancers like Robert Fairchild.
"Dancers often hear the cue to pull down on their latissimus,"—the biggest muscle in the back—"which doesn't allow the shoulder blades to lie flat," she says. "It makes the bottom tips of the shoulder blades wing, or flare out, off the rib cage."
Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.
A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.
"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.
Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.
Some dancers move to New York City with their sights set on a dream job: that one choreographer or company they have to dance for. But when Maggie Cloud graduated from Florida State University in 2010, she envisioned herself on a less straightforward path.
"I always had in mind that I would be dancing for different people," she says. "I knew I had some kind of range that I wanted to tap into."
New York City Ballet is celebrating the Jerome Robbins Centennial with twenty (20!) ballets. The great American choreographer died in 1998, so very few of today's dancers have actually worked with him. There are plenty of stories about how demanding (at times brutally so) he could be in rehearsal. But Peter Boal has written about Robbins in a more balanced, loving way. In this post he writes about how Robbins' crystal clear imagery helped him approach a role with clarity and purpose.
Who says you need fancy equipment to make a festival-worthy dance film? Right now, two New York City–based dance film festivals are calling for aspiring filmmakers to show their stuff—and you don't need anything more cumbersome than a smartphone to get in on the action.
Here's everything you need to know about how to submit:
When Lisset Santander bourréed onstage as Myrtha in BalletMet's Giselle this past February, her consummate portrayal of the Queen of the Wilis was marked by steely grace and litheness. The former Cuban National Ballet dancer had defected to the U.S. at 21, and after two years with the Ohio company, she's now closer to the dance career she says she always wanted: one of limitless possibilities.