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The Institute of
April 24–25, 2009
Reviewed by Theodore Bale
Jennifer Bricker and Nathan Crawford in the mesmerizing aerial overture to GIMP. Photo courtesy ICA.
When six confident dancers (Christina Briggs, Lawrence Carter-Long, Jeffrey Freeze, Lezlie Frye, Catherine Long, and Heidi Latsky) walk slowly downstage in the opening scene of GIMP, each is looking directly, almost confrontationally, into the audience. Two of them have provocative slogans on their black T-shirts: “Keep staring, I might do a trick,” says one, and “Let’s get ready to stumble,” the other. The words reminded me that as a child, I was taught never to stare at disabled persons. I remained curious into adulthood, however, and the dancers in GIMP not only break this common taboo, they make the situation reciprocal: They stare back at you.
Subverting these well-established “polite” conventions of gaze is the starting point for this event, which skillfully blends political inquiry, psychology, and aesthetic explorations of form, structure, and dynamics. GIMP is without doubt a gleaming milestone in the progress of contemporary dance and theater, proving that the term “disabled dancer” is an oxymoron.
The performance began outdoors with a mesmerizing aerial overture and prologue to original live music by Stan Strickland and Randall Woolf. One definition of gimp is “a ribbon-like, braided fabric.” Jennifer Bricker (an accomplished aerialist and athlete without legs) and Nathan Crawford (a dancer with the Britney Spears “Circus” tour), used just that—a suspended stretch of long, crimson silk—for an intensely erotic duet. In a series of variations on spinning and clinging, each took turns manipulating the other within and around the fabric. In its abstract sense, it was a striking study in proportion and scale. When Crawford embraced Bricker, she became entirely concealed within his arms and torso. When she grounded one of his spinning episodes from far below, she appeared to be navigating a huge kite through a hurricane.
The stage portion of GIMP has an urban, night-club feel. Eva Mantell’s scrim projections of body parts, classic statuary, and animals, as well as Christopher Ash’s tense lighting design, provide a worthy landscape for a series of non-narrative duets and ensembles. Text is fragmentary. “Three cripples walk into a bar,” says Carter-Long at one moment, never finishing the joke. Certain episodes juxtapose the same movement or gesture by a dancer such as Latsky (with a traditional body) and a dancer whose arm finishes in a smooth point rather than a set of five splayed fingers, or another who has just one arm. The purpose here is not to assert any kind of qualitative hierarchy. Rather, the performers are like a thicket of trees subsisting on the same soil, light, and water, but each expressing its response to those elements with irrefutable distinction.
One of the biggest myths about ballet dancers is that they don't eat. While we all know that, yes, there are those who do struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, most healthy dancers love food—and eat plenty of it to fuel their busy schedules.
Luckily for us, they're not afraid to show it:
Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
What does a superstar like Carlos Acosta do after bidding farewell to his career in classical ballet? In Acosta's case, he returns to his native country, Cuba, to funnel his fame, connections and prodigious energies back into the dance scene that formed him. Because of its top-notch, state-supported training programs and popular embrace of the art of dance, Cuba is brimming with talented dancers. What it has been short on, until recently, are opportunities outside of the mainstream companies, as well as access to a more international repertoire. That is changing now, and, with the creation of Acosta Danza, launched in 2016, Acosta is determined to open the doors even wider to new ideas and audiences.
There's so much more to the dance world than making and performing dances. Arts administrators do everything from raising money to managing companies to building new audiences. With the growing number of arts administration programs in colleges, dancers have an opportunity to position themselves for a multifaceted career on- or offstage—and to bring their unique perspective as artists to administrative work.
While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?
In the world of ballet, Arcadian Broad is a one-stop shop: He'll come up with a story, compose its music, choreograph the movement and dance it himself. But then Broad has always been a master of versatility. As a teenager he juggled school, dance and—after the departure of his father—financial responsibility. It was Broad's income from dancing that kept his family afloat. Fast-forward six years and things are far more stable. Broad now lives on his own in an apartment, but you can usually find him in the studio.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.