Hell's Kitchen Dance
Hell's Kitchen Dance
Center for the Arts, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
June 8-11, 2006
Reviewed by Steve Sucato
When Mikhail Baryshnikov's latest project, Hell's Kitchen Dance, premiered in Buffalo, it was clear from the outset that it had attracted some of the finest young talent around. Named after the site of Baryshnikov's new arts center in New York City, Hell's Kitchen Dance is every bit as fresh-faced as his state-of the-art facility. A dozen young dancers, along with dancer/choreographer Aszure Barton and Baryshnikov, brought to the production's three world premieres a sense of vitality, whimsy, and emotional depth.
In Barton's Over/Come, the shrill sound of a woman's scream set 13 dancers (including Barton) strolling across the stage with the look of a Gap commercial. The dancers shot blank stares at one another and the audience, and every so often one of them was overcome by a fit of twitchy movement. Set to a variety of crooner-like music, Barton's sleek, modern choreography, sprinkled with juxtaposition and subtle humor, had a flop-n-drop style to it. A highlight was a lustful, spitfire solo by dancer Ariel Freedman.
The second work, Benjamin Millepied's Years Later, was slow to develop due to a somewhat dry opening video sequence of Baryshnikov dancing on a beach (a poor substitution for the real thing). The piece eventually won the audience over with Baryshnikov's live dancing of Millepied's flowing, gesture-infused choreography. The work balanced poignancy with a tongue-in-cheek approach to losing one's youth, as Baryshnikov danced side-by-side with and toyed with life-size video projections of himself as a young dancer.
The climax of the performance was Barton's Come In, set to composer Vladimir Martynov's moving chamber music of the same name. Like its title, the group work was inviting. A tender and stylized version of Barton's movement in Over/Come, the piece unfolded with subtle beauty and left one caught in a mesmerizing wake. Come In showed Barton as a choreographer to be reckoned with, one evoking the breadth and musicality of Mark Morris and the longing of Paul Taylor. The company performed with mature skill, including an elegant solo danced by William Briscoe, and an inspired Baryshnikov reclaimed some of his performance glory of old, further perpetuating his uncanny allure and greatness. See www.baryshnikovdancefoundation.org.
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
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.
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?
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.