New York Live Arts, NYC
June 14–15, 2013
Reviewed on June 14
In a pre-performance talk about her 10th anniversary retrospective, Makeda Thomas declared her mission to tell “Caribbean stories, women’s stories, political stories, rebellious stories.” For this season, she set out four samples from repertory along with a snippet of a multi-media work-in-development with poet/performance artist Queen GodIs. Of these, Los Colores (2009), a lengthy ensemble piece set to the audio of a beautiful TED talk by Nigeria-born novelist Chimamanda Adichie, peaked my interest due to its unusual setup.
Dancers position themselves along one or more narrow, rectangular swaths of light that span the space, suggesting the rollout of words across a page and the procession of characters across the flow of a well-told narrative. Like Adichie, Thomas, who has performed with Ronald K. Brown and Urban Bush Women, seeks to open our eyes to a complex world and our ears to stories that we seldom hear. Her dancers—Catherine Dénécy, Catherine Foster, Orlando Z. Hunter, Jr., Imani Johnson, Daniel Soto, and Candace Thompson—serve her urgent, extroverted approach, their sculpted movements propelled under high pressure as if there’s nothing more important to do than to dance and be witnessed. A couple of onlookers sitting in front of me that evening could not help but move, too, as if mainlining the dancers’ vibes.
This direct, intuitive connection of dancer to viewer seemed typical of nearly every moment of this program. On the other hand, the choreography looked interchangeable, stretched to fit any context. One can get a little lost in this territory. At the end of Los Colores, suddenly presented with something quite literal and dramatic—the apparent rending of a relationship, with amplified sounds of a heartbeat and panting as a man and woman pull away from each other—I wondered if I’d missed a crucial turn along the way.
Photo at top of Makeda Thomas by Matthew Karas.
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.
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: