Netta Yerushalmy (back left) deconstructs masterworks in Paramodernities. Photo by Paula Lobo, Courtesy Yerushalmy

Netta Yerushalmy is Changing the Way We Look at Balanchine. And Fosse. And Ailey.

In Paramodernities, Netta Yerushalmy deconstructs dance masterworks and presents their movement alongside scholarly essays that contextualize them. Yerushalmy has had a sterling dance career, working with Doug Varone's company and freelancing with notables like Joanna Kotze, as well as making her own dances. This particular project is in demand in such places as Jacob's Pillow this month, and later at venues across the country, including multiple New York City sites.


What inspired this project?

In Berlin in 2013, I was invited to participate in a festival, celebrating the centennial of The Rite of Spring. I looked at The Joffrey Ballet's reconstruction of Nijinsky's original version, learned the movement, deconstructed it into snippets and danced it with an essay by my husband, David Kishik, who was there finishing his postdoc. Then, I did it at Judson; it perplexed people, and I thought that perplexity feels generative.

Are there more masters to come?

Well, there are six at the Pillow, including the Nijinsky: Graham's Night Journey, with a scholar from Williams; Ailey's Revelations, with Tommy DeFrantz; five works by Cunningham, with a different scholar at each tour engagement; Fosse's Sweet Charity; and Balanchine's Agon. It's the obvious suspects in some regard, but, with what the scholars are bringing, not so expected.

I want audiences to think in other ways about the dances. In fact, I'm working with two scholars on the Balanchine; one who's in the literature department at Berkeley who is blind and one from New York University's Center for Disability Studies; they're talking about Balanchine through disability, rehabilitation and race.

Photo by Paula Lobo, Courtesy Yerushalmy

And I'm sure some of the scholars will think differently about dance as well. The project really has legs. Why do you think that is?

It's sexy; a lot of people are thinking about legacy right now—Stephen Petronio, Boris Charmatz, Jérôme Bel, Paul Taylor…I don't know if we're just dehydrated from a post-Judson obsession.

And you don't have to twist around to make it fit into getting grants, like "What are your engagement strategies?" because it's all engagement strategies. Who will come and listen to these works and either open their eyes to dance for the first time or to a lot of other issues and then come and talk to us about it? It's about conversation in a real way, about making something that's part of a lot of larger circles—dance, questions about feminism, or whatever—and all of us can partake in some of that.

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May 2021