Dance Heritage Coalition’s online exhibit; DVDs on German modern dance, Kylián’s “Black and White” ballets; Annie on Blu-ray
From Pavlova to Primus, the Nicholas Brothers to Nijinska, America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: The First 100 is a collection of photos, videos, and essays that enrich our understanding of American dance. Compiled in 2000 by the Dance Heritage Coalition and exhibited at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jacob’s Pillow, San Francisco’s Museum of Performance & Design, and the Ohio Cultural Center in Columbus, the exhibit is now available online—with 12 additions to the original group. While the “Treasures” span genres and decades, they share five characteristics: contribution to the field, artistic excellence, cultural significance, enduring impact, and widespread recognition. Video treasures include Fred Astaire in The Gay Divorcee; Lew Christensen, who would later go on to direct San Francisco Ballet, in The Filling Station; and Merce Cunningham’s Beach Birds for Camera (1991). See www.danceheritage.org/treasures.html. —Kina Poon
NYCB, one of the First 100 Treasures, represented by Peter Martins and Suzanne Farrell in “Diamonds.” Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB, © Balanchine Trust.
Jirí Kylián: Black & White Ballets.
Arthaus Musik. 101 minutes. $29.99.
As Kylián’s choreography enters more and more repertoires—Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater are just two companies that have added the Czech choreographer’s ballets to their rosters this season—the reissue of his “Black & White Ballets” DVD is timely. Filmed in the 1990s, this collection of six ballets includes Falling Angels and Petite Mort, as well as some of his lesser-known works (Six Dances, Kylián’s biting take on courtly tradition; No More Play, with its chilling final image). Moods range from nightmarish to stirring, slapstick to dazzling. While fatigue can result from viewing these pieces together (NDT has performed this exact program; Boston Ballet made a highly successful evening out of five of these works), there are also enlightening aspects: The erotic all-male Sarabande provides counterpoint to the all-female Falling Angels (the rhythmic drumming can be powerful or numbing, depending on how you respond to Steve Reich). Even while performing absurdist theatrics, like stepping precariously on a row of apples in Sweet Dreams or battling dresses with a mind of their own in Petite Mort, the dancers of Nederlands Dans Theater (which Kylián ran at the time) imbue the steps with intensity and dramatic flair. —K. P.
German Lineage in Modern Dance: Solos by Wigman, Hoyer, Holm, Nikolais, Louis.
Dancetime Publications. 58 minutes.
Most of us think of modern dance as an American invention. But in the early part of the last century, Germany was buzzing with dancers. Mary Wigman, the German counterpart to Martha Graham, was a major figure who is often taught in dance history courses. Others, like Dore Hoyer, Gret Palucca, and Valeska Gert, fueled the heady exploration in expressionist dance known as Ausdruckstanz. According to the narration of this educational DVD, “They thought of the body as a conduit from inner, subjective reality to universal truths. The dancer was both creator and medium, the sculptor and the sculpted.”
This video, with reconstructions performed by dancer/scholar Betsy Fisher, is a wonderful tool for teaching the history of modern dance. The vintage photos give an idea of the intensity of the time. Through Hanya Holm, a Wigman disciple, Ausdruckstanz infused American modern dance with both drama and playfulness. The inclusion of Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis brings this documentary closer to what we know of today as modern dance.
The surprise here is Dore Hoyer, who had a tragic, lonely end in 1967. While Fisher’s rendition of Wigman’s Witch Dance is not as fierce as the original (easily found on YouTube), her interpretation of Hoyer’s Affectos Humanos seems a better fit.
The narration intrigues us, saying that, “With Hoyer’s stillness, the space feels thick with tension, like a cat silently waiting to attack its prey.” We can see hints of that quality in Fisher’s rendition of the “Fear” section of Affectos Humanos, with knees knocking, head enveloped in hands. Hoyer was an innovative choreographer whom we should know more about. —Wendy Perron
Dore Hoyer in
Ostinato. Photo by S. Enkelmann, DM Archives.
A mix of classical programs, contemporary works, and encores, Ballet in Cinema’s winter season brings international companies to movie theaters everywhere. On Jan. 13 and 15, you can catch a re-airing of The Royal Ballet in Sleeping Beauty, with leads Lauren Cuthbertson and Sergei Polunin—and our “25 to Watch” Claire Calvert as the Lilac Fairy.
Get to know Nederlands Dans Theater’s resident choreographers in “An Evening with Leon and Lightfoot” on Feb. 3 and 5. The dancemaking duo (Paul Lightfoot is also NDT’s new artistic director) present two pieces set to Philip Glass—Shoot the Moon, a lingering look at various couples behind closed doors, and the wild, shouty Same Difference—and SH-BOOM, to songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Then, on Feb. 17 and 19, catch the Bolshoi Ballet’s lavish La Bayadère. See www.balletincinema.com to find what’s playing near you. —K. P.
Lauren Cuthbertson of The Royal Ballet as Aurora in
The Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy Ballet in Cinema.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 127 minutes. $14.99.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Annie, the spunky movie musical has been released on Blu-ray. The sweet story of little orphan Annie and her unlikely father-figure Daddy Warbucks is having its moment—a Broadway revival of the musical on which the movie is based opened last fall (see “On Broadway,” p. 194), and there are whispers about a new film version. Starring Ann Reinking as the elegant yet warm Grace Farrell, Bernadette Peters as the purring, gold-digging Lily St. Regis, and Carol Burnett at her most deliciously wicked as orphanage owner Miss Hannigan, the heartwarming film’s signature numbers, like “Let’s Go to the Movies,” look better than ever in high definition. The Blu-ray version includes a sing-along feature for fans young and old. —K. P.