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Sisters Forever in Trisha's "Spanish Dance"
I must’ve been grinning like a crazy lady all through Spanish Dance. It was such a blast to do that dance with other Trisha Brown alumnae last Friday during her 75th birthday/benefit/auction.
You may have seen the piece, or seen a photo of it. Five women in white, evenly spaced across front of the stage—or, in this case the Sikkema Jenkins Gallery—gradually accumulate to form a single organism, one at a time joining the sensual treading, all to the Gordon Lightfoot song “Early Mornin’ Rain” sung by Bob Dylan.
Between the end of the four-minute dance, when I reluctantly pulled away from the other women’s bodies, and the bow, I lost it. Maybe it was seeing Trisha in the audience, mouthing the words “I love you” to us; or maybe it was knowing I probably would never do this dance again; or maybe it was remembering how much I loved the three years I danced with Trisha in the 70s, but tears welled up and I couldn’t keep a calm face while taking a bow. Later, a number of people in the audience told me they had gotten weepy too.
YOu can see this rendition here.
Spanish Dance at the Sikkema Jenkins Gallery, Jan. 27, 2012, with Lisa
Kraus in front. Photo © 2012 Hal Horowitz, Courtesy TBDC
Spanish Dance is usually a funny dance. It’s so odd and delicious to see these women, one by one, pile up, with their torsos’ smashed together in hip-sinking unison, inching across the space. As a dancer, you have to be relaxed enough to feel the rhythm of the women behind you and and in front of you. Your gaze has to calmly travel over the audience. At the last beat, when the front girl hits the wall (or the proscenium, depending on the site), the audience usually laughs. It’s a good punch line, not because it’s a surprise but because it happens precisely on the last note of the music.
My four compatriots were Vicky Shick, Irene Hultman, Lisa Kraus, and Elizabeth Garren; all are juicy movers—still, after 30 or more years. At the rehearsal the day before, while getting into our “costumes” of pajama-like whites, we had what could be called over-the-hill, bawdy fun. We are bound together as sisters in our love Trisha—for her knowing us each in that intimate dancer way, for challenging us as artists, for her kindness, for her thought-provoking threads of genius.
One of the non-bawdy jokes was something that a younger, career-minded dancer probably would not say out loud. In Spanish Dance we each raise our arms in our own faux-Spanish way. After the first run-through, Diane Madden, rehearsal director extraordinaire of the Trisha Brown Dance Company, told us all that our arms were beautiful. OK, nice. Then Elizabeth Garren blurted out, “But whose were the best?” We all cracked up. Competitiveness never goes away, even after all these years.
Like the champagne and gogi berry vodka that were served to the donors, our nostalgia-laden version of Spanish Dance was used to loosen up the crowd. As soon as we entered the gallery space, a whoop went up among them. It was obvious that they knew and loved this dance. A treat. A paradoxical delicacy. A dip in the waters of female intimacy.
Meanwhile, more than 40 works of art, donated by the artists or their estates, hung on the gallery walls waiting to be auctioned, proceeds to go to the Trisha Brown Archive.
I had several wonderful conversations with guests. One man told me he had actually sent a DVD of Spanish Dance to Bob Dylan, because he felt it captured the melancholy of the wandering soul just as the song did. (Spanish Dance is many things to many people.) I am still wondering if Dylan ever watched it.
Spanish Dance c. 1977 with, left to right: Lisa Kraus, Mona Sulzman,
Trisha Brown, Wendy Perron, and Elizabeth Garren. Photo © Babette
Mangolte, Courtesy TBDC
Is it any surprise a world premiere by choreographer Uri Sands and musician Justin Vernon, both renowned for the profound beauty and gorgeous musicality of their work, immediately sold out? We're hungry for creative collaborations that take reflective deep dives into what constitutes our humanity—and then there's the undeniable cool factor. Nine members of TU Dance will perform alongside Bon Iver (Vernon's band) during the evening-length piece. Presented as part of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series. April 19–21. The work will also appear at the Hollywood Bowl Aug. 5. tudance.org.
Ah, the quest for the perfect, foot-flattering, technique-enhancing pointe shoe: It can feel like a never-ending saga. Still on the hunt for that ideal pair? Then you won't want to miss The School at Steps' annual Pointe Shoe Workshop and Fair, happening this Sunday, April 22nd, at 6:30 pm in NYC.
As always, the event—which is sponsored by our friends at Pointe—will feature an impressive panel of experts. This year's lineup includes orthopedist Dr. Andrew Price, professional fitter Mary Carpenter, master teacher Linda Gelinas, Pointe style editor Marissa DeSantis, and New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns (eee!).
Jennifer Nichols was rehearsing barefoot this winter when she got a split in the bottom of her foot. An independent choreographer, she was preparing a self-made solo to be performed as part of a new music show in Toronto, and the studio's Marley floor was usually used by winter boot–wearing musicians.
A split may not seem like a big deal. But this one led to a serious infection that would land Nichols in hospital and almost end her performing career.
You might feel like the second choice when you look at the casting sheet, but understudies are necessary, valued team members who are regularly called off the bench to perform—even with very little prep time. "It is like the ultimate trust exercise with your director," says Mia J. Chong, who understudied many roles in ODC/Dance's The Velveteen Rabbit as an apprentice before becoming a company dancer this year. "Often, you do a lot of the homework on your own to make sure you can produce a quality performance, even if you don't have the chance to demonstrate it right away."
Here's what to expect when you're learning from the back of the room and—when you're needed—how to step into the part with confidence.
In his final bow at New York City Ballet, during what should have been a heroic conclusion to a celebrated ballet career, Robert Fairchild slipped and fell. His reaction? To lie down flat on his back like he meant to do it. Then start cracking up at himself.
"He's such a ham," says his sister Megan Fairchild, with a laugh. "He's really good at selling whatever his body is doing that day. He'll turn a moment that I would totally go home and cry about into something where the audience is like, 'That's the most amazing thing ever!' "
I found a great boyfriend in my ballet company. I love how he understands my life as a professional dancer. The problem is we've started fighting whenever one of us gives the other a correction during partnering. Is dating him a bad idea?
—Lovesick, Toronto, Ontario
The #MeToo movement has made its way to France's biggest ballet company.
An anonymous survey recently leaked to the French press revealed major turbulence at the Paris Opéra Ballet. The Straits Times reports that the survey was conducted by an internal group representing POB's dancers. In it, there are numerous claims of bullying, sexual harassment and management issues.
Nearly all of the dancers (132 out of 154) answered the questionnaire, but they didn't know it would be made public. (Around 100 of them later signed a statement saying they didn't consent to its release.)
Merce Cunningham would have been 99 years old today, and, as a present to the dance world, the Merce Cunningham Trust has announced a dizzying array of celebrations to unfold over the next year in honor of the groundbreaking choreographer's 2019 centennial.
"Merce liked saying he didn't want to celebrate his birthday, and yet he always enjoyed when we threw parties for him," Trevor Carlson, producer of the Merce Cunningham Centennial, said in a press release. Though the Merce Cunningham Dance Company shuttered in 2011 (two years after the choreographer's death, per his wishes), plans to celebrate his legacy range from performances to film screenings to workshops to education programs to dinner parties.