When George Balanchine's full-length Don Quixote premiered in 1965, critics and audiences alike viewed the ballet as a failure. Elaborate scenery and costumes framed mawkish mime passages, like one in which the ballerina washed the Don's feet and dried them with her hair. Its revival in 2005 by Suzanne Farrell, the ballerina on whom it was made and to whom Balanchine left the work, did little to alter its reputation.
Yet at New York City Center's Balanchine festival last fall, some regretted its absence.
"I'd want to see Balanchine's Don Quixote," says Apollinaire Scherr, dance critic for the Financial Times. "It was a labor of love on his part, and a love letter as well. And you want to know what that looks like in his work."
Even great choreographers make mistakes. Sometimes they fail on a grand scale, like Don Quixote; other times it may be a minor misstep. Experiment and risk help choreographers grow, but what happens when a choreographer of stature misfires? Should the work remain in the repertory? And what about a work that fails on some levels but not others?
Throughout 2019, the Merce Cunningham Trust continues a global celebration that will be one of the largest tributes to a dance artist ever. Under the umbrella of the Merce Cunningham Centennial are classes and workshops, film screenings and festivals, art exhibitions and symposia, and revivals and premieres of original works inspired by the dancemaker's ideas. The fever peaks on April 16, which would have been the pioneering choreographer's 100th birthday, with Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event, featuring a total of 75 dancers in three performances live-streamed from London, Los Angeles and New York City.
Choreographer Kyle Abraham makes captivating, dynamic dances. But did you know that he makes just as many captivating, dynamic playlists?
Abraham creates a custom playlist for every piece he makes. They don't include songs that are actually in the piece; rather ones that capture the atmosphere or energy of it. His 2011 work Live! The Realest MC returns to New York this weekend, and in honor of the occasion, Abraham made us an updated version of his original playlist for the work.
We talked to Abraham about his prolific playlist-making, and where he finds all those deep cuts that find their way into his work:
Raise your hand if you've ever gotten sucked down an informational rabbit hole on the internet. (Come on, we know it's not just us.) Now, allow us to direct you to this new project from Google Arts & Culture. To celebrate Black History Month, they've put together a newly curated collection of images, videos and stories that spotlights black history and culture in America specifically through the lens of dance—and it's pretty much our new favorite way to pass the time online.
Tamisha Guy has always loved pushing her body. The dynamic A.I.M dancer and rehearsal director performs like she has no limits. And she's recently taken up a sport that pushes her even further: boxing.
Two or three times a week, she takes a 45-minute class at New York City boxing studios Shadowbox or EverybodyFights. Workouts include a warm-up of core exercises and body-weight strength training. "Then we put the gloves on and go at it on the bag," says Guy.
Tamisha Guy in Kyle Abraham's The Gettin'. Photo by Jerry and Lois Photography, courtesy A.I.M.
Although she was initially afraid that the workouts would bulk up her already muscular physique, she's found they've simply added definition to her arms. More importantly, they've improved her stamina.
"Thirty minutes into class is usually the point where you're like, 'I can't punch anything else,' but you have 15 more minutes to go," she says. "It's just like when you've been dancing for an hour and have to dig deeper to find something in yourself to stay present. Pushing through the uncomfortable part is so gratifying." She feels boxing has put extra fire in her to keep up the intensity onstage.
Her favorite time to box is in the morning. "I find I have more energy going into rehearsals after boxing," she says. "I feel so ready to take on my day."
But if she's got more than four hours of rehearsal, she'll wait to box until after dancing so that her arms aren't overly fatigued. "Then, if I still have a little fight in me, I might take an evening class."
Tamisha Guy is also working to start a side hustle as a fitness model. "You're only young once," she says. Photo by Whitney Browne, courtesy Guy.
For now, she's not looking to enter any fights. "I think I'm gonna stick with the bag," she says, laughing.
Though she admits she loves the feeling of being in a ring. "I've had a few private training sessions inside it, with my trainer calling out sequences," she says. "But he wasn't hitting me back!
Ever since I saw it last week, Kyle Abraham's The Runaway for New York City Ballet has been haunting me.
Of course, it was a big deal that the interim leadership team (specifically Justin Peck) asked Abraham to choreograph on the company, marking the first time in more than a decade that NYCB has hired a black choreographer. But what struck me most was not the symbolism of the commission. Or even the experience of hearing Kanye West blasted at Lincoln Center, for that matter. It's what Abraham did with Taylor Stanley that I haven't been able to stop thinking about.
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As the fall performance season kicks into high gear, we've been cramming as much excellent dance on our calendars as possible. But if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the options, we've got you covered: From rare U.S. appearances by one of our 2018 "25 to Watch" to an autumn mainstay for New Yorkers, Romeo and Juliet to The Handmaid's Tale, here's what caught our eye.
We might have gotten a little bit carried away with this year's "Season Preview"—but with the 2018–19 season packing so many buzzy shows, how could we not? Here are over two dozen tours, premieres and revivals that have us drooling.
Last month, Kyle Abraham was announced as one of the six choreographers contributing new work to New York City Ballet's 2018-19 season.
In its 70-year history, NYCB has only commissioned four black choreographers—all men: John Alleyne and Ulysses Dove in 1994, Dance Theatre of Harlem's Robert Garland in collaboration with Robert LaFosse in 2000, and Albert Evans in 2002 and 2005. It's been 11 years since Evans, an NYCB alum, made work for the company and 18 years since a black choreographer outside of NYCB has been invited to choreograph.
Take a moment to take that in.
Ever since New York City Ballet's interim leadership team took over from Peter Martins, we've been curious whether they'd get a chance to try their hand at programming. (It was unclear how much Martins had done before he retired.)
As it turns out, Martins left room for Justin Peck, Rebecca Krohn, Craig Hall and Jonathan Stafford to select two of the company's six commissions for the 2018-19 season. Their choices—Kyle Abraham and Emma Portner—are surprising, and thrilling.
The ever-so-busy Kyle Abraham is back in New York City for a brief visit with his company Abraham.In.Motion as they prepare for an exciting spring season of new endeavors with some surprising guests. The company will be debuting a new program at The Joyce Theater on May 1, that will include two new pieces from Abraham, restaged works by Doug Varone and Bebe Miller, and a world premiere from Andrea Miller. Talk about an exciting line-up!
We caught up with Abraham during a recent rehearsal where he revealed what he is tired of hearing in the dance community.
Here is my list of favorites from this year, some of them with video clips embedded. I've also added "lingering thoughts" about certain situations in the dance world. As usual, my choices are limited by what I have actually seen. Most of the following are world premieres.
• Andrea Miller's Stone Skipping in the Egyptian room at the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Ancient and ultra-modern at once, gaga-initiated grapplings, telling many stories of people in struggle and solidarity. The group sequence (with her company Gallim plus dancers from Juilliard) from lying on the floor with pelvis bobbing to standing, to swaying, to skipping wildly about was transcendent.
Watching Connie Shiau dance feels uncannily similar to watching a cat attack its prey. She'll stealthily draw out a movement, building suspension, then charge into the next phrase so fast that you never even see how she got from point A to B.
But this Abraham.In.Motion dancer offers much more than just playful musicality. Although she's only 28, Shiau delivers the kind of complex performances that artists typically only develop through years of digging deep inside their souls. With her intense inner focus, you feel her making choices right in the moment onstage, and you can't help but be mesmerized, wondering what she might decide to do, where she might decide to go next.
OUT just released their round-up of the 100 most influential LGBTQ people of the year, and it features some familiar faces. In a list that included actors, musicians, writers and even military veterans, we were excited to see a few dance world icons included:
Fall For Dance is always a huge talkabout here in the Dance Media offices. So after all the programs were performed this year, a few of the editors from Dance Magazine, Pointe and Dance Teacher got together on Google Hangouts this morning to share our thoughts. Here are excerpts from our convo:
One of my favorite parts of working with Wendy Perron over the past 12 years has been listening to her talk about dance. More than anyone I know, Wendy can explain a piece of choreography or a dancer's approach in the most visceral, compelling way. She doesn't even always use words—sometimes she turns to sounds or body language to fully describe something she loves.
Having a casual chat with her can be like getting a master class in the most interesting dance going on right now. And as Dance Magazine's editor at large, she sees a lot. She's one of the most well-connected people I know in the dance world, so more often than not she's got juicy insights, strong opinions and fascinating background info.
We decided to share this with you by filming a short video clip each week, capturing Wendy talking about the dance events she's most looking forward to in our new series, "What Wendy's Watching." Or, as she puts it: "Just wind me up and make me talk dance."
Points should be given to the dance world for beginning to address the issue of diversity. But have we ever taken into consideration who critiques dance—and the lack of diversity in that area of our community? Or how critics' subconscious biases create barriers to the elevation of non-white artists?
Recently, Charmian Wells wrote a scathing critical analysis of New York Times dance critic Gia Kourlas' review of DanceAfrica. Entitled "Strong and Wrong: On Ignorance and Modes of White Spectatorship in Dance Criticism" it took Kourlas to task for critiquing from a place of cultural and technical ignorance.
Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, which performed at DanceAfrica. Photo via Facebook.
Reviews are part of the life blood of artistic sustainability—funders, agents, bookers and audience members use them as guides. Dance critics have a responsibility to the community to do, and be better, or at least have the courage to let the reader know what they don't understand.
It's the end of a long rehearsal day for the dancers of Abraham.In.Motion. They're reviewing phrases of a new work, Dearest Home. It's a pretty typical rehearsal scene. Some dancers cluster around a laptop trying to piece together steps learned long ago. Others review choreography together, working to figure out who remembered which arms correctly.
What isn't typical: The company's director and choreographer, Kyle Abraham, is nowhere to be seen.
That's because while the company is based in New York City full-time, Abraham spends most of his year teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he joined the faculty last September. It's an unconventional model for a single-choreographer–led troupe, almost functioning like a repertory company in which choreographers drop in for a week to set a piece, leaving it up to the rehearsal directors and dancers to keep the momentum going.
In her many years of shooting top dancers and choreographers, photographer Rose Eichenbaum has not only captured their movement, but collected their stories and the guidance they have to offer other artists.
Now, Eichenbaum is releasing a coffee table book, Inside the Dancer's Art, filled with these artists' words of wisdom alongside their portraits. Here are a few of our favorites.