Did The Tenant unintentionally conflate transness and mental illness? Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy The Joyce Theater
Last week, Arthur Pita's much-anticipated The Tenant, featuring American Ballet Theatre principal James Whiteside, had its New York City premiere at The Joyce Theater.
Based on the novel by Roland Topor and the 1976 Roman Polanski film, The Tenant follows a man who moves into an apartment that's haunted by its previous occupant (Simone, played by ABT's Cassandra Trenary) who committed suicide. Throughout the show, the man—Trelkovsky, played by Whiteside—slowly transforms into Simone, eventually committing suicide himself.
But some found the show's depiction of a trans-femme character to be troubling. Whether the issues stem from the source material or the production's treatment of it, many thought the end result reinforced transphobic stereotypes about mental illness. We gathered some of the responses from the dance community:
When Arthur Pita brought his Metamorphosis to the Joyce in 2013, The Royal Ballet's Edward Watson played the man who becomes a cockroach in Franz Kafka's famous story. He was slithery, spiky and sticky, and the creepiness factor loomed large. It was like the performers and audience were trapped in this brilliantly bizarre nightmare together.
Known as "the David Lynch of dance," Arthur Pita brings his new work, The Tenant, to The Joyce from November 6–11. Based on the surrealist novel by Roland Topor and the subsequent 1976 film, Pita's Tenant stars American Ballet Theatre's James Whiteside. Readers of Dance Magazine know from Whiteside's cover story that he is a maverick who will try anything. In The Tenant, a young man moves into an apartment where the previous renter, a woman, jumped out the window to her death. He becomes obsessed with her and starts to transform into her. The woman is played by ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, and a third character, a kind of guardian, is played by Kibrea Carmichael.
The Metamorphosis was unforgettable when it came to the Joyce five years ago, so we have high hopes for The Tenant.
Marcelo Gomes and Victoria Hulland in The Two Pigeons, PC Frank Atura
Sarasota Ballet is returning to New York City's Joyce Theater with a batch of rarely-seen Ashton works. But the big news is that guest artist Marcelo Gomes will be performing with the company. Yes, Gomes is back performing in New York, possibly for the first time since he resigned from American Ballet Theatre in December after an allegation of sexual misconduct.
Gomes is one of the greatest male ballet dancers ever to grace the ABT stage—which he did for 20 years. Watching him dance, it's easy to see why he was every woman's favorite partner: He lavishes attention on his ballerina. The audience can feel his connection and his passion.
The first piece that Ohad Naharin brought to New York City after taking over Batsheva Dance Company exploded onto the Brooklyn Academy of Music stage in 2002. The NYC dance audience knew immediately that something big was happening in Tel Aviv. The piece was Naharin's Virus, and it seemed to embody both rage and a Zen acceptance of the unique strangeness of every human body. Now it's back in NYC until July 22, danced by the second company, known as Batsheva — The Young Ensemble, which ranges in age from 20 to 28.
The choreography has the ferocity yet humanity we've come to expect from Batsheva, plus a text from Peter Handke's agitating play, Offending the Audience. The dancers speak Handke's accusations, saying one minute that we, the audience, have a private part of our minds that no one can touch, and then in the next breath that they are invading that part of our brains.
Lar Lubovitch Dance Company performing Men's Stories. PC Steven Schreiber
Since starting his company in 1968, Lar Lubovitch has stood at the forefront of modern dance—although he is hesitant to label his work as "modern."
"I've always felt I've been making dances," he says. "I've always called them dances and I've never been one to exclude any language of movement. When I'm making a dance it's sort of an essay of all the movement I have in my body of all the dance I've studied."
After 50 years of creating dances, his work is still as technical and humanistic as ever.
Jaqlin Medlock rehearsing Signals, with, seated, Rashaun Mitchell, Melissa Toogood and Petronio, PC Paula Court
Stephen Petronio brings a bracing season to New York City's Joyce Theater, where he has performed almost every year for 24 years. His work is exciting to the subscription audience as well as to many dance artists. He delves into movement invention at the same time as creating complex postmodern forms. The new work, Hardness 10, is his third collaboration with composer Nico Muhly. The costumes are by Patricia Field ARTFASHION, hand-painted by Iris Bonner/These Pink Lips. Petronio's work still practically defines the word contemporary.
Stephen Petronio Company also continues with its Bloodlines series. That's where he pays homage to landmark works of the past that have influenced his own edgy aesthetics. This season he's chosen Merce Cunningham's playful trio Signals (1970), which will be performed with live music from Composers Inside Electronics.
Completing the program is an excerpt from Petronio's Underland (2003), with music by Nick Cave. Video footage courtesy of Stephen Petronio Company, filmed by Blake Martin.
Wayne McGregor is known for his extreme partnering—limbs pushed, pulled and flung in all directions. While his choreography may seem wild and crazy, he's very thoughtful about the creative process. In our 2013 cover story, he talked about understanding your individual filters as choreographic thinking tools.
In his current work, Autobiography, he applies a scientific filter: using his own genome sequencing as a score for the choreography.
Dada Masilo's Giselle will be a Pay As You Decide performance. PC John Hogg, Courtesy Richard Kornberg & Associates
What's the biggest barrier preventing dancers and non-dancers alike from seeing more performances? We think it's safe to say the answer is cost.
New York City's Joyce Theater, known for presenting acclaimed international and domestic companies representing a variety of genres, just launched two ticket initiatives that will offer $10 tickets for dance professionals, and allow all audiences to choose their own ticket price for select shows.
Trisha Brown, the high priestess of postmodern dance, is hugely influential. Her slippery movement style and her brainy structures are emulated by choreographers all over the United States and Europe. I am an alum of her company, and when she died last March, I gathered my thoughts and memories to write this farewell.
For most dancers, walking into the theater elicits a familiar emotion that's somewhere between the reverence of stepping into a chapel and the comfort of coming home. But each venue has its own aura, and can offer that something special that takes your performance to a new level. Six dancers share which theaters have transported them the most.
GLENN ALLEN SIMS
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Glenn Allen Sims in Alvin Ailey's Masekela Langage. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy AAADT
Favorite theater: Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain
Royal details: "The theater is gorgeous and ornate, with deep red upholstery and gold trim. There is a huge royal box in the center, which takes you back to when kings and queens were watching performances there."
Impressive facilities: Even the dressing rooms are a sight to see: Amenities for the dancers include large, carpeted rooms, and towel service.
The Joyce Theater remains a second home for mainstream dance lovers in New York City, and executive director Linda Shelton's choices of whom to present (made along with director of programming Martin Wechsler) hold remarkable power. Saying your company has landed a week at The Joyce is basically another way of saying you've "made it."
Prior to becoming the Joyce's executive director in 1993, Shelton was general manager of the Joffrey Ballet and managed tours for companies like the Bolshoi Ballet. She's served on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, been on the jury of Russia's prestigious Benois de le danse, and is a nominator for the Tony Awards.
For her work, Shelton has been appointed Chevalier of France's Order of Arts and Letters and was given the 2015 "Ernie" Award for her work behind the scenes within the infrastructure of the dance field.