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.
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.
While waiting for its massive facility in Catskill, New York to be completed, the Lumberyard (formerly American Dance Institute) brings its distinctive taste to The Kitchen in New York City. This week Lumberyard in the City continues its series of premieres by iconoclastic dance and performance artists with Raja Feather Kelly and concludes next week with Kyle Abraham.
David Gordon's Live Archiveography, photo by Paula Court
The series kicked off with David Gordon in a live version of Archiveography, in which his reminiscences—played out in dance, film and talking—are scintillating, witty and moving. Live Archiveography gave riddle-like hints of Gordon's ingenious overlapping of image, story and dancing in his prolific career as choreographer and playwright.
The Music Man
Mark Morris Dance Group is plenty busy this month, headlining Luminato, Toronto’s annual arts festival, with Morris’ masterwork L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato in its Canadian premiere June 21–23. Morris directs this year’s Ojai Music Festival (the first choreographer to do so), where his dancers will perform; and at Ojai North!, a collaboration with Cal Performances in Berkeley, MMDG will premiere Morris’ Rite of Spring, danced to a new arrangement of Stravinsky’s music by The Bad Plus jazz trio. www.luminato.com and www.ojaifestival.org.
MMDG in L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. Photo by Elaine Mayson, Courtesy Luminato.
Adventures in Action
Two daring dancemakers return to this year’s Festival TransAmériques in Montreal. Lemi Ponifasio brings Birds with Skymirrors, in which frenetic limbs contrast with intense stillness. At 54, the indomitable Louise Lecavalier performs So Blue, a whirlwind solo and duet for which she receives her first sole choreographic credit. May 29–June 7. www.fta.qc.ca.
Lecavalier in So Blue. Photo by André Cornellier, Courtesy FTA.
Feast for 40
This year marks John Neumeier’s 40th anniversary at the helm of Hamburg Ballet. To celebrate, the company has expanded its annual summer festival Hamburg Ballet-Days. HB will dance in 16 productions over the three weeks, joined by its school and two guest troupes led by former company dancers: Ivan Liska of Bavarian State Ballet and Jean-Christophe Maillot of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. While companies all over the world have been feting the centennial of The Rite of Spring, Neumeier, whose personal collection of Nijinsky memorabilia is legendary, has dedicated several evenings to his idol/muse. June 9–30. www.hamburgballett.de.
Neumeier rehearsing Carsten Jung in his Liliom. Photo by Holger Badekow, Courtesy HB.
Swiftly but Gently
A free series of site-specific performances around San Francisco, presented by Dancers’ Group/ONSITE, honors a local pioneer this month. Amara Tabor-Smith, a former associate artistic director of Urban Bush Women who now directs Oakland-based Deep Waters Dance Theater, pays tribute to her mentor, choreographer Ed Mock, an AIDS casualty in the 1980s. June 15–23. www.dancersgroup.org.
Amara Tabor-Smith. Photo by Alan Kimara Dixon, Courtesy Tabor-Smith.
Twenty years after his death (and 75 after his birth), Rudolf Nureyev’s impact on ballet is still felt worldwide. Tributes to the unrelentingly charismatic star have been happening all year, and this summer brings still more. In addition to a gala at the Vienna State Opera Ballet at the end of the month and a production of his Swan Lake at Teatro alla Scala later this summer, Le Palais des Congrès de Paris hosts the Noureev and Friends gala May 31–June 1. The fabulous lineup of today’s stars come from companies like the Bolshoi (Obraztsova), the Mariinsky (Kondaurova and Somova), and English National Ballet (Rojo). www.viparis.com.
Nureyev in costume for Don Quixote. Photo by Serge Lido, DM Archives.
Three enduring goddesses of downtown dance—Sara Rudner, Vicky Shick, and Jodi Melnick—come together at The Yard June 22–30. Each one alone is glorious to behold, but together they’ll be an irresistible pileup of brainy female sensuality. Also on the agenda at Martha’s Vineyard’s largest dance festival: Faye Driscoll (see “Word Play,” April), Doug Elkins, Everett Dance Theatre, and Deborah Lohse (see “Nine Who Dared,” Nov. 2012). Without a doubt, The Yard, now helmed by former DTW chief David White, is undergoing a major revitalization. www.dancetheyard.org.
Melnick. Photo by Matthew Karas.
Forsythe: Former and Future
William Forsythe’s approach to ballet technique was revolutionary in the 1980s. His style is still often imitated, never matched. In recent years, with his own Forsythe Company, he has moved into the realm of dance theater—where whimsy and crazily delicious dancing play equal roles. His latest piece, which comes to Sadler’s Wells this month, aims to cover it all. Study #3 incorporates movement sequences, choreographic methods, music, costumes, and technical effects from 30 works spanning the last 30 years. www.sadlerswells.com.
The Forsythe Company in Study #3. Photo by Dominik Mentzos, Courtesy Sadler’s Wells.
Contributors: Suzannah Friscia, Wendy Perron, Kina Poon