There Is No One Like Christopher Williams
His imagination is staggering. He pulls you into an ancient world, a mythic world, a dream world, where a woman might have a dragon clinging to her, or a man might have a small solar system above his head.
With other dance artists who have developed a unique sensibility, you can often detect a strain of influence. But Christopher is, and always has been, completely his own artist. Even though he’s worked with Tere O’Connor, Douglas Dunn, Risa Jaroslow, and Basil Twist, his own work is nothing like any of theirs. The images seem to grow full-blown out of his brain. (By the way, I lay no claim to objectivity. I danced in his Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins in 2005 and served as advising mentor on a later work.)
Last year Christopher's concert at DNA Dance had an unfinished feel. The costumes, always gloriously outlandish, overshadowed the thin choreography. (However, the music for Hen’s Teeth, by Gregory Spears, was on my Best of 2010 list.) In this year’s performance at the 92nd Street Y’s Harkness Dance Festival, which was a series of excerpts of mostly past work, each section was fully formed. The scene from Hen’s Teeth ended at the perfect point: The six women-birds bare their chests by tearing at their costumes with their teeth, and then start mewing, squeaking, or squealing. When a man (dressed like Peter Pan) enters, their squealing mounts to a cacophony—caused by desire or fear we’ll never know. Blackout.
Christopher is as extraordinary as a dancer as he is as a choreographer. In the duet he dances with Paul Singh from The Portuguese Suite (2006), he hasn’t lost any of that amazing elasticity or captivating stage presence that he had when I first saw him dance about 10 years ago.
It’s refreshing to see a choreographer who escapes today’s trends. He has no interest in super fast movement or very released movement or clever improvisation or tangled cables all over the floor. When you enter his space, you forget about texting and video and tweeting. The music, usually by Hildegarde Von Bingen or other pre-15th-century religious composer, helps transport you to another zone. It’s really a trip, as ornate and supernatural as a novel by Isabel Allende or a film by Fellini. You have to give yourself over to it.
There is zero sentimentality or cuteness in his dances. But when one figure nudges his head against another’s feet, or when three artificially nubile women (strange nearly-nude costumes with breast and buttock padding) hang their heads in grief or regret, it’s suddenly poignant. Or when a woman in a filmy red dress with six fake breasts speaks as though she cannot open her mouth, or when a gorgeous topless woman curls her bear-fingernails behind her back, these images stay with you.
In the new Mumbo-Jumbo, Williams takes on the tradition of minstrelsy, using two dancers of color to illustrate the ridiculousness of it. Other pieces of his give off a vague whiff literature, but in this duet the story of “Little Black Sambo” is actually narrated. Raja Kelly and Paul Singh are the brave/foolish figures who shuffle, fight, kiss, and jive to Bollywood music. It is a mumbo jumbo of cultural clichés. And it's new territory for Williams in that it touches on political commentary rather than being sheer fantasy. You’re caught in that limbo of not knowing whether to laugh or be indignant.
Hen's Teeth with Kira Blazek in foreground, photo by Julie Lemberger for 92Y
When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (Okay, maybe more excited.)
This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
If you're seeking an extra dash of inspiration to start the new season on the right—dare we say—foot, look no further than dance documentaries.
Starting August 23, OVID, a streaming service dedicated to docs and art-house films, is adding eight notable dance documentaries to its library. The best part? There's a free seven-day trail. (After that, subscriptions are $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually.)
From the glamour of Russian ballet stars to young dancers training in Cuba to a portrait of powerhouse couple Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder, here's what's coming to a couch near you: