After 20 years at the helm of Spain’s Compañía Nacional de Danza, choreographer Nacho Duato assumes a new role in January as director of St. Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet, formerly the Maly Ballet.
Over the years Duato’s ongoing conflicts with Spain’s Ministry of Culture have made headlines. Earlier in 2010 the Ministry had announced plans to change the profile of the company (whose world-class status is largely due to Duato’s dynamic choreography) to include classical and neoclassical repertoire. The choreographer, under contract until the end of July 2010, declined to reapply for the job.
Duato announced his new post from Moscow last July, where the CND performed for the first time at the Bolshoi Theater. It represents a radical change in image for the Mikhailovsky and for ballet in Russia. Duato faces the challenge of maintaining the classics while working with dancers who have no experience with his style or the kind of collaboration the choreographer developed with the CND dancers.
“I will not return to Spain ever again, at least not with the Ministry of Culture,” declared Duato in a television interview last August. “I’ve been invited to direct a company with its own theater and an orchestra, and to imbue it with my own personality. I’m ready and willing to do so.”
The Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet is scheduled to perform in New York in June 2012. French ballet master Hervé Palito, artistic coordinator of the Compañía Nacional de Danza since 2002, will be the CND’s interim director until the Spanish Ministry of Culture chooses a new director. For the moment Duato’s choreographies remain in the CND repertoire. —Laura Kumin
Jill Johnston (1929–2010)
A quintessential voice of the 1960s, Jill Johnston was the Jim Morrison of dance critics. Androgynous, trippy, untamable, she brilliantly chronicled Judson Dance Theater and other dance artists in The Village Voice. Embedded in her stream-of-consciousness style were insights about the dance revolution; for example, that the continuum of movement favored by choreographers like Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown (as opposed to the dynamic phrasing of modern dance) represented the “new demanding realism in the dance art of the Sixties.” She helped put Judson choreographers on the map.
In her collection Marmalade Me, she defiantly blurred the border between art and criticism. Her poetic vision and precarious mental state combined to create exquisite, packed prose. Expanded in 1998 by Wesleyan University Press, the book now includes reviews of Paul Taylor, Anna Sokolow, and Gerald Arpino, as well as the Judson rebels. This slim book is a must-read for anyone interested in American dance history.
Johnston, who died in September, grew up on Long Island, in New York. She attended American Dance Festival at Connecticut College in 1951 and ’52, and studied with José Limón. She worked in the Dance Collection when it was still at the New York Public Library’s building on 42nd Street. She started writing the “Dance Column” for the Voice in 1959; by 1968 her pieces devolved into a kind of crazed diary, rather than dance reviews.
Johnston also became a public figure as a lesbian feminist, causing a scandal or two. She was pals with the likes of Norman Mailer and Andy Warhol as well as Yvonne Rainer and Lucinda Childs. She wrote several other books and continued writing for Art in America. Her website at www.jilljohnston.com is still active. —Wendy Perron
Victor Moreno (1928–2010)
Former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo principal dancer Victor Manuel Moreno died in August. The Argentine-born dancer began his career with Teatro Colón de Buenos Aires, where he was named a premier danseur in 1948. He joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1951. He danced with Alexandra Danilova, Lupe Serrano, and Maria Tallchief and worked with Anton Dolin, Serge Lifar, and Léonide Massine. Moreno founded several companies, including the Spanish American Ballet Company in L.A. and the Dallas Ballet Theater, and taught at numerous colleges, universities, and studios across the country. In 2007 he told the Los Angeles Times, “I used to teach company class for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and even Massine would come. He liked my technique.”
Raymond Serrano (1950–2010)
A former American Ballet Theatre dancer known for his character portrayals, Raymond Serrano died in July. Born in Puerto Rico, he studied ballet with his mother, Lois Kolb; at the Ballets de San Juan; and later at the School of American Ballet. After performing with the National Ballet of Washington, he joined ABT in 1975. He was beloved for his acting roles, including Drosselmeyer, Carabosse, and Madge in Erik Bruhn’s La Sylphide, and was part of the original cast of Antony Tudor’s The Leaves Are Fading. He appeared with ABT in various televised performances and can be seen in Herbert Ross’ The Turning Point. Serrano was also a company masseur for ABT, White Oak Dance Project, and Ballet Arizona and eventually opened his own practice in Manhattan. In 2002 he joined the faculty at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where his wife, former ABT dancer Christine Spizzo Serrano, is also on faculty. After leaving UNCSA in 2007, he continued to teach both in North Carolina and nationally.
Boston Ballet principals Lorna Feijóo and Nelson Madrigal welcomed their first child, Lucia Madrigal, on Sept. 14.