Wendy's Best of 2013
Warning: The following claims are entirely subjective and are limited by what I’ve seen or not seen.
BEST (and worst) NEW CHOREOGRAPHY (world premieres or New York premieres.)
• Borderlands, choreographed by Wayne McGregor for San Francisco Ballet at War Memorial Opera House. With snaking spines, vibrating arms, and torsos diving through a partner’s negative space, this kinetically exciting premiere was danced magnificently by SFB. Lucy Carter's saturated lighting immersed the dancers in a unique environment.
• Arthur Pita’s Metamorphosis (a dance theater adaptation after Franz Kafka). The craft of storytelling allowed pathos to emerge from the bizarre. Edward Watson was extraordinary as the hapless man turned cockroach. Corey Annand was also quite amazing as the precocious little sister who feeds the insect. Co-produced by The Royal Ballet and The Joyce Theater.
• Night Stand, created and performed by Lisa Nelson and Steve Paxton, at Dia:Chelsea. In this spare riddle of a duet, they improvised with isolated objects—a branch, a kimono, a plastic bag—as much as with each other.
• Rosie Herrera’s Various Stages of Drowning: A Cabaret, at The Joyce as part of Focus Dance. Wacky yet deep dance theater piece, stitched together with imagination and slightly dark humor.
• Tap dancer Michelle Dorrance’s ingenious SOUNDspace at Danspace. A single, clear concept, infused with a sense of play, made St. Mark’s Church vibrate with sound and rhythm.
• John Scott’s supremely humane The White Piece, inspired by his work with torture survivors, at La Mama in association with Irish Arts Center. An international ensemble of strong individuals started out boisterous and ended with unexpectedly poetic, intimate scenes.
• Compagnie Sébastien Ramirez’s AP15, at the Breakin’ Convention (which originated at Sadler's Wells in London) at the Apollo Theater. This slippery 15-minute hip-hop duet with Honji Wang (the long version is called Amor & Psyche) passed through astounding sleights of hand—or actually sleights of body.
• Hands on a Hard Body. While big, lavish Broadway numbers in other musicals had great pizzazz, I was more moved by Sergio Trujillo’s spare but inventive choreography for 10 people desperate to win a pick-up truck.
• Olivier Wevers’ Monster for his company Whim W’Him. In this series of three very different duets, the dancers slide into each other’s space, meeting with either intimacy or contained violence. A highlight of the new Ballet v6.0 series at the Joyce.
• Benjamin Millepied’s Neverwhere for New York City Ballet. Shades of Quasi Una Fantasia (my favorite Millepied piece for its strange, surging masses) with fewer people. The shiny black scaly costumes by Iris Van Herpen—part reptile, part armor—and music by Nico Muhly all went together to create something that’s both a throwback and futuristic.
• Jonah Bokaer’s Ulysses Syndrome, at Florence Gould Hall. Bleak, with hope around the edges, this duet between Jonah and his father, writer Tsvi Bokaer, had an air of old-world mystery.
• Wendy Whelan’s Restless Creature, wherein an iconic ballerina commissioned duets by and with four young choreographers: Alejandro Cerrudo, Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, and Brian Brooks. This fascinating program premiered at Jacob’s Pillow, and will tour this coming spring.
• Ko Murabushi’s alarming Ritournelle at Red Brick Studio, Yokohama, Japan. Hitting the floor with a thud, dragging lilies in his teeth, this butoh master embodied both despair and hope.
• Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s snazzy, jazzy Sombrerísimo for Ballet Hispanico, commissioned by Fall for Dance at New York City Center. When these six guys toss their hats while salsa-ing, you want to follow them to the beach.
• Christopher Wheeldon’s magical Cinderella, made with a team that includes designers Julian Crouch and Basil Twist and librettist Craig Lucas. Enchanting transformations, smart choreography, and luscious dancing. Co-produced by San Francisco Ballet and Dutch National Ballet, seen at Lincoln Center.
• Akram Khan’s solo DESH, in which he tells his culturally fractured story with body, voice and bald crown of head. Gorgeous set design by Tim Yip, at the White Light Festival, Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater.
• Ich Kürbisgeist by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, a triuimph of sly disorientation. The audience learned to enjoy a half-gibberish script by Sibyl Kempson and absurdist physical humor by the players. Part of the Replay Series at New York Live Arts.
• Worst premiere: Preljocaj’s Spectral Evidence for NYCB. Heavy-handed, cryptic in its religious themes, it was loosely (very loosely) based on the Salem witch trials.
BEST (and worst) REVIVALS
• Calcium Light Night (1977) by Peter Martins. Bracing and jagged rhythms, terrifically danced by Robert Fairchild and Sterling Hyltin of NYCB.
• Mark Morris’ sensuous, eastern-flavored Gong (2001), performed beautifully by ABT—especially in the silent interludes. It didn’t hurt that the first silent couple was Gillian Murphy and Sascha Radetsky, and the second was Marcelo Gomes and Misty Copeland. Heaven. With gamelan-like music by Colin McPhee and opaque tutus of saturated color by Isaac Mizrahi.
• Play (2004) by Stanton Welch, music by Moby, at the Joyce, reining in the rebelliousness of adolescents—chaotic and lusty. Part of Houston Ballet’s season at the Joyce.
• Most disappointing revival: Martha Graham’s Rite of Spring (1984) at Fall for Dance. Although Xiaochuan Xie was ravishing as the Chosen One, the choreography trotted out every Graham cliché (rope, rape) instead of making a statement with Stravinsky’s monumental music. (She was 90 when it was made.)
• San Francisco Ballet’s Maria Kochetkova: a perfect ballerina in Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc, an absolute animal in McGregor’s Borderlands, a heart-rending motherless child in Wheeldon’s Cinderella, and a joyous Aurora as a guest artist in ABT’s Sleeping Beauty.
• Heather Ogden of National Ballet of Canada in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Christopher Wheeldon, at the Kennedy Center. Her Alice was full of wonder and sweetness, keeping you interested in the story.
• Best rescuers of an overlong piece: Maria Kowroski, Ashley Bouder, and Andrew Veyette of NYCB for their gonzo energy in Bigonzetti’s Vespro.
• Best dancer in a bit role in a musical: Abdur-Rahim Jackson, raw and ready, in Soul Doctor, at Circle in the Square.
• Exhilarating shape shifting: Ailey’s Jamar Roberts in Ron Brown’s Four Corners at the Koch Theater and in Aszure Barton’s LIFT at City Center.
• Astonishing floating and gliding moves: Memphis jooker Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, at "Dance Against Cancer" and Le Poisson Rouge.
• Breath-takingly delicate debut from Italy: Rome Opera Ballet’s Erika Gaudenz, partnering Roberto Bolle in Roland Petit’s L’Arlésienne, in Roberto Bolle and Friends Gala, City Center.
• Spectacular ballet partnership: Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. She is fast, facile, and perfect; he has the force of a cannonball and is humanly imperfect (I wish he would get some good coaching), with ABT at the Metropolitan Opera House.
• Awesomely grounded: Da’Von Doane of Dance Theatre of Harlem was magnetic in both Robert Garland’s Gloria and Donald Byrd’s sensuously edgy Contested Space.
• In a cast of megastar ABT principals, Craig Salstein streaked like lightning through "Symphony #9," the first part of Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy at the Met.
• Best protagonist in a 1970s ballet: Hamburg Ballet’s Hélène Bouchet, a true ballerina—even wearing a unitard—as Hippolyta in John Neumeier’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (1977), as part of the 40th-anniversary celebration of Neumeier’s reign, Hamburg.
• Most erotic new ballet partnership: Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo in Martha Clarke’s Chéri, at Signature Theatre. They made us feel we were voyeurs, witnessing their private, rapturous liaison.
• Least heralded supremely classical dancer: Houston Ballet’s Sara Webb in Ben Stevenson’s Twilight at The Joyce, and in an excerpt of Stanton Welch’s Marie at Houston Ballet’s Jubilee of Dance, Wortham Theater, Houston.
• Most charismatic new ballet guys: NYCB’s Zachary Catazaro in Balanchine’s Western Symphony, and Houston Ballet’s Joseph Walsh in Stanton Welch’s Play and Marie.
• Most openly emotional ballet dancer: Melody Mennite in Olivier Wevers’ Monster with Whim W’Him, and in Welch’s Play at the Joyce; also in Welch’s Maninyas in Houston Ballet’s Jubilee of Dance.
• Best Ophelia though we didn’t know she was Ophelia: Frances Chiaverini was the wandering innocent in William Forsythe’s Sider at BAM, bringing a beguiling liquid quality to this confounding but bracing work.
• Best opening solo: Ailey’s Samuel Lee Roberts, sly and risky as the lone improvisor who introduces Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, City Center. In surprising himself and us, he fearlessly courted physical danger.
• Best closing solo: Nicholas Sciscione is Petronio’s Like Lazarus Did—as awkward and beautiful as a newborn—at the Joyce.
• Best dancer stepping into an actress role: Irina Dvorovenko, recently retired from ABT, flaunting her gorgeousness as the diva of On Your Toes. Of course her dancing was great, but her deep-throated, Russian-accented voice was wickedly good too, at the Encores! series at City Center.
• Most naturally alluring new Ailey star: Rachael McLaren in Kyle Abrahams’ Another Night, Aszure Barton’s LIFT, and Wayne McGregor’s Chroma.
• Funniest ballerina: Barbara Bears in the “Crazy” section of Stanton Welch’s Cline Time (2004), Houston Ballet’s Jubilee of Dance, Wortham Theater, Houston.
• Funniest modern dancer: Blakeley White-McGuire in Richard Move’s The Show (Achilles Heels), revived for the Martha Graham Dance Company.
Superlative dancers, heretofore unmentioned, who continue to top their own artistic achievements:
• Michael Trusnovec of Paul Taylor
• Yuan Yuan Tan and Sarah Van Patten of SFB
• Stella Abrera and Sarah Lane of ABT
• Matthew Rushing, Alicia Graf Mack, and Linda Celeste Sims of Ailey
• Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, and Georgina Pazcoguin of NYCB
• Jon Bond of Cedar Lake
• Carla Körbes of Pacific Northwest Ballet
• Julie Diana of Pennsylvania Ballet
• Best art exhibit: “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music,” at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. This dazzling display of costumes, videos, and sets invited us into the glorious period when outrageously bold ballets burst forth from the collaborative imagination.
• Best company new to NYC: 605 Collective from Vancouver. A ragtag group whose Selected Play at Fall for Dance looked like a random free-for-all, but the hairs-breadth timing revealed how harrowing the choreography really was.
• Best Books
Dancing on Water: A Life in Ballet, from the Kirov to the ABT. By Elena Tchernichova with Joel Lobenthal (Northeastern). A forthright, insightful account of Tchernichova’s past life in Russia—she knew every famous Russian dancer you can think of— as well as her later years as a coach in the U.S., working closely with Baryshnikov at ABT.
Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution & the Making of a Choreographer, by Elizabeth Kendall (Oxford). A fascinating search that follows Balanchine from a reluctant ballet student to a prolific teenage choreographer during the violent confusion of the Russian Revolution. His partner and artistic ally, the “lost muse” Lidia Ivanova, mysteriously drowned just before he traveled west. Kendall applies her imagination to these tragic events, lifting this work to a spiritual level.
(There’s a third book that people seem to be enjoying, but to avoid appearing brazenly self promotional, I’ll just say, click here to find out about it.)
• Broadway’s most noticeable trend: Kids rule! Super talented little kids are carrying shows like Matilda and Annie. They are triple threats in the making—or rather, they are already triple threats. Scary.
• Best of the current wave of dancing-in-museum events: Eiko and Koma’s Caravan Project at the Museum of Modern Art. You could walk around the installation, watching these two timeless performers evolve and change in their self-made environment, and then move on to other artworks. More than any of the set choreography commissioned by MoMA, this was truly a live work of art to savor on one’s own time.
• Most valuable international blog: Ismene Brown, the British arts writer who has been translating and summarizing from Russian news sources about the ongoing saga of the acid attack on Bolshoi artistic director Sergei Filin and its labyrinthine aftermath, posts here.
• The most daring artistic director: Robert Battle, in his third year at the helm of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, took on Wayne McGregor’s wildly articulate contemporary classic, Chroma (made for The Royal Ballet in 2006)—the first NYC company to do so. He has worked up to this moment by expanding the rep with pieces by Taylor, Kylián, Fagan, and Naharin, and this season the supremely quirky Aszure Barton. His message to the world is that Ailey dancers can do anything!
As a very shy little girl, my happy place was my room, where I would wear improvised costumes and giggle with happiness while dancing for an imaginary audience. I was raised in a family where dancing was "normal." My mom and sisters graduated from the national ballet academy in Poland, and I, of course, wanted to follow their steps. But I was never forced to. I am proud to say I discovered the magic of ballet all by myself.
Photo by Costin Radu, courtesy of Petra Conti
It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are artists AND athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:
The midterm elections are less than three weeks away on November 6. If you're registered to vote, hooray!
But you can't fully celebrate before you've completed your mission. Showing up at the polls is what matters most—especially since voter turnout for midterms doesn't have a fabulous track record. According to statistics from FairVote, about 40 percent of the population that is eligible to vote actually casts a ballot during midterm elections.
Many members of the dance community are making it clear that they want that percentage go up, and they're using social media to take a stand. Here's how they're getting involved:
Dancers will do just about anything to increase their odds of staying injury-free. And there are plenty of products out there claiming that they can help you do just that. But which actually work?
We asked for recommendations from four experts: Martt Lawrence, who teaches Pilates to dancers in San Francisco; Lisa-Marie Lewis, who teaches yoga at The Ailey Extension in New York City; physical therapist Alexis Sams, who treats dancers at her clinic in Phoenix; and stretch training coach Vicente Hernandez, who teaches at The School of Pennsylvania Ballet.
With a contemporary air that exalts—rather than obscures—flamenco tradition, and a technique and stamina that boggle the mind, Eduardo Guerrero's professional trajectory has done nothing but skyrocket since being named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" earlier this year. His 2017 solo Guerrero has toured widely, and he has created premieres for the Jerez Festival (Faro) and the 2018 Seville Flamenco Biennial (Sombra Efímera). In the midst of his seemingly unstoppable ascension, he's created Gaditanía, his first work utilizing a corps de ballet. Guerrero is currently touring the U.S. with this homage to Cadiz, the city of his birth.
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At our cover shoot for the November issue, Bobbi Jene Smith curated one of the best lineups of YouTube music videos that I've heard in a long time. From Bob Dylan to Tom Waits, they felt like such perfect choices for her earthy, visceral movement and soulful approach to dance.
Dance technology has come a long way from ballet variations painstakingly learned by watching fuzzy VHS tapes. Over the last few years, a dizzying number of online training programs have cropped up, offering the chance to take class in contemporary, jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop and even ballroom from the comfort of your own living room or studio.
Usually, it takes new recruits a few seasons to make their mark at the Paul Taylor Dance Company. But Taylor wasted no time in honing in on the talents of Alex Clayton. Only a few months after Clayton joined in June 2017, Taylor created an exciting solo for him in his new Concertiana, filled with explosive leaps and quick footwork. Clayton was also featured in new works by Doug Varone and Bryan Arias. At 5' 6" he may be compact, but onstage he fills the space with a thrilling sense of attack.
Scottish Ballet is turning 50 next year, but they'll be the one giving out the gifts.
In 2019, the company will make five wishes from fans come true, as a way of thanking them for their loyalty and support over the years. "It can be anything from the dancers performing at a birthday party or on the banks of Loch Ness, or even the chance to get on stage and be part of a Scottish Ballet show," according to the company.
Recently, English National Ballet first artist Precious Adams announced that she will no longer be wearing pink tights. With the support of her artistic director Tamara Rojo, she will instead wear chocolate brown tights (and shoes) that match her flesh tone.
It may seem like a simple change, but this could be a watershed moment—one where the aesthetics of ballet begin to expand to include the presence of people of color.
Flamenco dancer and choreographer Rocío Molina created her first full-length production, Entre paredes ("Between Walls"), at the age of 22. At 26, the prodigy received Spain's National Dance Prize, the most coveted dance award in Spain. Now 34, her rupture with tradition makes her no stranger to controversy. But it, and her fiercely personal and contemporary style, means that each new project is a fascinating voyage.
Molina is the subject of French filmmaker Emilio Belmonte's first feature length documentary, IMPULSO. The film, which makes its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York City's Film Forum on October 17, follows Molina for two years as she tours Europe presenting a series of improvised works. These improvisations ultimately inspired the creation of one of Molina's masterworks, Caída de Cielo ("Fallen from Heaven"), which premiered in 2016.
In a move that was both surprising and seemingly inevitable, New York City Ballet closed its fall season by promoting seven dancers. Joseph Gordon, who was promoted to soloist in February 2017, is now a principal dancer. Daniel Applebaum, Harrison Coll, Claire Kretzschmar, Aaron Sanz, Sebastian Villarini-Velez and Peter Walker have been promoted to soloist.
Newly promoted soloist Peter Walker has been showing his abilities as a leading man in ballets like Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB
The announcement was made on Saturday by Jonathan Stafford, the head of NYCB's interim leadership team. These seven promotions mark the first since longtime ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired in the midst of harassment allegations at the beginning of this year. While Stafford and fellow interim leaders Rebecca Krohn, Craig Hall and Justin Peck have made some bold choices in terms of programming—such as commissioning Kyle Abraham and Emma Portner to create new works for the 2018–19 season—their primary focus has appeared to be keeping the company running on an even keel while the search for a new artistic leader is ongoing. Some of us theorized that we would not be seeing any promotions until a new artistic director was in place.
Ryan Steele has a simple rule for demanding days on Broadway: "I listen to my body," he says. "I have whatever I'm craving: If I need more protein, I go straight for that. If I'm tired, I know I need carbs."
This wasn't always Steele's approach. Growing up, shuttling between the studio and school meant relying on McDonald's and Burger King.
The entrancing power of Instagram can't be denied. I've lost hours of my life scrolling the platform looking at other people documenting theirs. What starts as a "quick" fill-the-moment check-in can easily lead to a good 10-15 minute session, especially if I enter the nebulous realm of "suggested videos."
My algorithm usually shows me professional ballet dancers in performances, rehearsals, class, backstage and on tour, which I quite enjoy. But there are the other dance feeds that I find myself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by: the hyper-elastic, hyper-extended, gumby-footed girls always at the barre doing developpés to six o'clock. There are the multiple turners, the avid stretchers and we can't forget the endless balancers.
This parade of tricksters always makes me wonder, What else can they do? Can they actually dance?
New York City Ballet fired principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro on Saturday. Both had initially been suspended until 2019 for engaging in "inappropriate communications," while principal Chase Finlay, who was the instigator of those communications, resigned. (Although, in a statement on Saturday, NYCB made it clear they had decided to terminate Finlay prior to his resignation.)
The New York Times reports that NYCB says the change from suspension to termination resulted from hearing the concerns of dancers, staff members and others in the NYCB community. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that a lawsuit against NYCB had been filed in the meantime. A statement from NYCB executive director Katherine Brown and interim artistic team leader Jonathan Stafford stated:
"We have no higher obligation than to ensure that our dancers and staff have a workplace where they feel respected and valued, and we are committed to providing that environment for all employees of New York City Ballet."
Since the news was announced, both Catazaro and Ramasar have spoken out publicly about being fired.
Earlier this week, a friend of a friend reached out to me seeking recommendations for a dancer/choreographer to hire. She wanted someone who could perform a solo and talk about their process for an arts-appreciation club. After a few emails back and forth, as I was trying to find out exactly what kind of choreographer she was looking for, it eventually emerged that she was not looking to pay this person.
"We are hoping to find someone who would be willing to participate in exchange for the exposure," she wrote.
Why do people think this is an okay thing to ask for?
For over a decade, husband-and-wife team Pascal Rioult and Joyce Herring, artistic and associate artistic directors of RIOULT Dance NY, dreamed of building a space for their company and fellow artists in the community, and a school for future dancers. This month, their 11,000-square-foot dream opens its doors in the Kaufman Arts District in Astoria, Queens, a New York City neighborhood across the East River from Manhattan.
In the final years of her decade-long career with the Lewitzky Dance Company, University of Arizona Associate Professor Amy Ernst began to develop an interest in dance injury prevention. She remembers feeling an urge to widen her understanding of dance and the body. Soon after retirement from the Company, she was hired by the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Inglewood, California as a physical therapy assistant, where she worked for the next three and a half years. This work eventually led her to pursue an M.F.A. in dance at the University of Washington-Seattle. She remembers growing into the role of a professor during her time pursuing her degree. That incubation phase was critical. Ernst joined the faculty at the University of Arizona in 1995, and now as director of the M.F.A. program, mentors the new generation of dance faculty, company directors and innovators.
With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.
Bloch Inc. Printed Warm-up Bootie
via Bloch Inc.
Created by Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky, this collection comes in a variety of tie dye, floral and even butterfly prints.
Some of my favorite experiences as both an audience member and a dancer have involved audience participation. Artists who cleverly use participatory moments can make bold statements about the boundaries between performer and spectator, onstage and off. And the challenge to be more than a passive viewer can redefine an audience's relationship to what they're watching. But all the experiences I've loved have had something in common: They've given audiences a choice.
A few weeks back, I had a starkly different experience—one that has caused me to think deeply about how consent should play into audience-performer relationships.
What happens when you mix two really good things together? Sometimes, it can be magical. It's practically guaranteed when one of those elements is the wizarding world of Harry Potter, and the other is—wait for it—dance-team–style hip hop.
When the Bible spoke of the "ingathering of the exiles," it didn't have dance in mind. Yet, this month, more than 100 dancers, choreographers and scholars from around the world will gather at Arizona State University to celebrate the impact of Jews and the Jewish experience on dance. From hora to hip hop, social justice to somatics, ballet to Gaga, the three-day event (Oct. 13–15) is "deliberately inclusive," says conference organizer and ASU professor Naomi Jackson.