Wendy's Best and Worst of 2014
I guess my list is pretty long. Sorry, I couldn't help myself; there were so many performances and artists that ranked high in my personal accounting.
Best new choreography
• Faye Driscoll’s Thank You For Coming at Danspace: She broke not only the fourth wall but the floor too, making the audience part of the performance. Every bit of the choreography expressed both struggle and pleasure.
• In Victor Quijada’s Empirical Quotient, the six dancers of Montreal’s RUBBERBANDance Group crept and pounced with stealth. Somewhere in between hip hop, cirque, and ballet, these remarkable dancers reacted to the energy between them as though it were a tangible thing, at Schimmel Center for the Arts, Pace University.
• Of Days, choreographed by Andrew Simmons, part of the New Zealand Ballet’s program at the Joyce: a velvety, shadowy mysteriousness that kept my eyes glued.
• Mouth to Mouth, performed and created by Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY (forgive them their invented spelling), at Peridance Capezio Center. This new L.A.–based group, led by former Batsheva dancer Danielle Agami, embraces awkwardness, absurdity and a sophisticated kind of innocence.
• Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go, at New York City Ballet: teeming with ideas about the relationship of group to individual or group to duet, while deploying a Trisha Brown–like playfulness with the margins of the space.
• John Jasperse’s quartet Within between created a bare space with a growing sense of possibility at New York Live Arts. One dancer started the piece by poking a long pole out toward the audience—poking at the fourth wall. With Jasperse’s typical droll austerity, the choreography gradually built up to a pulsating high.
• The Hole, Ohad Naharin’s sometimes harsh yet wondrous site-specific work, created a place where love and battle coexist, at Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv. Surprises came from outside the temporary platform, from above and below. When you leave you feel your whole being is vibrating.
• Alexei Ratmansky’s Pictures at an Exhibition splintered the moods of Mussorgsky’s famous music into a myriad of shapes and dynamics. Infused with the humanity he’s known for, Pictures also had a drop-to-the-floor releasing motif that pulled NYCB’s dancers closer to the earth than I’ve ever seen them.
• Mark Morris’ WORDS, commissioned by Fall for Dance, plumbed the usual A-B-A structure but with such a fertile imagination that it escaped the predictability of that form. Two people carried a banner that concealed some dancers while revealing others, a Vaudevillian device used ingeniously throughout. Supremely musical with violinist and pianist onstage playing Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words.” A total delight.
• I saw the Batsheva Dance Company perform Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21 at UCLA’s Royce Hall and BAM. Only Naharin can immerse you in despair and light-heartedness at the same instant. This kind of paradox sparks insight into human behavior and makes you feel psychologically sated.
• Twenty-three bare-chested young men from Escuela Superior Musica y Danza de Monterrey in Mexico surged onto the Koch stage in Legion at the Youth America Grand Prix gala. Choreographer Jaime Sierra made some of them into a human mountain for others to scale and later fly off of. Thrilling.
Best Dance-Plus-Talking Premieres
• David Roussève/REALITY in Roussève’s Stardust at Jacob’s Pillow, a poignant story of deprivation and discrimination that catches at the heart.
• Ilvs Strauss in Manifesto at On the Boards in Seattle: masterfully honed androgynous presence, a sly script, and a bodacious California Red Sea Cucumber costume.
• Mark Dendy’s Dystopia Distractions! Part 1 (excerpt) at Joe’s Pub. Every shyster politician should get the treatment that Dendy gave Donald Rumsfield in this monologue with gestural mimicry that’s uncannily expressive of a dark underside.
• Alan Smithee Directed This Play by Paul Lazar and Annie-B Parson at BAM. Big Dance Theater’s unique brand of fractured fairy tales, enacted by dancer/actors who are arch yet simpatico. The separate components shouldn’t rationally coalesce into a cohesive experience but somehow they do.
• Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host, presented by Ira Glass, choreographed by Monica Bill Barnes with Anna Bass: A meditation on the nature of performing, spliced with witty storytelling and sprinkled with comic flair.
Best Revivals or Re-runs
• The central duet of Light Rain was given a tantalizing performance by Ballet West’s Beckanne Sisk and the Joffrey’s Fabrice Calmels at a YAGP gala. It took us back to the sex-drugs-and-percussion haze of the ’60s as envisioned by Gerald Arpino in 1981. The ballet was a hit for the Joffrey in the ’80s but fell out of favor, so this was a welcome, if controversial (some thought it vulgar or acrobatic) pas de deux.
• The Second Detail (1991) by William Forsythe, performed by Boston Ballet at the Koch Theater. The brazen display of technique, edgy attitude, riddle-like presentation (what was the word THE doing sitting downstage on blocks?) practically defines contemporary ballet.
• BLEED (2013) by Tere O’Connor. How does human behavior make a shape onstage? How does interaction become rhythm? O’Connor’s people explore states of being troubled, harassed, or defiant, all with an ironic, self-commenting theatricality.
• Cincinnati Ballet reprised Chasing Squirrel, a madcap romp made on them by Trey McIntyre in 2004. Women are in control, then coy, then back in control. The partnering is stupendous, the chase is hilarious, and the music by Kronos Quartet is smart and fun.
• The Jig Is Up (1984) by Eliot Feld, performed by Juilliard students with a full quotient of zaniness, buoyancy and daring.
• Massine’s Gaieté Parisienne (1938): Some didn’t like Christian Lacroix’s cartoonish costumes in the 1988 revival, which were retained here, and the ballet basically runs on style and froth. But it’s a piece of ballet history that honors ABT’s early years.
• A beautiful melding of body architecture and motion, the “Man Fan” solo of Moses Pendleton’s Botanica (2008) was performed by Jon Eden of MOMIX at the Fire Island Dance Festival. When he unfurled his huge cocoon of a fan, he seemed to brush the sky.
• Hofesh Schechter's Uprising (2006) was given a bold rendition by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at NY City Center. The all-male cast gave it the menacing watchfulness, propulsive runs and ambiguous camaraderie it deserved.
• Dia:Beacon hosted an afternoon retrospective of Steve Paxton, icon of postmodern dance: willful simplicity, curiosity, a quirkiness rooted in the explorations of the spine, and an ineffable sense of the riddle of life.
• Sara Mearns of NYCB: abandoned in Walpurgisnacht Ballet, commanding in Union Jack, earthy in Pictures at an Exhibition, celestial in Mozartiana, and superwoman in Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse.
• PeiJu Chien-Pott in Depak Ine by Nacho Duato with Martha Graham Dance Company at City Center: Astounding command and presence, embodying that time-honored Graham intensity.
• Alvaro Dule of Wayne McGregor/Random Dance’s Atomos, at Peak Performances in Montclair: an over-the-top elasticity paired with appealing self-possession.
• Misty Copeland showed verve in everything: slinky in Derek Hough’s premiere Ameska (commissioned by YAGP), playful while precise in Balanchine’s Duo Concertant, and joyfully alluring as the Flower Girl in Gaité Parisienne (the last two with ABT).
• Shay Bares as Laurelai in Hackpolitik by Kate Ladenheim at Here, NYC: Transgender glamour with fabulous technique.
• Steven McRae of The Royal Ballet tapped like a mad hatter in his version of Czardas in Positano, Italy. A total entertainer.
• Misa Kuranaga in Symphony in Three Movements, with Boston Ballet at the Koch Theater. Pure, transcendant dancing the way Balanchine would have wanted it.
• Osnel Delgado, co-founder, choreographer and the force behind Cuban dance company Malpaso, at the Joyce: Wired and wild.
• Stuart Singer in John Jasperse’s Within between: Here I resort to quoting Siobhan Burke, who described him in The New York Times as “the engrossing Mr. Singer, who could be a gladiator or an angsty toddler.”
• Angelica Generosa of Pacific Northwest Ballet in Take Five…More or Less by Susan Stroman and Nacho Duato’s Rassemblement at Jacob’s Pillow: A magnetic performer with a juicy movement quality.
• Paul Hurley in Liz Lerman’s Healing Wars at Peak Performances in Montclair: A real-life amputee who radiated peacefulness whether speaking or moving.
• L. A. Dance Project’s Aaron Carr in works by Millepied, Justin Peck, and Forsythe at BAM: A charisma fueled by energy, commitment, and wit.
• Diana Vishneva in Hans Van Manen’s duet The Old Man and Me, and in Marco Goecke’s solo Tué, in her own festival CONTEXT, Moscow. In the former she reveled in a kind of private womanly grandeur; in the latter she projected an existential despair through hyper nervous hand motions. A strung out addict—or insect, or doomed diva. Magnificent!
• Omagbitse Omagbemi in Neil Greenberg’s This at New York Live Arts: Sensual, impulsive, radiant, with a focus that’s both interior and exterior.
• Heather Olson in BLEED by Tere O’Connor: She’s the Chosen One in this tragicomedy, the one to whom things happen and who instills awe and fear in others. Even at the height of theatrical hysteria, she retains the ironic edge that fits O’Connor’s work like a glove.
• Stella Abrera as Princess Clara in ABT’s Nutcracker by Ratmansky, the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, the Fairy Godmother in Ashton’s Cinderella, and Mercedes in Don Q: All things light and joyous. Her upper body is surrounded by peaceful space.
• Alan Cumming in Cabaret: Larger than life theatricality, double-edged satire oozing from his lips and every other part of his body.
• Taylor Stanley of NYCB: Warmth, clarity, and verve in every role.
• ABT’s Craig Salstein: irrepressible humor as Gamache in Don Q, the Peruvian in Gaieté Parisienne and the Russian (or buffoon) dance in Nutcracker. A masterful sense of theater that makes visible even the smallest gestures.
• André Feijao, he of the beanpole body and urgent energy, still the most riveting member of Companhia Urbana de Dança, at the Joyce.
• Sascha Radetsky as Franz in Coppélia, which was simultaneously his ABT debut in the role and farewell to the company. A joyousness so mischievous that it verged on recklessness.
• Cynthia Loemij in Rosas danst Rosas by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker at Lincoln Center Festival. You felt her urgency grow with every repetition of every step.
• Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Lux in Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux: With sparkling technique, exciting virtuosity and daring musicality, they brought the house down. An exhilarating highlight of NYCB’s season.
• ABT’s Polina Semionova and David Hallberg: an exquisite and moving Giselle at the Met.
• Herman Cornejo and Maria Kochetkova in ABT’s Don Q: Classy fun.
• Olga Smirnova and Evan McKie in Onegin pas de deux at the YAGP gala: Gloriously tragic.
Most Moving New Musicals
• Beautiful, the Carole King Musical
• Side Show
Funniest New Broadway Musical
• Bullets Over Broadway
• Spectral Evidence, a hokey premiere by Preljocaj (a usually astute choreographer) for NYCB based on women as witches. Nobody liked seeing them burning in their coffins.
• Cacti by Alexander Ekman, performed by Boston Ballet at the Koch, was huge, sprawling, and overlong, with a sophomoric script—except for one fabulous little talking duet.
• The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Le Halte de Cavalerie at Lincoln Center: a silly pointless Petipa ballet resurrected by Peter Gusev in 1975. The kind of ballet where a man peeks under a woman’s skirt and then looks at the audience with a smirk as though he’s done something clever.
• Josh Bergasse’s Stairway to Heaven, for Sara Mearns and a posse of backup guys: a compendium of every cliché in the book, at DRA’s Fire Island Festival.
For trends, endings and beginnings (including Wendy Whelan’s farewell), click here.
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.