What It's Like to Dance All Night
That feeling when you have four shows between 7 pm and 7 am
What does it feel like to dance an all-night marathon of performances? Five dancers recently found out during Trisha Brown: In Plain Site, part of "A Night of Philosophy and Ideas" at the Brooklyn Public Library. The festival of screenings, debate and performances took place in over 30 cities around the globe, with the Brooklyn edition lasting from 7 pm on January 28 to 7 am the next day. The Trisha Brown dancers put on a series of four site-specific performances, and Mariah Maloney kept a diary of her experience:
4:45 pm: I'm heading to the Brooklyn Public Library. In my overnight bag, I've packed five six-inch balls, a blanket, pillow, yoga mat, headphones, toothbrush, toothpaste, makeup, lotion, deodorant and sparkling water.
7:45 pm: Our guide navigates us through the crowd to the Commons Room to listen to Trisha Brown's audio recording of Skymap (1969). I lay down with fellow Trisha Brown dancer Brandi Norton to absorb Trisha’s voice.
8:30 pm: Stage manager Jessie Ksanznak calls half hour until our first performance. I put on headphones to listen to Bob Dylan's “Early Morning Rain,” gently letting my feet find the rhythm, allowing my arms to enact Trisha’s 1973 Spanish Dance score, where a dancer slowly raises her arms like a magnificent Spanish dancer and travels forward in time.
Spanish Dance in 1977. Photo by Tristan Vales via trishabrowndancecompany.org
9 pm: I walk to my floor tape near the returns desk and take my place in the center of five women. Leah Morrison, at the far back, begins the piece; Vicky Schick is next; then me; then Amanda Kmett'Pendry and finally Brandi.
I hear people shifting as they try to get a view. Leah and Vicky’s soft pitter pat footsteps approach my body, a whisper of a knee visits the back of my right knee and then my left knee and I can feel the surface of Vicky’s body against mine as my body joins the passage of Spanish Dance. I see Amanda’s long braid with slight blue streaks and I allow my knee to visit the back surface of her knee. I am the center of the sandwich as we meet Brandi; I feel a wonderful squish and suspension within the line of swaying bodies.
Harmonica vibrations reverberate through the library. Suddenly we stop, pressed up against the wall. A wave of energy, clapping, laughter and conversation erupts from the audience. We have made our first foray into this evening.
Next, Vicky captivates the crowd with an except from Son of Gone Fishin’ (1981). Brandi and Leah locate opposite ends of the Grand Lobby for Trisha Brown’s iconic Accumulation (1971). And the performance concludes with the Groove and Countermove (2000) duet performed eloquently by Amanda and Leah.
Vicky and Brandi in the green room
9:45 pm: I rest in the green room, rolling on my balls.
11:45 pm: Group Primary Accumulation begins. I lay supine on the floor, watching the crowd overflowing the Grand Lobby’s vast architecture: Bodies are filling the ground level and peeking over the edge of the second- and third-floor balconies. First gesture: right finger tips rise toward the ceiling, elbow releases to the floor. Repeat first gesture, add second gesture. Repeat first gesture, add second and now third.
12 am: I ride the post-performance energy and engage in conversations with audience members.
1 am: Brandi and I find ourselves in the midst of a yoga session.
1:30 am: Seated at the calligraphy table, I find it hard to focus. I join a few strangers in the Commons Room where I rest on mats and pillows.
1:45 am: I feel like I am going to fall asleep and decide moving will help, so I join a dance party to Michael Jackson in the Grand Lobby with 100 other night owls. My body feels loose, warm and easy, but my eyes feel heavy.
Most of us are horizontal
2:15 am I lay down in the Commons Room with a group of people listening to rapper LA Latasha Alcindor. I realize I am fading fast. A cup of hot tea is essential.
3 am: Back in the green room, most of us are horizontal, some sleeping, and some resting yet awake.
4 am: Quiet conversations, costumes, fresh applications of makeup and movement begin. The stage manager calls half hour and we start to rally.
5 am: The once-crowded library gives way to an open floor. Small clusters of people gather around the periphery. We arrive into the space for another Spanish Dance; Bob Dylan’s music begins and so do we, joined by the inspiring Trisha Brown dancer and "Night of Philosophy and Ideas" curator Iréne Hultman.
Next, Vicky performs an excerpt from Son of Gone Fishin’ (1981). Amanda and I then dance part of For M.G.: The Movie (1991): We initiate layered gestures over one another, I dissolve into a slow motion solo transitioning from standing to floor level while Amanda rises to vertical, moving into the space with a feisty solo.
Wake up and dance: Vicky and Irene
5:15 am: It's fascinating to feel our exhausted bodies respond to the unique experience of dancing this choreography. The early morning becomes a sort of group meditation as thousands of people rally through the wee hours.
The performance concludes with Group Primary Accumulation, a work that requires a great deal of concentration. As we enact the final gestures, there is a sense of absolute solidarity with our audience. We stand up and find ourselves hugging each other. We have entered into a different state, one that feels unformed, flowing and dreamlike. The Grand Lobby feels relaxed—the space is our home, a home where thousands of people have gathered to exchange ideas and to witness.
6 am: Quick selfie with the group
6:30 am: Many slumber party library-goers witness our final performance of Spanish Dance. Some quietly try it on their own bodies, hips swaying in solidarity with us. A final Groove and Countermove by Amanda brings us to our finish line.
All done, and heading home
We make one last trip to the green room to change out of the white costumes, give hugs goodbye, gather our things and head home. As I get in the car, I fall into my seat, deeply content as I feel the experience of the life-changing night wash over me.
Choosing music for your first-ever choreography commission can feel daunting enough. But when you're asked to create a ballet using the vast discography of the Rolling Stones—and you happen to be dating Stones frontman Mick Jagger—the stakes are even higher.
So it's understandable that as of Monday, American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet dancer Melanie Hamrick, whose Port Rouge will have its U.S. premiere tonight at the Youth America Grand Prix gala, was still torn about which songs to include.
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
What is an acceptable request from a choreographer in terms of nudity? On the first day of shooting All That Jazz in the 1970s, Bob Fosse asked us men to remove everything but our jock straps and the women to remove their tops. His rationale was to shock us in order to build character, and it felt disloyal to refuse. Would this behavior be considered okay today?
As much as audiences might flock to Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, ballet can't only rely on old war horses if it wants to remain relevant. But building new full-lengths from scratch isn't exactly cheap.
So where can companies find the money?
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
Get Dance Magazine in your inbox
Today—April 16, 2019—marks what would have been Merce Cunningham's 100th birthday. As dancers from Los Angeles to New York City to London gear up for Night of 100 Solos (the marathon performance event being livestreamed today), and as companies and presenters worldwide continue to celebrate the Cunningham Centennial through their programming, we searched through the Dance Magazine Archives to unearth our favorite images of the groundbreaking dancemaker.
A bright disposition with a dab of astringent charm is how I remember Brock Hayhoe, a National Ballet School of Canada schoolmate. Because we were a couple years apart, we barely brushed shoulders, except at the odd Toronto dance party where we could dance all night with mutual friends letting our inhibitions subside through the music. Dancing always allows a deeper look.
But, as my late great ballet teacher Pyotr Pestov told me when I interviewed him for Dance Magazine in 2009, "You never know what a flower is going to look like until it opens up."
One night. Three cities. Seventy-five dancers. And three unique sets of 100 solos, all choreographed by Merce Cunningham.
This incredible evening of dance will honor Cunningham's 100th birthday on April 16. The Merce Cunningham Trust has teamed up with The Barbican in London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City and the Center for the Art of Performance in Los Angeles for a tri-city celebration.
The best part? You don't have to be in those cities to watch—Night of 100 Solos is being live-streamed in its entirety for free.
When George Balanchine's full-length Don Quixote premiered in 1965, critics and audiences alike viewed the ballet as a failure. Elaborate scenery and costumes framed mawkish mime passages, like one in which the ballerina washed the Don's feet and dried them with her hair. Its revival in 2005 by Suzanne Farrell, the ballerina on whom it was made and to whom Balanchine left the work, did little to alter its reputation.
Yet at New York City Center's Balanchine festival last fall, some regretted its absence.
"I'd want to see Balanchine's Don Quixote," says Apollinaire Scherr, dance critic for the Financial Times. "It was a labor of love on his part, and a love letter as well. And you want to know what that looks like in his work."
Even great choreographers make mistakes. Sometimes they fail on a grand scale, like Don Quixote; other times it may be a minor misstep. Experiment and risk help choreographers grow, but what happens when a choreographer of stature misfires? Should the work remain in the repertory? And what about a work that fails on some levels but not others?
After the horrific March 15 terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques, the music and arts community sprang into action to plan a way to help victims and their families. A series of resulting concerts, titled "You Are Us/Aroha Nui," will take place in New Zealand (April 13 and 17), Jersey City, New Jersey (April 17) and Los Angeles (April 18). Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Our People, Our City Fund, which was established by the Christchurch Foundation to aid those affected by the attacks.
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.
Cloud & Victory gets dancers. The dancewear brand's social media drools over Roberto Bolle's abs, sets classical variations to Beyoncé and moans over Mondays and long adagios. And it all comes from the mind of founder Tan Li Min, the boss lady who takes on everything from designs to inventory to shipping orders.
Known simply (and affectionately) to the brand's 41K Instagram followers as Min, she's used her wry, winking sense of humor to give the Singapore-based C&V international cachet.
She recently spoke with Dance Magazine about building the brand, overcoming insecurity and using pizza as inspiration.
The Ballet Memphis New American Dance Residency, which welcomes selected choreographers for its inaugural iteration next week, goes a step beyond granting space, time and dancers for the development of new work.
This is huge news, so we'll get straight to it:
We now (finally!) know who'll be appearing onscreen alongside Ariana DeBose and the other previously announced leads in Steven Spielberg's remake of West Side Story, choreographed by Justin Peck. Unsurprisingly, the Sharks/Jets cast list includes some of the best dancers in the industry.
The pleasure of watching prodigies perform technical feats on Instagram can be tinged with a sense of trepidation. Impressive tricks, you think, but do they have what it takes for an actual career?
Just look at 18-year-old Maria Khoreva, who has more followers than most seasoned principals; in videos, her lines and attention to detail suggested a precocious talent, and led to a Nike ambassador contract before she even graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy. Still, when she joined the Mariinsky Ballet last summer, there was no guarantee any of it would translate to stage prowess.
What's next for the dance world? Our annual list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing has a pretty excellent track record of answering that question.
Here they are: the 25 up-and-coming artists we believe represent the future of our field.
At six feet tall, Jesse Obremski dances as though he's investigating each movement for the first time. His quiet transitional moments are as astounding as his long lines, bounding jumps and seamless floorwork. Add in his versatility and work ethic, and it's clear why he's an invaluable asset to New York City choreographers. Currently a freelance artist with multiple contemporary groups, including Gibney Dance Company and Limón Dance Company, Obremski also choreographs for his recently formed troupe, Obremski/Works.
Last night at Parsons Dance's 2019 gala, the company celebrated one of our own: DanceMedia owner Frederic M. Seegal.
In a speech, artistic director David Parsons said that he wanted to honor Seegal for the way he devotes his energy to supporting premier art organizations, "making sure that the arts are part of who we are," he said.
It's a bit of an understatement to say that Bob Fosse was challenging to work with. He was irritable, inappropriate and often clashed with his collaborators in front of all his dancers. Fosse/Verdon, which premieres on FX tonight, doesn't sugarcoat any of this.
But for Sasha Hutchings, who danced in the first episode's rendition of "Big Spender," the mood on set was quite opposite from the one that Fosse created. Hutchings had already worked with choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who she calls "a dancer's dream," director Tommy Kail and music director Alex Lacamoire as a original cast member in Hamilton, and she says the collaborators' calm energy made the experience a pleasant one for the dancers.
"Television can be really stressful," she says. "There's so many moving parts and everyone has to work in sync. With Tommy, Andy and Lac I never felt the stress of that as a performer."