In the early 1960s, a group of dancers started questioning the existing rules of choreography. Influenced by John Cage, they created dances that were startling in their simplicity and risk-taking. Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, Trisha Brown, David Gordon, Deborah Hay, Elaine Summers and Lucinda Childs were all part of this group. Most of them had studied or danced with Anna Halprin or Simone Forti. Visual artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Alex Hay were part of this cauldron of experimentation as well as composer Philip Corner.
The Museum of Modern Art has mounted an expansive exhibit called "Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done." It gathers photos, artwork, scores, objects and films that bring the period alive. If you get there before January 16, you'll see the films of Brown's early work. Her piece Walking on the Wall was so disorienting that it was almost hallucinatory. (Actually, this film and most of the Brown pieces are from the 70s.) Playing with perception was a big part of the Judson and post-Judson eras.
It's the 60th anniversary of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and their season at New York City Center is going strong with more than 20 works—including world premieres and company premieres.
Ronald K. Brown, who just received a Dance Magazine Award, has made his seventh work for Ailey, The Call. It's a gorgeous pastiche of three different types of music: Bach, jazz by singer Mary Lou Williams and Malian music by Asase Yaa Entertainment Group.
Ballet Hispánico returns to the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem with its full-length ballet, CARMEN.maquia. Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano has reenvisioned the story of Carmen to emphasize Don José, the man who falls in love with Carmen, suffers because of her infidelity, then murders her in a "fit of passion." Their duets are filled with all the sensuality, jealousy and violence you could wish for—in a totally contemporary dance language.
Sansano's previous piece for Ballet Hispánico, El Beso, bloomed with a thousand playful and witty ways of expressing desire. He has a knack for splicing humor into romance.
When Arthur Pita brought his Metamorphosis to the Joyce in 2013, The Royal Ballet's Edward Watson played the man who becomes a cockroach in Franz Kafka's famous story. He was slithery, spiky and sticky, and the creepiness factor loomed large. It was like the performers and audience were trapped in this brilliantly bizarre nightmare together.
Known as "the David Lynch of dance," Arthur Pita brings his new work, The Tenant, to The Joyce from November 6–11. Based on the surrealist novel by Roland Topor and the subsequent 1976 film, Pita's Tenant stars American Ballet Theatre's James Whiteside. Readers of Dance Magazine know from Whiteside's cover story that he is a maverick who will try anything. In The Tenant, a young man moves into an apartment where the previous renter, a woman, jumped out the window to her death. He becomes obsessed with her and starts to transform into her. The woman is played by ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, and a third character, a kind of guardian, is played by Kibrea Carmichael.
The Metamorphosis was unforgettable when it came to the Joyce five years ago, so we have high hopes for The Tenant.
Waves of sheer dance inventiveness come rolling toward you. Dancers in sneakers, pointe shoes or ballet slippers mingle: it looks like a free-for-all but is carefully plotted out. Philip Glass' music lets the dancers ride his gorgeous momentum.
This is In the Upper Room, the celestial yet kinetically charged ballet made by Twyla Tharp in 1986. It hasn't been done by American Ballet Theatre since 2012 and now it's coming back with full force.
In 2016, Lar Lubovitch decided that New York City's Joyce Theater needed a new look. He envisioned extending the stage outward so that audiences could sit on all sides. And that is pretty much what happened for his Quadrille series, and it was so refreshing that the series returns this year, with a new bunch of intrepid choreographers. I say intrepid because the choreography may be seen from unplanned angles, and the dancers are more exposed.
For the audience, if you're sitting under hundreds of lighting instruments overhead, you naturally feel like you are onstage. And if you're sitting in the usual seats, you see the performers onstage, with half the audience behind them. The whole set-up can be pleasantly disorienting.
10000 Gestures, PC Tristram Kenton
Boris Charmatz, a favorite choreographer in France for his dancing in museums, has come up with an idea for non-stop dance. In his new piece, 10000 Gestures, each action is different—no repeats. This week, a horde of more than 20 dancers invades New York City's NYU Skirball Center, each of them cramming a thousand gestures into one hour. They seem to be exorcising them—shaking, scratching, jabbing, huddling—as though they can't get rid of them fast enough.
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Bill T. Jones is one of the few choreographers who can weave together social consciousness with choreographic inventiveness. This is visible in all three parts of his Analogy Trilogy, a 6½-hour marathon that comes to NYU Skirball Center on Sept. 22 and 23.
In this Trilogy, Jones goes beyond his own cultural identity. The first part, Dora: Tramontane, centers on Dora Amelan, a Holocaust survivor who tried to help children during World War II. Her ordeal is told through interviews spoken by the dancers and envisioned in shifting scenes. The second part, Lance: Pretty aka the Escape Artist, is about Jones' nephew, and his involvement in the underground world of drugs and sex in New York in the 80s. This section contains several gorgeously choreographed duets. The third part, Ambros: The Emigrant, is not about a real person but about the nature of trauma and memory.
Sarasota Ballet is returning to New York City's Joyce Theater with a batch of rarely-seen Ashton works. But the big news is that guest artist Marcelo Gomes will be performing with the company. Yes, Gomes is back performing in New York, possibly for the first time since he resigned from American Ballet Theatre in December after an allegation of sexual misconduct.
Gomes is one of the greatest male ballet dancers ever to grace the ABT stage—which he did for 20 years. Watching him dance, it's easy to see why he was every woman's favorite partner: He lavishes attention on his ballerina. The audience can feel his connection and his passion.
The first piece that Ohad Naharin brought to New York City after taking over Batsheva Dance Company exploded onto the Brooklyn Academy of Music stage in 2002. The NYC dance audience knew immediately that something big was happening in Tel Aviv. The piece was Naharin's Virus, and it seemed to embody both rage and a Zen acceptance of the unique strangeness of every human body. Now it's back in NYC until July 22, danced by the second company, known as Batsheva — The Young Ensemble, which ranges in age from 20 to 28.
The choreography has the ferocity yet humanity we've come to expect from Batsheva, plus a text from Peter Handke's agitating play, Offending the Audience. The dancers speak Handke's accusations, saying one minute that we, the audience, have a private part of our minds that no one can touch, and then in the next breath that they are invading that part of our brains.
Every summer Tap City gives New Yorkers a week of classes, events and awards culminating in "Rhythm in Motion." This year the showcase, on July 11, has gathered star tappers—and not only tappers—in a mix of tradition and innovation.
Chloe Arnold's new group Apartment 33 (her previous group, Syncopated Ladies, went viral) as well as Caleb Teicher (a 2012 "25 to Watch") will be part of the mix. Lisa La Touche has choreographed a trio, and the fearless B-girl from the Bronx, Ana "Rokafella" Garcia, is choreographing for a quartet of break dancers. Leo Sandoval, the smoothest tapper from Brazil, is making a new piece to music by Steve Reich.
Sahar Damoni, PC Tamar Lamm
Do you ever imagine collaborating with a dancer or musician from a faraway place? Composer Andy Teirstein, professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, has made this wish come true for performing artists with his Translucent Borders project. Over the last three years he has brought dancers and musicians from Cuba, Israel, Greece and Ghana to experience other cultures. On June 29, this project culminates in a rich border-crossing event at the Jack Crystal Theater at Tisch.
If you want to know how scary the AIDS epidemic was in the 1980s, come see Ishmael Houston-Jones' piece THEM from 1986. This piece reveals the subterranean fears that crept into gay relationships at the time. Houston-Jones is one of downtown's great improvisers, and his six dancers also improvise in response to his suggestions. With Chris Cochrane's edgy guitar riffs and Dennis Cooper's ominous text, there's an unpredictable, near-creepy but epic quality to THEM.
Just in time for its summer season at Lincoln Center, the dancers and management of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater have settled their issues surrounding the performers' union contracts. Now that they've reached a new collective bargaining agreement, the dancers can sail into this weeklong season of nine ballets. (Well, maybe not sail, since this is some of the hardest repertory on earth.)
New York City Ballet is celebrating the Jerome Robbins Centennial with twenty (20!) ballets. The great American choreographer died in 1998, so very few of today's dancers have actually worked with him. There are plenty of stories about how demanding (at times brutally so) he could be in rehearsal. But Peter Boal has written about Robbins in a more balanced, loving way. In this post he writes about how Robbins' crystal clear imagery helped him approach a role with clarity and purpose.
You can count on Mark Dendy to create a wild and crazy piece that eventually cuts to the heart of the matter. In this case, his New York premiere, Elvis Everywhere, is about our obsession with celebrities.
The piece was inspired by a monologue Dendy happened to see from when Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense, met Elvis Presley. He captures the absurdity of the moment and then some. Commissioned by American Dance Festival with further development at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and UC Santa Barbara, Elvis Everywhere is a collaboration with Dendy's longtime performer, designer and filmmaker, Stephen Donovan.
Gina Gibney runs two enormous dance spaces in New York City: Together they contain 23 studios, five performance spaces, a gallery, a conference room, a media lab and more. Gibney is now probably the largest dance center in the country. It's not surprising that Dance Magazine named Gina Gibney one of the most influential people in dance today.
These days, more and more museums are inviting dancers to liven up the art that's on the walls and pedestals. The New Museum, on the border of SoHo and the Lower East Side, has designated a special room for live events called the South Galleries. Every day for two months, ending April 15, this gallery is home to Co-natural, a mesmerizing performance exhibition by Romanian choreographer Alexandra Pirici (pronounced Pireech). She is acclaimed in Europe and makes her U. S. debut with this exhibit. Included is a life-size hologram that really looks like another person. If you spend some time wandering around in the gallery, you start to see congruencies between the gestures of the live performers and the not-quite-live hologram. And you start to wonder about the stamina of the dancers, who are there, as moving sculpture, all day long (with a few breaks).
Stephen Petronio brings a bracing season to New York City's Joyce Theater, where he has performed almost every year for 24 years. His work is exciting to the subscription audience as well as to many dance artists. He delves into movement invention at the same time as creating complex postmodern forms. The new work, Hardness 10, is his third collaboration with composer Nico Muhly. The costumes are by Patricia Field ARTFASHION, hand-painted by Iris Bonner/These Pink Lips. Petronio's work still practically defines the word contemporary.
Stephen Petronio Company also continues with its Bloodlines series. That's where he pays homage to landmark works of the past that have influenced his own edgy aesthetics. This season he's chosen Merce Cunningham's playful trio Signals (1970), which will be performed with live music from Composers Inside Electronics.
Completing the program is an excerpt from Petronio's Underland (2003), with music by Nick Cave. Video footage courtesy of Stephen Petronio Company, filmed by Blake Martin.
Meredith Monk is a choreographer, composer and interdisciplinary artist who takes us back to the most elemental forms of what it is to be human. Experiencing her work is almost like you're hearing an oracle. Krista Tippett, the host of NPR's On Being, said, "Meredith Monk makes music and theater that feels edgy and ancient at the very same time."
For Cellular Songs, which premieres at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theater on March 14, the press release says, "Monk looks to underlying systems in nature that can serve as a prototype for human behavior in our tumultuous world."
The cast of five women is joined by ten singers from the Young People's Chorus of New York City.
Wayne McGregor is known for his extreme partnering—limbs pushed, pulled and flung in all directions. While his choreography may seem wild and crazy, he's very thoughtful about the creative process. In our 2013 cover story, he talked about understanding your individual filters as choreographic thinking tools.
In his current work, Autobiography, he applies a scientific filter: using his own genome sequencing as a score for the choreography.