Tag Archives: dance

Herman Schmerman (Pas de Deux) – 21st Century Choreographers, NYCB


Herman Schmerman (Pas de Deux)
21st Century Choreographers I
New York City Ballet
29 April 2014
Lincoln Center, NYC

Music: Thom Willems
Choreography: William Forsythe
Principal Casting: Maria Kowroski, Amar Ramasar

Costumes: Gianni Versace
Lighting: Mark Stanley

Premiere: 1992, The Diamond Project, New York State Theater, with Kyra Nichols, Margaret Tracey, Wendy Whelan, Jeffrey Edwards, Ethan Stiefel

“I first heard that phrase [‘Herman Schmerman’] used by Steve Martin in the film “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.” I think it’s a lovely title that means nothing. The ballet means nothing, too. It’s a piece about dancing that will be a lot of fun. It’s just five talented dancers dancing around — and that’s good, isn’t it?”
– William Forsythe

Like Balanchine and Cunningham before him, William Forsythe consummately exploits a genius for collaborations that bring music and dance together for the space of a performance while maintaining the integrity of each, advancing classical forms through deconstructions of varying subtlety and consistent sophistication.

Forsythe and composer Thom Willems were well served on Tuesday by Maria Kowroski and Amar Ramasar, with tongue-in-cheek romantic chemistry and a seemingly intuitive feel for physical comedy in a work that simultaneously calls for precise control of two high-performance bodies challenged to the breaking point with rescues from pratfall-inducing torques and other subversions of the ballet lexicon.

The choreographer distilled this essay on the pas de deux from a longer piece he first wrote for five dancers.

Barber Violin Concerto – 21st Century Choreographers, NYCB


Barber Violin Concerto
21st Century Choreographers I
New York City Ballet
29 April 2014
Lincoln Center, NYC

Music: Samuel Barber
Choreography: Peter Martins
Principal Casting: Sara Mearns, Ask la Cour, Megan Fairchild, Jared Angle
Solo Violinist: Arturo Delmoni

Costumes: William Ivey Long
Lighting: Jennifer Tipton

Premiere: 1988, American Music Festival, New York State Theater, with Merrill Ashley, Adam Lüders, Kate Johnson, David Parsons

Peter Martins’ ballet on Samuel Barber’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was one of four pre-21st century works presented in last week’s program.

Originally performed by Merrill Ashley and Adam Lüders of NYCB as the classical couple, with Kate Johnson and David Parsons of the Paul Taylor Dance Company as the modern couple, Barber Violin Concerto improves with age, if a quick reading of reviews over the years is any indication.

Check out a couple of sentences from Anna Kisselgoff‘s scathing review of the premiere:

“What Mr. Martins had in mind in ‘Barber Violin Concerto’ is almost too clear in its definition of modern dance and ballet… Ballet is elegant and aristocratic while modern dance is primitive and uncouth? Not to anyone who has seen any dance for the last 50 years.”

Then compare Roslyn Sulkas, writing in 2010:

“‘Barber’ demonstrates Mr. Martins’s best attributes as a choreographer: a gift for ingenious partnering; an unpredictable responsiveness to the music; a craftsmanship in moving dancers around the stage. Each pair first dances alone. Then the couples meet, ultimately exchanging partners. The heart of the work is the pas de deux by the ballerina and the modern dance man, in which his faunlike primitivism is tamed by, but also incorporated into, her fluid expansiveness. The breadth and sweep of Ms. Mearns’s dancing is extraordinary here, and she has an apparently instinctive sense of how to imprint a movement momentarily on the eye, even as it seems part of an ineluctable flow. Mr. Angle, a wonderful partner who can often be a muted personality onstage, brought real force to his weighted, hooked-arm movement. And in the final cross-genre duo of the Barber concerto, Mr. Askegard and Ms. Fairchild were potent and funny as a dreaming prince and the buzzing-fly irritant that he must finally acknowledge.”

Time and the evolution of culture are the differentiating factors. It’s that context of zeitgeist that I love about ballet.

(Hold that thought! More to come about Megan Fairchild and Sara Mearns, as well as about the New York City Ballet Orchestra, in future posts.)

This Bitter Earth – 21st Century Choreographers, NYCB


This Bitter Earth
21st Century Choreographers I
New York City Ballet
29 April 2014
Lincoln Center, NYC

Music: Dinah Washington and Max Richter
Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Principal Casting: Wendy Whelan, Tyler Angle

Costumes: Valentino (Costume Supervision: Mark Happel)
Lighting: Mary Louise Geiger

Premiere: 2012, Vail International Dance Festival, with Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle

Following Les Bosquets, (a brief “pièce d’occasion conceived by 2014 Art Series collaborator JR, featuring guest artist Lil Buck and original music by Woodkid”), Program I opened with Christopher Wheeldon’s poignantly lyrical This Bitter Earth, a duet from his Five Movements, Three Repeats.

Returning to the NYCB stage for her final season before “retiring” (to focus on new collaborations in modern dance) – Wendy Whelan reaffirmed her supreme command of post-Balanchine classicism in a razor-sharp performance that adeptly carried the emotional weight of the Clyde Otis ballad, as realized by Dinah Washington:

This bitter earth
Well, what fruit it bears
What good is love that no one shares
And if my life is like the dust that hides the glow of a rose
What good am I?
Heaven only knows.

Choreographer Wheeldon incorporated into his ballet the conclusion to the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese’s 2010 thriller Shutter Island , in which Scorsese’s longtime musical collaborator Robbie Robertson layered Dinah Washington’s vocal over Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight”, creating a mash-up that “collapses worlds of time and idiom into an improbably pure evocation of a shuttering heart.” (Bradley Bambarger, New Jersey On-Line)

In future posts I will have more to write about the integrative genius I see at play within this company.

Live Another Day – Ballet in the 21st Century


21st Century Choreographers
New York City Ballet
29 April – 4 May 2014
Lincoln Center, NYC

Pace, Jennifer Homans, but I think Apollo’s angels may not quite be ready for their eulogy. A close reading of New York City Ballet’s three-night survey of contemporary ballet gives cause for hope that this “most impossibly fantastic art form” may defy the odds to survive for yet another generation, and even emerge anew as the century’s preeminent performing art.

Over the next several posts, I’ll discuss some of these ballets with an eye to the future, and try to provide some context to help appreciate the significance of the performances and their reception, along with a sense of the zeitgeist that I believe set this experience apart.




Principal Casting: Sara Adams, Devin Alberda, Jared Angle, Tyler Angle, Daniel Applebaum, Harrison Ball, Ashley Bouder, Ask la Cour, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Joaquin De Luz, Megan Fairchild, Robert Fairchild, Gonzalo Garcia, Emilie Gerrity, Joseph Gordon, Craig Hall, Anthony Huxley, Sterling Hyltin, Russell Janzen, Maria Kowroski, Claire Kretzschmar, Rebecca Krohn, Lauren Lovette, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Allen Peiffer, Brittany Pollack, Amar Ramasar, Teresa Reichlen, Gretchen Smith, Abi Stafford, Jonathan Stafford, Sean Suozzi, Daniel Ulbricht, Andrew Veyette, Lydia Wellington, Wendy Whelan

*The program also included Les Bosquets, “a pièce d’occasion conceived by 2014 Art Series collaborator JR, featuring guest artist Lil Buck and original music by Woodkid.”

Valerie Green’s Dance Entropy in Begin. Again


22 February 2014
LaGuardia Performing Arts Center
Long Island City, New York

After dancing in her formative years with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, Valerie Green founded her own company, Dance Entropy, to create multi-ethnic stage and site-specific works that blend creation, performance and education to incubate new forms of dance from the Green Space, Ms. Green’s base in Long Island City.

Considering Dance Entropy’s vital role in linking dance and community, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center (located in The International High School at LaGuardia Community College) was a good choice of venue for the weekend’s ambitious program, featuring a performance of Ms. Green’s powerful 2013 dance theater piece Skimming The Surface: Fragments of Collective Unconscious along with premieres of her multimedia solo work Womb and a multi-act ballet, Hinge.

Skimming the Surface
Skimming the Surface: Fragments of Collective Unconscious (Photo: Yui Kitamara)

Skimming the Surface: Fragments of Collective Unconscious (2013), is a sharply focused expressionist drama featuring four dancers (Hana Ginsburg Tirosh, Kristin Licata, Yayoi Suzuki, Raleigh Veach). A bare lightbulb illuminates a blue room framed by two opaque windows, and scattered with four chairs and a table in disarray. Four characters inhabit this chilling space, and knives come out. [Stop – no spoilers in this post!]

Womb (Photo: Rodney Zagury)

In collaboration with photographer/videographer Rodney Zagury, Ms. Green performed a mesmerizing solo, Womb (premiere), realistically channeling the fluid movements of a fetus in the amniotic sac. Previously recorded projections of the dancer on two planes of vision added layers of epistemological challenge to a new form of dance experience utilizing natural body mechanics to produce a heightened aesthetic effect.

Hinge (Photo: Yui Kitamara)

Hinge (premiere), a pure dance piece for six dancers (Emily Diers, Hana Ginsburg Tirosh, Kristin Licata, Yayoi Suzuki, Raleigh Veach, and Laureen Elizabeth in a standout performance), was accompanied by a brilliant composition by Yui Kitamara played live on stage by MuSE (Multicultural Sonic Evolution): Wanzhen Li (violin); Chihiro Shibayama and Jared Soldiviero (percussion).

In his curtain-raiser, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center managing director Steven Hitt introduced Ms. Green as a valuable resource to the LIC community. I would expand that to include the world of dance and the potential of one choreographer to improve the lot of humanity, starting with the artist’s home base.

2013 NYC Fall Season – First Picks


Welcome back. Here are my picks so far:

Saturday, September 7, 8pm
New Chamber Ballet – Season Opening

City Center Studios, 130 West 56th St, 5th floor
The season opening performances at City Center Studios feature a world premiere by Miro Magloire, as well as Klavierstück, The Letter, In a Simple Black Dress, and Anna’s Last Day.

Thursday September 12, 2013, 9pm
Keren Ann

Littlefield, 622 Degraw st., Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, September 28, 12:30pm
New York Film Festival: The Wind Rises (Kazi Tachinu) | Hayao Miyazaki 2013

Japan | Japanese with English subtitles | 126 minutes

Sunday, September 29, 11:30am
New York Film Festival: Norte, The End of History (Hangganan ng Kasaysayan) | Lav Diaz, 2013

Philippines | Tagalog with English subtitles | 250 minutes

Sunday, September 29, 9pm
New York Film Festival: Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (Nugu-ui ttal-do anin Haewon) | Hong Sang-soo 2013

South Korea | Korean and English with English subtitles | 90 minutes

Monday, September 30, 6pm
New York Film Festival: Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq | Nancy Buirski, 2013

USA | 87 minutes

Tuesday, October 1, 6:15pm
New York Film Festival: Try and Get Me | Cy Endfield, 1950
USA | 85 minutes

Wednesday, October 2, 6pm
New York Film Festival: Manila in the Claws of Light (Maynila: Sa mga kuko ng liwanag) | Lino Brocka, 1975
Philippines | Tagalog with English subtitles | 124 minutes

Sunday, October 6, 6:15pm
New York Film Festival: Abuse of Weakness (Abus de Faiblesse) | Catherine Breillat, 2013
France | French with English subtitles | 105 minutes

Tuesday, October 8, 6pm
New York Film Festival: Mysterious Object at Noon (Doka nai meuman) | Apichatpong Weerasetakhul, 2000
Thailand | Thai with English subtitles | 83 minutes

Wednesday, October 9, 8pm
Metropolitan Opera: Norma | Vincenzo Bellini, 1831
Riccardo Frizza (conductor); Sondra Radvanovsky (Norma); Kate Aldrich (Adalgisa); Aleksandrs Antonenko (Pollione); James Morris (Oroveso)

Friday, October 18, 8pm
Janelle Monae, Apollo Theater

Monday, November 4, 7:30pm
An Evening with Esa-Pekka Salonen, SubCulture

Friday, November 8, 7:30pm
Alexei Ratmansky Premier (The Tempest), American Ballet Theatre

Friday, November 15, 7:30pm
Rokia Traoré, Rose Theater

Expressive Arts Therapies: Working with Survivors of Torture


Gray AE.
Expressive arts therapies: working with survivors of torture.
Torture. 2011;21(1):39-47.

Read free full text at Torture Journal.

Amber Elizabeth Lynn Gray reviews twenty-six articles and papers in six therapeutic modalities with “emerging, promising and best practice potentials for torture survivors”: art therapy, dance/movement therapy (including body-oriented therapy combined with brief therapy), drama therapy, music therapy, sandtray therapy, and ritual.

In her concluding considerations, Gray recommends an integrated approach to using expressive arts therapies in work with survivors of torture:

“On a cautionary note, the power that is inherent in the creative process indicates discretion and careful consideration in how and when these modalities are used, by whom and with whom. It is recommended
those who are appropriately trained and credentialed in the therapeutic practice of the expressive arts, or those working as artists, work closely with other experienced clinicians, community leaders or healers in cross cultural contexts to ensure that safety. Containment and processing of painful traumatic histories need to be titrated and respectful of personal and cultural boundaries. At minimum, the expressive arts therapies offered as adjunct (or primary) therapies with more “mainstream” therapies ensures that the therapeutic process is inclusive of the whole person. As a category of clinical modalities and practices, all of the expressive arts therapies might best be described as emerging clinical practice that offer tremendous promise.”

In addition to reviewing each of the six modalities in context of supporting research, Gray includes a list of highly recommended readings.

Read free full text at Torture Journal.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

WestFest 2013 – Poet.Water.Stone


WestFest Top Floor
Wednesday, April 24 and Friday, April 26, 2013
Choreographed and Performed by Annie Wang
Music by Henryk Gorecki

Annie Wang, a New York dancer and choreographer studying at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, performed her new work based on the life and death of Qu Yuan (屈原), an ancient Chinese poet who drowned himself to protest government corruption.

A sturdy, well-grounded dancer, Wang commanded the space, building her work in incremental stages, from calligraphic images of the poet/statesman’s anguish to mimetic representations of his watery end.

Two viewings left a spectator feeling that the work was somewhat truncated – or perhaps just looking for more from this talent?

Valerie Green/Dance Entropy – Eternal Return


Baruch Performing Arts Center
Baruch College, NYC
22 January 2012

Valerie Green, founder of Long Island City’s Green Space, has been active in the NYC dance community since the late 1990s. After starting her career with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, Ms. Green formed Dance Entropy shortly after Hawkins’s death. While maintaining a visceral bond with the Graham-Hawkins tradition of multi-sourced American dance, Green is distinctively of her own time and place.

One measure of a choreographer must be the ability to attract good dancers and then to build exciting work on them.

Inexplicable Space
Choreography: Valerie Green
Dancers: Kristin Licata, Jen Painter, Julia Sabangan, Yayoi Suzuki, Raleigh Veach, Daniel Zapata
Costumes: Deborah Erenberg
Music: Camille Sain-Saëns, Mychael Danna, Marlon Cherry, Palms Down, Dick Dale, DecOdex, Dafos

Erick Hawkins famously said, “The body is a clear space.” Green mixes that space up, with dancers who thread in and out of each other and props that are goofy but somehow not.

Rise & Fall
Choreography: Valerie Green
Dancers: Amy Adams, Valerie Green, Kristin Licata, Jen Painter, Julia Sabangan
Costumes: Daniel Herskowitz
Music: BP Service, Eno/Wobble, Trent Reznor, DecOdex

A Rite of Spring for the Occupy generation. Green joins four of her dancers to enact an expressionist allegory of Western civilization. Daniel Herskowitz’s costumes aid the differentiation of the characters, who are as clearly delineated as Chaucer’s pilgrims. Midway through this severe work, it is startling to see Julia Sabangan take flight, execute a midair turn and form a deceptively pretty, masterful arc from finger to toe. And we realize, this is our way out, into beauty and clarity of being.

Royal Danish Ballet at the Guggenheim


Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Works & Process
Royal Danish Ballet
Sunday, 20 March 2011

Sunday night’s sold-out Works & Process performance/conversation with dancers of the Royal Danish Ballet and artistic director Nikolaj Hübbe featured excerpts from the legendary company’s upcoming U.S. tour, including highlights from August Bournonville’s Variations, The Jockey Dance, A Folk Tale, and La Sylphide; Jorma Elo’s Lost on Slow; and Hübbe’s new staging of Napoli.

The dancers – a generous group of five principals, four soloists, and one terrific corps member – performed courageously (and victoriously) on a small stage with low-hanging lights and a glassy floor. Not to complain; the auditorium – part of Wright’s original design – offers a privileged, studio-like view of world-class dancing and dance-making.

The Royal Danish Ballet has found a uniquely well-formed artistic director in Nikolaj Hübbe. Hübbe trained and danced in Copenhagen until 1992 when he joined New York City Ballet as a principal. He has an authentic and manifest deep regard for dance and dancers, and an unaffected recognition of his pivotal responsibility for the future of ballet, whatever that future will be.

For his happy few to join him for this workshop presentation, Hübbe chose from the 95 dancers in his company Principals Susanne Grinder, Amy Watson, Jean-Lucien Massot, Thomas Lund, and Ulrik Birkkjær; Soloists Kizzy Matiakis, Nikolaj Hansen, Alban Lendorf, and Alexander Stæger; and Alba Nadal from the Corps de Ballet.

Lendorf, Birkkjaer, Lund, Hansen, and Staeger began the evening with quick, fleet-footed excerpts from Bournonville Variations, which helped to establish a major theme of the evening’s conversation between Hübbe and moderator John Meehan: the deep artistic connection between Bournonville and Balanchine and between RBD and NYCB.

Watson and Massot followed with a strictly controlled duet from Jorma Elo’s insect-y Lost on Slow. Lund and Lendorf danced and whipped with good comedic flair in “The Jockey Dance” from a late (1876) Bournonville ballet, From Siberia to Moscow. Alba Nadal shone in her turn with Grinder, Matiakis, and Watkins as the gypsie girls in a pas de sept from Bournonville’s A Folk Tale, along with Birkkjær, Hansen, and Stæger.

Grinder and Birkkjær danced an affecting Window Scene and Death Scene from La Sylphide and, in a final duet, Watson and Stæger performed the pas de deux from Act 1 of Napoli before the entire group nearly brought down the house (literally, considering those low-hanging lights) with a fearless essay of the Tarantella in the confined quarters of the Lewis Theatre. In all seriousness, the viewer sat in awe of these dancers’ finely honed sense of proprioception – that “sixth sense” of knowing where one’s body is in space.

Well-wrought classical ballet, danced with spontaneity, fire, and, at key moments, breathtaking nonchalance. Inspiring on so many levels.

The program is sold out again tonight (Monday), but the Guggenheim is generously streaming online. For information about the Royal Danish Ballet’s 2011 U.S. tour, visit the company’s website.