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Mark Morris’s new “A Wooden Tree” (DanceTabs)

Just returned from the Ringling International Arts Festival in Sarasota, where I got to see both Shantala Shivalingappa and the Mark Morris Dance Group. Here’s my review of the latter, performing a quadruple bill that included a new work, “A Wooden Tree,” set to songs by the Scottish eccentric Ivor Cutler. As was announced just a few days before the show, Baryshnikov performed; he was clearly enjoying being part of the ensemble. “A Wooden Tree” is an eccentric, awkward little work, in which Baryshnikov and the rest of Morris’s crew are given free rein to explore their inner introversion. Garbed in Elizabeth Kurtzman’s dowdy Scottish wear – scratchy-looking woolens, caps, unflattering dresses, sweater-vests – they interact, clumsily court, briefly couple, or act out little scenes. In a way, it amounts to a pantomime. It feels experimental and awkward, less glib than some of his recent works.

I also interviewed Shantala Shivalingappa. That interview will be posted soon….

Ratmansky on Shostakovich

This interview with Brian Seibert in the Times is a must-read for those interested in Alexei Ratmansky’s obsession with Shostakovich.

Here are three short excerpts:

On Shostakovich: ” It’s much stronger than humor. It’s nihilism. He destroys things. He takes something very seriously, and then he crushes it with the most vulgar melody from the street. He plays with the expectations of the listener. He started playing for silent movies, so he learned the correspondence between action and sound”.

On choreographing: ” When I hear the music I think steps, trying different steps like different gloves. It feels like a crossword puzzle: it exists, you just need to find the right words. I prepare, but there is no useful system to write it down, so I need to have it in my head, and then I’m rushing to give it to the dancers. As soon as they have it, we can shape it together.
On history: “My grandmother still lives with my parents in Kiev. She was born in 1908, with Nicholas II and Tolstoy and Petipa still alive. She lived through all of it, so it’s not so far back. This music speaks important things to me.”

A New Ballet from Justin Peck for NYCB (DanceTabs).

Peck’s Year of the Rabbit had its première on Oct. 5, and seems to have had a wide success. It’s delightfully complex piece, with lots of moving parts. The corps is the star. Here‘s my review for DanceTabs.

And a short excerpt:

“What struck me most about the ballet was its sense of freedom. This was the opening salvo of an imagination unleashed. Compared with the ballet that preceded it, for example (Benjamin Millepied’s Two Hearts), it felt pleasingly uncalculated, like a voyage of discovery. At a time when young choreographers seem overly concerned with appearing weighty and stylishly relevant, Peck appears to be mainly interested in exploring the form.”

Indian Dance and Men in Bikinis—Fall For Dance (DanceTabs)

On Oct. 4, I attended the fourth program of Fall For Dance, with Shantala Shivalingappa, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Jodi Melnick and friends, and an all-male hula ensemble from Hawaii. I wrote about it here, for DanceTabs.
And here is a short excerpt, from my description of Shantala Shivalingappa’s “Shiva Ganga”:

“After several manèges of turns on her knees in the waning light, Shivalingappa’s solo ended with the dancer bent forward, near the floor, her arms rippling. The image was of a body metamorphosing into the river Ganges, the embodiment of grace, beauty, fluidity, flowing in the near darkness. Her body had become a landscape. It was an image of stunning beauty.”
Here she is, in an excerpt from “Shiva Ganga”:


Gia Kourlas Interviews Janie Taylor

For TimeOut. A wonderful interview, in which Taylor speaks of what drives her to dance, as well as the illness that has made dancing so difficult in the past few years. She also talks about how Sébastien Marcovici proposed to her, backstage, in her Liebeslieder Walzer costume—who wouldn’t want to be proposed to in such a costume!

“We were dancing Liebeslieder [Walzer], and we both love that ballet. It was funny because he was nervous. I actually had strained my calf two days before and I didn’t know if I was going to do the show, but I was doing it and I remember right before we started—we all get into waltzing position while the curtain is down—he was like, “I feel like I’m going to forget all the steps!” I was like, “What are you talking about? I’m the one who can barely walk!” [Laughs] His parents were in town, and he had told me before the ballet, “Don’t get out of your costume, just come to the door, my parents are going to come back.” He was running around backstage, and he kept going, “Janie, come over here!” I was like, “I’m talking to somebody—what is wrong with you?” He pulled me over and my family was there, too. He had told them. And then he just started proposing and I think I was like, “What?” But it was exciting. He had been planning it for six months. He wanted me to be wearing the costume. [Laughs] We love those costumes. “

Lauren Lovette in “Rubies”

With Anthony Huxley, back on Oct. 20, at New York City Ballet. In the midst of a rather lackluster gala program, she shone out like a black pearl, with a mix of sultriness and delicacy.

photo by Paul Kolnik.


“Black and White” Ballets at NYCB (DanceTabs)

Here’s my of the Stravinsky/Balanchine “Black and White” program at NYCB (Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Duo Concertant, Symphony in Three Movements.”

And here’s a little excerpt from the beginning:

“Ive noticed two troubling trends this season at New York City Ballet. Perhaps they are connected. The first is the creeping tendency toward stolid tempi from the pit, especially under the baton of Clotilde Otranto. The other is a kind of disconnect in the way different types of ballets are performed. The more percussive, high-intensity Modernist works (like Symphony in Three Movements and Agon) are as lively and focused as I’ve ever seen them, perhaps even more so. The dancers, across the ranks, are attacking them with a kind of hunger, engaging with the music, the audience, and each other. The audience feels it, too – applause erupts here and there, in lapping waves. But this electricity does not extend to the whole repertory. This unevenness might have something to do with the absence of some of the more vivid dancers in the company – Jenifer Ringer, Jennie Somogyi, Ashley Bouder, Sara Mearns, to name just a few – who are out on leave or injured or coming back from an injury. Some of the more delicate, subtle works, the ones that require the most imagination and nuance, don’t quite add up. The poetry remains elusive.”