Onward, Ballet

Ashley Laracey and Taylor Stanley in Troy Schumacher's "Warehouse Under the Hudson"
Ashley Laracey and Taylor Stanley in Troy Schumacher’s “Warehouse Under the Hudson”

After a little hiatus, here’s my first review of the pre-season, for DanceTabs. It’s a roundup of the second half of the so-called “Ballet v6.0 Festival,” a showcase of young choreographers working outside of the large ballet institutions (presented by the Joyce Theatre).  I caught the work of three choreographers: Olivier Wevers, Troy Schumacher, and Jessica Lang. Been wondering what the up-and-coming generation of ballet choreographers is up to? Well, here’s a peek.

A short excerpt: “There are lingering questions in people’s minds about ballet’s validity. Mainly, these tend to focus on the academicism of its forms, on the question of what is suitable content for dance, and, inevitably, on the stark gender division implied by the pointe shoe. What are the ethics and esthetics of dancing on pointe in 2013?”
I welcome comments, complaints, corrections, in fact reactions of any kind.

An Ongoing Conversation with Alexei Ratmansky

Ratmansky demonstrating a step to Luciana Paris, of ABT. Photo by Andrea Mohin.
Ratmansky demonstrating a step to Luciana Paris, of ABT. Photo by Andrea Mohin.

This q&a, for DanceTabs, is a composite of various interviews I’ve done with the choreographer Alexei Ratmansky since 2009, when I wrote my first profile of him for The Nation, “Ratmansky Takes Manhattan” (2009). Through his straightforward, thoughtful answers, I think one gets a tiny glimpse into the way he thinks about dance, music, and the creative process. Here’s a short excerpt:

“I sense a big support from history. You can’t really go to the university and learn choreography. I guess you can be an apprentice, but I never had that luck. So for me it’s the only way to learn the craft. Staging another choreographers’ ballets is a great, great school. I discovered that when we did Le Corsaire at the Bolshoi. We had about sixty minutes of original Petipa steps. My co-choreographer Yuri Burlak and I really wanted Petipa’s part of it to lead us. So everything that we knew had come later we got rid of…I’ve also re-staged ballets by Massine with new choreography, like Scuola di Ballo [for the Australian Ballet], as well as Lopukhov’s Bolt and The Bright Stream, and Fokine’s Golden Cockerel [for the Royal Danish Ballet].”

Here’s my recent piece on the Shostakovich Trilogy, “Running Like Shadows”.


Just Jookin’

Smiling at a café in Midtown. Photo by yours truly.
Smiling at a café in Midtown. Photo by yours truly.

The young dancer Lil Buck, from Memphis, has become a bit of a sensation, ever since a video of his moves emerged on YouTube. There was something strangely fascinating about the dancer in the video, a kind of intensity and focus surprising in such a young performer, engaged in what looked essentially like an improvisation. And then, there was the oddness of the video itself: a mashup of Saint-Saëns’s Le Cygne and a type of hip hop dance known as jookin’. The two actually worked quite well together, in part because jookin’—which was developed in Memphis in the eighties, in response to a very specific local strain dance music—is characterized by glides and legato phrases that mesh quite well with the longer periods of classical music. With its waves and twists, it’s certainly eye-catching, but it’s also expressive. Or at least it can be. (Of course, it helped that Buck’s accompanist that day was none other than Yo Yo Ma.)

Buck’s musical courage did not end with The Swan (which, it turns out, whas developed in conjunction with a ballet teacher in Memphis). Through his association with the former New York City Ballet dancer Damian Woetzel (now head of the Vail International Dance Festival and a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities) he has begun to explore jazz, Basque bagpipe music, klezmer, Stravinsky. This summer, at Vail, he’ll take part in a duet with another paragon of musicality, the City Ballet dancer Tiler Peck.

A couple of months ago I sat down with Buck, who is also a singularly sweet guy, at a café in midtown, near his hotel. The result is this profile in Dance Magazine.