American Ballet Theatre is bringing back Twyla Tharp’s “Bach Partita,” this week, at Lincoln Center. For this advance piece, I spoke with Susan Jones (the ballet mistress who is doing the staging), a couple of dancers, and Charles Yang (the violinist) about the revival of what Arlene Croce described as an “enormous, whirling, weightless ballet”
The San Francisco Ballet ended its run with a week of performances of Christopher Wheeldon’s new Cinderella. As I write in this review for DanceTabs, it’s a handsome work, but not completely satisfying dramatically. The designs, by Julian Crouch, are supremely elegant, as is Wheeldon’s choreography. But Prokoviev’s score is tricky and episodic, and the ballet doesn’t manage to transcend these difficulties or really touch the heart. Still, it’s a great showcase for the company’s strong, polished dancers.
Houston Ballet made paid the Joyce Theatre a visit this week, with a mixed bill that included works by Mark Morris (Pacific), Ben Stevenson (Twilight, a pas de deux), Hans van Manen (Solo), and Stanton Welch, the company’s artistic director, (Play).
The company looks great, but the rep peaked with Mark Morris’s Pacific and went downhill from there. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.
With Sleeping Beauty, Bourne completes his Tchaikovsky Trilogy. Not satisfied to delve into its plot, he has reconstructed the story and added some rather surprising supernatural elements. Does it work? Not really. Sleeping Beauty is not an easy work to stage–even ballet companies, following Petipa’s libretto, often fail. But by going hors-piste, Bourne is forced to make increasingly outlandish choices to keep the story on-track. The first act more or less works, but the second goes off the rails. Meanwhil, Tchaikovsky’s music (played in an overloud recording) is more or less trampled. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.
Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s Rosas company performed her diptych, En Atendant and Cesena, over the weekend at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The works are a collaboration with the early music ensemble Graindelavoix. In them, De Keersmaeker explores connection between breath and singing and movement. The results are stirring, even spiritual. Here’s my review for DanceTabs. And a short excerpt:
“For all that, the experience of watching En Atendant and Cesena was not an arid one. Instead, the two works managed to build an ascetic aura, like witnessing (or even taking part in) a kind of monastic ritual….The Howard Gilman Opera House was filled with the thrilling polyphonies of a fourteenth-century musical style known as ars subtilior, “the subtle art”….In ars subtilior the voices interweave, creating exciting patterns that never quite settle into a single tonality. With their repetitions, feints, and rhythmic shifts, these pre-Renaissance songs seem to have no beginning, no end. And De Keersmaeker’s dance feels the same.”
Program two included works by Mark Morris (Beaux), Alexei Ratmansky (From Foreign Lands), Edwaard Liang (Symphonic Dances) and Yuri Possokhov (Classical Symphony). Thinking about it, I realize that both Beaux and From Foreign Lands represent the un-Wayne McGregor: subtle, quiet, deceptively laid back. They invite you into their world and encourage you to lean in rather than overwhelm you with virtuosity and visual stimulation. Perhaps for this very reason, they did not elicit much response from the audience. Applause was polite at best. But they were the heart of the evening.
And here’s my review of the first night.
A little excerpt:
“The company looks to be in top form. Throughout the evening, the dancers moved with real power and drive, plunging into the steps, taking no prisoners. The company style seems to combine the speed and attack of City Ballet with the three-dimensionality and grandeur of American Ballet.”
Not so taken with the last ballet of the evening, Wayne McGregor’s Borderlands: “McGregor seems obsessed with the dancers’ butts and ribcages, both of which are prominently displayed. There is a certain fascination to watching bodies being contorted in awkward, self-consciously ugly, wide-open poses, but, at least for me, the fascination passes quickly, leaving a kind of glazed shellshock.”
The Forsythe Company performed William Forsythe’s Sider at BAM last week. As he explained, much of the dancers’ movement is set to the speech patterns of actors reciting an “Elizabethan tragedy”, being fed to them in real time through earpieces. The audience does not hear the text. Those who attended a pre-performance talk will know that the tragedy was Hamlet. (Most people will not.) Here’s my review of the piece for DanceTabs.
And a short excerpt:
“Like those of a computer programmer, Forsythe’s systems are regulated by a constant stream of minute decisions. What will the dancers do next? How quickly? What will the lights do? What will the audience be allowed to see? What will they hear? Sometimes there is an underlying thematic thread – in Three Atmospheric Studies it was the Iraq war, in Decreation it was love. But in other works, like Sider (2011), which just completed its run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the ultimate goal is not, or does not seem to be, a coherent thematic arc. As Forsythe said at a talk before the Oct. 12 performance, “I lack the narrative gene.” This is clear to anyone in the audience. Structure, rather than content, is the point.”
The former Mark Morris dancer John Heginbotham, presents his first evening-length work Dark Theater, at BAM’s Fishman Space Oct. 29-Nov. 2. Here’s a little q&a about the new piece, which is set to music by Satie, including a section of his final work, the ballet Relâche, and piano pieces.
And here, just for fun, is the film from Satie’s 1924 ballet:
Here’s my interview with Susan Jones, a ballet mistress at American Ballet Theatre in charge of the corps de ballet. Jones joined ABT in 1970 and stayed for nine years. In that time, she danced every corps role in the rep, plus Lizzie in Fall River Legend, Cowgirl in Rodeo, and a few other choice parts that suited her dramatic side. She quickly showed a skill for remembering steps, which became handy when working with Twyla Tharp on Push Comes to Shove. Baryshnikov made her a ballet mistress, and she never left. This fall, she is re-staging Tharp’s Bach Partita, which hasn’t been done for almost thirty years.