Benois Dixit

The Benois de la Danse winners have been announced. They are: Herman Cornejo, Polina Semionova, Alexei Ratmansky, Mariko Kida (whom I don’t know), and Brigitte Lefevre. All eminently worthy. Fie on those who announce the demise of ballet! And many, many more good things to come.

New Ballet Initiative

According to a piece in the Times today, the former American Ballet Theatre star Cynthia Harvey is starting a new initiative, En Avant, that will hold coaching sessions and masterclasses for young dancers at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The idea is to provide hands-on, specialized coaching in interpretation, leaving behind today’s obsession with technique. It addresses an apparent lack of time for artistic matters. The coaches will be former dancers, all virtuosos known also for their personality and intelligence onstage, including Edward Villella, Violette Verdy, Darcey Bussell, and, bringing up the youth contingent, Ángel Corella. It sounds like an intriguing idea, something along the lines of what the Balanchine Foundation does with its video archive . The sessions, which are open to the public, will start on June 7.

Magnolia Pictures Picks up “Ballet 422” and other good news…

It’s just been announced that Magnolia Pictures has just acquired “Ballet 422,” Jody Lee Lipes’ film about the creation of Justin Peck’s 2013 ballet Paz de la Jolla. And it bloody well should—it’s a really great film about the hard work, talent, and focus that goes into making art. And one of the best dance films I’ve seen, better even, I would argue, than Frederick Wiseman’s La Danse. Here’s what I wrote about “Ballet 422” when I saw it at the Tribeca Film Festival a couple of weeks ago.

And in other good news, New York Theatre Ballet, which was recently threatened with eviction from its home of over thirty years at the parish house of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, has found a new home at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, on the Lower East Side. And next February, the company will perform at New York Live Arts. A new chapter begins.

Everywhere He Goes

On May 8, New York City Ballet  held its spring gala, marking fifty years since the opening of the State Theatre. Along with a toast, a short film, and a song from “Carousel,” the evening included two ballets: Balanchine’s whirling “Allegro Brillante” and the première of Justin Peck’s new “Everywhere We Go.”

Here‘s my review, for DanceTabs:

And a short excerpt:

“Peck has the mind of a mathematician; he finds ways to subdivide the stage and keep the eye continually guessing. Shapes appear momentarily and dissolve, only to reappear again somewhere else. Soloists weave in and out of the ensemble. The body is also subdivided in surprising ways: sometimes only the arms move, in complex phrases combining staccato and stretched combinations; other times, just the torso, or just legs.”


Good Things to Come at NYCB

Today, New York City Ballet announced its 2014-15 season. So much to look forward to! Among the highlights:

1. Not one but two new Justin Peck ballets, the first premièring on September 23, the second on Feb. 4. The first will be set to music by César Franck, the second to Aaron Copland.

2. A new work by the corps dancer Troy Schumacher, his first for the company. A very big deal! It too will be revealed on Sept. 23.

3. A new Liam Scarlett ballet, also premiering on the 23rd.

3. A new Ratmansky ballet, to première on Oct. 2, set to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. (The choice of music alone makes this an attractive prospect.)

4. The return of Balanchine’s Harlequinade, last performed at the company in 2004.

5. A revival of Jerome Robbins’ Goldberg Variations, last seen at the Robbins Celebration.

Ashton in Sarasota

Sarasota Ballet in Frederick Ashton’s Illuminations. © Frank Atura.
Sarasota Ballet in Frederick Ashton’s Illuminations.
© Frank Atura.

I’m just back from the Ashton festival at Sarasota Ballet, a four-day tribute to the choreographer. Under the directorship of Iain Webb, the company has been undergoing a major expansion over the past few years. By any measure, the festival was a big success, with strong performances, expressive dancing, and a powerful sense of style and common purpose.

You can read my review for DanceTabs here.

And a short excerpt: “The advantage of putting all these ballets on the stage in quick succession is that the audience begins to see all sorts of interconnections and motifs running through the works. Thus, in Monotones II (1965), there is an echo of the slow trio near the beginning of Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, in which a woman is slowly revolved by two men and shown from all angles, the center of a slow-moving planetary system.”

Indian Classical Dance at “Dancing the Gods”

The Odissi dancer Rahul  Acharya. Photo courtesy of World Music Institute.
The Odissi dancer Rahul Acharya. Photo courtesy of World Music Institute.

World Music Institute presented a festival of Indian Dance, as it has the past three years. This time around, the performers were Rahul Acharya, Vidhya Subramanian, Shambhavi Dandekar, and Janaki Rangarajan. They performed in three different styles: Odissi, Bharata Natyam, and Kathak. Half the performances were to taped music—a shame—the other half were accompanied by an extraordinary ensemble, including Roopa Mahadevan, Puneet Panda, Anjna Swaminathan, Rajan Srikrishnan, and the marvelous percussionist Rajna Swaminathan. You can read my review for DanceTabs here.

And here is a short excerpt: “The organizers went out on a limb, inviting a quartet of younger, lesser-known dancers, who shared two double-bills. One, Rahul Acharya, was an anomaly: a male practitioner of the predominantly female-style odissi (which originated as a devotional dance performed by devadasis in temples.)”

Spring has Sprung at City Ballet

an image from JR's "Les Bosquets. Opposite attract—Lil Buck and Lauren Lovette share a moment of intimacy. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
an image from JR’s “Les Bosquets. Opposite attract—Lil Buck and Lauren Lovette share a moment of intimacy. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

You can find my review of opening night, which included a new pièce d’occasion by the French photographer and street artists JR (with some help from Peter Martins), here. And here’s a short excerpt:

“It was a classic case of opposites attract. Here was this kid from the streets, doing magic, sinuous moves in sneakers; she was a pretty girl in a white tutu, bourréeing and spinning like a sylph. As they filmed each other with their imaginary cameras, we saw giant projected images of their sweaty, anguished faces. Sneakers and pointe shoes, a love story.”