Balanchine x 6

Here’s my review of the Jan. 20 and Jan. 22 programs at New York City Ballet, which included six works by Balanchine: Serenade, Agon, Symphony in C, Donizetti Variations, La Valse, and Chaconne. Not bad for two nights at the ballet.

A little excerpt:

“These Balanchine evenings quickly establish the company’s core values: musicality, speed, lightness of touch, spaciousness, style. They also impress upon the audience the vast range of balletic modes in which the choreographer worked…. The ballets are not only worlds in themselves but, taken as a group, they seem to encompass most of ballet.”

Teresa Reichlen in Serenade. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Teresa Reichlen in Serenade. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

The continues through March 1.

Bringing Balanchine Back

Teresa Reichlen in Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Teresa Reichlen in
Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

New York City Ballet has been going from strength in a series of all-Balanchine programs. I review ballets with music by Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky here. A short excerpt:

“On the Stravinsky program (Sept. 25), Robert Fairchild returned to Apollo…He has relaxed into this challenging role and is now able to take risks, tilting dangerously (and excitingly) off-balance and pushing the tempo to create moments of surprise and wildness. Like the unruly young god he depicts, Fairchild tests his strengths and weaknesses before us on the stage.”

Virginia Johnson, DTH, and the Question of Race

Virginia Johnson with her DTH dancers. Photo by Andrea Mohin for the Times.
Virginia Johnson with her DTH dancers. Photo by Andrea Mohin for the Times.

This summer, I spoke with Virginia Johnson, the longtime star of Dance Theatre of Harlem, who is now the troupe’s Artistic Director. You can see the interview, on DanceTabs, here.

Under Johnson’s tutelage, the company has returned from the brink for a successful first season. This fall, her dancers will perform at Fall for Dance in New York. In our interview, we talked about her life in dance, the rise, fall, and rise of Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the very real challenge of diversity in ballet. Here’s an  excerpt: “I look at these dancers and I see that they’re not being corrected. There are some very basic things going on that reveal that they’re being ignored. And we see changes in them so quickly because they are finally getting corrections. The schools need to not only embrace the fact that ballet doesn’t have a color but actually work with the material in the room.”

The question of diversity in ballet is finally coming to people’s attention. Benjamin Millepied mentioned it in an interview related to his upcoming directorship of the Paris Opera Ballet, in comments that pissed off the French media. (He said, “I can’t run a ballet company now, today, and not have it be a company where people in the house can relate to, and recognize themselves in some ways.” Shocking.) ABT has just announced a new initiative whose mission is to reach out to minority communities through Boys and Girls Clubs across the us. (ABT’s Misty Copeland will be the ambassador for the program, which is called Project Plié.) Meanwhile, DTH will be there.

Edward Villella, Unplugged

Edward Villella at a café in his new 'hood, Hamilton Heights. Photo by yours truly.
Edward Villella at a café in his new ‘hood, Hamilton Heights. Photo by yours truly.

Edward Villella is back in town, unbowed by his Miami City Ballet experience and ready to begin the next chapter of his life. I sat down with him recently at a café around the corner from his Hamilton Heights brownstone to talk about his life in dance, Balanchine, his experiences in Miami, and his plans for the future. You can read the interview here, in DanceTabs.

The Return of Dance Theatre of Harlem (for DanceTabs)

Michaela DePrince and Sam Wilson of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Photo by  Matthew Murphy.
Michaela DePrince and Sam Wilson of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Dance Theatre of Harlem is back, after a hiatus of almost ten years. You can read my review of one of their programs, for DanceTabs, here.

And here’s a short excerpt:

“What is the place of a predominantly black American ballet company today, in our supposedly “post-racial” America? We have a black president and a black ambassador to the United Nations, and yet, if one looks at most of our ballet companies, there is nary a black dancer to be seen….The problem is more frustrating than simple racism.”

Lil Buck at Le Poisson Rouge (for DanceTabs)

Lil Buck and Yo Yo Ma at Le Poisson Rouge. Photo by Erin Baiano.
Lil Buck and Yo Yo Ma at Le Poisson Rouge. Photo by Erin Baiano.

Here’s my review of Lil Buck, a young dancer specializing in a kind of hip-hop dance from Memphis known as Jookin’. He performed at the downtown spot Le Poisson rouge with an eclectic cast of musicians, including Yo Yo Ma, the quartet Brooklyn Rider, and the jazz trumpeter Marcus Printup. He’s a remarkably musical dancer. I reviewed the performance for DanceTabs.

And here’s a short excerpt:

“One of the immediately impressive aspects of Jookin’ technique is the fact that the impulse behind the footwork is concealed, so there seems to be no weight at all on the feet; the dancer propels himself in any direction with a kind of liquid, uninterrupted pas de bourrée, a series of tiny, braided steps. This unbroken continuity of motion is made possible by extremely flexible and controlled ankles, which undulate as the dancers create figure eights with their feet.”