This is Chalvar Monteiro (in a photo by Daniel Azoulay), of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He joined the company in 2015, after dancing for Kyle Abraham for several years. In a company of powerhouses, his dancing stands out for its clean lines, quiet bravura and focus (as you can see here). My eye always seems to find him on the stage. He never skimps on the details, but his dancing has energy and vibrancy, too. Here he is in Sinner Man, from Revelations. My review of the company’s June 17 matinee is at Dancetabs.com
This time of year, it’s hard to keep up with the goings-on in the dance world (particularly ballet). Here is a round-up of recent performances and news:
1. Herman Cornejo and Evgenia Obraztsova performed a touching rendition of Romeo and Juliet at the Met. It was Obraztsova’s début with the company—here’s hoping this new partnership will blossom in coming seasons. Here is a link to my review, for DanceTabs.
2. New York Theatre Ballet, alias “the little company that could,” held its first season in the sanctuary at St. Mark’s Church, its new home. On the program were works by Frederick Ashton, Richard Alston, David Parker, Antony Tudor, and the young choreographer Gemma Bond. The space fits the company beautifully, and the inclusion of live music (piano and voice) made all the difference. Here’s a link to my review, for DanceTabs.
3. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater closed out the season with a Rennie Harris’s moving Exodus (new this season), Robert Battle’s No Longer Silent (a company première), and, of course Revelations. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.
4. And finally, Julie Kent gave her final performance with ABT, a finely-etched portrait of Juliet in the well-loved Kenneth MacMillan production. As always with this thinking ballerina, every detail was beautifully distinct. It is difficult to imagine works like A Month in the Country without her.
I asked a few dancers and choreographers—Cory Stearns, Kate Weare, Glenn Allen Sims, Wendy Whelan—about the art of partnering, and here’s what they said:
Alvin Ailey is dancing at the Koch Theatre in Lincoln Center this week, with its singular mix of exuberance, power, and finesse. Here’s my review of some of the new works (including Robert Moses’ The Pleasure of the Lesson and Wayne McGregor’s Chroma), for DanceTabs.
And a short excerpt: “As a secondary consequence, it has been fascinating to see how these choreographers’ works are in turn transformed by the Ailey dancers. They don’t just do the steps, they mold them to their style and personality.”
On Thursday, it was announced that as of next year the Paul Taylor Dance Company will be functioning on a new model, one that takes into account Mr. Taylor’s advancing age and the ephemeral nature of dance. In other words, to ensure the company to survive, Taylor has decided to diversify its repertory, opening itself to the works of other modern-dance choreographers. The plans are still very vague—choreography by whom? Performed with the blessing of whom? But the idea is that Taylor should become a kind of repertory company for modern dance, with a strong base in Taylor’s works. The most similar model I can think of is Alvin Ailey, but even there, the focus is on the new. (Or, as the commenter below points out, perhaps the model is the Limón Company, which presents “programs that balance classic works of American modern dance with commissions and acquisitions from contemporary choreographers.”) The company’s name, too, will change, to Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance—rather clumsy, but there it is.
The good news is that the troupe is doing well. According to the Wall Street Journal, sales are up 27 percent since 2010. Another positive note is that live music, something which has been missing for years, will be part of the equation. (Though to what extent is still unknown. According to a press conference, musicians will be used “where intended by the choreographer,” whatever that means.) Money for the transformation will be provided by the sale of several works of art by Rauschenberg from Taylor’s personal collection—the two artists have known each other for over fifty years and have collaborated on several occasions—with a matching grant from the board.
The details will become clearer over time. What’s sure is that Taylor is entering a new era, and thinking about the future, something that modern dance companies are facing with increasing frequency. The issue as always is whether to close up shop or to continue. And if the latter, how to make a company viable without its founding choreographer. Merce Cunningham decided that the only solution was to shut down the company but keep the school and a licensing arm. Trisha Brown’s company announced last year that Brown would be stepping aside due to health problems, while her dancers would undertake a three-year “farewell tour” under the tutelage of two company veterans. The troupe’s ultimate fate, however, was not fully spelled out (though the signs point toward something along the lines of Merce Cunningham. Martha Graham is soldiering on, conserving (and modifying) its Graham rep and commissioning new works. Tanztheater Wuppertal recently announced that it would begin acquiring new works and auditioning new dancers as of 2015.
One can’t help but feel a certain sense of loss as one of the great modern-dance choreographers contemplates the end of his own creative life, and a future beyond the horizon line.
For more information on the announcement, check out Susan Yung’s blog, The Ephemeralist.
My final review of the season is of three premières at Alvin Ailey (by Aszure Barton, Bill T. Jones, and Wayne McGregor). The company, under the still-new leadership of Robert Battle, is looking great. Here‘s my review.
And a short excerpt:
“But what is in a way even more striking is how the repertory [Battle] chooses – often, it must be said, by trendy choreographers – is transformed by the Ailey dancers, with their combination of individuality and collaborative spirit. Despite registering strongly as individual personalities, they are equally involved with each other onstage; like the members of a family, each dancer has his role to play. And one can feel the dancers’ hunger for new challenges – I have yet to see a less than full-throttle performance, even when a choreographer’s style does not quite fit the company’s technique, as with Paul Taylor’s Arden Court last year.”
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.