Last week, the choreographer Alexei Ratmansky sat down with Paul Holdengraber of the New York Public Library for an extended conversation about his influences, interests, taste, ideas about ballet, and a million other things. There is an audio file of the conversation on the NYPL’s website. If you’re interested in ballet, it’s essential listening.
It was just announced that two choreographers, Kyle Abraham and Alexei Ratmansky, have won MacArthur fellowships. Congratulations to both!
It’s no secret that I think Ratmansky is one of the most quietly innovative choreographers working today, breathing new life into ballet without making grand pronouncements about his intentions. Mainly he revitalizes by doing, by taking history into account while also taking stock of the present, and making the language of ballet seem new and fresh and of our time. Dancers who work with him become more connected to the music, and to their own imaginations. The music he uses opens up and reveals new secrets. In his dances there is space for humor, classicism, vulgarity, warmth, loneliness, despair.
The Paul Taylor Dance Company opened its second season at Lincoln Center with a gala performance. For once it wasn’t the usual “best-of” compilation, but a typically eccentric Paul Taylor quadruple bill. You can read my review here.
And here is a short excerpt:
“The surprise of the evening (for me) was the closer, Offenbach Overtures (1995). The last time I saw this dance, several years back, it struck me as forced and cartoonish. This time it won me over completely. Has it changed or have I? Set to appealing Offenbach polkas and waltzes and costumed (by Loquasto) in simplified versions of soldier uniforms (including mustaches) and chorine outfits straight out of Toulouse Lautrec (all red), the piece pokes fun at ballet, at puffed-up nineteenth-century European conventions, at operetta, at heterosexual coupling.”
Here’s a link to my latest post for DanceTabs, a review of a triple bill at New York City Ballet that included Justin Peck’s smashing new ballet, Paz de la Jolla, as well as Balanchine’s rarely performed surrealist experiment Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir and Alexei Ratmansky’s rollicking Concerto DSCH (still one of his best works).
A short excerpt:
“With Paz de la Jolla Peck demonstrates that he’s no mere flash in the pan. Last season’s Year of the Rabbit, which also returned to the stage earlier this week, is fresh, overflowing with ideas, breathless, complicated. But Paz de la Jolla reveals an even rarer quality: the ability to make a ballet on command, quickly, and to make something significant out of it. The commission was a last-minute stop-gap for another ballet (by Peter Martins) that had to be postponed because of a delay in the composition of the score. Peck rather bravely took the leap. Yes, he had a piece of music in mind, an exuberant work for piano and chamber orchestra by Martinu, Sinfonietta La Jolla, inspired by the Southern California coastline. It just so happens that Peck is from the area.”
Lauren Lovette became a member of the corps de ballet at New York City Ballet only two years ago, but her star has been steadily rising ever since. With her sparkling eyes, delicate sensuality, and the quiet sense of joy that suffuses her dancing, it’s hard to miss her, even when she’s at the rear of the stage, which happens less and less frequently. On Monday, she received the Clive Barnes (dance) Award, a prize that singles out young performers who reveal extraordinary promise. (Rob McClure won the award for best young actor.) The timing seems just right; Lovette will début in the role of Sugarplum on Dec. 23, an event not to be missed (she’ll dance it again at the matinée of the 28th). She’s only twenty, and I’ll wager we’ll be seeing more and more of her. Over the past few seasons, she has illuminated the stage in various roles, from the introspective solo in Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia to the sensual, playful pas de deux in Balanchine’s Rubies, and even a throwaway part in Susan Stroman’s For the Love of Duke. Here are a few photos of her, all by Paul Kolnik.
At the time of her début in Polyphonia, I wrote: “A few days ago, when Sara Mearns performed the role, she seemed to expand, radiating energy outward; Lovette, instead, pulled us into her private world. She repeated a phrase, rising quietly on pointe and raising her leg, and then began to add gestures, a scooping up of the hands, a turn with the arms held aloft and then lowered into a kind of prayerful gesture. She accelerated slightly, she slowed down. Her fingers sparkled with life. She drew attention to every detail of the choreography and made us see it anew. In other words, she not only danced it beautifully, but made it her own.”
There’s a video of her in Peter Martins’ Mes Oiseauxhere. She’s the one with the bangs.
At the awards ceremony on Monday Lovette, who seemed slightly overwhelmed by her nervous excitement, spoke touchingly of her colleagues, the art of dance, and her sense of wonder at her own good fortune. The event was organized by Barnes’ widow, Valerie Taylor-Barnes, whom I recently interviewed for DanceTabs. She first met the critic when she was a dancer with the Royal Ballet. Fifty (!) years—and various wives—later, they married. Ms. Barnes has quite an eye; recent award-winners include Isabella Boylston (of ABT) and Chase Finlay (of NYCB).
For updates, feel free to check out @MarinaHarss on Twitter. And I’m eager for your comments!