Paloma in BA

A few weeks ago, Paloma Herrera and I sat down to talk about her training and career, about moving back to Buenos Aires, and about what she thinks has changed in the world of ballet and in the wider culture. Our chat is now up on the DanceTabs website.

Paloma Herrera outside of the Museo de Arte Decorativo. (photo by me)
Paloma Herrera outside of the Museo de Arte Decorativo. (photo by me)

 

 

 

Rashaun Mitchell Gets Cosmic

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Silas Riener and Melissa Toogod in Rashaun Mitchell’s Light Years. Photo by Ian Douglas.

Rashaun Mitchell, formerly of Merce Cunningham, created the new Light Years, which premiered at New York Live Arts last week, for four of his friends.  Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.

 

Paul Taylor branches out…

Sunset 3menOn 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.

A Year Ago…

A year ago I got to meet one of my childhood idols, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and interview him about his art collection. My heart stopped a little bit each time he opened his mouth to say something. It was, and still is, a highlight of my writing life. Here’s the piece that came out of that conversation.

And one of my favorite works from his collection,  Nikolai Lapshin’s Novgorod.

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Peter and the Wolf

Peter (Macy Sullivan) in Peter and the Wolf. © Jacklyn Meduga.
Peter (Macy Sullivan) in Peter and the Wolf.
© Jacklyn Meduga.

Once again, Works and Process is putting on Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. This year’s show is more elaborate than previous incarnations, with a full staging by Isaac Mizrahi, and choreography by John Heginbotham (formerly of the Mark Morris Dance Group). Mizrahi has put together quite a cast, including his friends Maira Kalman as the duck, and Gus Solomons, Jr. as the Grandfather.

Here’s my review, for DaneTabs.

And a short excerpt:

“But – and here lies its lasting power – it doesn’t talk down to its audience, musically or dramatically. The harsh realities of life are not papered over with saccharine melodies or unrealistically happy endings. The duck dies as a result of her foolishness. Near the end, we are reminded of her plight as we hear her unhappy quacking in the wolf’s belly. And Peter is told, rightly, that he, too, could have died.”

Mark Morris’s “L’Allegro” Returns

Lauren Grant and Maile Okamura in Mark Morris's "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato." Photo by Kevin Yatarola.
Lauren Grant and Maile Okamura in Mark Morris’s “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.” Photo by Kevin Yatarola.

As part of the spiritually-minded “White Light” festival at Lincoln Center, the Mark Morris Dance Group is performing Morris’s L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed il Moderato, from 1988. The ebullient work is spiritual in the best sense: it lifts the spirit. Made in the first year of the company’s residence at La Monnaie opera house in Brussels, it reflects the choreographer’s delight at the resources at his command: a spacious stage, singers, full orchestra, endless rehearsal time. Twenty-five years later, it still feels fresh. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.

And a short excerpt: “Throughout the piece, the mood and focus shifts from darkness to light, from the joys of nature to the hubbub of urban life, from animal instinct to human folly, architecture to philosophy. In one of the dance’s most blissful passages, set to the poem “As Steals the Morn Upon the Night,” ribbons of dancers trace lines across the stage….The rhythm of their motion remains steady. We feel implicated in the dance.”