Wandering Man

Steven LaBrie, the baritone in Jessica Lang’s The Wanderer. Photo by ulieta Cervantes
Steven LaBrie, the baritone in Jessica Lang’s The Wanderer. Photo by ulieta Cervantes

Last week, the choreographer Jessica Lang presented her new, fully-staged version of Shubert’s song-cycle Die Schöne Müllerin at BAM’s intimate Fishman Space. In it, she takes on the the lyricism of Schubert and  the poetry of Wilhelm Müller and gives it physical form. Her eight dancers fill the roles of protagonist, miller’s daughter, huntsman, and, more intriguingly, of the forces of nature and the brook in which the protagonist eventually drowns himself. Lang made a valiant effort; her approach is sensitive, well-informed, and consistently engaging. But the two languages—dance and son—only occasionally spoke to each other with eloquence, bringing about something more than the sum of various parts. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.

And a longer a piece I wrote for The Nation, on the difficulty of combining vocal music and dance.

The cast of Jessica Lang's "The Wanderer." Photo by  Julieta Cervantes
The cast of Jessica Lang’s “The Wanderer.” Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Mark Morris–Plainspoken Poet

Mark Morris at Ojai.
Mark Morris at Ojai.

I spent several months last year working on a profile about the choreographer Mark Morris for The Nation, interviewing current and former dancers, collaborators, and of course Morris himself. The greatest pleasure for me, was attending the Ojai Music Festival, where Morris had been invited to curate the musical offerings. (He is the first choreographer to be asked.) As everyone knows, he has a very musical mind, and his choices for the festival, grouped around the figure of Lou Harrison and the theme of “Western composers,” were eclectic, eye-opening, sometimes infuriating, and often quite thrilling. His next big project is a staging of the Handel opera Acis and Galatea in 2014.

Here is a link to the profile. And a short excerpt: “Morris is looking very pleased with himself, in rumpled cargo shorts, a red polo shirt, matching red socks and Franciscan-style sandals. With his broad chest and even broader belly, a scraggly beard, leonine head of graying hair and gleaming greenish eyes, he looks like a Welsh poet, a mischievous Buddha, a disheveled and possibly disreputable emperor….Something about the arrangement of his limbs as he perches on a stool—the extreme angle of his knees, perhaps—reveals the uncanny flexibility of a former dancer. “I was a fabulously good dancer,” he tells me later, and it’s true, too. I’ve seen the tapes.”



The Splendid Men of San Francisco Ballet

Benjamin Stewart and Pascal Molat in Morris' Beaux. Photo by Erik Tomasson.
Benjamin Stewart and Pascal Molat in Morris’ Beaux. Photo by Erik Tomasson.

Program two included works by Mark Morris (Beaux), Alexei Ratmansky (From Foreign Lands), Edwaard Liang (Symphonic Dances) and Yuri Possokhov (Classical Symphony). Thinking about it, I realize that both Beaux and From Foreign Lands represent the un-Wayne McGregor: subtle, quiet, deceptively laid back. They invite you into their world and encourage you to lean in rather than overwhelm you with virtuosity and visual stimulation. Perhaps for this very reason, they did not elicit much response from the audience. Applause was polite at best. But they were the heart of the evening.

Here’s my review for DanceTabs.