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.

 

 

 

Riffing on Hamlet at BAM

The Forsythe Company performed William Forsythe’s Sider at BAM last week. As he explained, much of the dancers’ movement is set to the speech patterns of actors reciting an “Elizabethan tragedy”, being fed to them in real time through earpieces. The audience does not hear the text. Those who attended a pre-performance talk will know that the tragedy was Hamlet. (Most people will not.) Here’s my review of the piece for DanceTabs.

And a short excerpt:

“Like those of a computer programmer, Forsythe’s systems are regulated by a constant stream of minute decisions. What will the dancers do next? How quickly? What will the lights do? What will the audience be allowed to see? What will they hear? Sometimes there is an underlying thematic thread – in Three Atmospheric Studies it was the Iraq war, in Decreation it was love. But in other works, like Sider (2011), which just completed its run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the ultimate goal is not, or does not seem to be, a coherent thematic arc. As Forsythe said at a talk before the Oct. 12 performance, “I lack the narrative gene.” This is clear to anyone in the audience. Structure, rather than content, is the point.”

Back to Basics–Balanchine “Black and White” at NYCB

Sterling Hyltin in "Symphony in Three Movements." Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Sterling Hyltin in “Symphony in Three Movements.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

New York City Ballet went back to basics this week with its “Black and White” program. All Balanchine, all modernist ballets performed in pared-down leotards and tights: The Four Temperaments, Episodes, Duo Concertant, and Symphony in Three Movements. Here’s my review of the evening for DanceTabs.

And a short excerpt: “The program, a compilation of modernist ballets set to music by Webern, Hindemith, and Stravinsky that span three decades (1946-1972), is a kind of compendium of the choreographer’s most radical, game-changing esthetic. Its distinctive mix of courtliness, mystery, and eroticism still surprises. Not to mention its musical intelligence, which can make sense of a work as impenetrable – and as seemingly undanceable – as Anton Webern’s pointillist Opus 21 symphony.”

The “Black and White” program repeats on Sept. 28, Oct. 1, Oct. 4, and Oct. 13.

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.