Friday, January 29, 2016

Impressions of Parsons Dance

Parsons Dance in "Finding Center" at The Joyce. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu. 

David Parsons thinks like a chef. Using a few key ingredients, he concocts tasteful, easily digestible dances. They satisfy an appetite for the understandable and the relatable in a world filled with contradictions and ambiguity.

In its six-bill A Program (there is also a family-friendly matinee program on weekends) at the Joyce Theater, Parsons Dance keeps the mood breezy. The company showcases three works from its repertoire, a New York premiere, plus pieces from other choreographers: one from Alvin Ailey artistic director Robert Battle and another by up-and-comer Katarzyna Skarpetowska. Both Battle and Skarpetowska are former members of Parsons Dance.

Parsons' artistic ethos has remained markedly consistent after multiple decades of choreographing. In the New York premiere of...

To read the balance of my review, please visit The Dance Enthusiast.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Preview of Randy James' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"

Randy James' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" at NJPAC. Photo by Richard Termine.

The London Blitz. Four children sent to the countryside. A game of hide-and-seek to pass the time. A magical wardrobe thick with fur coats.  The discovery of Narnia, an enchanted land of talking animals and mythological creatures. A White Witch who freezes Narnia into an endless winter. Aslan, an all-powerful lion, who sacrifices himself so a boy may live.

Both fantastical tale and Christian allegory, C. S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” received tepid reviews upon its publication in 1950: too moralistic, too violent, too outlandish. However, readers loved it, and to this day, it continues to be a popular book with children and adults.

In 1998, Randy James asked his dance-loving goddaughter what she would enjoy seeing him choreograph. She suggested “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” and he premiered a version soon after that received much acclaim.

Fast forward to the present day. NJPAC and a grant from the Dodge Foundation gave James the opportunity to overhaul the 1998 version. “I found it an interesting situation to negotiate,” he says. Since the original production...

To read the balance of my preview, please visit The Dance Enthusiast

Friday, January 22, 2016

Impressions of Jillian Peña's "Panopticon"

Alexandra Albrecht and Andrew Champlin in Jillian Peña's "Panopticon." Photo by Ian Douglas. 

In the 1930s, Harvard mathematician George David Birkhoff devised a formula to evaluate art using the concepts of symmetry and complexity. He posited an inverse relationship: If a work is highly complex, then less symmetry will result in a more appealing piece. The opposite holds true as well. Simpler artworks fare better when they are more symmetrical.

In Jillian Peña’s “Panopticon,” a world premiere at Abrons Art Center co-presented by American Realness and Performance Space 122’s COIL Festival, it seems that symmetry and its accompanying virtue — simplicity — reign. At first glance, the fifty-minute piece squeaks with order and cleanliness.

With an ostensible nod to Merce Cunningham, two performers, Alexandra Albrecht and Andrew Champlin, prick at and slice through the air with methodical “developpés,” leisurely “arabesques,” and defined “petit battement sur le cou-de-pied” (flutters of a pointed foot around the ankle). They even wear unitards — sporty pink-and-gray ones with patches of nude mesh.

Albrecht and Champlin tackle the...

To read the balance of my review, please visit The Dance Enthusiast. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Flesh & Bone for Broad Street Review: Black Swan Redux

Sarah Hay in Starz Flesh and Bone. Photo by Patrick Harbron, Starz Entertainment. 

Ballerinas have an identity problem. There’s the one of little girls’ dreams who spins on top of a music box to a tinny recording of Swan Lake. Then, there’s the other one, the dark, sinister ballerina who, in her doomed quest for perfection, turns into a stressed-out, strung-out anorexic.

The nature of ballet takes the rap for smashing that ideal of the music-box ballerina. A time-based art demanding an all-or-nothing approach, a ballerina must nurture hunger of the heart and the belly, so that she might claw her way into the spotlight and feast on the accolades from a rapturous crowd. Of course, the spotlight dims and the accolades fade, but ballet offers the promise of greatness, for the mortal to become immortal by living in the imaginations of others.

Starz’s eight-episode Flesh and Bone, created by Emmy-winning Breaking Bad writer Moira Walley-Beckett, fixates on the physical excess and emotional distress exacted by ballet. One part Dancing on My Grave and another part The Jerry Springer Show, Flesh and Bone revels in the clichéd, the sensationalistic, and the tawdry.

The series centers on twenty-one-year-old Claire Robbins...

To read the balance of my review, please visit Broad Street Review