Tuesday, April 18, 2017

IMPRESSIONS: Scottish Ballet

Scottish Ballet in Christopher Bruce's Ten Poems at The Joyce Theater. Photo by Andy Ross.

You know how it goes: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Behind that adage is the suggestion to present your best self when meeting someone new. But is your best self your true self?

Scottish Ballet makes its New York debut at The Joyce Theater with two US premieres and one piece created for Atlanta Ballet that it’s performing for the first time. The company doesn’t take any chances with its first impression. New York will think of Scottish Ballet what the company wants the city to think.

Scottish Ballet would like New York to think it has stylistic range. It can do pretty-in-pointe-shoes ballet. Artistic Director’s Christopher Hampson’s Sinfonietta Giocosa, set to Bohuslav Martinu’s jubilant score, functions as Balanchine-lite with flexed-footed echappés and showy canons. It can do twitchy, angst-filled modern. Bryan Arias’ Motion of Displacement shows ten dancers touching hands to knees, elbows, and cheeks to end the way they begin — downstage in a frieze of curved spines. It can do a nostalgic, wispy narrative. Christopher Bruce’s Ten Poems uses sweeps of the torso and legs to evoke the words of Dylan Thomas as read aloud by Richard Burton.

Scottish Ballet would like New York to think it has . . . 

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

PREVIEW: Stacey Menchel Kussell’s Film "Ritual" Explores the Dancer’s Practice and a Passover Seder

Stacey Menchel Kussell's film Ritual. Photo by Scott Sinkler. 

Rituals stand at the metaphorical intersection of earth and sky. They ground us, exerting the pull of tradition and remembrance. They exalt us, raising us toward ecstasy and hope. By commemorating the past while acting in the present, a ritual can prepare us for the future.

In Stacey Menchel Kussell’s four-minute film Ritual, she pays tribute to rites as both a location and a practice. Using her preoccupations of dance and Judaism, she teases out similarities between the dancer’s practice and a Passover Seder.

Knowledge of either isn’t needed to enjoy Ritual. The stream of reverent dancers, who appear lit from the inside, progress from quotidian pliés and sweeping rond de jambes à terre to rapturous kicks and churning pirouettes. Spoken-word artist Aaron Samuels recites an impassioned poem about his memories of Passover Seders to Carlos Metta’s velvety, percussive score.

Kussell brings a dancer’s sensitivity and a writer’s meticulousness to her filmmaking. In her hometown of . . . 

To read the balance of this article, please visit The Dance Enthusiast. To see Ritual, please visit vimeo or YouTube.  

Dance Date with NYU Professor Patricia Beaman: Stephen Petronio's Bloodlines

Stephen Petronio Company in Yvonne Rainer's Trio A with Flags at The Joyce. Photo by Julie Lemberger.

Maybe because it’s in the name, but modern dance can seem obsessed with the current, the cutting-edge, the never seen, and the never done. While that makes for a lively, engaged community, it can mean we’re haphazard stewards of our past. Yet how do we move forward if we don’t know where we’ve come from?

Stephen Petronio’s Bloodlines aims to change that. Initiated in 2014 near the eponymous company’s thirtieth anniversary, Petronio expanded the repertoire to include works by post-modern choreographers who’ve influenced him and the dance world at large. This iteration at The Joyce Theater features pieces by Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, and Anna Halprin — iconoclasts whose choreography many of us have encountered only in text or video. A world premiere by Petronio adds the next rung to the ever-growing ladder of dance history.

To flesh out the impact of these post-modern choreographers, both then and now, I invited Patricia Beaman, Professor of Dance History at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and Artist-in-Residence at Wesleyan University, to accompany me. Of Bloodlines, Beaman says, “It’s part of the canon. What was once considered post-modern is now historical.”

Three dances by Rainer open the program . . . 

To read the balance of this article, please visit The Dance Enthusiast.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

IMPRESSIONS: Doug Varone and Dancers

Doug Varone and Dancers in Recomposed at BAM Harvey. Photo by Nikki Carrara.

Dance can be many things: beautiful, virtuosic, provocative. No matter what it is, we in the audience are often content to stay put — to witness rather than to manifest. That’s until Doug Varone and Dancers take the stage. Their exhilarative dancing beckons us to join.

The company commemorates three decades with a four-night run at BAM Harvey. The program presents three works: Possession, an oldie but goodie from 1994 that reveals charged interpersonal connections; Folded, a sometimes antagonistic, sometimes comedic duet; and ReComposed, a wash of eight bodies in unflattering unitards that’s supposed to evoke paintings by Joan Mitchell.

Who can resist the exuberance that contours the jabbing kicks, swinging arms, surging paces, and luscious seesaws of the torso? The dancers — interchangeable save Hsiao-Jou Tang, whose delicacy belies her tenacity — radiate confidence. Their joints maintain a loosey-goosey ease, which allows the choreography to unspool like one long undulating ribbon.

Part of Varone’s charm resides in his distaste for . . . To read the balance of my review, please visit The Dance Enthusiast