Posts Tagged ‘Mats Ek’

90 Years and Counting: The Martha Graham Dance Company

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

By Rachel Straus

The Martha Graham Dance Company’s 90th anniversary season (April 14-18) at New York City Center opened with Graham’s Night Journey (1947) and closed with her Cave of the Heart (1946). In between these masterworks, about Greek tragedy heroines, was a world premiere by the experimentalist Marie Chouinard and the last proscenium work that the venerable Swedish choreographer Mats Ek said that he would ever make. Considering that Chouinard’s Inner Resources reads like an uninspired group of teenage competition dancers trying to look avant-garde and Ek’s Axe was both terrifying and beautiful, it is a tragedy that Ek will not be making more dances for the stage and that Chouinard will.

Axe (2015) was created on Ben Schultz and Peiju Chien-Pott, the most dramatically daring and physically chameleon-esque Graham dancer of her generation. Axe is about a couple in crisis. It was originally made by Eks as a film, featuring his wife and dancing muse Ana Lugana. At City Center, the dance begins with the sound of a heavy object falling, again and again. When the curtain goes up, Schultz wields an ax. He is splitting wood on a tree stump. In the course of the nine-minute ballet, set to a recording of the Albinoni-Giazotto Adagio in G minor, Schultz obsessively chops wood into smaller and smaller pieces—like a woodsman with a compulsive disorder. Because the music has been used in innumerable tragic films, including Gallipoli (1981), we know that this dance is not going to end well. Indeed, Schultz never looks up to notice a haggard Chien-Pott, teetering side to side, like an unsteady piece of brittle wood. She circles around Schultz, but he pays no mind. So Chien-Pott becomes increasingly manic, repeatedly falling to the floor, and extending her legs to all four corners as if trying to dislocate her limbs. Their tragic story, however, has a surprise ending: the petite female dancer fills Schultz’s enormous arms with wood and marches him to the wing. As the curtain falls, Chien-Pott raises the ax—it’s aimed at his head.

Graham (1894-1991) would likely have approved of Axe. It features all of the elements that made her 1940s masterworks radical and potent: a revenging female dancer, a movement vocabulary that sallies between the grotesque and the sublime, a compressed abstracted story, and a large muscular man who is easy on the eyes, and when given a chance, is shown to be a good dancer too.

Since the Graham company’s current mission is to commission choreographers to make works that bear a relationship to Graham’s oeuvre, it is nigh impossible to understand Chouinard’s Inner Resources as bearing any aesthetic relationship to Graham’s. It possesses the quality of an amateur music video, with its half-hearted Vogueing and some clumsy b-boy floor moves. The music by Louis Dufort, who has collaborated with Chouinard since 1996, produces the effect of listening to a DJ club mix that is inside of a food processor. The women upend the heteronormative by sporting big mustaches, but they also strut on the points of their feet like runway models. When they strip off their blue shirts and black pants, they stand inert as if their nudity makes them afraid to move. This last image isn’t exactly a feminist statement. The Graham company’s eight female dancers deserve better than this.

Fortunately, the performance of Cave of the Heart, with Chien-Pott playing the revenging Medea, salvaged the company’s image that night. The Mannes Orchestra, under the baton of David Hayes, supported the dancers in their ability to breathe life into the work’s dramatic personae. Chien-Pott, Abdiel Jackson, Anne O’Donnell and Leslie Andrea Williams’ artistic courage, and inventiveness, made this Graham ballet relevant and worth repeat viewings.

May Dance in New York City

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

By Rachel Straus

May 1-2

Guggenheim Museum

The popular Works + Process series presents “American Ballet Theatre on to Act II.” Current ABT dancers will perform excerpts from their upcoming Metropolitan Opera House season. ABT alumni will discuss the challenges dancers face in the second act of their careers.  You can watch the event each night at 7:30 via livestream.

May 2

Baryshnikov Arts Center

In the final spring installment of BAC Flicks: Mondays With Merce, two Charles Atlas films of Merce Cunningham’s dances will be projected on widescreen. In “Crises” (1960), elastic cords connect the dancers to each other. Dramatic entanglements ensue. In “Native Green” (1985), John King’s music and William Anastasi’s evoke a scintillating spring. Cunningham scholar Nancy Dalva will speak to former Cunningham dancer Gus Solomons, Jr.

May 3-June 12

The David H. Koch Theater

The opening week of the New York City Ballet’s spring season will showcase 12 of Balanchine’s works, which insiders refer to as “black and white” ballets because the costuming is bare bones. Most often, the women wear black leotards and white tights. The men wear black tights and white t-shirts. The choreography is hardly sparse. Up next will be the May 11 world premiere of Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s “The Seven Deadly Sins,” set to the Kurt Weill score, featuring Patti LuPone and Wendy Whelan as sisters (which will be hard to believe). The final week’s performances are titled “See the Music…” and will highlight NYCB’s musical repertory as performed by its 62-piece orchestra. The June 12 “Dancer’s Choice” performance will feature works handpicked by the company’s dancers. Over the seven-week season, the company will perform 19 works by Jerome Robbins, Susan Stroman, Christopher Wheeldon, NYCB Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins, and George Balanchine.

May 3

The Apollo Theater

This Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater benefit performance will showcase Camille A. Brown’s 2007 solo “Evolution of a Secured Feminine,” which catapulted this complex, hip, young choreographer into the spotlight.


May 10-22

The Joyce Theater

The two-week engagement of Cuba’s Danza Contemporanea de Cuba stands out for its offering of three works: The U.S. premiere of “Casi-Casa,” created by the quirky, inventive Swedish choreographer Mats Ek, set to disco, hip-hop, swing and jazz; the world premiere of “Horizonte” by former Ballet Hispanico dancer Pedro Ruiz; and “Demo-N/Crazy,” made by Sydney Dance Company artistic director Rafael Bonachela, which has been said to wow for its athletic partnering and semi nudity.

May 12-14

Cedar Lake Theater

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet will present a new installation created by artistic director Benoit-Swan Pouffer. Part choreographed dance performance and part interactive installation, audience members are invited to move freely through the space where the dancers will be performing.

May 12-15

Dicapo Opera Theatre

Dances Patrelle will present the world premiere of Francis Patrelle’s “Gilbert & Sullivan, The Ballet!” an evening-length work, featuring live music and singers, and inspired by characters drawn from Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas.

May 13

Buttenwieser Hall at 92nd St. Y

The “Fridays at Noon” free series will culminate with informal performances by tap and step dancing virtuosos Marshall Davis, Jr., Andrew Nemr, and their guests. Davis, Jr. performed in Savion Glover’s Tony Award winning “Bring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk.” Nemr has the credentials too, having performed along side the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Jimmy Heath, Les Paul, Harry Connick and the Lionel Hampton Orchestra.

May 16-June 29

Metropolitan Opera House

American Ballet Theatre will hold its annual seven-week season. The big event will be the New York premiere (June 9) of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Bright Stream.” Also of interest will be two world premieres (May 24-26) by Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon, a New York premiere by Benjamin Millepied, and a revival of Antony Tudor’s “Shadowplay.” The full-length ballet offerings will be “Giselle,” “Swan Lake,” “Cinderella,” “Coppelia,” “Don Quixote,” “The Sleeping Beauty,” and “Lady of the Camellias.”

May 20

Ailey Citigroup Theater

“Performing the Border” aspires to blend and build on the grammar of two Indian classical dance forms, Bharata Natyam and Odissi.  David Phoenix Singh, who runs Dakshina Company, a Bharata Natyam and modern dance company, and Nandini Sikand, who directs Sakshi Productions, a neo-classical and contemporary Odissi dance company, will collaborate.


May 21

Manhattan streets

This year’s New York City Dance Parade will showcase 65 dance genres. The parade will start on 21st street, move down Broadway, pass through Union Square, and take over University Place, Eighth Street and St. Mark’s. The House, Techno and Disco floats will lead the celebrants to Tompkins Square Park and to DanceFest, which will offer stage and site specific dance performances and free dance lessons. This will not be a sedentary experience.

May 23

Judson Memorial Church

This year’s Movement Research Gala will feature Trisha Brown’s “Set and Reset” (1983) as performed by its original cast of dancers, who have become dance makers in their own right.