Posts Tagged ‘Alwin Nikolais’

Celebrating Alwin Nikolais: The Futuristic Choreographer

Which came first, the arcade game Pac-Man or Mechanical Organ by Alwin Nikolais? Both came into being in 1980. With a child-like glee, both present an abstracted technicolor figure, fearsomely navigating every which way. Moreover, after watching the Alwin Nikolais Celebration at The Joyce Theater (Feb. 9), it became clear that the late choreographer (1910-1983) influenced more than the world of dance. In Nikolais’ productions, technology drove his visions. Like a Steve Jobs of the theater, Nikolais was a master mind. He conceived the concept and aesthetic of each work by controlling all the elements: composition of the electronic score, costuming of his dancers, décor creation, and choreography (albeit in collaboration with his zealous performers, who worked with him at the Henry Street Playhouse).

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Dark Days: Jeanette Stoner and Dancers

Like many choreographers who have persevered, Stoner has bore witness to many dance movements: the high drama of Martha Graham, the abstract formalism of Alwin Nikolais, the anti-virtuosity of Yvonne Rainer, the minimalism of Lucinda Childs, the fusion dancing of Twyla Tharp, and the formalism of Balanchine and Cunningham. Stoner’s work incorporates aspects of each of these 20th century U.S. dance movements, but she isn’t a direct descendent of any them. Perhaps it’s because her work never entered the mainstream dance world. There is something to be said for being on the outside of the concert dance machine, which grinds many a choreographer up. In “Distant Past, Ancient Memories,” Stoner seems to be dancing through part of her history, with the wisdom of one who has made many dances, and with a need to choreograph with a broader brush.

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