Posts Tagged ‘Martha Graham’

Basil Twist Camps History in Sisters Follies

Basil Twist’s “Sister’s Follies: Between Two Worlds,” commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the Abrons Playhouse, is a testament to how camp can save performance history from oblivion. Dance and theater works of yore are notoriously difficult to stage because they often look hopelessly old fashioned. But in “Sisters’ Follies,” Twist—a newly minted MacArthur Genius and a third generation puppeteer—casts Joey Arias, the celebrated drag queen chanteuse, and Julie Atlas Muz, the burlesque performance artist, to play the titular sisters: Alice and Irene Lewisohn, who founded the Playhouse in 1915. Muz and Arias are stars of satire, but they aren’t real-life divas (like the Lewisohn sister were). Under Twist’s direction, Muz and Arias often flip and dangle from wires, which divas don’t do. They prance and preen, belt and belittle each other in the jewel-box size theater, which is made spectacular through the efforts of 11 behind the scenes performers, who manipulate large and small puppets in costumes that range from camels to biblical figures. The Lewisohn’s Playhouse becomes Twist’s camp marionette theater.

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The Mesmerizing Underworld of Rocío Molina

Splash. From atop a cantering horse, the avant-garde flamenco artist Rocío Molina plunges into a dark river. This opening film sequence that precedes the live dance work Bosque Ardora (Ardor in the Woods) was seen November 7 at Teatros del Canal, the host of the 2014 Madrid International Dance Festival. Molina’s descent into a dark river is symbolic of her descent into the underworld of the psyche. There, the thirty-year-old choreographer embodies female archetypes: the goddess (Artemis of the hunt), the vixen (in which she wears a fox mask), and the modern day victim (who is physically punished by high-heel stilettos). Molina never settles too long into one vision, and thus never becomes trapped by female, cultural stereotypes. Molina outfoxes preconceptions: she is a petite, brown-haired beauty; she performs like a chameleon giantess.

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Dance as a Luxury Product: the Post 9/11 Environment

The Slovak National Dance Congress 2014 recently asked me to speak about the state of New York City dance. Since I’ve been living in New York City on and off since 1979, I felt up to the task. In the following slides (which have been converted into a movie), I tease out the changes that have occurred for New York City concert dancers following 9/11. What I found most striking (and dismaying) in my research was that the U.S. capital of Terpsichore is increasingly recognizing dancers and dance organizations not as the obvious—as artists and art groups—but as brands for luxury consumption.

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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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Fall for Dance Festival: Recapping Program 1, 2 and 5

The seventh annual Fall For Dance Festival came to a meaty close on October 13. Program five at New York’s City Center trafficked in high testosterone, thanks to China’s LPD-Laboratory Dance Project’s No Comment (2002) and Yaron Lifschitz’s Circa (2009), which is also the name of the Australian acrobatic troupe. In both works the body was treated like a battering ram.

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Eclipse, A New Work for BAM’S Newest Space

Choreographer Jonah Bokaer and visual artist Anthony McCall’s world premiere of Eclipse inaugurated the BAM Richard B. Fisher Building with six sold out performances from September 5th through 9th. The hour-long work (seen on the 9th) in the new black box theater was configured so that the audience flanked four sides of the dark, carpeted stage space. The performance began when Bokaer approached one of the lowest hanging bulbs and knelt to Thomas Edison’s invention. Like the sun god Apollo, Bokaer’s penetrating gaze into the bulb’s opaque surface caused its illumination.

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Crystal Pite’s Futuristic Choreography

Ten years later, I saw Crystal Pite’s “Dark Matters.” Her choreography augured a new movement style, a “Matrix”-like sense of physical wonder. On January 24 at Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC), Pite’s choreography enthralled the audience. At the end of “The You Show,” made in 2010 with her company Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM, Pite and her eight dancers received a standing ovation.

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