Posts Tagged ‘Joyce Theater’

The Solo Dance Act: Nederlands Dance Theater 2

Monday, February 9th, 2015

By Rachel Straus

Perhaps we are returning to the era of dance as a solo act. That’s what I was thinking while watching the 16-member Nederlands Dans Theater 2. In three of the four works presented at the Joyce Theater on February 7, the ensemble dances devolved into a series of solos. This trend occurred for no apparent reason. Insiders know, however, that it’s a lot easier to make solos than group choreography. Thankfully NDT2 has superb dancers, like the dramatic Imre Van Opstal and the inimitable Spencer Dickhaus. So this tendency to load up an evening with solo dance sections isn’t a tragedy. But I nonetheless left Saturday night’s show feeling empty-handed. The ideas in the presented works, made between 2003 and 2013, are light or just insignificant. Some are plain dated, like Sara by Sharon Eyal and Gal Behar, which is about how we are becoming mechanized by our machines.

Imre Van Opstal in Sara. Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Imre Van Opstal in Sara. Photo by Rahi Rezvani

NDT2’s look-at-me-now style choreographies, under the direction of Paul Lightfoot and his artistic partner Sol León, stand in stark contrast to the former NDT2 seen five years ago under the direction of Jiri Kylian. This Czech choreographer was responsible for putting NDT2, composed of dancers under age 27, on the international dance map through his choreographies that combined the communitarian qualities of the folk, the elegance of ballet, and the experimentalism of modern dance. As a result of Kylian’s ensemble dances, one reveled in NDT dancers’ multiple strengths, which included their partnering, solo and group dancing, as well as their ability to become symbolic figures in an architecturally complex landscape, framed and influenced by a well-chosen piece of music.

I New Then by Johan Inger. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu

I New Then by Johan Inger. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu

With the exception of Johan Inger’s I New Then (2012), set to some of Van Morrison’s greatest hits, the two other ballets employing music in the program responded to their scores like background sound. Indeed, the work that used no music was the best of the lot. In Shutters Shut (2003) danced by Dickhaus and Opstal, the choreographers León and Lightfoot developed and set their duet to Getrude Steins’ poem, “If I told him: A completed portrait of Picasso” (1923). In the poem, Stein replicates the fracturing of an image into jagged shapes, seen in Picasso’s cubist paintings, through her repetitious and abrupt prose style. Lightfoot and León, in turn, fracture gender norms: Dickhaus wears red lipstick, his expression is a cross between Betty Boop and Garbo, and he knows how to jut a hip. Meanwhile Opstal moves with the masculine force of Mussolini, and her black eye makeup makes her look like a modernist guerilla fighter. The costumes are clever too: they resemble corset-cum-wrestling skins; the fronts of them are white and the backs are black, thus causing the backside of the dancers to disappear into the black backdrop hanging at the lip of the stage. When Dickhaus and Opstal traverse from stage right to left, the work ends. No more than four minutes, Shutters Shut is a morsel of creativity. What’s more, the dancers need each other to successfully complete the work. Their comic timing and opposing interpretations of the same quirky gestures transform them into freakish twins. Their dancing is marvelous and, for this viewer, it says something more than “look at me.”



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.

February Dance Happenings in New York City

Monday, January 31st, 2011

By Rachel Straus

February 4 and 5 @ 8:00 p.m.

Miro Magloire’s New Chamber Ballet at City Center

Magloire’s choreographic inspiration is music. Lately, the German-born, composer-choreographer has been inviting emerging dance makers to his evenings at City Center’s studio. The program will include three world premieres: Constantine Baecher’s Sketches Of A Woman Remembering (a trio to music by Debussy), Emery LeCrone’s solo to a violin sonata by Saint-Saens, and another trio by Magloire, which will uncharacteristically be performed in near silence.



February 7 @ 7 p.m.

BAC Flics: Mondays with Merce

Two films by former Cunningham filmmaker-in-residence Charles Atlas will be screened at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The first, Sounddance (1975), includes a percussive score by David Tudor. The second, Pond Way (1998), features a pointillist backdrop by Roy Lichtenstein and a Brian Eno score, said to be mesmerizing. Regardless of the sounds, the Cunningham dancers possess a physicality found nowhere else. Think panther meets machine.  



February 8-13 (curtain times vary)

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence at the Joyce Theater

Brown’s 25th anniversary season will include the world premiere of On Earth Together, set to music by Stevie Wonder (program A only). The Brooklyn-born choreographer grew up performing modern dance, but he found his choreographic voice through Cuban, Caribbean, and West African dance vocabularies. His work is joyous and thoughtful, a rare combination.


February 11 and 12 @ 7 p.m.

Dancemopolitan presents Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion and Friends (Joe’s Pub)

Called Heartbreak and Homies, this cabaret-style, laidback Valentine’s day-inspired event should be sweetly sly and definitely silly, thanks to the invited dancers, which include Alex Escalante and Faye Driscoll. Out Magazine recently called Abraham, who will perform, one of New York’s 100 most eligible gay bachelors.



February 15-20 (curtain times vary)

Buglisi Dance Theatre at the Joyce Theater

Artistic Director Jacqulyn Buglisi made a name performing principal roles with the Martha Graham Dance Company. Her 17-year-old troupe offers highly dramatic dances that feature strong women. Buglisi’s choreography is painterly, occasionally overwrought, but always beautifully performed. For her New York season, she will present two world premieres: Letters of Love on Ripped Paper and Requiem.



February 22 – March 6 (curtain times vary)

Paul Taylor Dance Company at City Center

In 12 days, the company will unfurl 16 dances by its namesake choreographer. Two works—Phantasmagoria and Three Dubious Memories—are New York premieres. One—Orbs (set to Beethoven’s late string quartets)—is a revival. The tickets for March 1 have been slashed to “Great Depression Special Prices:” $19.29 for all seats normally $25-$150, $5 for all seats normally $10.


February 19 @ 2 p.m., 
February 23 @ 7:30 p.m.
, February 25 @ 8 p.m., and 
February 26 @ 8 p.m.

New New York City Ballet work by Benjamin Millepied (David H. Koch Theater)

With a commissioned score by David Lang, who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Music, Millepied’s Plainspoken promises to be a well-attended City Ballet event. The work premiered last summer at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, months before Millepied became renowned as the ballet consultant for Darren Aronofsky’s vampire film Black Swan. Plainspoken, says Millepied, is inspired by the personalities of the dancers who helped realize the ballet.



February 24 @ 8 p.m.

Paco Pena at Town Hall

Guitar maestro Paco Peña and his Flamenco Dance Company will present their new production Flamenco Vivo, which includes a cast of guitarists, percussionists, vocalists and three male dancers—Ángel Muñoz, Ramón Martinez, and Charo Espino. This should be a Gypsy-style, testosterone-fueled, must-see event. Ole!




February 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. and at 3 p.m. on the 27th

Christopher Williams premiere of “Mumbo-jumbo and Other Works” at 92nd St. Y’s Harkness Dance Festival

As indicated by the title of Williams’ latest work, this dance-theater choreographer isn’t into minimalism. Mumbo-jumbo will reference controversial 19th century juvenile literature, which traffics in xenophobia and racism. It might pack a punch.


February 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Guggenheim Museum’s Works + Process: John Zorn, Donald Byrd, Pam Tamowitz

Choreographers Donald Byrd and Pam Tanowitz each create new works, commissioned by Works & Process, set to the music of composer John Zorn. Byrd, known for his beautiful yet volatile work, will choreograph a piece with his Seattle-based company Spectrum Dance Theater set to Zorn’s  played by pianist Stephen Drury. Tanowitz, known for her unflinchingly postmodern treatment of classical dance, sets a work to Zorn’s Femina, written as a tribute to the rich legacy of women in the arts. (Taken verbatim from Guggenheim website)

Men at Work: Adam Barruch, Philippe Saire, and Wally Cardona

Monday, January 10th, 2011

by Rachel Straus

Sometimes it helps to be overtly theatrical. Take Adam Barruch. At Dance Theater Workshop (January 5 and 6), the choreographer-performer opened the Emerging Artists showcase as though he were hit by lightening. Barruch’s ferociously physical attack belies his boyish, slight-of-hip appearance. Under a pool of light, he slammed his fist like a meat cleaver into a table, channeling the voice of Mrs. Lovett (Angela Lansbury) in the 1979 Broadway hit “Sweeney Todd.” Barruch’s 2008 solo, named after Stephen Sondheim’s tune “The Worst Pies in London,” was the highlight of the evening. His whirling dervish arms, maniacal facial expressions, and dead-stop gestures drilled down to the essence of Sondheim’s hunger-leading-to-violence lyrics. While Lansbury blurts out words like squirting blood, Barruch’s fast-firing synapses camped a famous tune with the finesse of an old-time Broadway hand.

Barruch’s “Worst Pies” signals that he is a chef to watch. In contrast, the two other choreographers, on the Gotham Arts Exchange presented program, demonstrated how difficult it is to concoct imaginative movement and collaborate effectively with music. With respect to their emerging choreographer status, it’s best not to dwell on their shortcomings.

Gillis in “Chalice.” Photo: Virginia Rollison

Barruch’s second offering of the evening—to Bach’s aria “Erbarme Dich” from “St Matthew Passion, BWV 244″—possessed a jewel-like focus. Called “Chalice,” the solo physicalizes the lyrics of Bach’s aria, regarding betrayal and its subsequent feelings of guilt. In a blood-red dress, veteran performer Margie Gillis reaches and recoils from an alcohol-filled chalice. Her unbound, hip-length hair weeps over the drink—her undoing. Like Martha Graham’s solo “Lamentation” (1930), “Chalice” never feels saccharin. Like a painting, it captures a moment in time. It’s consistently intense. But the third piece by Barruch failed to harness the previous solos’ succinctness. In the world premiere of “Wane,” narrative elements surfaced and dissolved; seven dancers came and went in lush, spiraling phrases; black cargo pants and aggressive partnering hinted at a warring world.


Warring (or wrestling) was the featured movement motif in Cie. Philippe Saire’s “Lonesome Cowboy,” which held its U.S. premiere at the Joyce Theater (Jan 6-9). In the Swiss-Algerian choreographer’s universe, comprised of five men in a gravel pit, aggression became the departure point for displaying how the male species becomes defined by their life’s station (whether it’s in the military, on Wall Street, or on a stoop guzzling beer in a kilt sans underwear).

This narrow self-definition renders these guys—surprise, surprise—lost, dazed, and confused. At the end of the 80-minute production to Christopher Bollondi’s alternatively heavy hitting and soporific sound score, the five performers took a bow like they didn’t know what hit them.

Their antics during the performance reminded me of the blockbuster film “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989), where two time-traveling teenagers survive Napoleon and Genghis Khan’s violence because they are ignorant, daring dudes. In “Lonesome Cowboy,” the men nail each other’s faces to the floor with their heels, suck face, and drag each other around to no lasting positive or negative effect. They are pawns in Saire’s clichéd psychodrama, divorced from any movement material that would identify them as individuals.


“A Slow Week in the Dance Studio with Strangers” would be my suggestion as the working title for Wally Cardona’s latest dance, presented January 8 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Titled “Intervention #4: Robert Sember,” the hour-long piece was “Slow” because the performers (Cardona, Sember, and Francis A. Stansky) moved about as I do in my apartment: They sat, stood, and lied prone. The work involved a “Week” because on Monday, January 3, the sound artist and social activist Robert Sember met the choreographer Wally Cardona; by Saturday they had to create something for the ever-critical New York crowd. Cardona and Sember’s experience occurred in a “Dance Studio,” in this case room 6A of the BAC. And, yes, the artists were initially “Strangers” to each other. Like my working title, the overall piece felt strung together.

If creating a dance for consumption in five days sounds like a doleful plan, you’re correct. Nonetheless, my hopes for “Intervention” ran high for four reasons: One, in tough economic times it’s best to be honest with your audiences. If there is only enough money to make a work in a week, why not advertise it as just that? Two, Cardona’s “Intervention” concept—an artist intervenes and catapults him in new directions—is an intriguing idea. Three, Cardona is on the fourth of seven “Intervention” series; he may be getting the hang of this format. Four, the couple seated to my left really liked “Intervention #3: Karina Lyons,” which premiered in December at the Joyce Soho. In that work, the intervener was a sommelier and wine consultant who lubricated the audience with wine while Cardona, a fascinatingly quirky mover, danced.

Sound artist Sember, however, is no Merlot wine. He is tall and serious; he’s not particularly nimble. Did he create a pall over Cardona’s creativity? Only Cardona can say.

Cardona is prone to exploring multiple layers of meaning. With Sember at his side, Cardona created a concept that read better on paper than on stage. At the 40-minute mark, I believe I got its gist: How do three people interpret the same verbal directions?

“Intervention #4” began with Cardona, standing stock still in square space, flanked by the audience seated around him. Cardona walked purposefully, closed his eyes, and covered his ears. A timer rang; he left. Then Sember entered. He accomplished similar movements, but this time a voiceover (via overhead speakers) directed his actions, as though a mild-mannered choreographer was in his head. Later, a duet with Sember and Stansky unfolded where two voices directed their tasks: “turn your head to the left,” “sit on your left side.” The work’s climax came when all three men took the same verbal cues from the same voice. Each performer interpreted the same words—“twist,” “reach,” “fall”—in different ways.

“Intervention #4” called to mind Roland Barthes’s S/Z (1970). The French semiotician argued that a text has no fixed meaning. There are only interpretations. This is a founding principle of post-modern dance. If it sounds doleful, you are correct.