Photo by Brian Krontz; click on the image to enlarge.
Friday June 28th, 2013 - Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre presenting IT'S A GAME at New York Live Arts down in Chelsea on Pride Weekend 2013. The atmosphere in the neighborhood was palpable as the gay and lesbian community celebrate the good news handed down from the Supreme Court earlier this week. Amanda's 50-minute work, inspired by the designs of Alexander McQueen and the magic of Harry Potter, was a decorative diversion on this start-of-summer evening.
In April, photographer Matt Murphy and I had stopped in at Amanda's studio while IT'S A GAME was being created. Now the dancework has been dressed (Ana-Alisa Belous designed the fanciful costumes) and superbly lit (Dan Ozminkowski). Music from no fewer than 14 artists comprises the score for the dancing which takes place in three brief 'acts', each with several sub-sections.
IT'S A GAME begins with a ritualistic entree of the six dancers, each holding a glowing orb. Emily Pacilio has a beautifully expressive solo danced in a stream of light, set to a soulful Russian-sounding theme. The ensemble weave about the solo dancer, enticing her into the community.
Then the games begin: large chess pieces are moved across squares of light; later dice and playing cards will be introduced. These props are used as fantasy elements, drawing the dancers into fleeting duets (with some very clever partnering motifs) and playful ensembles. The choreographer's feel for visual polyphony keeps the focus of the work shifting from dancer to dancer: solo opportunities weave into the mix, and the sense of physicality between the dancers is maintained as the lighting steers our attention from one movement pattern to the next. A rectangular pathway of light surrounds the playing field, the dancers trace their steps around it in one of the evening's most striking moments.
The dice are thrown, the cards are dealt...checkmate. The dancers have returned - now in striped beachwear - with their hand-lights, now glowing red. One expects an elaborate, playful finale but instead the work ends on a question-mark, and a sudden plunge into darkness.
The only slight flaw in the evening was the raising of the house lights between the work's thee sections. This tended to break the spell somewhat, with the audience becoming restless and whispery. Better to keep things in the dark.
The dancers showed high commitment to the movement and music: four well-contrasted personalities among the women, and two long-limbed boys with flourishing extensions. Here are some of Brian Krontz's images from the dress rehearsal:
Victor Larue, Torrey McAnena
Randall Anthony Smith
Randall Anthony Smith
All photography by Brian Krontz.
Above: BalletCollective dancer Taylor Stanley photographed by Christopher Starbody
Thursday June 27th, 2013 - Today Troy Schumacher invited me to a special showing of his new work for BalletCollective, in preparation for the Company's upcoming New York City performances.
At the Ailey Citigroup Theater, friends and supporters of the Collective watched Troy working out some phrases with his exciting ensemble of dancers, all of whom are current or recent members of New York City Ballet. The work is accompanied by live music composed and conducted by Ellis Ludwig-Leone and played by ACME. During this preliminary tinkering session, lighting designer Brandon Baker tried out various effects. We were then shown a run-thru of the work-in-progress.
The ballet, The Impulse Wants Company, takes wing on a poem by Cynthia Zarin, who was present for the showing. The music is both perfectly contemporary and beautifully melodic, with some interesting rhythmic figures; the musicians are expert.
Ms. Zarin's poem reflects on childhood visits to a beach, on nature, weather, on people and conversations recalled from the past. I didn't read thru the poem until I'd seen the ballet, but the line "I was a water nymph" might have inspired the opening solo for Kaitlyn Gilliland, the tall ballerina who - with her poetic arabesque and arching back-bend - seems to conjure visions of Odette. David Prottas, a prince of a dancer, joins her. There is a trio of young women - Lauren King, Ashley Laracey and Meagan Mann - who remind me of Rhinemaidens or the nymphs on the lonely shore of Ariadne's Naxos.
Harrison Coll, a dynamic young dancer, joins Taylor Stanley in an off-kilter waltz, Taylor's solo begins with him swaying like a tree in the breeze; later he travels up a diagonal in some skitteringly fast footwork before circling the space in a questing motif.
Troy Schumacher told us the that this ballet was created in ten days of studio time; in terms of both movement and imagination, it shows his distinctive choreographic style which uses the classic vocabulary of steps and port de bras with fresh, contemporary nuances. And he has the grest good fortune to be working with some of the best dancers in the world.
It was nice to see so many familiar faces from among New York City's serious dance aficianados here supporting Troy today, and to greet the lovely former New York City Ballet ballerina Maya Collins, who now dances with Miami City Ballet..
BalletCollective will be performing The Impulse Wants Company along with a re-working of their 2012 ballet Epistasis at The Joyce on August 14th and 15th. Information and tickets here.
You can follow BalletCollective on Ashley Laracey's blog: The Insider.
June 28, 2013 | Permalink
Above: Jillian Hollis of Heidi Latsky Dance, rehearsal photo
Tuesday June 25, 2013 - Heidi Latsky Dance in performance at Baruch Performing Arts Center. I met Heidi and her dancers just a few days ago at a rehearsal and I pushed things around on my schedule so I could attend her performance tonight. She presented the two works I'd seen in rehearsal: SOLO COUNTERSOLO and SOMEWHERE.
SOLO COUNTERSOLO opens with six dancers clad in simple black outfits standing in a row in "dark light". The music by Chris Brierley seems jittery and anxious but the dancers hardly move until the pace slows to a deep adagio; this evolves into a soulful turbulence and later into music that is best described as 'starlit'. To this sound tapestry, the dancers move in and out around Heidi, who seems to dance in her own world. Tempos vary but the movement isn't always rigidly aligned to the beat: at one point everyone moves faster and faster, and later there is a simple, stylized procession. A mystical trio for women, a dynamic male duet, a meditative quartet, Heidi dancing with the two boys: all of this flows naturally. Heidi continues to express her own private passions in fluid combinations as the dancers swirl around her is restless pirouettes. A gorgeous wing-like motif for the arms seems to be a signature element (it's also used in SOMEWHERE) and gives an expansive, ecstatic quality. As the piece draws to a close, step-dancing takes on a new look, to a bouncy beat; but the work in fact ends with a silent coda.
Aided and abetted by her generous, tireless dancers (Meredith Fages, Saki Masuda, Jillian Hollis, Brynt Beitman and Gregory Youdan), Heidi has crafted a "dance about dancing" that is physically demanding and very rewarding to watch.
Heidi Latsky: winged victory
After only the briefest of breaks, the dancers were right back onstage for SOMEWHERE. Much as the song "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" is both melodically and lyrically resonant, the idea of hearing ten versions of it in a row might seem too much of a good thing. But the settings - everything from boys' choir to disco to barbershop quartet - showed such a variety of pace and feeling that it made for an engrossing soundtrack. I took a special liking for Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's charming version with ukelele in which the vocalist plays with the words to delicious effect. And of course there was Judy Garland's classic version of the song.
In this work Heidi's company of dancers were joined by performers with physical disablities; steering clear of anything maudlin or overly sentimental, Heidi gave them beautiful and expressive movement which added to the emotional power of the piece. Thus Robert Simpson opened SOMEWHERE seated with his back to the audience, the "wing" motif used with simple clarity. In the far corner, Greg Youdan's solo echoes Robert's phrasing. Meredith Fages and Brynt Beitman have distinctive solo passages, as does Jerron Herman who dances with electric animation. Greg and Jerron have a smooth, linear duet and Saki Masuda and Jillian Hollis dance vividly in-sync. Sign language expressed at high velocity marks the duet for Alexandria Wailes and John McGinty, followed by Ms. Wailes' remarkably lovely signing solo as she kneels before the seated Mr. Mc Ginty. Heidi's adagio solo flows seamlessly into a strikingly intimate duet for Jillian and Jerron in which they stand stock still, only their faces meeting as they express a dreamlike connection. They embrace tenderly as the light fades.
Jillian Hollis and Jerron Herman
A reprise of '...Over The Rainbow' accompanied the curtain calls and then Brynt Beitman suddenly burst into an impromptu solo. Perfect way to end the evening.
Heidi had a full house for this first of three shows (repeats are this Thursday and Friday) and it was great running into Cherylyn Lavagnino, Jill Echo and Take Ueyama.
June 26, 2013 | Permalink
Sunday June 23, 2013 - Three choreographers shared this early-evening programme at The Club at La MaMa, part of the La MaMa Moves! Festival 2013.
For John Zullo's this Exquisite divesion/mysterious skin, two standing rectangular plexiglass panels are brilliantly illuminated in the dance space; they seem like full-legnth mirrors. The heavy breathing of the dancers underscores the passionate and intimate physicality of the piece; music by Olafur Arnads, Max Richter, Deru and Englehard as well a live song from the tall vocalist Jessie Davis - she alludes to an S & M fantasy - mix with spoken word to provide the soundscape.
Dancer Tim Edwards is stripped down to his black briefs; later all the dancers will discard their outer layers of clothing, leaving the god-like Mike Hodge clad in his tattoos and sweat pants and the beautiful vulnerability of Jenna Liberati in a see-thru top. The dancers knot up in intense pairings and later they all dance in-place solos, maintaining individuality in this dark collective. The piece, with evocative lighting, has a restless, brooding and ultimately sensual quality.
Paul Matteson's Take it OVER starts with an LP recording of "Here I'll Stay" playing in an after-hours club. Later a pianist sits down, but he only plays the occassional random note or chord. The three dancers move in inventive combinations and self-styled solos, all very casually constructed - like dancing when no one is watching. Their interplay becomes increasingly intense; but the simple power of the piece seemed to me somewhat diluted by a spoken and rather self-conscious narrative which followed.
inDANCE's Hari Krishnan performed the long solo The Frog Princess, dancing with provocative expressions and joyous foot-stamping in a synthesis of traditional and contemporary moves.
Above: Hiroshi Miyamoto (right) in I, Cyclops
In Hari's gorgeously homo-erotic fantasy I, Cyclops the god Shiva and the X-Men character Cyclops meet in a mythic nightclub somewhere beyond the universe; the two titans wear laser-visors and black leather gloves; revealed torsos and intriguing hot pants add to the sheer sexy allure of their heavenly bodies. Meanwhile a third party - a mentor or a spiritual pimp? - danced by the enticingly lithe Hiroshi Miyamoto who plays matchmaker clad in a sheer skirt and little else. Niraj Chag's East/West interstellar score and Scott Nelson's super-sexy lighting add immeasurably to the allure of I, Cyclops.
Paul Charbonneau and Benjamin Landsberg portrayed the unfettered desire of the two protagonists with steamy self-confidence while Hiroshi's mystical solo, kneeling in a square of light, invokes the forces of sexual desire and draws the destined lovers into a torridly intimate kiss at the end.
Hiroshi Miyamoto, who has danced for Hari's inDANCE for ten years, is one of those dancers who has made a particularly vivid impression on me although I've only seen him dance a couple of times over the past few years. Like the Greek dancer Joanna Toumpakari, the impact of Hiroshi's dancing far outweighs the actual time I have spent watching him. As dancers, Joanna and Hiroshi share a sense of mystery and beauty that leaves their images clearly in the mind months - even years - after seeing them dance. This summer, Hiroshi will move back to Japan after having lived in Canada for 17 years; so possibly today's performance was my last opportunity to see him perform. I'm so grateful to have had this chance to see him again.
Photos from I, Cyclops by Stephen de Las Heras.
June 24, 2013 | Permalink
Above: the composer Robert Schumann
Saturday June 22nd, 2013 - The Hudson Valley Singers presented a concert entitled HYMN OF LOVE at the Museo de el Barrio this evening. I walked across Central Park North under a beautiful summer sky and met my friend Monica there. The theatre space at the Museo is charming, with its fairy tale murals; it was a full house, or nearly so.
One doesn't expect to hear a piano concerto or an orchestral suite at a choral concert, and the program stretched to two and a quarter hours, what with all the rearranging of the stage to suit the configurations of musicians and singers for each piece. During the longish intermission, Monica and I caught up on ballet gossip.
Piano Concerto #1 by Carl Maria von Weber opened the evening. Weber has never been high on my list of opera composers: a performance of FREISCHUTZ that I attended decades ago at NYC Opera was a crashing bore, and despite the splendid "Ozean!" aria I have never been able to listen to the whole of OBERON. But beyond opera, his enchanting 'Invitation to the Dance' makes a perfect setting for the Fokine ballet SPECTRE DE LA ROSE. And so it was an interesting opportunity to hear the composer's piano concerto tonight. Eugene Sirotkine both played very well and conducted from the keyboard. The New York Metamorphoses Orchestra is a fine ensemble of young players, notably their flautist and oboist. The concerto might make a first-rate classical ballet, in the right choreographic hands.
The chorus, with vocal soloists, then took to the stage for two pieces by Roobert Schumann: Adventlied and Requiem fữr Mignon. These two works deal with aspects of parenthood, the first being in anticipation of the birth of a new baby and the second a sad reflecton on the death of a beloved child. The large chorus, a lovely generational mix, sang with fervent lyricism. The music for the trio of women in the Requiem (Eleni Colenos, Liana Brooke Guberman and Alexandra Lushtak) brought to mind the trio of nymphs in Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. Robert Garner was the baritone soloist in both Schumann works, joined in the Adventlied by Mlles. Brooke Guberman and Kushtak along with the appealing tenor sound of David Guzman.
In a delightful interlude, The Elm City Girls Choir brought us folksongs from America, Russia, Bulgaria and Africa. Their fresh young voices blended well in surprisingly confident harmonies as they swayed and clapped to the varying rhythms of each song.
Above: the composer Carl Nielsen
From Aladdin Suite by Carl Nielsen - a tuneful colorful compilation of vignetttes composed as incidental music for a play - we heard an Oriental March, a Dance of the Morning Clouds. a delicate Chinese Dance, and the concluding Blackamoor's Dance. The players of the New York Metamorphoses Orchestra, under Mr. Sirotkkine's baton, seized on the music's coloristic opportunities, each instrument having its expressive voice. Seated in the audience, the chorus took up some humming passages, adding to the sonic palette.
Hymnus Amoris (the title which inspired the programme) by Carl Nielsen, is a large-scale work which the composer crafted as a paean to love after taking his honeymoon. All of the evening's choral participants took part, along with soloists Ms. Calenos, Mssrs. Guzman and Garner, and bass Emmanuel Mendez-Chumaceiro. The music is celebratory and ecstatic, and voices and instruments joined in a fervent 'hymn of love' with Mr. Sirotkine at the helm.
June 23, 2013 | Permalink
Above: pianist Emanuel Ax, soloist with the New York Philharmonic this evening
Friday June 21st, 2013 - The New York Philharmonic's current Artist-in-Residence, Emanuel Ax, and Composer-in-Residence, Christopher Rouse, were both featured in the first half of this evening's programme at Avery Fisher Hall. After the intermission, the orchestra's Music Director Alan Gilbert led a performance of his own RING JOURNEY: music drawn from Richard Wagner's epic RING Cycle.
In the Playbill, Maestro Gilbert answers the "...terrible question: who is you favorite composer?" with the name 'Haydn'. His admiration was evident in the joyous clarity of his shaping of the composer's Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major. Emanuel Ax's playing had a youthful gleam, turning the melodic lines with elegance and the cadenzas with polished perfection, his trills lovingly defined. Pianist, players and conductor meshed their artistry in pure music-making that was deeply satisfying to experience.
I first heard the music of Christopher Rouse from a Yo-Yo Ma recording of the composer's Cello Concerto. At the New York City Ballet, Peter Martins has created two ballets to Rouse works: the 2002 INFERNAL MACHINE (seen earlier this year) and the 2006 FRIANDISES.
In its New York première performances, Rouse’s Symphony No. 3 is a tribute to the Prokofiev 2nd symphony, the "symphony of iron and steel" (Prokofiev's words). The orchestral forces are huge and the opening statements are a cacophonous but lucid fanfare, thunderous and epic. Later, in the more lyrical passages of the work, the composer finds unusual veins of beauty: a passage involving oboe and harp made me think of FIREBIRD. Throughout, the dense sound textures were vividly expressed by the orchestra's super-human players, and Maestro Gilbert shaped the whole into a persuasive, and gigantic, statement.
Alan Gilbert's RING JOURNEY takes its inspiration from Erich Leinsdorf's earlier arrangement of the Cycle's immortal themes. RING fanatics (Mr. Gilbert is one, by his own description) draw their life blood from this music, and the standing ovation that greeted the conductor at the end of the evening seemed to me to indicate that people want to hear more of Gilbert's Wagner.
Alan Gilbert's RING JOURNEY, which he rightly describes as a 'suite' rather than a 'fantasy', commences with the 'Ride of the Valkyries' and continues chronologically thru excerpts from WALKURE, SIEGFRIED and GOTTERDAMMERUNG. Gilbert shows a sure and steady hand at maintaining the flow of the music; some of the passages he chose to include are 'transitional' in the operatic sense, but they are gorgeous transitions and by exploring them here Gilbert steers clear of a 'greatest hits' feeling.
The overall span of the piece was quite glorious, and the playing was simply superb: a special 'bravo' to Philip Myers who stepped offstage to play Siegfried's horn call with splendid warmth and amplitude.
In view of such grandeur and musicality it seems selfish to ask for more; but I'd hoped to hear the Rhinemaidens' trios, the Entry of the Gods into Valhalla, the Winterstürme theme, the Sword motif, and most especially Brunnhilde's poignant "Ewig war ich" - the core melody of the SIEGFRIED Idyll. The answer, dear Maestro Gilbert, is that you must program more of the RING in the next few seasons, especially in view of the fact that The Met can't deliver it anytime soon.
Hearing this music so spectacularly played and watching Mr. Gilbert's loving sculpting of it from the podium, I couldn't help but wish for voices. As the conductor built the introducton to the GOTTERDAMMERUNG prologue duet with breath-taking clarity and passion, I desperately wanted Christine Goerke or Lise Lindstrom to burst thru the door and launch into "Zu neuen Taten!"
June 22, 2013 | Permalink
Above: Seiko Fujita and Chellamar Bernard rehearsing for Jennifer Muller/The Works. Photo by Brian Krontz.
Friday June 20, 2013 - Two companies shared the stage at New York Live Arts tonight: Elisa Monte Dance and Jennifer Muller/The Works. With two intermissions the evening stretched long, but the diversity of music and the appeal of both Companies' dancers proved rewarding.
Grass, Jennifer Muller's newest creation, opened the evening. I had recently seen a studio run-thru of this work, loosely inspired by Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and I feel it's one of Ms. Muller's finest. Actually danced on a rectangle of living grass, and enhanced by subtle lighting (Jeff Crotier), Grass profits beautifully by being performed to live music: composer/cellist Julia Kent, seated stage left, wove some melancholy 'Russian' nuances into her poignant score which has a slightly folkish feel blended with Glassian lyricism.
Gen Hashimoto, one of Gotham's most fluent movers, opens the ballet as he wanders pensively onto the patch of lawn. The other dancers come on one by one; the dance flows on Ms. Kent's rhythmic shifts. In this collective which is not yet a community, many emotional textures are revealed as the dancers seek to form relationships. Olivia Jordan, her silky long hair giving her a vulnerability that was most appealing, seems to be the outsider; only near the end does the group view her with compassion. Having banded together at last, the dancers move off into the late afternoon, leaving Gen to stretch out on the ground in a solitary daydream.
Grass is at once simple and complex; it is a work which will reward repeated viewings since both in terms of choreography and psychological undercurrents it is too rich to absorb in a single performance. The dancers of Ms. Muller's company - in addition to Gen and Olivia - are Rosie Lani Fiedelman, Seiko Fujita, Caroline Kehoe, Katherine Hozier, Duane Gosa, Chellamar Bernard, and Michael Tomlinson. Both as individuals and as an ensemble, they are beyond beautiful to behold.
Excellence of dancers is one thing the Muller and Monte troupes have in common. The power and authority of the Monte men - Prentice Whitlow, Riccardo Battaglia and Justin Lynch - became immediately evident in their first work of the evening: Unstable Ground. This brooding and unsettlling work is set to a Lois Vierk score that vibrates with dark foreboding. The men are handsomely costumed by Keiko Voltaire. It is a floor-oriented piece in which the dancers seem to strive against the impending collapse of their known world.
Things brighten somewhat in terms of both setting and music with Monte's Shattered in which Michael Gordon’s score impels the dancers to broader and swifter movement. Maria Ambrose and Riccardo Battaglia have a striking duet, and the red-haired Lisa Peluso dances a spacious, dramatic solo which evolves into another duet with Riccardo. Mindy Lai and Lisa Borres move with fleet-footed assurance among the shifting patterns of the ensemble.
Volkmann Suite, a Monte classic, uses a gorgeoulsy 'classical' Michael Nyman score in this tribute to photographer Roy Volkmann. Three dancers - Clymene Baugher (topless), Prentice Whitlow and Riccardo Battaglia (both men in black briefs) - deliver sensual, sculptural partnering in a pas de trois laced with erotic imagery. The atmosphere suggests a photoshoot that turns into an intimate exploration of the models' bodies and souls. The dancers were magnificent in their physicality and allure.
Speeds, danced by the Muller company, brought the evening to a bright conclusion. In this clever - but not cute - ensemble piece the dancers call out for changes of tempo as they move to Burt Alcantara's panoramic synthesizer soundscape. All in white and brilliantly lit, the dancers seize on the eclecticism of the musical settings in a series of vignettes ranging from vari-paced walking to utter stillness (Katherine Hozier posing in a white picture-hat to silence). Ms. Hozier and Duane Gosa are a fabulous duo in a long pas de deux that is not long enough, while Rosie Lani Fiedelman and Michael Tomlinson have a sporting time in their jazzy duet. Seiko Fujita periodically interrupts the flow of dance to strike poses while enticing the audience with her quizzical expressions. This vastly entertaining white ballet capped the evening to fine effect.
June 21, 2013 | Permalink