Andrea Miller choreographs Wonderland for Gallim

Andrea Miller’s new work, Wonderland, has the feel of a circus gone awry. It’s 45 minutes long and would be grueling for an audience if, in its weirdness, it weren’t so fascinating.
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Paradigm, a dance company for dancers over 40

New York University
Tisch School of the Arts
New York City

Paradigm, a dance company for dancers over 40, boasts some iconic names from the world of dance, for example: Gus Solomons, Jr., Valda Setterfield and Carmen DeLavallade. In a recent concert the company presented a number of works incorporating the voice.

Lamps (2009) was choreographed and performed beautifully by Carmen deLavallade but the text, by Jane Martin, worked against it. The character moves through down spots, expressing delight in how light can affect atmosphere, appearance, and her own mood. We’d like to share in this glee, since deLavallade’s portrayal is so genteel, but much of the text tends to supplant childlike innocence with self-absorption. She makes reference to a sister, who married a surgeon and is therefore financially well-situated—and follows this with “I wouldn’t know about that.” To say this in New York City feels false when only moments earlier she describes having her own loft studio where she can set up her lights and entertain herself by playing in the different illuminations. If the many struggling dancers who grapple with meager wages—while trying to feed themselves and still afford classes—were to see someone with her own loft and lighting equipment, they, too, might well say “I wouldn’t know about that.”

On the other hand, Gus Solomons, Jr. appears in being (2009), a monologue/dance written and directed by Kay Cummings, which is utterly charming. He jests about his unease with being called a “person of colour”, and how it’s an odd term since everyone has some sort of color. “African-American” is also an odd choice since many Americans of his skin tone come from Jamaica or Haiti. It’s a lightly comic treatment of gingerly used, politically correct terms and, perhaps, not so much about the terms as about political correctness itself. In a moment of summing up, he says “It’s not that I don’t want to be who I am, it’s that I don’t want you to see me for just part of who I am.” This is a witty, sensible monologue and Solomons is the perfect instrument for it.

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Danspace Project: Pam Tanowitz

Expansive works by Pam Tanowitz filled the performance space at St. Mark’s Church in Manhattan’s East Village. Some of the cast was made up of her own company members, but a large presence was that of the Purchase Dance Corps, the ensemble from the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College, a New York area hothouse for the development of top talent. Continue reading

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New Works at American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet

American Ballet Theatre presented their recently acquired Lady of the Camellias. If you’re familiar with Ashton’s 1963 Marguerite and Armand you’ll find John Neumeier’s 1978 re-telling of the Dumas tale more graphic and less stylised.
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Ballet Builders + Appearances by Junior Companies

Spring was a season for checking out aspiring ballet artists. Prospective choreographers could be assessed at the Ballet Builders showcase, presented by New Choreographers on Point. Rising young dancers—in the junior companies of Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theater, and Paul Taylor—could be seen at the Joyce Theater.
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A preview of ABT’s upcoming 70th anniversary season

The Metropolitan Opera House was packed for American Ballet Theatre’s gala, this season marking their 70th anniversary at the opera house. The programme, a generous collection of 13 parts, whet one’s appetite for the upcoming season.

Michele Wiles climbed to success in the Rose Adagio from The Sleeping Beauty. She seemed uncertain about the first round of balances but quickly gained confidence and by the end, in that long, grueling sequence of promenades, was taking the men’s hands at her leisure and stretched out into the final arabesque allongée in complete control. One could see her assurance grow as she whipped through quadruple pirouettes, partnered by Gennadi Saveliev, snapping smartly into a finishing pose after each set. The audience rallied with her and roared with approval—though this was not to be the only time during the course of the evening that the opera house would shake with thunderous applause.

There followed next an excerpt from Act II of Giselle which starred, and I don’t use the term lightly, David Hallberg and guest artist Natalia Osipova. From the outset, one could tell this was going to be great: Osipova’s entrance—on quiet, perfectly even bourées—was truly ghostly. The two had a total command of the romantic style—the lines of their arms matched perfectly as they swam slowly through languid port de bras. The finest details were attended to, something sometimes missing in American dance—the performance was so finely tuned it begs the question who coached them? Even the finest dancers need an outside eye. Hopefully the other ballets the company will be staging this season will receive the same meticulous attention. The variations that followed were also stunning. Hallberg soared in the opening cabrioles and elongated his landings with huge back bends. His entrechat six flashed all the crossings of the legs, no mere scratching-together-of-heels from this dancer! Osipova was no less breathtaking—during her petite batterie her upper body maintained that romantic era poise while she bobbed up and down effortlessly, showing off clean beats and making me look for the wire crew and harness that was enabling this unearthly combination of ease, ballon, and precision. Their bows, done in character, were a perfect finish to this performance. It’s no hyperbole to say these are some of the finest dancers on the planet.

The Pas de Deux and Coda from Act III of Swan Lake, danced by Veronika Part and Marcelo Gomes, was rendered in glittering perfection. Part’s mastery over the details gave us a chance to enjoy the anatomy of that backwards-chugging arabesque step. She’d spring up to relevé, showing us perfect balance—then she’d show us that subtle lean as her weight falls slowly backwards into the next set of chugs. She beamed with confidence and even tossed her head with bravado as Gomes lifted her high in the air at the finale. It might have seemed out of context—we’re used to seeing head tossing in Don Quixote—but it was genuine and revealed her in that moment of triumph: her having aced every step and her character having successfully seduced her target.

In all of ballet’s history, Ashton’s Thaïs Pas de Deux stands out as one of its finest creations. After seeing Osipova and Part, we were treated to yet another of ABT’s Russian-born beauties, Diana Vishneva, in this sweet, wistful masterwork. Her partner Jared Matthews was not his usually assured self, but his partnering work was sound, showing off Vishneva—who was luminous, expansive—in all those gloriously timed lifts and drawing an enthusiastic response from the audience.

The second half of the evening opened with the corps in the Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadère. I stopped to count how many arabesques that is for the first woman to enter. There are 38, just in the entrance, and no, they don’t alternate sides. The corps showed good unison and clean canons, making this a mesmerizing thing of beauty.

A first for ABT will be John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias. As a teaser for the full production later in the season, we got to see the Act II Pas de Deux danced by Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle. This was a well-acted duet, full of passion and sadness. Neumeier has a way of repeating a movement—several times in a row before moving on—which is quite effective.

Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel performed the Act III Pas de Deux and Coda from Don Quixote—I think Stiefel embellished the arms and wrists with some extra flourishes at various points, but to good effect, not too showy. His bravura turning jumps were flashy and solidly landed. Sometimes he can be so daredevil with these tricks that one wonders if he’ll survive, though, to be fair, I’ve not seen him crash yet. Murphy, usually a technical powerhouse, seemed off her stride, managing to hold balances rather than nailing them effortlessly. Her stage presence, however, was warm and full of personality. I remember first seeing her in featured roles—her technical prowess was always in evidence, but I sometimes found her acting a bit cold. How wonderful to see her blossom over the years into a premier dancer gifted in both areas.

Not on the roster for the season, but still a nice closing treat to have at the gala, was Angel Corella performing David Parson’s Caught. This is a dance which is most effective close up. In a big theater, some of the magic can be lost on the subtler jumps, but that completely airborne manège is always a winner. Nice ballon, Mr. Corella.

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Corella Ballet’s New York debut +
A diverse season at the 92nd Street Y

Angel Corella, much beloved star of American Ballet Theatre, has been busy in Spain, building the classical company his homeland has needed: Ballet Corella Castilla y León. While the company itself has been in existence for a couple of years, laying the foundation for this undertaking goes back much further. With his sister Carmen as his associate artistic director, and a host of other supporters, their efforts are leading to something wonderful, as was evidenced in the company’s U.S. debut.
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New Chamber Ballet

Miro Magloire’s presentations, given in the elegant studios of New York’s City Center, feature finely crafted choreography, excellent musicians, some compositions written expressly for the evening’s dances, simple, tasteful costuming, and welltrained dancers. It’s as though Magloire is not just a composer or a choreographer (he’s both), but an impresario, a Diaghilev in miniature. With his unique, diamond-shaped cravats and his informative and humorous remarks, he doesn’t just assemble the elements of a show, but, rather, serves them to us like an elegantly arranged dish.
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Peter Martins’ New Swan Lake

There’s much to like about Peter Martins’ Swan Lake—it’s briskly-paced, tells the story clearly, and has a lot of great variations and corps work. Continue reading

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Lichtungen: Tanzprojekt Elfie Schäfer-Schafroth

Tanzprojekt Elfie Schäfer-Schafroth’s Lichtungen was presented at the Joyce Soho performance space as part of its ’Inbound Festival’. The work opens with a down spot on a small, mechanical hula doll which spins and sways in its allotted pool of light. Most of the audience laughed at this tiny spectacle but the punch line of this scene elicited a real guffaw: out of the darkness, a radio-controlled truck raced forward and plowed her over.
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