Posted in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, dance, George Balanchine, Isadora Duncan, Jose Limon Dance Company, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, modern American dance, modern dance, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company

The dance goes on

Parisa Khobdeh Dance Company
Photos by Whitney Browne and Francisco Graciano

Modern dance, like modern painting, or architecture or any of the other arts afflicted with the prefacing descriptive, is only as modern as its times.

History places the origin of this genre of choreography at the turn of the last century. Those origins were reactive in nature, as an antidote as it were to “classical ballet.” The style is meant to be expressive of the inner feelings of the dancer; the expressions are free from the restrictions of structured steps. The modern dancer uses movement to reveal his/her inner soul. Today, modern dance is some 100 years old, and yet it is still expected to emote and move with all the flexibility of a youngster.

The style represented by the pioneers of the form has come to be codified. Its spontaneity is no longer its main vision or purpose. Dance may be a step in time, a fleeting movement, quick and quickly forgotten, but we keep records of its progress nonetheless.

Many of those pioneers are no longer with us; some have left behind active companies to carry on their legacy. Their companies carry their name as a banner; it is a reminder that the master who founded the troupe set the style for it. Just as we recall the steps of the waltz or the cha cha or the fox trot, the choreography that underpins Martha Graham‘s or Merce Cunningham‘s endowment can be notated and remembered. Dancers who know the steps pass on this knowledge f or future generations; there are videotapes of works by Paul Taylor, Jose Limon. even Isadora Duncan extant. The Balanchine style of ballet is preserved and inherited in much the same way.

Then what happens to the dancers who worked under the founding modern dance choreographer after s/he is gone? Their careers will change. Some will be absorbed into other groups. Others will band together to form new dance ensembles. They will turn to choreography themselves, or find star turns in other modern companies.

Paul Taylor foresaw a succession for his company, as Alvin Ailey had before him. He started presenting the works of emerging artists alongside his own several years before his death last August. He had gone so far as to rename his company Paul Taylor American Modern Dance to allow for the collaborations he incorporated into the troupe. Like Ailey, he appointed a successor, Michael Novak, from within the ranks of the company. For 3 weeks this fall, October 17 through November 20, the company will honor Taylor in its Lincoln Center Season; the dancers, who can’t seem to settle on PTDC or the more inclusive moniker of PTAMD, will present 10 of Taylor’s masterpieces alongside commissioned works by Kyle Abraham and L.C. premieres by guest resident choreographers Pam Tanowitz and Margie Gillis.

His alumni remain loyal to the company. Some also have seen fit to test their wings with other projects. Two PTDC alumni,  Laura Halzack and Michael Trusnovec join current PTDC dancer Michelle Fleet and film exec  VJ Carbone in bringing the Asbury Park Dance Festival to inaugurate on September 14th. Another Paul Taylor dancer’s Parisa Khobdeh Dance Company, for instance, has just completed its premiere outing with a piece called Nevertheless, which will also be at the Dumbo Dance Festival on the 12-13 of October. Khobdeh will be dancing in the upcomng PTAMD season, but she is forging a place for women-centric dance works with her own company.

In a way, we can consider this kind of after-life of dance company members to be part of the legacy of the masters who founded the great modern dance movement.

Posted in Children's show, families united, humanitarianism, immigrants, migrants, parents and children, politics, theater for the common good

Helping out

The headlines can definitely leave one feeling helpless. Children incarcerated, separated from their parents, sit in cages near the southern boundary of the USA. It seems there is little we can do but post our outrage.

Well maybe we can do a little more; we can also attend this benefit concert with our children for Immigrant Families Together.

Latin Grammy-winning bilingual duo 123 Andrés returns to New York City on Sunday, September 1st to perform a concert is at the Marlene Meyerson JCC at 334 Amsterdam Avenue, beginning at 10:30 am.

Immigrant Families Together helps reunite migrant families that have been separated at the border by paying for release bonds, legal services, and ongoing support. All proceeds from this show will help support the effort to bring families, separated at the border, back together. Tickets are just $18. Click here for more information. 123 Andrés will also be in DC on Saturday, October 19th.

Posted in #AvenueQ, #BeMoreChill, #BroadwayBountyHunter, #JerseyBoys, #JoeIconis, #LaMama, #NewWorldStages, #RockOfAges, #ThePlayThatWentWrong, #TheProm, #TonyAward, expectations, experiments in theater, high expectations, low expectations, New World Stages, performance art, performance piece, performance works, The Tony Awards, theater arts, Tony winner

Stayin’ Alive

Avenue Q went there after its Broadway run ran down. Now Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, and even The Play That Goes Wrong, have come to Worldwide Plaza’s New World Stages for a chance at a little longevity. The place offers off-Broadway alchemy to shows that still have a little more life in them, but aren’t filling the big house seats anymore.

They also offer the audience a new prospective: Avenue Q, for instance, was more enjoyable in the smaller house when we saw it. It had won pretty big at the 2004 Tony® ceremonies, of course, but we found the intimate setting at New World more appropriate to its tone and style. Worldwide has lots of stages where a fun show can frolic a bit longer.

Off off-Broadway has traditionally been the place where new and innovative get their start. The seeds of a more forward thinking theater have taken root on the stages of LaMaMa, a famously “experimental theater club,” or its ilk. Little but prominent theater companies have always flourished in NYC. Some of them have made advances in theater history, others have been playgrounds for more or less minor productions.

Of late, Broadway has taken on the tone of some of these “variety houses” with shows such as The Prom and Be More Chill hitting the great white way. The latter won its composer Joe Iconis a 2019 Tony ® for Best Original Score. For his fans the emergence of his next show, Broadway Bounty Hunter at the off-Bway Greenwich House Theater may have been great news; the show will close after a mere 48 performances on August 18th.

The off and off-off houses are more nimble than the main stem theaters. Production costs allow them to transform the audience experience, and try new things. A short run is less of a failure in this environment.

Shows like Be More Chill or The Prom might have had greater success at the old Promenade on 76th and Broadway, or The Little Shubert (now Stage 42). Neither of them thrived as full-on Broadway house productions; the former closed on August 11th after just about 200 performances all told; The Prom also closed on the 11th after332 performances including previews. Perhaps they too will find theimselves at New World Stages, a place where variety is really the spice of life, for a little extended life of their own.

Posted in theater, theater folk, theater lovers, Theater Resources Unlimited, theatrical producer

Let’s put on a show!

Judy and Mickey may have been able to put up a show on a wing (time step) and a prayer. You likely need more than just that barn. If you want to be an impressario, you need some skills.

Those with curiousity about what it takes to be a Broadway (or off and off-off) producter can explore these options with the Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) in an intro program on August 20th.

The free informational program will introduce prospective theater showmen in the intricacies involved in mounting a show. .At this meet-and-greet info session about TRU’s Producer Development and Mentorship Program (PDMP), the would-be producer will have the chance to learn from and network with TRU’s commercial producer instructors and successful program graduates.

PDMP’s mission is to give members the resources and mastery to become commercial theater producers, non-profit theater producers and/or self-producing artists. TRU’s classes, which are reasonably priced, will give you the necessary know-how, such as developing a business plan, raising money, budgeting, marketing and putting together creative production teams. For those theater artists who may need to self-produce, they also provide the tools with which to create your own opportunities .

Want to find out more about this profession? Register using the red ticketing box at https://truonline.org/events/intro-to-pdmp-2019-20/.

Posted in #benefit, political drama, politically inspired, politics

Theater of the Woke

In no way does humor (or a good beat) trivialize the necessity for a cognizant citizenry. Theater can use the power of laughter to foster and encourage us towards a better world. Ionesco was a most politically conscious satirist. Conscience leads the way to express the ideals a regressive government attempts to suppress.

Theater aspiring to inspire has always been with us. Many of us feel the need now more than ever for a side order of politically awareness with our drama. We can be grateful to the many theater artists who look to elucidate while they entertain.

This season, for instance, the New York Musical Theater Festival (NYMF) has several galvanizing works on offer. In Leaving Eden, for instnace, Jenny Waxman (Book and Lyrics) and Ben Page (Music) ask us to envision a more progressive creation (myth) than the strictly Biblical one.

Donald Rupe (Book and Music) and Cesar de la Rosa (Music) offer a historical perspective in Flying Lessons, in which their heroine, an eighth grader named Isabella finds a “recipe for greatness” by looking to the past.

George Bernard Shaw was a forward thinker, and Project Shaw which celebrates his legacy in one-night only productions is showing The Stepmother by Githa Sowerby, a protege of GBS, on July 22nd. The play will undoubtedly present a case for a more “woke” world from a 1920s stance.

This is a short list of a few upcoming shows that offer a vision for a better world. (Click on each to find out where/when to get tickets.) The number of allegories and presentations that have graced our stages over the years is long. Woke theater shows us how matters civic and social sh/could unfold.

Activist theater means someone is speaking for the 99%.

Posted in musicals, musicals and dramas, The Tony Awards, Tony, Tony Awards, Tony nominee, Tony winner, Tony winning play

$$ Rewarded $$

Lack of Tony® love has done to The Prom what it usually does. The show, with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Bob Martin and Beguelin and based on an idea of Jack Viertel, is set to close on August 11th.

At the Walter Kerr, across the street from the unappreciated The Prom (the cast and creatives got nods but no statuettes) is Tony® darling Hadestown, There, you will see lines waiting for tickets by lottery early on any given day. (Actual ticket distribution for Rush is around 5pm, so the folks sitting outside the theater at noon are really eager.) The musical’s ticket price skyrocketed thanks to the warm welcome it got at the Awards ceremonies. André De Shields was not the only winner from the cast of this musical, written by Anaïs Mitchell and developed with director Rachel Chavkin, also a winner that night. The scenic designer, Rachel Hauck, and the sound designer, jessica Paz, also won for their contributions to the musical as well.

Of course, if you must close, you must. The Ferryman, Broadway’s Best Play of 2019, is closing tomorrow, July 7th. Tickets for the play put it in the million dollar range over its run. Tickets for Sunday’s final performances run at $224 and up.

It’s expensive to mount a Broadway production, and that explains some of the high prices. There is also a reseller’s premium for some of the hotter shows, of course, but also the fact that demand drives costs allows the producers to write their own ticket, as it were. In fact, for the 2018-19 season, audiences ponied up an average of $123.84 for a seat at a Broadway show.

Posted in AmericanSongbook, Anderson Twins, Songbook, The Anderson Twins

“What a wonderful world…”

The survival of the American Songbook may well depend on youngsters like the talented Anderson Twins who keep it strong.

Each summer, the Andersons, Will (alto sax) and Peter (tenor, soprano sax and clarinet), join forces with stalwarts like Vince Giordano, Paul Wells and Molly Ryan to namedrop just a few to represent the songbook in much of its rich variety.

Here they are again to head up the Songbook Summit 2019 at Symphony Space in mid August. This year’s iteration covers the music of Duke Ellington (August 13-15) and Louis Armstrong (8/21-23).

The brothers may be young, but Peter and Will have been doing this for some years. They apply their expertise and training to performing the standards along side the older-timers on the bill.

The Andersons have a wit, style and finesse that permeates their performance and their curations. Join them later this summer to hear them and their colleagues perform tributes to just two of America’s prolific and inventive composers.