Posted in Alexei Ratmansky, American Ballet Theatre, ballet, balletic, dance, dance making, dancing, modern American dance, modern dance, modern dance meets ballet, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Uncategorized

Modern ballet

Dance evolves with the times as do all things, artistic or run-of-the-mill. It is what we need to keep in perspective as we watch young choreographers take on the creation of the next new ballet. They will be influenced by what has been termed modern dance, a genre dating back to Isadora Duncan’s day and represented prominently today by, among others, Paul Taylor (and his) American Modern Dance.

Modern dance is meant to be less formal, to eschew the stodgy. Not that Jerome Robbins, or George Balanchine, for that matter, can be thought of as stodgy. The ballets that are stepping, best foot forward, these days, tend to –not exactly relax, since many are as frenetic as they are innovative– be freer in mixing the metaphors of dance forms.

Lauren Lovett and Peter Walker, two of the more recently minted NYCB dance-makers, have emerged as rising stars of ballet. Lovett tends towards a romantic view of the classical. Walker is a bit of a renegade, although his second work, the 2018 dance odyssey, moves to a more traditional line.

The older guard is equally willng to mix things up. At 40, and after many years dancing as a principal with New York City Ballet, and working with his own troupe and as head of the Paris Opera Ballet, Benjamin Millepied is an elder statesman in the world of choreography. Millepied, whose Neverwhere was a lovely revelation at a recent NYCB performance, is a case in point. His work uses classical style married to contemporary scores–Neverwhere is set to music by Nico Muhly– and refreshing ideas about movement. Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence at the American Ballet Theatre since 2008,  has given NYCB some delightful novelties, as well. His Odessa and Songs of Bukovina are works that join diverse styles of folk and ballet in beautiful complexity.

All of the action described here- ABT, NYCB, PTAMD– takes its place at Lincoln Center.
Paul Taylor American Modern Dance is in the midst of their spring season through the end of March. The New York City Ballet returns to the David H. Koch stage in April for their spring season. American Ballet Theatre begins its Metropolitan Opera House season in mid May.

Posted in based on Chekhov, drama, theater

Once again, a young playwright rises to the Chekhov challenge

EsperanceThis was true in 2016, when I first posted it, and it proves once again that Chekhov provides a model for new plays and spurs a playwright to use The Cherry Orchard as a starting point for startling new work:

Anton Chekhov, it seems, provides excellent inspiration for contemporary Americans in his line of work. As if the Chekhov challenge asks the modern playwright to match him wit for wit and build on his premises.

Chekhov teases imitators, adaptors, translators and audiences with themes of grandeur and loss. His plays are shown on stages large and small each year; his works are mimicked in pastiches, like Stupid F**king Bird at the Pearl, or  Minor Character— in Brooklyn from June 17-25, 2016. In the latter, multiple versions of Uncle Vanya merge in a mist of millenial angst.”

Breitwisch Farm cast and creative team
Breitwisch Farm cast and creative team at rehearsal

This March, The Cherry Orchard is the influence for Breitwisch Farm, a play by Jeremy J. Kamps at the Esperance Theater Company at the new Tribeca venue, Town Stages. Breitwisch Farm explores issues of displacement and immigration in the era of America First, giving Chekhov’s story a distinctly of the moment twist. The play runs from March 2nd through March 16th.

Breitwisch Farm author Jeremy J. Kamps is part of the Public’s Emerging Writers Group.  The play stars Danaya Esperanza, Joe Tapper, Katie Hartke, Will Manning, Charlie Murphy, Maria Peyramaure, Alejandro Rodriguez, and Katie Wieland, under Ryan Quinn‘s direction.

Posted in dance, dance making, modern dance meets ballet, New York City Ballet

Jerome Robbins at 100

Jerome Robbins was a man who knew how to put on a show. His ballets has as much pomp and circumstance, flair and flavor as any of his Broadway show.

At 30-40 minutes, they constitute something like a one-act on every program on which they are featured. Like many another dance-maker, Robbins covered a range of styles and subjects. There’s NY Export: Opus Jazz, the West Side Story Suite, and I’m Old Fashioned with their modern and pop culture motifs.

The Four Seasons, set to ballet interludes by Verdi from a number of his operas, is an exhilirating and very classical entertainment. In it he creates not just a mise en scène that takes us from winter through spring to summer and fall but also hearkens to Shakespeare. A Puck-like figure (puckishly danced by Preston Chamblee at the performance we attended) gambols through the final chapter of the ballet.

The Four Seasons with its processions representing the times and temperatures that progress through the year is at once majestic and light-hearted. Robbins, a much lauded stage choreographer contributed greatly to the NYCB repertoire in his long association with the company. He joined George Balanchine as Associate Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet in 1949.

This spring, the NYCB will dance in tribute to Jerome Robbins on his centennial for three weeks beginning on May 3rd.

Posted in dance, modern American dance, modern dance, modern dance meets ballet, New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company

Put dance on your schedule

Going to theaters to see drama, comedy or dance is one of the ways in which New Yorkers get to spend their free time. New entertainments abound. Here is a short and very incomplete list of suggestions for you:

You’ve heard a good deal from us about the New York City Ballet, a company which enjoys many seasons at its New York Lincoln Center hq. It will continue its present winter presentations with classics and new works from the repertory and Peter Martins’ Romeo and Juliet starting the week of February 13th. Balanchine, Ratmansky, Peck, Peter Walker etal return from February 24th through March 4th, at which point the Paul Taylor troupe takes the David H. Koch stage.

A special performance on Tuesday, March 6 at 7pm – Dance for All generously underwritten by Taylor Foundation Trustee Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown – has been added to the 2018 Season of Paul Taylor American Modern Dance (PTAMD) at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. All seats to this performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company, with music performed live by Orchestra of St. Luke’s, featuring Paul Taylor’s classics Arden Court, Banquet of Vultures and Promethean Fire, will cost just $5. Tickets to the performance,, will go on sale, Wednesday, February 7 at 10:00 a.m. at the Koch Box Office at 20 Lincoln Center Plaza or at There are no facility fees or convenience charges for these tickets.

Posted in #whatdoyouthink, actors, African-American playwrights, artist, based on a novel, based on a true story or event, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, brutality, chronicle, deep South, empowerment, ensemble acting, famous, film, Fox Studios, historical drama, history, honky, husbands and wives, KKK, meditation on life, movie, new work, opinion, poignant, race, racism, riff, sci fi, serious, serious subject, showcase, timely, TV, Valentine's Day

Serially entertaining

Actors and screen-writers are busier these days than they have been in some time. There are “streaming” shows, 100s of cable outlets producing both series and movies, and of course Hollywood and the Indie scene all requiring their talents and services.

We are the beneficiaries of all this production. We will be enlightened, entertained and excited by the films they produce.

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than binge watching Divorce?

Gifted, the movie with Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace, and not so incidentally Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Lindsay Duncan, and Elizabeth Marvel, is touching without being maudlin. It is generally intelligent, with a sterling performance by young Ms. Grace, and until we saw it last night on HBO, I had not heard much about it.

The assignment for Black History Month can include the excellent Get Out, Jordan Peele’s genius defies and reinvents the “horror” genre. It should also feature a viewing of Birth of a Nation, perhaps both in its regressive D.W. Griffith 1915 version and Nate Parker’s 2016 “remake.” The contrast between a paen to the Ku Klux Klan and to Nat Turner’s slave rebellion may prove edifying. Add Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (although not our personal favorite) to your list of films for 2018. (In the New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham expresses a different view, especially of Parker’s film.)

Art is meant to engender controversy, stimulate and even incense and enrage. We should not be passively diverted in its presence. It is here to help us ponder life’s (and history’s) biggest issues.

Thanks to films and serial dramas we have a lot to consider and enjoy. And we are treated to some terrific performances in the bargain.

Posted in #Tschaikovsky, dance, dance making, dancing with the stars, George Balanchine, Glazounov, Mr. B, New York City Ballet

George’s house of dance

Chase Finlay in Apollo with Sterling Hyltin as Terpsichore, Tiler Peck as Polyhymnia, and Ana Sophia Scheller as Calliope. Photo © Paul Kolnik

It’s George Balanchine’s birthday and the NYCB is celebrating it. The season continues amidst a backdrop of allegations of physical and sexual misconduct against Peter Martins, who has stepped down as Ballet Master in Chief. The company is under the collective management of an interim artistic team and a group of Ballet Masters. The backdrop is one I would like to ignore, as it seems likely NYCB boards may have been these many years. The scandal persists, and an email in which NYCB’s board thanks Martins for his service and leadership, and says they are independently investigating seems more problem than solution.

At any rate, New York City Ballet was only under his stewardship; the NYCB always belonged to Mr. B.

Tyler Angle, Maria Kowroski, and Daniel Ulbricht with students from The School of American Ballet in Mozartiana, Tschaikovsky’s tribute to Mozart interpreted by Balanchine for the NYCB in 1981. Photo © Paul Kolnik. At the Saturday matinée, Sara Mearns was in the lead.

Even the dancers who never had a chance to work with Balanchine honor him when they dance. This Saturday was all Balanchine, including Apollo (from 1928) and Cortège Hongrois (1973) as well as Mozartiana from 1981.

As Jared Angle and Megan Fairchild said in introducing the January 27th 2pm program, it covered over 50 years of Balanchine’s interpretations of  music. The choreography was brilliant, of course.

Apollo, Balanchine’s first internationally recognized triumph, created when he was just 24 years old, is a collaboration with his friend Igor Stravinsky. The latter provides the music for an idyllic god of prophecy and art  and his hand-maidens to captivate. On Saturday, Adrian Danching-Waring was the jazzed-up god as Tiler Peck took on the role as his dancing muse, Terpsichore. Indiana Woodward carried Calliope’s pad and pen, while Ashly Isaacs was Polyhymnia. This dance has never before been a favorite of ours; at Saturday’s performance we had a decided change of heart. Looking forward to a reprise this afternoon!

In Mozartiana, where Tschaikovsky pays homage to Mozart, we have the dual authorship of two outstanding composers, as it were. It is a soothing, elegant work, and the elegant Sara Mearns was joined by Chase Finlay as her leading man, and Troy Schumacher as well as an able corps, and students from the School of American Ballet.

The ensemble in Cortège Hongrois. Photo © Paul Kolnik.

Cortège Hongrois, on the other hand, mesmerized us when last we saw it. Yesterday. it was an agreeable dance-piece. Balanchine set it to Alexander Glazounov’s Raymonda, music that is varied and stirring. Cortège Hongrois opens with a grand processional, and has a rousing Finale. The frantic and gorgeous activity of the Czardas and its Variations is followed by the relatively restorative Pas de Deux, performed by Ashley Bouder and Russell Janzen on Saturday afternoon. One the dance regains its composure we witness a full cast frolic that is typical Balanchine, and therefore a perfect end.

Winter 2018 season the New York City Ballet is on now through March 4th. Visit for schedules and ticket information.

Posted in comedy, Daily Prompt, drama, musical theater, theater, theater lovers

Comedy tonight!


via Daily Prompt: Entertain

Theater is here to educate, illuminate, expose, engage and entertain. Sometimes it offers all five of these verbal commands, sometimes just the latter, which is the one commandment it must follow.

I am here to entertain! the thespian says, and we sit transported in a darkened house while he performs for us.