There was a time when ballet fans (who probably preferred being called afficianados) thought of ballerinas as novitiates of the stage.
Like Mary Magadalene, mother to the nuns that followed, we see our novice sometimes succumbing to the siren call of the ballet master. His charisma and artistic prowess were irresistible draws, as were his faith in her abilities. He may see himself as a Svengali, but in truth he only teases out her innate talent; his actions do not endow her with her natural gifts.
The dancer and the dance-maker are colleagues, co-equal partners in the dance we are fortunate to witness. Ballerinas have an ethereal quality that makes them shine more brilliantly, if also more distantly. They are our stars, revealing through movement the stories of our lives..
Is it true that youth is wasted on the young? Perhaps not, at least this group of youngsters is making the most of their time and talents. And yes, I am a little jealous.
There is a good deal to be said for getting an early start. Youth is lithe and agile. It is a great season for dancing, Movement can be the lingua franca for the young; it is their body language as it were.
Ellen Robbins’ Dances By Very Young Choreographers at Live Arts, on January 26th and 27th, will be showcasing works by children as young as 8. The dance-makers, ranging in age from 8 to 18, study modern dance and choreography with Ms. Robbins.
The program ranges across the many styles of dance performance, from the humorous, narrative, to the lyrical. The music selections, chosen by the choreographers, include folk, jazz, classical, contemporary.
Ellen Robbins has been teaching dance sine 1966 and has received honors for her work with children. She has taught dance education at Sarah Lawrence and been on the faculties of Bennington College, the 92nd Street Y, and other distinguished institutions. In 2001, Dances By Very Young Choreographers was on the program at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
After the matinee on January 26th, there will be an evening concert by the Alumni of Dances by Very Young Choreographers, which presents work by dancers who studied with Robbins from 1982 to 2016.
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.
Partnering has developed a new look as the 21st century progresses. Partly, this is a reflection of a more liberal social milieu. Gender fluidity is the term of art for this LGBTQ-era. Same sex marriage, mixed use bathrooms, dorms which house both boys and girls on the same floor are part of our new-age maturity.
Equality has certainly not come full-circle. The workplace and the quotidian are still often off-kilter and exhibit the same kinds of inequities that have been with us forever. We are working on it, much as the dance makers are working on many more diverse ways to partner.
Many choreographers– Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon Benjamin Millipied etc.– experiment with male on male lifts, and Jessica Lang has a woman catch and release her male partner at one point in Her Notes.
Roles can be reversed for Mr. Mom and his executive wife. We’ve come to accept that and to expect to see it in our arts and entertainments. The glass ceiling– and other prejudices and biases– will be broken and taken down in tiny steps rather than with crowbars.
My intro to the NYCB Working Rehearsal included a docent telling us that one of the things she enjoyed about watching the dancers rehearse was that they reveal their personalities in the banter on the stage. In thinking about this, I realized that what I like to see on stage is a persona, not a personality.
In this case, I witnessed, among other things, Robert Fairchild‘s easy charm (and of course those matinée idol looks I have often mentioned before) which has landed him on Broadway in the past. (And also in Paris and London where An American In Paris had its try-outs, as it were, pre-Palace Theatre in New York.) Fairchild is funny and always
very polite, which belies his perfectionism. He is completely professional and engaged in his dancing. His patter with Sterling Hyltin while waiting for the violinist, Arturo Delmoni was an agreeable look at his more private side, but what I expect to see in his penultimate performance as a Principal Dancer for NYCB at the Saturday matinée tomorrow is his absorption into the role in Duo Concertante. In other words, I will be mesmerized by the persona he projects, not the witty personality he clearly possesses. (Note, he reprises this role at the Sunday matinée.)
Not so hasty. We’re still here.
Rumors that the Big Apple Circus had folded its tent for good appear to have been premature.
It may be that the demise of the multi-tent Barnum + Bailey makes this a winning holiday destination, and the only circus in town.
The Big Apple’s one ring approach was always a more kid-friendly way to present the events on this kind of stage anyway. Who can keep up with all the action in three rings?
On Thursday, The Big Apple was setting up for a late October opening at L.C. Its wagon were in the familiar place by Damrosch Park.
Note to the storekeeper
The poster in the window says “Love Always Wins” and the posterboard is covered in post-its meant to prove this point.
The question I want to pose is have you considered how dire the ending is for Romeo and for Juliet, for instance? They are not the only star-crossed lovers in history– or in theater, but they set the tone for all those who have been failed by your all-encompassing motto.
“Love Sometimes Wins” might be a more apt if less emphatic statement. Given the realities in many romances, the equivocal is a better way of expressing the hope that love carries and sometimes delivers.
While on the subject of romance, I want to submit my favorite type of commentary– the list. In this case, it is a list of films in which women are powerful and empowered. Some of them are romantic in the traditional sense. Some take a right or left turn around the central proposition. Other lists I have shared include those in which ballets are interconnected, and have been meant as a year-end salute.
Here’s today’s list:
A League Of Their Own, sports and girls!
Thelma and Louise, girls in cars Bull Durham, a girl–well, a woman and some ball players Moonstruck, a love affair with two brothers and a woman, a full moon, etc etc etc Alice, a woman on the edge of dementia Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, a woman finds herself
This is an example of “smart regifting,” of recycling an idea, concept or suggestion: A somewhat tongue in cheek or perhaps just cheeky suggestion for a holiday gift from 2016 is reprised here. (For other holiday gift ideas, check out our suggestions at The Wright Wreport.)
What we’d put in the Nutcracker gift basket
1. a little nutcracker figure
2. a spray of sugar plums (3-4)
3. imported hot chocolate
3a. mug optional
4. fancy coffee
4a. mug optional
5. elegant tea
5a. steeper and mug optional
6. 6 candy canes (3 red and white, 3 green and white)
7. 1/2 dozen pieces of marzipan
8. gingerbread figures (2-3)
9. a spray of dewdrops
10. a sprig of flowers and, don’t forget