Summer and theater are words often linked but less so in this big city than in summer stock country.
Theater, like some of your neighbors, heads to the Berkshires, or Saratoga, or another vaguely vacationy venue.
There are always remnants, of course, such as the hits that play the Great White Way regardless of season, and of course the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park.
Starting in July, the New York Musical Festival gives voice to new works in off-Broadway houses. This year, thanks to some visitors from Toronto, the NYMF and Soulpepper on 42nd Street, appear in such close proximity that we can only suggest you tablehop a bit.
Take in as many of the NYMF premieres at Theatre Row and at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theatre as you can. Head a little further west to sample the workshops, master classes, ensemble creations, and new plays that the Soulpepper Theatre is presenting at the Pershing Square Signature Theatre stages.
Among the other highlights of our NYC summer there is the Bolshoi Ballet dancing The Taming of The Shrew at Lincoln Center. Check out the full list of summertime offerings at the Lincoln Center Festival, another annual event.
Each year, Paul Taylor brings us two new works he has created. Now, with his newish company mandate that Paul Taylor American Modern Dance celebrate and archive the modern dance medium, his company also dances new works by contemporary choreographers and also presents and preserves pieces from the historical repertory.
Paul Taylor’s The Wordis a piece we have only caught once before. On the penultimate matinee of this season, it was presented along with Book of Beasts, as well as the elegant and dancerly Cascade, a work that Taylor created in 1999.
Book of Beasts (1971) is full of fantastical creatures. It is scored in 9 parts, to the music of Schubert, Weber, Saint-Saëns, Beethoven, Mozart, as well as Boccherini, Falla and Tchikovsky, all played with zest on a pedal harpsichord (recorded by E. Power Biggs.) John Rawlings raucous costumes conspire the Taylor’s mood of happy-go-lucky menace in this piece. The Word shares this mood of cheerful malevolence.
Do I look for too much meaning in the amusing patterns of the dance? Perhaps, but this is what I find: In The Word, there appears to be some zealotry with a bracing chaser in the form of a woman, who may or may not be Eve. The religious scholars are not in a garden like Eden, but they worship and genuflect.
World’s Fairs are theme parks for progress. The 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, named in honor of Columbus’ landing in the Americas 400 years before, offered marvels never before seen.
Naturally it was commerce that drove the innovation. Technology was well represented by the likes of Nikola Tesla (exhibit pictured.)
Spectacles and the arts also set the stage for novelty and inspiration at Chicago’s great fair. One feature of the 1893 Exposition was theatrical impressario, Steele MacKaye’s visionary Spectatorium which proved to be a costly and extravagant project. (Spoiler alert, don’t click on the link above if you prefer to be surprised.)
The Light Years presented at Playwrights Horizons through April 2nd (opening night is March 13th) finds the personal in this grand historic event. T and B will be there so look for our review of this new work by the experimental troupe, The Debate Society, next week.
For more information on the production (and tickets), please visit the @PHnyc website.
Leaps and bounds
Acrobats, gymnasts and trapeze artists might be dismissed as circus performers, but their skills are undeniable. Those talents when put in the service of thought-provoking materials rise way above. They are often on display in a Paul Taylor season, and we are fortunate to have the 2017 one starting at Lincoln Center today, March 7th, and running through the 26th.
Taylor’s dancers (and the dances he devises for them) thrill and jump with all their heart and soul. There is abandoned precision in every move. Some of the highlights T and B will share this season are Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal); The Weight of Smoke; Lost, Found and Lost; Syzygyand the new The Open Door, among others.
Often multiple viewings yield deeper and deepter understandings. His dance seems so simple and pure. Its complexity is incrementally revealed.
Sometimes it runs to the Gothic and lurid, as in Big Bertha or Promethan Fire or The Word. Sometimes a pleasing surface hides an undercurrent of pain or sadness, like Company B. Some works are an homage, like Le Sacre du Printemps… or To Make Crops Grow. There are memories from a long life, like Danbury Mixor Esplanade or Sea Lark.
When you’ve dug into the canon and feel sated, Paul Taylor presents you with a new and nourishing gem. He is prolific. Each season brings another work. One year, it was American Dreamer (2013), another Death and the Damsel (2015). This season, it’s The Open Door and Ports of Call. The latter is a World Premiere with its first showing on March 8th, and the former has been introduced elsewhere but will make its New York bow at the Gala on March 9th.
The New York City Ballet ends its winter season at Lincoln Center this weekend with what for us is a highlight. The program of Richard Rodgers inspired ballets by three disparate but compatible choreographers.
It is hard to pick a favorite from among the three, but Carousel (A Dance)gets the nod for the rearity of its performance. Christopher Wheeldon’s ballet retells the cental romance from the 1945 musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Carousel (A Dance), created in 2002, is set to “The Carousel Waltz” and “If I Loved You.”
Peter Martins’ Thou Swell and Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue on the other hand has given us the pleasure of frequent sightings. Both pieces make the most of a theatrical setting, with the Martins’ ballet using a ballroom for its home, and mingling that dance style in with ballet dance. Martins also gives us singers to accompany the nightclub mood.
George Balanchine’s ballet is a crowd-pleasing vaudeville pastiche with a little tap in the mix.
Dancing in right behind the @nycballet at the David H. Koch Theater, from March 7 through the 26th, is the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance troupe. Paul Taylor is the one of the last of the third generation of modern dance choreographers and pioneers. Taylor, born in 1930, was an original Martha Graham dancer. The New York season is an opportunity to catch up with the new works Taylor has created for his dancers, and for his audience, and to see the beloved ones of the repertory. For several years now, Taylor has incorporated the works of other dance masters in the repertoire.
The premieres this 2017 season include Taylor’s Ports of Call, and The Open Door as well as Lila York’s Continum.
On March 19th, the company has added a special program honoring the modern dance past, with performances of works by Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham and a Paul Taylor. The evening, which begins at 6pm, is called Icons, and features the Paul Taylor Dance Company in Graham’s Diversion of Angels from 1948 and Paul Taylor’s Promethean Fire from 2002, and presents guest artists from France’s Lyon Opera Ballet, Artistic Director Yorgos Loukos, in Merce Cunningham’s Summerspace from 1958.
Paul Taylor American Modern Dance is local, with headquarters in downtown NYC, and this year they are featuring an opportunity for fans to win a $500 Amazon gift card by sharing their New York love. For your chance to win in the We Live Here, Why Do You? contest, get an entry form and visit the company FB page.
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