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 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 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 www.boxoffice.dance. There are no facility fees or convenience charges for these tickets.

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

Partiality

RedShoesPage_facing_218_of_Andersen's_fairy_tales_(Robinson)
By Robinson, W. Heath (William Heath), 1872-1944 (illustrator) – Copy at New York Public Library, scanned by nicole deyo, obtained from http://www.archive.org/details/hansandersensfai00andeCrop, little or no corrections, needs it., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16274672

Playing favorites gets a bad rep. In fact, it’s a parental rule that moms love all their children equally. Every mother knows that this is hooey; there is always one who stands a little closer to the heart.

My connection to New York City Ballet (@nycballet) goes back many years to the company’s residency at City Center. Over the half-century plus that I have been partial to NYCB, I have had many favorite dancers.

Among the current crop of primas, Sara Mearns is a stand-out favorite. This in no way diminishes the rest of the NYCB troupe who all delight and dazzle. I often find myself loving best the one who is near, as Ado Annie might; I like the NYCballet.

Nonetheless, on my Mearns watch, I find myself fortunate enough to have tickets for one of her performances of the new Bourne (music by Bernard Hermann) ballet, The Red Shoes at City Center starting October 26th. (This time, we will not be sitting in that very last row from which I saw so many of Balanchine’s dancers dance his dances long ago.)

Matthew Bourne has come out of his career catnap to produce his first dance in four years. The Red Shoes, based on the movie that is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, is the ultimate dancers’ story. It is also a caveat against overreaching. I can’t wait to see La Mearns in the title role of Victoria Page.

In March, as has been mentioned in these pages, Sara Mearns channels Isadora Duncan for the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance company. There’s something else to look forward to seeing.


George Balanchine, like Paul Taylor, was a catholic balletmaker, finding the arcane in the ordinary. An “All Balanchine” program at NYCB can range over a wide field, landing here in an utterly classical mode, there in the folkloric.

The one we just witnessed included La Valse, in which Sara Mearns was seduced by death (Amar Ramasar, another beloved NYCB Principal) while her original partner, Tyler Angle, is dejected and dismayed.

Robert Fairchild, in his penultimate performance with NYCB, danced Duo Concertant with Sterling Hyltin. The dance is one of Balanchine’s so-called black and white ballets, set to music for piano and violin written by his friend Igor Stravinsky. It is a sad and luxurious work.

Two of the pieces on the program blended classical with the quotidienne. Square Dance is elegant, and forthright, a very striking and simple ballet, with a hint of the folk dance of its title. Cortege Hongrois, on the other hand, is elaborate. It uses a populist vernacular, blending the czardas with processionals.


La Valse and Duo Concertant are over for now, as is of course the opportunity to catch Robert Fairchild as a New York City Ballet Principal Dancer.

You will be able to catch Cortege Hongrois again on a program this winter. Square Dance will be on another one as well.


New and upcoming favorites in the NYCBallet Company appear with each new season. Peter Walker and Lauren Lovette are dancer-choreographers who are classically trained with next gen sensibilities. We are the witnesses to a company that is full of life, and movement, and is always moving forward. Lucky us.


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

Meant to be

308px-Isadora_Duncan_(grayscale)
By Arnold Genthe (1869–1942) – Library of Congresshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Isadora_duncan.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=443628

Any true fan can see the possibility, but it took Paul Taylor and Lori Bellilove to realize it.

Sara Mearns, the New York City Ballet prima, and a favorite dancer of mine, will embody Isadora Duncan in the PTAMD spring season this coming March at Lincoln Center.  Her performance as Isadora Duncan had a sold out run in June at the Joyce.

What Taylor has envisioned is a reconstruction of works that Isadora Duncan performed, with the choreography reimagined by  by The Isadora Duncan Dance Company Artistic Director, Lori Bellilove. The program will be performed  during the 2018 Season of Paul Taylor American Modern Dance.

Duncan is being celebrated for her role as a pioneer of modern dance, a mission Taylor has taken very much to heart. Her influence was vast, with ballet makers like Sergei Diaghilev saying she was a “kindred spirit,” and artists across various disciplines seeing her as a visionary. John Dos Passos wrote that “Art was whatever Isadora d

Ms. Mearns is tall, elegant, and as befits a ballerina, graceful. More than all of that she is a skilled actress.She has always taken on roles, acting out the impulses of her art. Her role in the Peter Martins ballet-meets-modern Barber Violin Concerto may have been preparation. Or perhaps she needed no prior reference– just her natural talents– to become Isadora.

For more information on PTAMD, please visit their site. Tickets for the 2018 season are not yet available.

 

Posted in Gala, Keen Company, Manhattan Theater Company, New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Playwrights Horizons, riff, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Mint Theatre

Raising funds

KeenGala
an email invite

Ticket prices are a frequent topic of discussion among theater-goers. Not much wonder when the cost of a seat to see Hello Dolly! or Hamilton for instance can go as high as $1600+. Of course, the savvy buyer will find tickets for these attractions at better prices as well. Even the less hyped Broadway show sells in the range of $99 (discount for the orchestra) and $239 (premium). I get it, it’s expensive to mount a Broadway attraction. When a show closes before its scheduled time, the producers don’t get back their investment.

The fact that the arts are a business in no way detracts from their art. In any given season, despite the iffy-ness of ROI, there are some 35+ (this 2016-17 season, it’s 39) productions put on the Broadway stage.

For the for-profit theater, revivals and transfers of off-Broadway hits seem like the better bet. Musicals always seem to drive the market, although I read a stat that those who go to musicals, generally go to 4 vs those who like a straight play see 5 in the same period.  The not-for-profit houses have different mandates: Playwrights Horizons produces new, often commissioned, work, for instance.

On the other hand, The Mint revives plays that have not seen the stage for a long while, with the motto, “Lost Plays Found Here.”

The struggle to get investors to back a project can be complicated. Predicting the public’s taste can be a risky business. For producers, raising money for each production involves looking beyond their own pocket. Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU), for instance, has an annual bootcamp for perspective investors.  This past February the workshop was called Raising Money for Theater: Who, How and When to Ask. TRU offers seminars on the business all year round.

Ticket prices at the profit-making theaters are certainly a ticket to recouping the cost of mounting a production. How do the not-for-profit productions–both on and off-Broadway– make ends meet? Concerns over government defunding of the arts makes this year a particularly critical one for the not-for profit theater and its counterparts in dance.

Asking for money becomes an art of its own. Inventive ways of getting donations crop up all the time. A gala is, often, called for, and will attract a reasonable amount of money. Galas usually include dinner and a chance to mingle with the talent after a performance. Some galas have themes, like for instance the Ballet Hispanico’s 2017 Carnival Gala Celebrating Trailbrazing Latina Leaders which honors Rita Moreno and Nina Vaca. The black-tie event is on May 15th at the Plaza Hotel.

The honored guest is a standard approach. Keen Company, a subscription house with a long history off-Broadway, for instance, holds its 2017 Benefit Gala on May 22nd with guests Molly Ringwald and Amy Spanger. The Pearl Theatre Company and Playwrights Horizons are under similar constraints to raise funds beyond the monies brought in by subscribers by throwing parties for patrons and offering opportunities to support them.
The latter brings Patti Lupone, Christine Ebersole and Kelli O’Hare to the Playwrights Horizon gala on May 8th. The Pearl offers classes through its Conservatory.

1TrusanvoecGoodePrintempsMost of the dance troupes hold Galas at season kickoff; for New York City Ballet this corresponds with the Fall and the Spring openings. Paul Taylor American Modern Dance generally has theirs on the second night of performance each spring at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. (The theater is in itself an example of major fund-raising efforts, with Koch having paid for a renovation of the house which is home to @NYCballet and visiting dance cos.)

Youth America Grand Prix galas are a little like a serues of awards ceremonies. (We’ve talked of past YAGP galas on several occasions at VP.com.)  The American Ballet Theater, although they have a gala as well,  takes a slightly different approach to year round fundraising. It has patrons supporting dancers, an individual member of the troupe can be billed as being sponsored by a donor.

Love Love Love OFF BROADWAYDRAMA LAURA PELS THEATRE 111 W. 46TH S., NEW YORK, NY 10036 Sparked in the haze of the 60s, Love Love Love explores a relationship charred by today's brutal reality, paranoia and passion. Starring: Richard Armitage, Alex Hurt,Subscription tickets are supplemented by sales of regularly priced tickets but that is far from enough to cover the costs of running a theater. Roundabout Theatre Company and MTC hold benefit evenings, inviting their subscribers and other patrons to dine with theater luminaries. Second Stage are holding their “Spot On” gala with honorary chair Bette Midler on May 1st. They also hold an annual bowling with the artists event; you can’t spell fundraising without fun.

10. Pearl_Vanity Fair(c)Russ Rowland
(L-R) Debargo Sanyal, Joey Parsons, Kate Hamill, Ryan Quinn, Tom O’Keefe. Photo by Russ Rowland in The Pearl’s production of Vanity Fair.

Subscription houses depend on membership support (see the Pearl’s program of offers) to be able to offer their programming; subscribers are asked to give a little more. Seat-naming is another popular–and fairly democratic– way to bring cash into the house; the average donor can generally afford to put a plaque on a seat. On a grander scale, we have patrons who fund an auditorium or a theater (see David H. Koch above) or a patron’s lounge. Sometimes the sponsor is corporate like American Airlines for whom Roundabout’s 42nd Street house is named. With sponsorship come other perks, of course, like good seats, and access to staff.

Theater is a demanding artform. Give a little, get a lot.

Posted in dance, modern American dance, modern dance, modern dance meets ballet, Paul Taylor, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company

The magic that is a Paul Taylor Dance

 

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 Word is 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.

On the matinee on Sunday, March 25th, is Taylor’s Brandenburgs, a dance that adds depth to the Bach score it inhabit. It will also feature the delicious Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal) and his new The Open Door.