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.
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.
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 Leaderswhich 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.
Most 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.
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.
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.
It is an homage in the Paul Taylor mode, created as an operatic rendering of a Keystone- Kops-and-Krooks silent film. Paul Taylor playfully references the Nijinsky production for Diaghiliev’s Ballets Russe which caused a near riot for the brutality it displayed.
The Taylor version of Le Sacre…(The Rite of Spring) is for two pianos, and the dancers’ moves follow the urgency in the musical score with a very serious levity.
Songs from an era, like the ones used in Taylor’s Company B, set a mood and place for a given dance number. (BTW You can catch our personal all time favorite Taylor piece on March 16th and 23rd at 7p.m.)
In Black Tuesday, Paul Taylor kicks-off his dance piece about the Great Depression and its propellant great market crash with songs from the era. The Kennedy Center took a lead in commissioning this work from 2001, which is set to recorded versions of tunes like Irving Berlin’s “Slummin’ On Park Avenue,” and the better known Yip Harburg lyric “Brother Can You Spare a Dime.”
Paul Taylor renamed his dance enterprise as Paul Taylor American Modern Dance to fulfill dual objectives. On the one hand, the company aims to preserve and reincarnate classic pieces from the modern dance repertory and thus to keep them alive.
On the other, it commissions the creation of new works for that same repertory.
Doug Elkins received one such commission in 2016. The result is that he has choreographed The Weight of Smoke with and on the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Such collaboration is at the essence of what modern dance intends as a genre.
For a full schedule of the remaining performances in this 2017 Taylor Spring, please visit the Lincoln Center website.
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.
A new Paul Taylor American Modern Dance season also means a new dance or two or, this year, four. Two are the creation of Paul Taylor , bringing his oeuvre to 144, and two are by choreographers he has commissioned. These collaborations in keeping modern dance vibrant are part of the PTAMD mandate.
Paul Taylor Dance Company sprung into its New York season at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on March 15th. It will stay through the April 3rd matinee. During this season, also in keeping with the mandate to hono, celebrate and preserve modern dance, PTAMD is presenting Martha Graham’s Diversion of Angels and Donald McKayle’s Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder. The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company will perform McKayle’s 20th Century masterpiece.
At the Gala last evening, Paul Taylor’s 143rd dance, Sullivaniana got its first New York showing. The guest choreographers in the Taylor Company Commissions initiative for the season are Larry Keigwin and Doug Elkin. Keigwin’s work Rush Hour received its world premiere last night, also danced by PTDC. The dancing was accompanied by live music from the Orchestra of St. Luke’s under Donald York’s baton in the Keigwin piece and Sullivaniana was conducted by Tong Chen.
Sullivaniana, by the way, was danced to Sir Arthur Sullivan’s overtures from Iolanthe, Pirates of Penzance and Patience. With the ladies costumed as music hall dancers in high heels and colorful frocks, and the gents attired in equally colorful window-pane suits appropriate to the mid to late 1800’s bySanto Loquasto who also designed a set to look like a music hall stage for the piece, Sullivaniana is alive with duets. At one point, Taylor brings all ten of the cast together under Sullivan’s “Hail hail, the gang’s all here;” at another they miss each other entirely as they pass on the stage. As is usual in a Taylor work, there is plenty of wit in Sullivaniana.
While theSullivanianacast are clad in vaudevillian trappings, those inRush Hourwear haute workout gear (by Fritz Masten) and run about barefoot. The 16 dancers occupying the space, often act in pairs, mimicking each other’s moves. Rush Hour is a mixture of austere and lively, with music composed for the Keigwin piece by Adam Crystal that alternates speedy passages with leisurely ones; it’s as if once the action is slowed down, it refires again. Our only other experience of Larry Keigwin was in a Fall For Danceprogram years ago; a couple of more viewings of Rush Hour should help solidify impressions.
For more information on the spring season of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, please visit the LC website.
I may be running out of adjectives to describe Paul Taylor’s brilliant air-propelled aerodynamic troupe, Paul Taylor Dance Company, now properly called Paul Taylor American Modern Dance. Here Paul Taylor, a man as adept with words as he is with dance steps, may be able to help. In a 1974 memo, Taylor exhorted his dancers to give “zunchistic” performances.
“Zunch is the thing,” Taylor said… “that sets the exciting dancer apart from the adequate one….” He went on “Zunch is fullness. It is not merely authority and, naturally not technical brilliance…. Zunch is being generous with your spirit.” (I am quoting from The Diamond Anniversary book for the Paul Taylor Dance Company.)
Truthfully, as I run out of descriptives for a Paul Taylor Dance Company presentation, so it seems that Taylor’s dancers nearly run out of stage when they perform. Having exhausted my own vocabulary to effectively explicate what they do, I am grateful to be able to describe their movements with the zesty expletive of “zunch.”
Modern dance uses less of the arabesque and en pointe than it does the expulsive and explosive whirl and jump. PTAMD is so often airborne it seems to lack connection with all earthbound action. When it does come down to earth, it offers surprise and amazement.
Mr. Taylor’s own work now numbering 144 pieces is equally impressively aerial/ethereal. The new dances, #143 and 144 added to this year’s repertory give an adrenal rush. This variety of excitement is no less breathtaking than what we experience when watching a blow-em-up blockbuster.