From Halprin to Petronio and Antoni with Love

“Make something new out of something old.” That was an assignment that a drawing teacher at Bennington College (Sophia Healy) used to give. And the results were wonderfully layered.

A stimulating example is ALLY, a multi-layered collaborative event that takes a few ideas of Anna Halprin’s and makes something new. Presented by the artist-friendly Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, these ideas reverberate and expand through the minds and bodies of Stephen Petronio and Janine Antoni. The series takes place on four levels of the eight-storey Fabric Workshop.


Petronio in Halprin’s The Courtesan and the Crone, at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, photo by Carlos Avendaño

Petronio has taken Halprin’s short, highly theatrical solo The Courtesan and the Crone (1999) and made it poignant for a different reason. Originally Halprin donned an elaborate mask and brocaded gown to suggest a beautiful young woman who gestures seductively in some previous century. When Halprin removed the mask, her aging face was revealed. Petronio, similarly bedecked, is fascinating to watch as he gets into the skin of a woman. To Baroque music, he beckons to the audience with white-gloved fingers and gives his torso a sensual torque worthy of Marilyn Monroe. When he takes the mask off, what is revealed is the “wrong” gender rather than the “wrong” age.

Antoni is not a dancer, but, like Halprin, she finds ways that her body can nestle into an environment. For her long solo on the 8th floor, inspired by Halprin’s “Paper Dance” from her landmark work Parades and Changes (1965-67), she crumples, pleats, and tears a roll of butcher paper, then fits her nude body into the sculpture formed by the variously ruptured paper in instinctive, almost animal ways.

 Janine Antoni in collaboration with Anna Halprin, Paper Dance, 2013. Photographed by Pak Han at the Halprin Dance Deck. Courtesy of the artists and The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia.

Janine Antoni in collaboration with Anna Halprin, Paper Dance, 2013.
Photographed by Pak Han at the Halprin Dance Deck. Courtesy of the artists and
The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia.

Rope is a true collaboration, instigated by Halprin’s wish to see the two younger artists in relation to each other. One of the softly brilliant things about Rope is that, to begin and end the piece, we watch Halprin’s face in a close up video taken on her famous outdoor deck in Marin County. In the video, she is reacting to Petroni and Antoni improvising according to her score for the rope dance.

Close-up of Anna Halprin as she watched a rehearsal of Rope, on dance deck

Close-up of Anna Halprin as she watched a rehearsal of Rope, on dance deck

Since Halprin is 95 and not traveling much these days, it is a lovely way to have her with us. In the middle part of the dance Petronio gives control of the rope over to us, the people of the audience. This aligns with Halprin’s idea that there is no audience—we are all participants—as well as her faith in the ordinary, non-trained moving body involved in a task.

There are many criss-crossing ideas, disciplines, and genres to be gleaned from these performances and installation. ALLY continues until July 31, 2016. Click here for (a rather complex schedule of) performances times and tickets.


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Simone Forti, Oguri, & Roxanne Steinberg

Oguri, photo by Pep Daude

Oguri, photo by Pep Daude

There’s a natural affinity between the Japanese form of butoh and the ’60s improvisation ideas of Americans like Anna Halprin and Simone Forti. The connection to nature, the respect for intuition, the acceptance of awkwardness, are shared values. A new, three-way collaboration between postmodern pioneer Simone Forti, butoh master Oguri, and American dancer Roxanne Steinberg comes to Venice, California, this month.

Simone Forti, photo by Ian Douglas

Simone Forti, photo by Ian Douglas

Flowers and Vessel is inspired by the tradition of Japanese flower arranging, which has as much to do with intuition as with careful aesthetics. One trains for years to sharpen one’s instincts. According to the press release, “In a meeting of spirits, earthly and divine, the flower responds to the vessel. It is an act of love, of romance. Without hesitation, like the action of throwing something somewhere, the arrangement is revealed not imposed.”

Roxanne Steinberg, photo by Eoin McLoughlin

Roxanne Steinberg, photo by Eoin McLoughlin

Forti and Oguri have shared programs in both Tokyo and Los Angeles. For Flowers and Vessel, they will dance a new duet, and then, with the addition of Steinberg, a trio. Steinberg has partnered with Oguri for years. About this collaboration, she wrote in an email: “We are all after finding the essential voice … dance at its most true and unbound manifestation.”

Forti’s connection to Asian artists dates back to at least 1961, when she created an evening of Dance Constructions at Yoko Ono’s loft in Lower Manhattan. The program listing for this historic event (historic in its integration of dance and utilitarian objects) is currently on display as part of the Yoko Ono exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.

Presented by Body Weather Laboratory, Flowers and Vessel arrives at Electric Lodge in Venice, CA May 29–31. Click here for tickets.

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Jump Rhythm Jazz Project

The jazz dancer Billy Siegenfeld is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his Jump Rhythm Jazz Project. Four years ago, I wrote in Dance Magazine that “Billy Siegenfeld is one of a kind.”

There is no other dancer who gets as low and growly, who infuses his body with jazz rhythms that burst out of him, sending emotions in different directions.

Billy Siegenfeld, Justin Barbin Photography

Billy Siegenfeld, Justin Barbin Photography

Siegenfeld has enriched the jazz dance and tap communities in Chicago for a quarter century. He has combined the rhythms of both by making the body a percussive instrument. And it’s got to have that Swing, as opposed to rock’s steady downbeat. With the polyrhythms of true jazz, he has written, “These accents are voiced at moments when the ear least expects to hear them.” That sense of surprise leads to an explosiveness—at least when Siegenfeld himself is dancing. (You can see that in this short clip of him dancing—and vocalizing—alone.)

In true jazz, Siegenfeld wrote in the new book Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches, the dancer combines two different rhythms into a unity “that allows each to have its own say.” When this happens, the accents “pop off the ground with the stunning unpredictability of a perfect accident.”

Some of those perfect accidents are sure to surface in JRJP’s 25th-anniversary concert, Oct 24 to Nov 2 at Stage 773 in Chicago. The program  includes the very moving duet Poppy and Lou, revivals of No Way Out and Too Close for Comfort, a work by company member Kevin Dumbaugh, and guest artists.

For tickets, Click here  or here.

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This Dancing Life

Whether or not you’re familiar with Ira Glass’s pitch-perfect storytelling on This American Life, you’re in for a treat if you can catch his act on its 30-city tour. Instead of asking other people questions, he’s talking about his own life. And instead of just talking, he is dancing too.

The famous radio personality has teamed up with two dancers who are as funny and curious—and goofy—as he is: choreographer Monica Bill Barnes and dancer Anna Bass. Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host is a delicious show, an excuse to tell stories embellished by dance, and a chance for general audiences to see into dance.

Anna Bass, Ira Glass, Monica Bill Barnes, photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz

Anna Bass, Ira Glass, Monica Bill Barnes, photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz

The boyish, wonder-full side of Glass that we hear over the radio blossoms when he joins Barnes and Bass in step-kicks and baton twirling. How can an untrained person join two professional dancers and not make a fool of himself? First, he laughs at himself before anyone else does. Second, it’s the timing. He’s learned a thing or two from orchestrating his show for almost 20 years. When he’s telling us a story, he plucks the iPad as though it were a harp, tapping it with a flourish to usher in some music or another voice at just the right moment. That sense of theatrical timing enables him to join Barnes & Bass in some of their numbers—and to boost their theatricality.

In his Act II monologue, he is nicely awestruck by the commitment and passion of dancers. After noting that Monica and Anna started lessons at ages 7 and 5, he asks the audience: “How old were you when you starting training for your job?”

The cleverly told stories alternate with dancing, and all three seem to be bursting at the seams to bring you this fun stuff. As jolly as all this is, the show slows down and dips into something deeper.  When Glass was talking about a husband taking care of his dying wife, Barnes & Bass stood on a table set with dishes, not moving. Suddenly one would fall toward the other, allowing the dishes to clatter to the floor.

Naturally, the show ends with a big show number, blasted confetti and all.

Click here for the complete info on the tour, which continues next Saturday in Houston and travels to points west, Midwest, and Miami.

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Vicky Shick’s Everything You See

Vicky Shick’s epic work Everything You See is coming to the adventurous American Dance Institute in Rockville, MD, September 19 and 20. I say epic not because it’s long or heroic or spectacular (it is none of those things), but because it strings many intricate vignettes into something larger, some sort of ceaseless dance-as-thought continuum. Hundreds of tiny ordinary things somehow accumulate into one extraordinary thing.

Left to right: Laurel Tentindo, Lily xxx, Heather Olson, photo by Alviar Goro

Left to right: Laurel Tentindo, Lily Gold, Heather Olson, photos by Anjola Toro

It’s layered visually, so you see one dance in front of you, and another one behind a translucent screen that bisects the space horizontally. Barbara Kilpatricks’ ingenious costumes too are layered, adding to the eccentric look of the 10 performers. I’m one of those eccentric people. I wear a bubble-wrap tutu with shreds of tulle hanging from it—and of course, my glasses.

This is our third version, and each time I learn something new about Vicky’s approach. Or, since Vicky is purely intuitive and not at all methodical, I learn something new about the alchemy of the choreography, visual element, and sound design by Elise Kermani.

Here’s an irony that I caught onto this time: Although each little bit of movement material is made of stops and starts—a swipe here, a scoop there, a little peck on the cheek that’s almost hidden—putting these hundreds of puzzle pieces together has created a pleasant sense of ongoingness that you can just roll with. Everything You See casts a soft, intimate spell.

Last year, when I was just realizing about this spell, this is what I wrote.

Marilyn and Jon Kinzel

Marilyn Maywald and Jon Kinzel

You can never see all that happens in Everything You See. You experience the two simultaneous planes of dancing no matter which side you choose. Sometimes I think the audience might see it this way: The dancing in front of you is in Technicolor and the dancing behind the screen is in Sepia. (Lighting is by Carol Mullins.) Or maybe the first side is the present and the far side is the past…a memory. Kermani’s sound track, with its snatches of song and sound effects, encourages this feeling of memory.

The best way to see Everything You See at ADI is to sit on one side on Friday night and the other side on Saturday night. It’s the same piece, but you will see different, constantly changing dance-scapes. Click here for more info.

Me in costume

Me in my tutu

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Music Moves at ODC

a work by Joe Goode, photo by Margo Moritz

Felipe Barrueto-Cabello and Melecio Estrella in a work by Joe Goode, photo by Margo Moritz

ODC Theater is planning a splash of dance and music events for its summer intensive students that will interest local audiences as well. In addition to favorite Bay Area choreographers like Joe Goode, KT Nelson, Brenda Way, and Randee Paufve, the Music Moves Festival brings the West Coast debut of John Heginbotham. The rising New York choreographer presents his group works Twin and Closing Bell, and will also dance a solo based on an “Air Mail Dance” score by the late Remy Charlip. (Heginbotham’s wonderful “Why I Dance”  was written just before he started making dances.) Plus, it includes Kate Weare’s collaboration with ODC/Dance which she mentions in her “Choreography in Focus.” Antoine Hunter, whose “Why I Dance” was particularly touching,  is also on board.

Dance Heginbotham in Twin, photo by Taylor Crichton

Dance Heginbotham in Twin, photo by Taylor Crichton; photo of Twin on homepage, with Lindsey Jones and Kristen Foote, is by Liza Voll

The festival intersperses dance fare with live music groups that highlight the physicality of creating sound. Keith Terry and Corposonic perform body percussion like “chest slaps, foot slides, cheek pops, clapping, stepping, and singing.” San Jose Taiko X The Bangerz combine taiko drumming and hip-hop.

Breathing Underwater, Brenda Way's collaboration with Zoe Keating, photo by Margo Moritz

Breathing Underwater, Brenda Way’s collaboration with Zoe Keating, with ODC dancers  Natasha Adorlee Johnson, Vanessa Thiessen, Anne Zivolich, and Yayoi Kambara, photo by Margo Moritz

Namita Kapoor, photo by Gundi Vigfusson

Namita Kapoor, photo by Gundi Vigfusson

The closing weekend goes global, splitting a program between local choreographer Namita Kapoor’s Hindu Swing and Rueda con Ritmo’s Cuban salsa.

July 31 to Aug. 24. Click here for more info and for tix.


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REDCAT’s NOW festival

Seeing dance in the context of other arts can stimulate us to make new connections. That is the hope of Mark Murphy, director of the enterprising REDCAT theater in the heart of Los Angeles. The New Original Works festival presents eight premieres in three programs, mixing and matching dance and music, film and performance. Murphy has stirred vibrant local performers into a pot “where disciplines are challenged and blurred.”

Wilfried Souly, photo by Andre Andreev

Wilfried Souly, photo by Andre Andreev. Homepage photo is also of Souly.

Program I, from July 24–26, features Wilfried Souly, whose dancing is like his name—soulful. Trained in African dance in his homeland of Burkina-Faso, he’s been studying with Victoria Marks at UCLA. I saw him in a duet of hers and was very moved by a quality that I would call emotional truth. In his solo Saana/The Foreigner, he creates a tapestry of dance, music, and spoken word to represent his search for a new life in his new land. Sharing the program are choreographer Rosanna Gamson and musical group Overtone Industries.

D. Sabela Grimes

D. Sabela Grimes

In the second program, July 31–Aug 2, D. Sabela Grimes, who began his career dancing with Rennie Harris Puremovement in Philly, challenges gender stereotypes in black culture in his Electrogynous. In The Singing Head, multi-media artist Carole Kim creates an environment out of live video imagery, scrims, and costumes in which butoh dancers Oguri and Roxanne Steinberg emerge as denizens. Completing the bill is Marsian de Lellis’ absurdist play, Object of Her Affection, which uses puppetry and “object theater.”

Concluding the series, on Aug 7–9, will be the new Israeli company in L.A., Ate9 dANCE company, directed by Naharin protégée Danielle Agami. When I saw them recently at Peridance, I loved the company (despite it’s trendy punctuation) for its waywardness and humor—and that willingness to be awkward that’s a special Israeli trademark. In her new piece, For Now, she collaborates with Persian hip-hop musician Omid Walizadeh. She shares the program with performance artist John Fleck’s Blacktop Highway, which promises to be an epic work of  the “gothic horror” genre. Click here for full info.


Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY, photo by Scott Simock


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Fire Island Dance Festival

Dancers Responding to AIDS always puts on a beautiful show at Fire Island, made even more stunning with the bay as backdrop. This year, three of today’s most charismatic dance stars will be on hand: Marcelo Gomes, Desmond Richardson, and Sara Mearns.

Marcelo Gomes, photo by Daniel Robinson

Marcelo Gomes, photo by Daniel Robinson

Marcelo will be dancing the balcony pas de deux of MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet with Luciana Paris, but he’ll also be premiering a new work that he choreographed for Complexions Contemporary Ballet. I’ve found his previous choreographic efforts to have musicality, humor, and inventiveness, so I am looking forward to this new one. In this Quick Q&A, he talks about what inspires him as a choreographer.

Desmond Richardson in Moonlight Solo, photo by Sharen Bradford

Desmond Richardson in Moonlight Solo, photo by Sharen Bradford. Photo of Ballet Hispanico on Homepage by Rosalie O’Connor

The eternally fantastic Desmond Richardson, who is now appearing in After Midnight, performed at the first Fire Island Festival in 1995, so it’s fitting that he’s returning for the 20th anniversary. He will be dancing Moonlight by Dwight Rhoden. As chance would have it, Complexions, co-led by Richardson and Rhoden, is also celebrating its 20th year.

Sara Mearns has been dancing a ton of roles at New York City Ballet as well as doing outside gigs. For this festival she’ll dance with eight guys in a new piece by Josh Bergasse, who choreographed for the TV show Smash.

Also on the program will be Ailey II in a section of Revelations, Troy Schumacher’s BalletCollective in a new work, MOMIX, and other groups. July 18–20. Tickets are expensive, but it’s all for a good cause. For more info, click here or call 212.840.0770, ext. 268.

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Carmen de Lavallade

Carmen de Lavallade is a miracle. Not just because she’s still dancing at 83, not just because a simple hand flourish can wow you with its natural elegance, not just because her honeyed voice can make any monologue interesting, not just because her body is incredibly lovely or her bearing is incredibly proud or her timing is incredibly theatrical. But also because watching her perform is a lesson in what stage instincts are about.

Photos © Julieta Cervantes

Photos © Julieta Cervantes

I’ve been enthralled every time I’ve seen her onstage. In 1962 at the Delacorte in Central Park, she swirled in a solo by Geoffrey Holder (her husband) with a kind of island-girl beauty. In 1992, partnered by Ulysses Dove in John Butler’s part jazzy/part tragic Portrait of Billie, she played the role of Billie Holiday with great pathos. (Click here to see it on the Pillow’s Dance Interactive) In 2002 she and Gus Solomons jr teamed up in Dwight Rhoden’s mesmerizing It All, which depicted the two as exhausted-but-questioning troupers in life.

Next week at Jacob’s Pillow she’ll be performing a new work, As I Remember It. To take a look back on her long career in dance and theater, she’s enlisted the help of director Joe Grifasi and dramaturg Talvin Wilks. June 20–22. For tickets click here.

Carmen with Alvin Ailey, c. 1950s

Carmen with Alvin Ailey, c. 1950s




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Walking Distance Dance Festival

When ODC Theater first produced the Walking Distance Dance Festival it brought together some of the gems of Bay Area dance. Now in its third year, it’s reaching farther afield to include artists from New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles as well as a few of San Francisco’s finest. According to SF Weekly, this annual festival provides “an occasion to reconsider the state of contemporary dance.”

Amy O'Neal's solo, The Most Innovative, Daring, and Original Piece of Dance/Performance You Will See this Decade, photo by Bruce Clayton Tom

Amy O’Neal’s solo, The Most Innovative, Daring, and Original Piece of Dance/Performance You Will See this Decade, photo by Bruce Clayton Tom

One of the intriguing programs on May 31 will pair Seattle’s congenially defiant, gender-bending Amy O’Neal with New York’s eternally saucy Doug Elkins. They have each created their own mash-up of hip-hop and postmodern dance so they are sort of part of the same sister/brotherhood. (Click on this Choreography in Focus for a video conversation between Amy and me, complete with popping lesson!)

Lucky for me—I will actually be part of this festival on that day. Because I’ll be reading and not dancing, I can attend the events just before and after my 6:00 time slot, which will be a short walk away from ODC Theater and Dance Commons at the Store Front Lab.

Rachna Nivas of Chitresh Das Dance Company, photo by Margo Moritz

Rachna Nivas of Chitresh Das Dance Company, photo by Margo Moritz

I look forward to seeing the latest incarnation of Charlie Moulton, whom I knew when he was a Cunningham dancer just beginning to choreograph. He’s now half of Garrett + Moulton Productions, and they’ll be paired with the renowned Kathak group, Chitresh Das Dance Company.  At some point I’ll head down to the Mission District to see Heidi Duckler’s site-specific Bowling Blues at Mission Bowling Club. I’ve heard about her work but never experienced it.

As the promotional material says, the pairings have been designed to “spark conversation.” And that goes for my reading too. Even though my bit will be toute seule, I definitely intend to trigger conversation—if not full-fledged arguments! But in another way, my reading won’t be alone at all, because I feel embraced by the Bay Area dance community just by being invited to this festival. Plus, my way has been paved by this thoughtful advance story by ODC writer-in-residence Marie Tollon.

The WDDF is actually a two-day festival, May 30 and 31, so check out their website for the full scope.

Something light, for the sake of the dark, photo by Tim Summers

Amy O’Neal in Something light, for the sake of the dark, photo by Tim Summers. Photo of O’Neal on Homepage by Gabriel Bienczycki





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