Downtown Dance Festival

For a festival that started modestly 33 years ago, the Downtown Dance Festival is bursting at its seams. The fare ranges from established companies like Jennifer Muller/The Works (see Muller’s delightful “Choreography in Focus”) and Lori Belilove’s Isadora Duncan Dance Company, to  new groups like the colorful (and rhythm-ful) Dorrance Dance.

Isadora Duncan Dance Company

Isadora Duncan Dance Company; homepage photo of Sanjukta Sinha of Erasing Borders by Madhu Photograph

The international fare is also adventurous. Wednesday is devoted to the Erasing Borders dance festival, which includes six dance artists from India, and Thursday brings a premiere by South African choreographer Theo Ndindwa for Battery Dance Company, which hosts the festival.



Add to this a rare U.S. appearance by the new Madrid-based duo Entomo EA & AE. These two crazy guys poke and shudder and tangle in such insect-like ways that you could swear their arms are antennae and their legs are wings. They seem to have caught the rhythms of preying mantises; they could just as easily be mating or fighting to kill—shades of Jerome Robbins’ The Cage. (I was so impressed by them at the Havana festival in 2010 that I wrote them in this post.)

This year the festival takes place Aug. 17 to 21 in Battery Park City’s Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park. Click here for full schedule.

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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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Lincoln Center Out of Doors

For those of us who actually enjoy summers in the city, Lincoln Center Out of Doors is icing (ice cream?) on the cake. Because the concerts are free, audiences tend to be huge and wildly enthusiastic. So I advise you to get there early if you want a seat up front. But it’s also pleasant to meander toward Damrosch Park Bandshell later on and observe the crowd from the back.

Rennie Harris Puremovement

Rennie Harris Puremovement, Courtesy RHPM. Photo on homepage @ Christopher Duggan

Pam Tanowitz Dance Photo ©Christopher Duggan

Pam Tanowitz Dance, photo © Christopher Duggan

This year, you can soak up the power of hip-hop culture on July 24, when Rennie Harris Puremovement—with three NYC premieres—shares a program with a Brazilian hip-hop group called A Batalha do Passinho. On July 25 you can see the clean ballet/Cunningham blend of Pam Tanowitz, who is paired with the music group Eight Blackbird.

Mr. TOL E. RAncE Photo ©  Christopher Duggan

Mr. TOL E. RAncE, photo © Christopher Duggan

Next week brings Camille A. Brown with her dance-theater work on race, Mr.  TOL E. RAncE, which was just nominated for a Bessie. A highly theatrical performer herself, Brown is both fearless and charming (see her Choreography in Focus). She is passionate about her chosen themes. On August 2, she shares the evening with another daring artist, the singer/songwriter Stew, who calls his current group The Negro Problem. So get ready for a smart, irony-drenched challenge to racism from two artists who have something to say.

For complete info on this series, click here.

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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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Boston Ballet Comes to NYC

For its very first New York season, Boston Ballet is mixing history with high modernism in two programs. They include works by Balanchine, Forsythe, Nijinsky, Kylián, Elo and others. Both programs will be noteworthy, but if you can only see one I would vote for Program I.

When I reviewed this company three years ago, I wrote that Forsythe’s The Second Detail “knocked it out of the park.”  Even in that review I had a hard time saying why. I just remember how galvanizing it was, how alert-making every decision was, how beguiling that the row of 14 chairs upstage gave the dancers a different plane to exist on. The Second Detail shares the program with two works I know nothing about: Alexander Ekman’s Cacti and Jose Martinez’s Resonance.

Isaac Akiba in The Second Detail, photo by Gene Schiavone

Isaac Akiba in The Second Detail, photo by Gene Schiavone

Program II is the more historical one. It includes a careful reconstruction of Nijinsky’s rarely performed Afternoon of a Faun (1912), which I reviewed in 2009 when BB assembled the best Diaghilev program I’d seen during that centenary year. Balanchine’s stunning architectural masterwork Symphony in Three Movements will be a reminder that he was an advisor at the birth of Boston Ballet in 1963.

BB was the first company to produce an all-Kylián evening, but the Kylián piece they are bringing, Bella Figura, is not one of my favorites. I feel the same about Plan to B, by BB’s resident choreographer Jorma Elo. But we in New York don’t see enough of either of these fascinating choreographers, and I admire artistic director Mikko Nissenen’s artistic taste, so I am going to give myself another chance to warm up to those works.

Dusty Button and Bo Busby in Plan to B, photo by Rosalie O'Connor

Dusty Button and Bo Busby in Plan to B, photo by Rosalie O’Connor

Boston Ballet has some terrific dancers, including Kathleen Breen Combes, Misa Kuranaga, Lia Cirio, Jeffrey Cirio, and John Lam. It will be interesting to see if NYC falls in love with Boston Ballet the way it/they/we did with San Francisco Ballet. June 25–29, Koch Theater, Lincoln Center. Click here or here for more info.

John Lam in The Second Detail, photo by Gene Schiavone

John Lam in The Second Detail, photo by Gene Schiavone

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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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Eiko On Her Own

Fred & Ginger. Sonny & Cher. Eiko & Koma. These longterm partnerships are so ingrained that when they break up, it can be hard to believe. No, Eiko and Koma are not breaking up as a real-life couple. But they are working on separate projects. Eiko has been collaborating with students at the Eugene Lang College within the New School,  while Koma is working on visual art projects. Now she is making a duet for herself and the younger, Tokyo-based dancer Tomoe Aihara that explores their age difference. Two Women uses natural light, a futon Eiko made herself, and only ambient sound. Eiko calls the piece “raw and odd.” Two Women  is part of the River to River festival on Governors Island. Go to Building 110: LMCC’s Arts Center at Governors Island, ground floor, entrance adjacent to the Manhattan ferry dock to your right. Here’s the schedule: Friday, June, 20 at 2:10 pm (take 2:00 pm or earlier ferry);
 Sunday, June 22 at 2:00 pm (take 1:30 pm or earlier ferry). Click here for more ferry info.

Eiko in Governors' Island. Photo by William Johnston.

Eiko in Governors Island. Photo by William Johnston.

The River to River festival provides a cornucopia of performance goodies—all free—through June 29, so you might as well take a look at their whole calendar. 

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Cedar Lake


Orbo Novo. Homepage photo: Grace Engine. Photos by Julieta Cervantes

If you want to see work by the latest European choreographers performed by awesomely technical dancers, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet is for you. In its 10th-anniversary season, the company brings Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Orbo Novo, with its tender encounters and intricate oozing through a large trellis, and Hofesh Shechter’s Violet Kid, which is so fiercely herd-like that one might call it contemporary tribal. Also on the season are works by Norway’s Jo Strømgren and Sweden’s Alexander Ekman. I would just advise that you bring your night-time spectacles because much of the lighting is dim.

Good news: Cedar Lake recently named Crystal Pite associate choreographer. We don’t see enough of her work in New York. Her circuitous chains of energy can be mesmerizing. The apocalyptic Grace Engine, which she made for Cedar Lake in 2012, is part of this season. (See my “Choreography in Focus” with her.) June 11–14 at Brooklyn Academy of Music and American Dance Festival. Click here for more info.


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ZviDance’s Surveillance

One of the more ingenious choreographers to embed technology into his work is Zvi Gotheiner. In Zoom (2010) he chanced having audience members snap photos with their iPhones and email them to be posted on a large screen. As I reported in this review, one of the dancers “invited a shared stream of consciousness via texting.” That delightful encounter with techno-improv will no doubt turn darker in the new work at New York Live Arts.

Surveillance, photo by

Surveillance, photo by Hertog Nadler

Gotheiner is not one to shy away from trouble. When he premiered Dabke (2012), although he intended to make a dance about the melding of Arab and Israeli cultures, he was accused of “appropriating” a traditional Arabic form of dance. (Click here for the strong statement of New York Dabke dancers who felt exploited by Gotheiner’s use of the form. “Our cultural heritage is not your natural resource.”) Now, with Surveillance, he plans to delve into issues of privacy infringement that’s such a hot topic today. How do we consent, he asks in this work, to the technological invasion of our private lives?

ZviDance’s excellent dancers will no doubt perform his athletic, inventive choreography with their usual gusto. June 11–14 at New York Live Arts. Click here for more info.

Surveillance, photo by Hertog Nadler

Surveillance, photo by Hertog Nadler

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