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 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. 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.
When Trey McIntyre Project was going strong, the synergy between Trey as choreographer and John-Michael Schert as dancer-cum-executive-director was the juice that stoked this company’s success. Whatever creative projects McIntyre came up with, Schert figured out how to implement them in a way that strengthened their role in a community—both local and international. Trey was the dreamy, dreaming one and John-Michael was the practical one. Together they created a juggernaut that turned Boise into a city of dance lovers.
Mercury Half-Life, which will be performed at the Pillow, photo by Trey McIntyre
Three years ago, when Dance Magazine did a cover story on the company , it seemed the TMP would last forever. The company had found an ideal home in Boise and was continuing its dense schedule of touring. Audiences all over the world responded to their snappy, fun, witty, complex choreography. As I wrote in 2009, McIntyre really knows how to use music that brings big pleasure to a broad audience.
Chanel daSilva and John-Michael Schert, photo by Lois Greenfield
So when it was announced in January that this week’s run at Jacob’s Pillow will be its last, many speculated on the cause of TMPs demise. Marina Harss quotes McIntyre in her story in yesterday’s New York Times as saying he doesn’t want to undergo the “creative sacrifice” any more. Fair enough. Running a dance company can be a burden, especially when a choreographer is still getting lots of freelance work or wants to pick up a camera instead of walk into a dance studio.
But I am also guessing that the chemistry, once Schert left, just wasn’t there any more. And that must have changed the balance of responsibilities drastically.
By the way, I don’t think the loss of TMP is a tragedy, at least for dance lovers outside of Boise. Yes, he is one of the best American choreographers, and in the old social order, he should have his own company. But things are changing. We can see McIntyre’s work in many other companies—Cincinnati Ballet’s wildly fun rendition of his madcap Chasing Squirrel at the Joyce was a recent example. And Schert has gone on to become visiting artist, mentor, and social entrepreneur for the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and UChicago Arts.
Just remember, even the Beatles only stayed together a few years.
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
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
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
Watching Gina Gibney whack away at a wall dividing two small studios to create a large one was thrilling. Using a gold-painted mallet, she was strong and persistent even though the wall was harder to get through than she expected. It was a perfect metaphor for what she has already accomplished at 280 Broadway, her new space on Chambers Street. The official opening in October will unveil five studios, two theaters and Lab outfitted with the latest technology, these last three to be programmed by a curator. Meanwhile, her space at 890 Broadway, near Union Square, continues going strong with eight studios, buzzing with classes or rentals most of the day. One could call this double massive center an empire—except that Gibney is the last person to be imperial.
Gina Gibney taking the first bash
At the bash/brunch gathering on Tuesday, Gina talked about breaking down barriers, namely, the barriers of negative thinking. Before taking up the mallet, she described the former situation as succumbing to a downward spiral. She aims to build up, bit by bit, with positive energy. If anyone can do it, Gina can. Spending a few minutes with her is all you need to witness her loving care for the space, respect for her staff, and willingness to listen to all options. During her talk, she said something like, “When you work on solving a problem, you can find a solution that’s not just for yourself but for the whole community.”
Margaret Morton of DCA taking a whack
That is such a generous, forward-looking philosophy that I (as somebody on Twitter noticed) called her a visionary. But the Department of Cultural Affairs saw her vision—and powerhouse competence—way before I did. Margaret Morton, former deputy commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, talked about the love and brains that Gina invests in her projects. She also praised Gina’s ability to work closely with her own board through thick and thin. The DCA had been watching how Gibney operated her fifth-floor space at 890 Broadway (the same building as American Ballet Theatre); they were impressed with how steadily Gibney expanded that space from one studio to eight since 2000. The lease on 280 is for 20 years so the DCA needed a solid tenant.
The space at 280 Broadway (entrance on Chambers Street) had been designated for dance by the City in hopes of developing the cultural life in Lower Manhattan post-9/11. When DNA went under, they were in jeopardy of losing the space for dance. Last January, Morton told Pia Catton of the Wall Street Journal that the DCA “didn’t want to lose it. We put money into developing the space, and we wanted to preserve it for the dance community.”
Morton also mentioned Gibney Dance’s history of activism as bring a plus in the eyes of the DCA. The Gibney Dance Company’s mission since 1991 has been to work with survivors of domestic violence in all parts of the world. The company, which just returned from an activist stint in South Africa, has garnered support to continue giving hundreds of workshops. And Gibney has designated a room for community action training at 280—how many dance centers have that?
Thomas Scott, head of the board of, and his two sons, all photos by Whitney Browne (you might recognize a certain dance writer in the crowd)
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll say that I’ll be teaching dance writing at Gibney Dance in October. But in the spirit of a New Yorker for Dance, I’ll say I’m just very happy about this. Click here for more information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For 34 years hordes of people have gathered every spring to run, walk, and dance with a purpose. The brainchild of the Bay Area’s living treasure, Anna Halprin, the Planetary Dance is performed on the side of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County. As the story goes, the murders of six women had turned the mountain into a place of fear. Halprin’s group decided to create a ritual to purify and reclaim the mountain. After the ceremony, which lasted several days, the killer was apprehended. (More about the history of the Planetary Dance here.)
Just one of the miracles of Anna Halprin. Another was her ability to heal her own cancer through dance and imagery. Yet another is the sheer vitality of her physical and mental self as she nears age 94. She is still a leader, and where she goes, all kinds of people follow—dancers, drummers, authors.
Last week I got to experience the Planetary Dance at Mt. Tamalpais. (I had once participated in it at Judson Memorial Church where Halprin had given workshops in 2010.)
The outdoor, relaxed ambience reminded me of a family-style Woodstock, with people of all ages responding to the drumbeat. Instead of drugs, delicious and healthy homemade food was set out on tables.
Anna Halprin demonstrating how to announce our purpose
As a warm-up, Anna led us through simple shakes and reaches. She told us to “Put your mind into your body and ground yourself. If you really connect to the ground, you’ll be as solid as a rock.” As we walked out to the field in two lines, the slow beat of the drummers echoed in the surrounding mountains. When the two lines split and created a huge circle, we then started running in three concentric circles. You changed your path depending on how fast or slow your body felt like going at that moment. But before you ran, you had to raise your arms and yell out what you were running for.
With the designated theme of protecting our children, the first person ran for the children of Fukushima. The second person, from a group of Malaysian students, ran for the Malaysian child victims of the recent flight lost and never found. Another person ran for all homeless children, may they find love and shelter. I ran for children to be free of gun violence.
The drummers pounded and chanted at the center of the circle—the eye of the storm—where Anna was quietly orchestrating their changes in pace. The drummers got carried away; we got carried away.
With the drumbeat accelerating, the uneven earth commanding one’s attention so as not to fall, and the exhilaration of being among other runners (and walkers), it was easy to forget the purpose of the run. But at the end Anna brought us back to our purpose. She asked us to sit back-to-back with a neighbor for a few minutes, then face that person and tell her or him of our plans to bring our stated goal closer to reality.
One could call the Planetary Dance a feel-good ritual. But built into the structure (or score, as Halprin calls it) is connection to your body, to nature, and to the challenges of a cause. Ideally, the Planetary Dance, which last Sunday involved about 400 people, takes you from ritual to activism.
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 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.