There’s No Problem Like Maria

Love at last!  Meghan Merrill as Maria and Daniel Charon as von Trapp. Photo: Taylor Crichton, courtesy of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival

So long, Fräulein Maria. Also farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. Not au revoir, but (gulp) adieu.  I’m not talking about the heroine played by Julie Andrews in the film based on the Broadway show, The Sound of Music; I refer to Doug Elkins’s fabulously funny and adorable, gender-corkscrewing take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved creation.  Fräulein Maria’s touring days are done. It will … [Read more...]

Listen Well, Children

Ryan Redmond and Travis Walker upend Benjamin Behrends in McIntyre's Ladies and Gentlemen. Photo: Taylor Crichton, courtesy of Jacob's Pillow

When Trey McIntyre Project unveiled its new Ladies and Gentlemen in Jacob’s Pillow’s Ted Shawn Theater (August 8-12), you could feel a sunny haze of nostalgia settle over the audience. I’m betting that a good percentage of the spectators could have raised their voices along with the recorded score—songs from the epochal 1972 album Free to Be. . .You and Me, instigated by Marlo Thomas. Maybe—as … [Read more...]

Stepping Into Dreams

Adele Nickel in Liz Gerring's she dreams in code. Photo: Taylor Crichton, courtesy of Jacob's Pillow Dance

The six dancers in Liz Gerring’s she dreams in code move as if tracking along known paths—or maybe it’s the animals being tracked that they resemble in their supple physicality and intent focus. Premiering last fall at the Baryshnikov Center and shown in Jacob’s Pillow’s Doris Duke Studio Theater August 15 through 19, Gerring’s wonderfully poetic work creates an ambiance through stage design, … [Read more...]

Shadow Presences, Tangible Absences

Jonah Bokaer in his Curtain. Photo: Liza Voll, courtesy Jacob's Pillow Dance

The back story:  Jonah Bokaer and David Hallberg were working together on a duet—the postmodern dancer-choreographer and the adventurous ballet virtuoso, the dark-haired guy and the blond one. Hallberg broke his foot shortly before the piece was to premiere at the Avignon Festival. Steps were taken. The show went on. Now I’ll shut up and talk about Curtain as it was at Jacob’s Pillow, August 1 … [Read more...]

Making Ballet New

Julie Fiorenza and Kirk Henning in From Foreign Lands and People. Photo: Christopher Duggan

While works of talented choreographers whose heritage is in modern dance pop up in parks, churches, lofts, barns, and theater like mushrooms after a good storm, gifted new choreographers working in the ballet idiom are rarer and therefore get a lot more attention. Remember the fuss surrounding Eliot Feld when he began choreographing in 1967 while still performing in American Ballet Theatre?  … [Read more...]

Men Dancing: Then and Now

Robert Swinston (front) and Germaul Barnes in The Men Dancers: From the Horse's Mouth (dress rehearsal). Photo: Taylor Crichton

Eighty years ago, when Ted Shawn assembled the all-male company that toured the U.S. with him during the 1930s, he aimed to eradicate the notion that dancing was for sissies (the polite, if bullying term for boys whose masculinity was in doubt). Almost all of those who joined Shawn’s Men Dancers were graduates of Springfield College’s Physical Education Department, and he toughened them further in … [Read more...]

Pounding the Earth, Aspiring to the Air

Nitsan Margaliot flying onto Eyal Vizner. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Cultural identity, terrain, traditions, body types, beliefs. How many other markers reveal how we like to move, how we define dance? Two very dissimilar styles appeared last week some miles north of New York City in pastoral surroundings. Israel’s Vertigo Dance Company performed in Jacob’s Pillow’s Ted Shawn Theater July 4 through 8, and on July 6, France’s Compagnie Fêtes galantes opened Bard’s … [Read more...]

Midsummer, Music, Morris

The Mark Morris Dance Group in Festival Dance. Photo: Stephanie Berger

  In 1931, Noël Coward walked out of the first public performance of William Walton’s Façade: An Entertainment in 1923, and a critic described the music for flute, clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, cello, and percussion as “relentless cacophony.” Coward may have been put off by the fact that Edith Sitwell, the author of the poems that formed Walton’s libretto, sat behind a screen and read … [Read more...]

A Single Dance in Four Chapters

Shantala Shivalingappa in Ushio Amagatsu's Ibuki. Photo: Laurent Philippe

Shantala Shivalingappa has always been an artistic voyager. Trained in India’s classical Kuchipudi style (first by her mother, Savitry Nair, then by Vempati Chinna Satyam), she danced with an unbridled white horse in Bartabas’s equine spectacle Chimère. She played Ophelia in Peter Brooks’s production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Miranda in his The Tempest. She has performed with Pina Bausch’s … [Read more...]

Looking Back, Forging Ahead

The Emperor Jones, Daniel Fetecua Soto  (red pants) amid his memories. Photo: Yi-Chun Wu

A man in a fancy military jacket—gold epaulettes and all—sits slumped on an outsized throne. Six men creep in warily, circle him, bow mockingly, jump about, seem to confer. The man doesn’t move. This is how José Limón’s The Emperor Jones begins. Limón choreographed the dance, based on Eugene O’Neill’s play of the same, in 1956, to a turbulent commissioned score by Heitor Villa-Lobos. The décor and … [Read more...]