RM the Reboot
Oi, as we say on the cusp of Yom Kippur. I see I haven't filed anything here since Sept. 11. Bad me. BAD. Tina Brown has started a new online magazine called The Daily Beast. Trivial though it seems to be, like Ms. Tina herself, I can relate to the title. After I named this blog Rockwell Matters, picking up on the title WNYC had suggested for my late and (by me) lamented raido program, I toyed with calling it Ravenous Beast. The idea was that the blog was this growling creature demanding to be fed, daily or more, and copiously. It would become very angry were it sentient and had not been fed since Sept. 11.
My problem is not coming up with topics; there's always something, and something (to me) interesting. It's carving out the time in day after day filled with frenetic activity, some semi-important and much trivial, but frenetic nonetheless. As it happens, though, the last few weeks have been packed with cultural events that lured me into attendance. This after a summer that had its cultural moments, but a thin Lincoln Center Festival schedule (due largely to theater renovations) and a consequent greater amount of time spent in our upstate New York country place. That afforded me easier access to Bard and Glimmerglass (oddly, not Jacob's Pillow and, it's been like that for years, Tanglewood), but the cultural density was less.
Now, though, the New York fall seaaon has opened with a bang. At least in dance; I've skipped the Metropolitan Opera until Dr. Atomic opens this coming Monday, and seen nothing much at the big concert halls, let alone rock & roll. I was a music critic most of my life, but I find that I go to more dance now than music, at least in recent weeks. That's partly because I thought when I was the NYT chief dance critic, and still think now, that dance is in a particularly exciting, lively creative place now, across the board.
In ballet, even, what with a raft of wonderful dancers, from the international and local star veterans to the latest sensation, unveiled in the short Morphoses season at City Center, the lyrical, subtle 15-year-old Beatriz Stix-Brunell. (I love a program bio that rattles on about a dancer's fabulous training and glamorous worldwide performances and ends "She is in the 10th grade at the Nightingale-Bamford School.") And she's black, though I have no notion of her actual racial background, which might seem unseemly to mention except that black ballerinas have been woefully underrepresented in our major companies -- cf. Alica J. Graf. But ballet is now further blessed with two terrirfic young choregraphers: Christopher Wheeldon, of Morphoses, and Alexei Ratmansky, late of the Bolshoi and now to be artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre. They're temperamentally distinct -- Wheeldon cooler and more classical, Ratmansky more emotional and, well, Russian -- but both use academic vocabulary to expressive ends.
But the real dance buzz and bustle this early fall in New York has been in the realm of what we used to call modern dance, or what the Europeans call contemporary dance. In other words, more or less formal dance in which a whole range of post-balletic steps and theatricality and conceptual puzzlements are the norm. Among major dance critics in New York, this whole area has been grievously slighted in recent years, in favor of ballet. But it's the source of much of the innovation even in ballet; just ask Mikhail Baryshnikov, who avidly fosters it.
But this posting has gone on too long. I'll file again, soon, on all of that, from Jerome Bel to Fall for Dance to Bhutanese cham to Tere O'Connor to Ivana Mueller to Bill T. Jones to Ann Liv Young to DV8. Plus something on "The Bonesetter's Daughter" at the San Francisco Opera.
For an ongoing conversation and news reports about arts journalism, go to the blog of the National Arts Journalism Program, here.