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Archives for 2010

Winter Solstice No. 3: “The Nutcracker” According to Morris

Mark Morris Dance Group: The Hard Nut / BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Brooklyn, NY / December 10-19, 2010 For all the rigorously classical attributes of his work, Mark Morris, celebrated for his choreographic chops, has a distinct renegade streak. The Hard Nut, his version of The Nutcracker ballet, gives his iconoclastic outlook every opportunity to flourish. Morris's take on the glorious Tchaikovsky score was created in 1991, when the Mark Morris Dance Group was in luxurious exile in Brussels, as the resident dance company of the Théâtre … [Read more...]

Winter Solstice No. 2: “The Nutcracker” According to Balanchine

Even after my daughter, a School of American Ballet student, outgrew (literally--the costumes have to fit) a string of kiddie roles in Balanchine's Nutcracker--Angel, Soldier, Polichinelle, Candy Cane--I still made many a trip to Lincoln Center for New York City Ballet's annual offering of the holiday production. As a dance critic, I've found the ballet infinitely engaging and worth considering from myriad angles. This season I've gone twice, both times to focus on the company dancer who fascinates me most these days: Sara Mearns, who is … [Read more...]

They Lost It at the Movies

Black Swan / Opened December 3, 2010 Surely The Red Shoes, created by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is the most beloved ballet film of all time. My innocent eyes and heart were ravished by it shortly after its premiere in 1948. Shot in fabulous color--it glowed like a handful of precious jewels--the movie was built on a melodramatic exaggeration of a myth still popular at the time. The idea (which had a modicum of truth in it), was that being a ballerina was a full-time job and a half, leaving no room whatsoever for love or its … [Read more...]

Winter Solstice No. 1

Dancer unidentified Photo: Martha Swope (1964) Note: The photos of the young Prince reproduced here are from George Balanchine's celebrated version of The Nutcracker, inspired by the Russian production of his youth. Balanchine himself played the role as a student in the St. Petersburg academy that trained dancers for the celebrated company we now know as the Kirov or Maryinsky Ballet. Each photo shows the Prince in the mime monologue with which he tells the Sugar Plum Fairy about his earlier battle with the Mouse King and his retinue. … [Read more...]

La Plume de Ma Tante: Personal Indulgences No. 19

My mother must have had a decent command of French. Sometimes, as I was growing up, she'd refer to it, though always briefly and casually, as if the subject had little importance. All I ever found out was that she had taught elementary--perhaps even intermediate--French as well as English literature (using a textbook called From Beowulf to Thomas Hardy) at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn in the 1930s. That was before my father and then I came into her life and changed her career to that of housewife and mother. But she had kept some of … [Read more...]

Gimme Shelter

Sasha Waltz & Guests: Gezeiten / BAM Howard Gilman Opera House / November 3-6, 2010 Three doors, phantasmagorically mismatched, open onto an empty room. The paint on its walls has peeled away in jagged fragments to reveal two previous colors. This derelict space could provide shelter only to the desperate. One of the doors has a thick brick frame that juts into the room. It's easily imagined as the entrance to a crematorium; instantly you think Holocaust. It turns out that Sasha Waltz, who choreographed this dance-theater … [Read more...]

Darkness Palpable

Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM: Crystal Pite's Dark Matters / Alexander Kasser Theater, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey / October 21-24, 2010 Name Crystal Pite and most of the dance enthusiasts I know still say "Who?" Maybe it's just America that doesn't know her. Yet. Pite's had a solid career as a dancer--in her native Canada and beyond, notably with William Forsythe, in Germany. Turned choreographer, she's created pieces for companies of some rank, among them Nederlands Dans Theater, Ballett Frankfurt, and Les Ballets Jazz de … [Read more...]

Bourne Again

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake / New York City Center / October 13 - November 7, 2010 Once upon a time, as Matthew Bourne tells us, there was a crown prince, a supersensitive fellow with an emotionally frozen mother (see Freud). Naturally, he gets himself entrapped by a tiara-coveting floozy (see the tabloids' take on royalty), all the while fumbling at and fretting over the arid court duties he despises. His instincts for romance, sex, true love, freedom from constraint, even rendezvous with danger--every young man's birthright, wouldn't you … [Read more...]

Doing Well in a Rainy Climate: Ballet in the Pacific Northwest

By Martha Ullman West, guest contributor A recent National Endowment for the Arts survey shows that per capita attendance at the ballet in Oregon is fourth in the nation; in Washington State it is even higher. Could this be because we have decent-to-excellent ballet in a part of the country better known for the bounty of its rivers, the height of its trees, and the beauty of its scenery? Lord knows, ballet attendance in the United States as a whole is woefully small (at best four percent of the population, surveys show), and the three … [Read more...]

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen / Museum of Modern Art, NYC / September 15, 2010 - March 14, 2011 Fall for Dance / City Center, NYC / September 28 - October 9, 2010 Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch / BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Brooklyn, NY / September 29 - October 9, 2010 Trisha Brown Dance Company / Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC / September 30 - October 3, 2010 Every now and then I steal time from dance, my regular beat, to indulge another passion: old things--vintage fashion, vintage films, vintage … [Read more...]

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