Last night I went to panel discussion at the Guggenheim Museum as part of its “Works and Process” series, in which artists discuss their current “work in progress” with the public. Last night’s talk was entitled “The Shakespeare Festival” and focused on the American Ballet Theater‘s upcoming Met season, which will include several “Shakespeare ballets” — most notably their newest production, choreographer Lar Lubovitch‘s rendition of “Othello.” This was my first time attending one of these talks and it was really interesting, albeit short. The space, downstairs in the museum’s basement, was very intimate, seating only about a couple hundred, in contrast to the enormous opera houses and theaters the company performs in. The discussion, by Lubovitch, Kevin McKenzie (ABT’s artistic director), and moderator Wes Chapman, was interspersed with performances of pieces of the ballet by the ABT dancers, of course! Our cast was: Stella Abrera as Emilia, Jared Matthews as Cassio, Sascha Radetsky as Iago, Xiomara Reyes as Desdemona, Sarawanee Tanatanit as Bianca, and some guy I’ve never heard of before named David Hallberg?? — as Othello.
When he walked onstage, Wes Chapman (gosh, I keep wanting to call him Wes Craven…) said he first wished to introduce the dancers “since most of you are probably confused by all those names in the Playbills and it would be nice to put a face to a name for once.” He said this totally seriously. And only about two people in the audience (including me) laughed. Are ‘normal’ ABT patrons really this weird, or is it me — am I the weirdo?
Anyway, David!!!!!!!!!! Unbelievably for me, I arrived a little late (cross-town buses on the weekend are evil), and it was general seating so I couldn’t get my usual spot — practically onstage. But even though I was about six rows back, everyone was so CLOSE compared to when they regularly perform. And David looked SO skinny — I couldn’t believe it. He was also wearing all black dancewear (a slimming color we all know — oh also, the dancers weren’t in costume; they wore their normal working clothes), so could have been that — but he just looked so small.
I can’t wait to see the whole production — choreography looks so beautiful, even though it’s a pretty bloody story. I think Lubovitch is so brilliant — I haven’t seen a lot of his work, but from what I have, he is definitely becoming a favorite of mine (and he uses the great one a lot in his work, so clearly he knows what he’s doing…). Seriously, it was the first time I’ve seen him speak and he sounded really erudite and perspicacious. He said he was trying to create a “ballet in pictures” and was not so concerned with a linear narrative (as was the playwright who, he noted, didn’t actually originate the story; rather an Italian man whose name I can’t remember now is credited with that, though it was really originally an orally handed-down folk tale) as with making something that was humanly relatable and emotionally true to the classic story. As someone who’s fundamentally verbally oriented, I have a keen interest in how the poetry of language is translated into the poetry of dance, so I was very intrigued. But, as I said, unfortunately, the discussion was far too short.
But the dancing was brilliant. David is a baby genius. And I can’t wait to see the whole thing. Although, I have to say, it was really amazing just being able to watch them up close in their rehearsal clothes, without all the elaborate stage sets and costumes and props in a huge house. In a weird way all the pomp and circumstance of the theater kind of distances you from what you’re essentially there to see — the dancing…
Anyway, the Guggenheim has several other dance events as part of this series. Go here to have a look.