NO WAY

I came home from my first night at the Fall For Dance Festival and turned on Jimmy Kimmel before I had a chance to watch my tape of Dancing With the Stars. I honestly thought he was kidding when he announced who was kicked off.

Even though I liked him, I can see Ashley, but Macy? I thought she had a good attitude toward the competition but maybe people interpreted it more as haughtiness? She definitely wasn’t the worst woman Tuesday night, and that’s not what the show’s about anyway. Why vote for the best person on the first night; why not vote for someone you can watch improve? Sucks that she never got to do Latin because I think she would have been a lot better at that than Standard.

I don’t get it at all.

She didn’t end up going on Jimmy Kimmel because, as Jonathan Roberts said, she was too upset, thinking she let her fans down.

Anyway, at least my whole evening didn’t suck:

(photo from here)

Fall For Dance last night consisted of four companies, four dances (more about them all later), but my highlight was definitely Savion Glover. I know he’s been on one of the TV shows before — either Dancing With the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance — can’t remember which one. But this was my first time seeing him live and ooooh! You have to see him dance live; there’s nothing like it. This is one of the best dance performances — one of the best performances period — I’ve ever seen. And he’s such a cutie in person and he dances with so much genuine happiness, so much joy. And he’s small — smaller than I thought! Ah, I came out of City Center feeling like I often feel after seeing Alvin Ailey — I just wanted to dance all the way home.

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DANCING WITH THE STARS SEASON 9 PREMIERE: THE WOMEN

Very excited to see Baz Luhrmann guest judge next week!

My favorites last night were Kelly Osbourne (and loved that her dad was on and that he became genuinely emotional over her splendid Viennese waltz! — as did her mum), Mya, and Macy Gray. What I really found endearing about Kelly was how blasted hard she obviously worked. She did not look so hot in practice sessions. And she was pretty down on herself. And then she came out there and did that gorgeous waltz with all that poise and polish and grace and watery fluidity. I almost cried for her — and I never watched her show!

I know, I know — overall, young swimsuit model Joanna Krupa was the best — her salsa alone showed that she’s rhythmic and used to moving her hips and, surprisingly her foxtrot showed she could be graceful and even delicate as well — but, I don’t know, I personally don’t find her as endearing as, say Macy. And Joanna’s full of confidence, which may not go down that well with the largely female voting public. I think she’ll be on for a while, but she may be the Sabrina Bryan of this season rather than the Brooke Burke.

I can’t help but love Macy’s ‘this is gonna be fun and I’m gonna work hard but I’m not getting caught up in all the competitive bullshit’ attitude. Love those facial expressions too! The judges were right on when they said she won the audience over with her magnetism. Not so good (I can’t bring myself to say ‘bad’!) as she was, I couldn’t take my eyes off her during that Viennese waltz. And I didn’t realize she was so tall — she’s got several inches on Jonathan Roberts!

I thought Mya was just so fluid in the Viennese waltz, and so killer in the cha cha. I disagree with whatever judge criticized the kick — I thought that kick was mad!

I like Debi Mazur a lot and she obviously isn’t a natural and doesn’t have training, but I want to see her improve. That’s what the show is about — working hard toward a goal and being able to do something you couldn’t before. I think she has the ability to improve. And she’s someone I can relate to and think others probably can too. So I really really hope she’s not the woman to go tonight. Bruno tells her she can’t dance but it doesn’t matter because she has great boobs. These kinds of comments are really not funny but clearly he’s not keen enough to realize that. Interesting how Maks covered Debi’s ears when he said that — I thought he was doing that to be funny but judging by the look on her face, it looked more that she was truly annoyed at Bruno and may haul off and sock him one.

I have to say Melissa Joan Hart didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I can’t really even remember her Viennese waltz to be honest. And I didn’t see her cha cha. Mark was kind of the star of that little routine :) Oh Mark — you’re a hopeless show-off and we will always love you for it…

Kathy Ireland (whom I would never have recognized!) was like Paulina Porizkova all over again. Same problem with the lack of groundedness in the salsa, the bouncing around. Bruno told her there was no “sex,” and without sex there is no salsa. So, according to him, since she didn’t get down on the ground and practically perform a sex act with Tony Dovolani, she didn’t actually salsa. She did much better with the foxtrot I thought, though the judges thought she did only marginally better.

I feel like I shouldn’t be too angry at Bruno or Len for their comments though. It seems the producers have told one to lust all over the women and make as many sex-laced comments as possible and the other to spend the season doing his best impersonation of Dana Carvey’s old SNL character, Grumpy Old Man (or whatever that character was called) and piss on and on about the way no one is adhering to basic ballroom.

I personally thought Dmitry’s Viennese waltz for Mya was choreographically the most engaging routine of the night. Louis van Amstel is a master choreographer too and he’s largely the reason Kelly shined as she did.

Who did I leave out?… Oh, Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin. Wow, beautiful arms — particularly in practice. The judges seemed to like her salsa, but I thought it had the same problem as most of the others — not grounded enough and too hop-py. I knew she was going to nail the Standard though — with those feathery arms! — and she did with the foxtrot.

I’m looking forward to tonight — particularly the Patrick Swayze tribute.

Photo of Louis van Amstel and Kelly Osbourne taken from Louis’s DWTS thread.

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LEVELS OF NOTHINGNESS STARRING ISABELLA ROSSELLINI

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Photos above courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.

Over the weekend, I went to see a spoken word / light performance by Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer called Levels of Nothingness, at the Guggenheim, as part of their Works & Process series. The work was inspired by Kandinsky’s Yellow Sound. (There is currently a large Kandinsky exhibit in the Guggenheim, in celebration of the museum’s 50th anniversary). Wassily Kandinsky is considered the father of abstract art, he used color extensively to evoke inner states, and he believed in the convergence of all art forms — painting, sound, movement. Yellow Sound is basically a compilation of his notes describing his ideas for an theatrical piece or an opera in which color and lighting played a large role.

So, starting from that idea, Lozano-Hemmer (and co-writer Brian Massumi) constructed an interactive installation in which a system of lights would respond to spoken words. Actress Isabella Rossellini read the words, which were quotes from various philosophical texts about perception and color (interestingly, all texts were by non-Newtonian thinkers, who believed, in contrast to Newton, that one’s perception of color was subjective.) Basically, a computerized microphone analyzed Rossellini’s voice, taking into account her: pitch, wavelength, amplitude, intensity, speed, accent, intonation, and speech patterns. That information triggered robotic lights (these rather cute little R2D2-looking guys which were set up to surround the stage and perimeter of the auditorium) to create various light effect, such as those used in a rock concert — fly-aways, bump cues, color chases, ballyhoos, builds and flash-throughs — I don’t know what all of those things are but figure there may be theater-people reading who do!

Anyway, the effect was interesting but not really what I was expecting. Go here to see a clip of it; scroll down about halfway through the article until you see the video on the left side — on the video, you can click on the little box in the right-hand corner to enlarge the video to fit your entire computer screen.

It’s very cool to be sure, but it seemed more orchestrated than I was expecting. For example, every time Rossellini began on a new piece of text, she’d wait a few seconds for the machines to all re-adjust and prepare for that segment. So with each text there would be a specific light pattern: a white-based kaleidoscope one on the ceiling, a yellow-based one, a red light would light up behind her and go off and on as her voice stopped and started, sometimes there would be a multiplicity of lights all shining up at the ceiling making circles of light in multiple colors, etc. But they weren’t all happening at once. Each quote was set up to show one kind of pattern and then the lights would blink on and off or move around in the kaleidoscope according to her voice. It’s hard to explain, but watch that video if you want to see what I mean.

Afterward, the audience got to test it, which was fun. The host walked around with a microphone and let various people speak into it, reading from text projected on the back wall. Everyone was behaved and no one did crazy voices or spoke really loudly or anything so the lights were kind of mild as well. What I (and another woman, who asked) really wanted was for several different people to say the exact words side by side to see how the lighting design was different for each voice. But the system wasn’t set up to do that. At one point, Lozano-Hemmer re-read the same text an audience member had just read, and there did seem to be a subtle different in the lights, but I needed to see more of that to compare.

Anyway, after the performances, the Guggenheim hosts these little cocktail hours where you can meet the artists.

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Here is Lozano-Hemmer speaking with some of the attendees. I couldn’t find Rossellini. Sorry so blurry — I hate flashing in people’s faces.

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Well, anyway, the Guggenheim seems to have replaced their tray-loads of mini sandwiches with these rather long bread sticks. Probably a wise idea to get rid of the mini sandwiches because, as James Wolcott has noted, people go downright mad for those things, nearly killing each other in the stampede toward the food tables. You’d think none of these people eat for a month before a Guggenheim Works & Process event just so they can load up on “free” (if you subtract the $30 you paid for the ticket) little cucumber and mayonnaise squares. Could never figure out what gives with that?

Anyway, the bread sticks are tasty, and surprisingly filling, but when I went to put one to my mouth I realized how blasted long they were — it was like eating a baton. You had to really hold the end of the breadstick out quite a distance from your mouth. It was rather amusing watching all these people standing around with a glass of wine in one hand, holding a bread stick up in the air with another! For a moment they looked like cigarette holders and the whole scene looked a bit Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

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FALL FOR DANCE BEGINS TONIGHT

And in honor of that, I couldn’t resist posting more beautiful pictures of Diana Vishneva, taken by Nina Alovert. Vishneva is dancing Fokine’s Dying Swan late in the festival. Tickets to all nights are all sold out but you can wait in line for returns beginning at 6:30 p.m. each night, and you can have some food and wine in the lounge while watching performances via video. Tomorrow night is the first Ballet Russes-focused Dance Talk up in City Center’s Studio 5.

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WAS THAT MAN BOOBS OR MAN MOVES?: DANCING WITH THE STARS SEASON 9 PREMIERE

Haha! Okay, well after spending much of my evening at the melodramatic (but riveting) Tosca (it was the Metropolitan’s Opera’s opening night gala, with the premiere of a new production of Puccini’s Tosca, by Met newcomer Luc Bondy), it was nice to come home to this rather goofy corny fun – -which is what social dancing mainly is after all! I don’t want to speak too soon, but, to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to this season since the last few have been rather blah, but I think with last night’s show, we’re back on track. Lots of characters, some riotously funny, some endearingly sweet, some good dancers, others not so good but serious and hard-working.

For me, the top two (last night was only the men; women compete tonight) were Donny Osmond and, unbelievably, Tom DeLay. I thought DeLay was a natural with the Cha Cha, UNBELIEVABLY! He really nailed it — that slide on the knees, all the faux guitar playing, those awesome New Yorkers, all that hip swaying! The only thing that wasn’t really there were the pelvic rolls. I also thought he was very elegant and polished with the Viennese Waltz and was surprised the judges were hard on him — particularly since none of the guys were that good with VW (except for Aaron). Partner Cheryl seemed annoyed with him in practice though. Well, just so she knows, a lot of people who don’t normally watch this show are watching because of him, so if I were her, I’d snap out of it. She’s been rather short-tempered with her partners lately…

Donny was a total natural – -he nailed both the Foxtrot and the Salsa, which is rare — doing well in both styles of dance I mean. Yeah, I know he has dance training (he “danced as an embryo” I think he said), but still. It’s gonna be a lot o fun watching him dance the season away. And whoa, how much better is he than his sister?!

I also liked Mark (pictured above, with Lacey), the Iron Chef, the martial arts guy. (Sorry, I don’t have all of their last names down yet; too much going on right now in my life; will know them by next week!) I thought his Cha Cha was very good — far from perfect (and he’s doing the dreaded pigeon toes) but he has a natural rhythm and sufficiently loose hips and he clearly knows how to have fun out there and put on a show. But what was he on about with the “man —”? Len accused him of being too martial artsy but having good hips and then he remarked that he’s hiding parts of his body right now, or parts of his dancing, and intends to bring on the “man –” I really thought he said “man moves,” but then Lacey had a rather bemused look on her face and then everyone who quoted him afterward seemed to be saying “man boobs.” Why did he say he was bringing out his “man boobs”? Anyway, quite the character, that one — obviously. I didn’t think his Viennese Waltz was as great — that flexed-footed ronde en l’air almost made me spit out my wine. No flexed feet in rondes en l’air Mark unless you’re trying to be the doll in the Nutcracker.

Okay, I know he’s not popular with the judges, but I totally liked Ashley Hamilton. I think I liked him so because, hello, he was actually a gentleman! I expected a skanky lascivious womanizing perve like his father but no! A total dapper, polished gent! How does a womanizing skank not raise another man to be a womanizing skank? Maybe it’s rebellion — rebellion against one’s parents can take different forms. Hmm. Anyway, I also thought he really looked like Sebastien Marcovici (who we know is not a womanizing skank because Janie would never have any such crap).

(photo of Sebasiten from NYCB website)

Anyway, yeah, Hamilton’s not a natural mover and he has his work cut out for him but I like his personality. I find him endearing and he has a good dance body and I think he can do it if he tries hard. I want him to stay on the show for a while.

Oh poor Chuck, the boxer. Can you say “stiff”? He was seriously nervous during both dances but especially during his first, the Foxtrot. I think he was concentrating very hard, but he needs to loosen up and kind of not think so much.

I thought Aaron (singer, actor) looked stiff as well during his Cha Cha. But he was much better in the Viennese Waltz. Much more polished and very surprisingly smooth. Only thing that wasn’t quite right was it looked like he was literally running at points — particularly during a continuous turn in close handhold. He needs to make it look more like he’s gliding not literally running around in a circle. He didn’t score any points with me when we first met him and he said he was happy Karina’s his teacher because she’s pretty and he wants that. Yeah, that’s definitely what’s important in an instructor.

I thought Louie was so cute! (“I’m small — I’m 5’5, 5’6 on a good day…”) I agree with Len that it’s clear he has no dance training but that he took it very seriously and respected the dance form, trying hard to do all the footwork properly (and nearly succeeding) and be a proper partner. He and Chelsie Hightower looked good together.

And, finally Michael, the footballer who used to be with the Dallas Cowboys, and is Jerry Rice’s former teammate. Cute how he’s all into play competing with Jerry, telling us he just wants to get better scores than Jerry in each of his dances. And he remembers exactly what Jerry got from his first Cha Cha. But it’s clearly all in fun. He’s another one with an endearing personality who I like and want to stay on for a while. He’s not a natural dancer — he’s lacking in grace and polish and form, but he’s got an innate sense of rhythm and he’s used to moving and I think he has the ability to do well. He had some good triple chas in that Cha Cha which I think shows when he really gets going, when he really gets into a groove, he can make it work.

Len annoyed me, for the first time ever I think, or one of the first times. He kept harping on everyone for not doing standard ballroom — Donny’s Foxtrot was too “razz-ma-tazz,” Mark’s was too kung-fu, etc. Well, we know, but it’s only the first week — let the dancers have a first dance that’s not totally out of their territory. And that was totally out of line for him to criticize Louie’s shaggy haircut as not being “ballroom enough.” One’s personal hair style has nothing to do with one’s dance ability and Len should know that. It seemed like he really wanted to put everyone into a box and make them conform to his own non-dance standards. Dance is about freedom of expression. I know he was sort of kidding, but he came across as an old fuddy duddy.

I think of the men Chuck, Ashley and Michael are going to be in the bottom. What do you guys think?

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FONDLY DO WE HOPE … FERVENTLY DO WE PRAY

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The new Bill T. Jones work inspired by Abraham Lincoln, which I can’t wait to see when it makes its way to New York, premiered over the weekend at the Ravinia Festival in Illinois. Here are three early reviews.

Above photo by Sally Ryan, from the NY Times.

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MAKS & KARINA & TABITHA & NAPOLEON ON TONIGHT'S EMMYS

Here’s the big dance number on tonight’s Emmys, choreographed by So You Think You Can Dance’s Tabitha and Napoleon, performed in part by Maks Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff from Dancing With the Stars. Nice to integrate the two main TV dance shows in this way. But, ah, where have I seen that costume before, Karina?…

Medarethinks Yulia moved that fringe a bit better. Although of course she had more time to dance. I do sometimes wonder if Karina were still competing today whether she’d beat Yulia.

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LUCY GUERIN'S KAFKAESQUE, FOUCAULDIAN "CORRIDOR"

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Friday night I went to see Australian choreographer Lucy Guerin’s Corridor at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. I love these more avant garde (for lack of a better term) kinds of dance pieces — where the choreographer clearly has an idea in mind and wants to make you think about it. I seem to see a lot of this kind of work at BAC.

Corridor is about the effects of modern forms of communication on the human body, and the body’s ability to receive and transmit those forms of communication. Guerin said the work was inspired by a scene from Kafka’s The Castle, which was partly about the comings and goings of various people down a long corridor.

Here, there was a long walkway, a corridor that looked a bit like a catwalk, and chairs for the audience were set up on each side. The piece opened with one dancer receiving a call on his cell phone. He was sitting in one of the audience seats so it wasn’t at first clear that he was a performer and this was part of the performance. He sauntered around on the walkway as other dancers, likewise seated, received phone calls as well and followed him onto the walkway. As soon as the audience realized the performance had begun and quieted down, a sharp buzz sounded over the speakers (some of which were seated under our chairs) and the dancers immediately put their cell phones in their pockets, widened their eyes and, as if on command, began making lots of sharp, angular movements. Ambient sound (traffic, construction, chattering voices, chirping birds, etc.) now played over the speakers.

There was so much going on in this piece, which was, unbelievably, less than an hour long, and there were so many different parts to it, it’s almost impossible for me to remember them all (which is one of the things I liked about it). So I’m just going to talk about what I most remember.

At one point, toward the beginning, the dancers broke into pairs. There were three men and three women and each pair (comprised of one man, one woman) stood in three different sections of the corridor. The man of the couple would make various movements — an arm circling above his head, another arm jutting out, bending over sideways, etc. — and the woman standing facing him would follow him. Each man was facing the same direction, each woman was facing each man. At one point, it became clear that the man and woman farthest to the west end of the corridor were the “leaders.” Or rather than man was the leader. The men farther down the corridor kept watching him, and imitating him. Their women followers, who could not see that man since they were facing their own men instead, imitated their man. The more rapidly the first man moved, the crazier and more chaotic and confused was the movement of the other couples, particularly the women who basically were following a man following another man. It was really interesting, and you could see the frustration growing on the faces of the male followers and their women.

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MY FRIEND, JACOB JASON, AUDITIONING WITH HIS BOYFRIEND FOR SYTYCD

I haven’t been watching SYTYCD this season (I don’t watch the auditions anymore), but my friend and former Latin ballroom teacher, Jacob Jason, just posted this on Facebook!!!!!

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KRISTI BOONE'S SPELLBINDING NEW HEADSHOT

Knowing how well I like ABT soloist Kristi Boone, photographer Jade Young sent me her new headshot. (He did Marcelo‘s and Veronika‘s as well). I think it’s gorgeous!

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JULIETTE BINOCHE AND AKRAM KHAN BRING IN-I TO BAM

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Last night In-I, the collaboration between French actress Juliette Binoche and British dancer / choreographer Akram Khan, opened at BAM, and of course I was there. She’s one of my favorite actresses and I’d been wanting to see this since it premiered at Sadlers Wells in London a year ago. New York is the last stop on their tour.

I loved it, despite its imperfections (and I largely agree with Judith Mackrell’s early review). But I loved it, partly because I just love her period, and partly because, for me, it ended up creating a new respect for both interpretive art forms, dance and acting.

This collaboration (Binoche has virtually no dance training and Khan no acting) made me remember back when, what seems like light years ago now, Baryshnikov and Mark Morris founded their company, White Oak Dance Project. For opening night they were collaborating with Yo-Yo Ma and I really wanted to go. I tried to use this as a selling point in convincing my friend, who loved classical music, to go with me. I’ve always had this stupid habit of stating the over-obvious and, in elaborating, I said to her, “Baryshnikov will be dancing and Yo-Yo Ma will be playing the cello.” She burst out laughing. “Well I hope it’s not the other way around!” she said. Then we got to joking around about how entertaining it would be if Yo-Yo Ma danced and Baryshnikov played the cello. I said I’d actually really like to see that. She said she wouldn’t — it may be a fun experiment for them to do in a garage or something, but to put before an audience?…

I still wonder how that would come off — Baryshnikov bending over a cello and Ma jumping around a stage.

Anyway, I thought this collaboration (hard to know what to call it; it was mostly dance with some spoken word –the two talk to each other onstage and address the audience in monologues, so maybe it’s “dance-theater”) was more than an experiment in two artists from different worlds trying on each others’ shoes. It had a storyline; it was about the life of a relationship — from youthful fantasizing evolving into mature passion, getting sick of each others’ bad habits (there’s a very funny scene where he keeps leaving the toilet seat down and getting it all wet when he pees and she wants to kill him over it), fighting, misunderstanding, eventually accepting and even learning to delight in the difficulty of it all, as part of life. I have to say I understood the through-line of the drama through her. She gave the piece its emotional core.

He is a brilliant dancer and I loved watching him move. It was apparent she has very little dance training — she doesn’t have the expansiveness and breadth in her movement or the precision and sharpness of a lifelong professional dancer — but I love her for trying, because I think it shows how blasted hard dance is no matter how hard you work at it (and you can tell she worked very very hard). And I love that she was not a very skilled dancer, the piece was mainly dance, and still so much of what I understood and got out of it was due to her performance.

The best parts I thought were where each performer was in his / her own element. Judith Mackrell (link above) likes the beginning, where Binoche’s character is sitting in a movie theater and sees Khan, he dances about and she becomes infatuated with him. That scene works well because she’s sitting and watching him, while telling the audience how she feels about him, and he’s moving. There’s another scene later on – -my favorite in the whole thing — where they’ve just gotten into a vicious fight. She stomps off behind the back screen and he begins this really riveting solo where he writhes on the ground, gets up and contorts his body, flings arms, head and torso every which way in utter emotional agony, then does a deep back arch, literally bending over backward to please her. About halfway through the solo she walks back out onstage and sees him. As she approaches him, her expression changes; she slowly realizes how much their fight has tormented him and she feels remorse. You can see all that on her face alone. His movement and her facial expression compellingly conveyed each character’s inner turmoil.

There’s another part where he delivers a monologue to the audience. He just stands at the edge of the stage and talks to us, telling us about a youthful romance he had in which he fell in love with a girl who was not the same religion as he. He tells his priest and the priest withdraws a huge knife and holds it against his throat, telling him having the girl means his soul will die and asking him if that’s what he wants. Khan spoke too fast and sometimes jumbled his lines but at one point he started punching the air with his right fist when he spoke in the voice of the priest, and he started pointing shakily toward the audience with his other hand when he talked in what I felt was the inner voice of his boyhood self. Sometimes these motions were back to back — the fist violently but with a dancer’s control punching the air, then the trembling index finger. Once he kind of got into a groove with it, it was really mesmerizing — especially when combined with his extreme sideways leans when confronted with the imaginary knife at the neck. He was expressing himself far better with his arms and neck than with his words and I kind of wished at that point, he would just have had a voice-over do all of his spoken word so that he could focus on using his body to express himself.

Conversely, I kind of wished for her that she didn’t have so much movement so she could have focused on her words and her facial expressions and wordless gestures (actors obviously do use their bodies as instruments of expression, but it’s to create subtext — little ticks that a normal person would do that show that person’s character; totally different from dance). You can tell how hard she worked if you’ve tried to learn dance as an adult. She had several very difficult things — a couple of high lifts, fast travelling chaine turns. You can see how she worked to get those turns right — her spotting was very good and she held her body steady and balanced with her footing while still trying to get sufficient speed. The fact that she was still able to chaine toward him, into him, with meaning, with intention (she often laughed, sometimes playfully, sometimes tauntingly) while focusing on getting difficult movement right was really amazing. But if she didn’t have those crazy spins to contend with in the first place, how much more depth she could have conveyed. And ditto for a lift, where he sits her atop his shoulder and walks along the back screen. She stretches out her arms and closes her eyes and traces the screen with her shoulders and hands, a look of ecstasy crossing her lips. But she has to worry about maintaining position atop his small shoulder, of tightening her muscles so she can hold herself up there, limiting, I felt, how far she could go emotionally.

Anyway, I could think of more things to say but I think I should stop, at least for now — particularly since it’s now evening and my allotted time for me to work on my novel. Suffice it to say, this collaboration really made me think how, similarities aside, fundamentally different the two art forms are, and made me respect each more. I do think dancers could highly benefit from more acting classes because I think for many theater-goers, that’s ultimately what moves them — body movement alone doesn’t always make complete sense. But more on this later…

In-I continues at BAM through September 20th.

Photos above by Jack Vartoogian.

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DANNY TIDWELL ET AL IN FIRE ISLAND DANCE FESTIVAL

Here’s a nice video of clips from the Dancers Responding to AIDS performances, which took place during the Fire Island Dance Festival in July. Watch for Danny around the 1.43 and 3.24 marks. You can also spot Keigwin + Company (in the towels) and members of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (around the 1.38 and 3.11 marks), as well as others whom I didn’t recognize. Anyone recognize the classical ballet dancers? They’re good! What a gorgeous setting.

Video via SYTYCDism.

Speaking of Larry Keigwin: I’d really really really wanted to see this at the Guggenheim — his new piece set to Steve Reich’s Pulitzer-prize-winning score from 2007, Double Sextet. Unfortunately I was horribly sick with a cold-turned sinus infection-turned several days-long TAC attack and just couldn’t make it. Anyway, Keigwin and ballet choreographer Peter Quanz each created dances to the same piece of music. Their creations, which were performed by members of their dance companies, varied greatly, showing the different interpretations and approaches dance artists can take to one piece of music. In addition to the Macaulay review in the NYTimes (which I linked to above), here is fellow blogger Evan’s take (with lots of pictures).

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RIP PATRICK SWAYZE

Oh this is so sad. I really thought he was going to beat pancreatic cancer, he’d beaten it for so long already.

Most of the videos of Dirty Dancing (which Twitter reports was the number one trending topic earlier today) have had their YouTube embedding disabled, but go here to see the final scene, which still makes me cry.

On November 2, Swayze was to receive the Rolex Dance Award at America Dances! presented at City Center by Career Transitions for Dancers. He will now receive the award posthumously and there will be a celebration in honor of him that evening.

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DON'T FORGET TO VOTE

Several interesting races happening today in New York. The one I’m watching most closely is that for Manhattan District Attorney. I’m personally hoping for Richard Aborn, who takes a more preventative than punitive approach to crime, advocating investing in after-school programs for at-risk kids, crackdowns on interstate gun trafficking and implementing gun buyback programs in order to decrease the number of illegal guns on NYC streets, and treating drug addiction as a public health problem. And most importantly, he believes in correcting the racial injustices that seem so inherent to our criminal justice system right now.

Anyway, whomever you vote for, just remember to vote.

Above image taken from here.

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SLAVIK KRYKLYVYY AND ANNA MELNIKOVA COMPETE IN US NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Argh, I knew I should have gone to the U.S. National Championships this year. My favorite male Latin dancer, Slavik Kryklyvyy, and his new partner, Anna Melnikova, just competed in the Open to the World category in Florida. They placed second, behind Yulia Zagoruychenko and Riccardo Cocchi. I can imagine what an exciting comp that must have been though. Here’s a short video of Slavik and Anna’s Cha Cha round. Go here to see more competition videos of the champs in each category.

Above image of Slavik (couldn’t find a pic of the two together yet) taken from Dancesport.ru.

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DANNY TIDWELL IN BROADWAY ON BROADWAY

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Reader Jonathan nicely sent me this picture. Apparently Danny Tidwell DID perform with the cast of Memphis in the Broadway on Broadway event on Sunday. I wasn’t able to go (I’ve been really sick). Did anyone else make it?

Thank you Jonathan for the picture!

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HEE SEO PREPARED FOR JULIET IN PART BY WATCHING FILM ACTING

I knew there was a reason I loved her Juliet so much:

”Watching movies gave me ideas. Dancers tend to exaggerate on stage because they want to make sure that everyone sees their emotions through the movements, but in movies, the acting is very subtle and realistic. I think it’s important to find a balance. You can’t overact just because you want the viewer in the back to notice you, but then you can’t control your feelings too much either,” Seo said, adding that she loved the original play by Shakespeare because the lines were so romantic. She added that such sentiment is ”hard to find these days.”

Later, she says:

”Ballet is art. I may be just dancing, but I’m dancing inside a beautiful set with beautiful music, and that is what makes ballet a synthetic art form. I want to be recognized as an artist. An artist who danced, who appreciated music and understood art.”

Here’s the rest of this sweet interview in the Korean Times.

Photo by Gene Schiavone.

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ABT'S MAX & IRINA OUT ON FASHION'S NIGHT OUT

ABT’s Max Beloserkovsky and Irina Dvorovenko at Roberto Cavalli on Fashion’s Night out last Thursday night. Via Opera Chic. I love how Irina’s standing. I love the front foot, how she’s showing off her gorgeous instep. Irina could so be a model…

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ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE ON PIERRE RIGAL'S "PRESS"

By my friend, Christopher Atamian, who went to the Friday night performance.

Pierre Rigal’s Press

September 10-13 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center

Pierre Rigal’s “Press,” originally a 2008 commission from the Gate Theater in London should come with a warning for the claustrophobic or anyone who finds watching another human slowly get crushed à la Star Wars trash compactor scene unsettling. Pierre Rigal, a French mathematician turned hurdler turned dancer performs this solo piece with remarkable aplomb.  For the better part of fifty minutes Rigal contorts, girates, sits, stands and otherwise dances (yes he “wri-gals” as well) inside a box that slowly compresses and threatens to flatten him like a pancake… His only sets are a chair and a slinky rotating lamp creepily reminiscent of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Pressisn’t for everyone: watching Rigal stand on his head and negotiate the walls as the ceiling slowly close in on him is either frightening or frighteningly boring, depending on your point-of-view.

The box, Rigal explains in a previous interview, is a symbol for the danger man faces today in society and also for the solutions to these problems as well.  “The box” Rigal notes like a good Frenchman is eminently “cartesian.” These quasi-philosophical statements do Rigal’s cause little good-he should let the performance speak for itself.  It isn’t every performer after all who can carry off a solo like this with such brio.  Although it begins rather tediously, “Press” increasingly captivates as it heads towards its terrible, unavoidable (funny?) end.  Somewhere about forty minutes out, once Rigal has already swallowed the lamp’s red light bulb and caressed the light’s frame like a pet or perhaps even a lover, a voiced narration joins Nihil Bordures’ clever eerie score (“Inside my head…inside my head…”) implying as I read it that perhaps everything we are witnessing is taking place within his head. This to me is the wonderful if obvious stroke of genius, the redeeming touch that takes an otherwise repetitive performance and lifts it to something unique, powerful and worth watching.

Photo above taken from Telegraph.co.uk.

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GO SEE PIERRE RIGAL AT BARYSHNIKOV ARTS CENTER

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Last night, despite a sinus infection that made my head feel as if it were stuffed with cotton candy, I ventured all the way over to the extreme west side of midtown to see the U.S. premiere of Press, by French dancer / choreographer Pierre Rigal, whose work I’d never seen before. And I’m glad I did — I loved it, even though some of its themes made me feel more claustrophobic than I was already feeling due to said cotton-head condition.

I guess there can be many interpretations but it’s a solo danced by Rigal himself, about an hour long, about, to me, a man feeling trapped … by everything — by the tiny room he’s in, by his clothes, by the furniture, by his body, by his own mind, by the room’s one piece of technology — a camera / halogen lamp / robotic-looking toy that kind of comes to life at one point. It was surrealist, very Magritte, with lots of tricks of the eye that make you think about the nature of reality. At one point, the way he runs in place in his trendy-looking work shoes, which at points — because of the way he moves –  almost resemble clown shoes, makes it look as if the floor is actually moving (at least I don’t think it was); at another point it appears the the ceiling has fallen on top of him, squashing his head down into his body (at which point the techno music begins playing, the voice singing, “I live in my head…” — many in the audience started laughing); at another point it seems his shoes and hands are magnetized and he can’t detach them from the ceiling; at another point his body almost looks like rubber. It reminded me a bit of the movie Being John Malkovich because the ceiling was continuously moving, mostly downward, toward him, and he constantly had to invent new ways of contorting his body so that he’d fit within the room’s constantly changing confines. This of course provides much of the dance drama.

I found it both comical and unsettling, often at the same time.

Here’s a video:

I’m interested to hear what others think, if anyone else sees it. It’s showing at BAC twice more — Saturday the 12th at 2 and 8 p.m. There’s a discussion with Rigal following the matinee.

Above photos by Frederic Stoll.

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CITY CENTER'S NEW STUDIO 5 SERIES

New York’s City Center is beginning a new series of informal conversations with dance artists, curated by Damian Woetzel. So far there are three talks scheduled. The first is going to be on October 26 with Wendy Whelan, the second on December 14 with Alvin Ailey’s Matthew Rushing, and the third on March 15, 2010 with Angel Corella. All talks are at 6:30 p.m. and are in the upstairs studio 5. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased starting September 8th (looks like the first, with Wendy Whelan, is already sold out).

Each talk will be accompanied by performances and demos by the artist and his or her colleagues. Wendy Whelan will be discussing her work with NYCB and Morphoses and the talk will include performances by her and some of her selected guests; Matthew Rushing will speak about Alvin Ailey and he and others from AAADT will demonstrate excerpts from some of his roles; and our beloved Angel will be talking all about his new company, Corella Ballet Castilla y Leon and there’ll be demos by him and his company’s members.

Very cool!

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NY, NY

I know, I post this link every time this year. I can’t help it — it’s my favorite essay about New York ever.

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BALLROOM VIDEO FROM VAIL IS UP

The Vail International Dance Festival website has finally posted a video of the festival’s ballroom night, Ballroom’s Best. I’d been waiting for this. There are interviews with the spectacular International exhibition champions Hanna Karttunen and Victor DaSilva (from South Africa; you might remember DaSilva from that TV show Superstars of Dance) and the sweet American Smooth champs J.T. Thomas and Tomas Mielnicki. For those of you who follow ballroom, there’s a bit of footage of American Rhythm champs Jose DeCamps and Joanna Zacharewicz in there too.

Sir Alastair did not so much like this show when he saw it.

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NYCB FREE PERFORMANCE TONIGHT AT MCCARREN POOL

New York City Ballet dancers will perform an adaptation of Robbins’ NY Export Opus Jazz tonight, September 10th, from 5-8 p.m. in McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn. See the latest comment to this blog post or go here for details.

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THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE IS NOT THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (BUT COULD USE MORE DANCERS!)

Over the weekend I went to see The September Issue, the documentary about Anna Wintour and Vogue, focusing on the mag’s — well, the fashion industry’s — most important issue of the year. I found it thoroughly entertaining, but not in the way I expected. I expected it to be a real-life Devil Wears Prada, but it wasn’t that at all. I remember from the book, Lauren  Weisberger’s main character constantly feeling like a horrid slob amongst all the fashionistas — or fashionista wannabes — who worked at the magazine, and I remember her even being ridiculed by everyone for wearing Ann Taylor, supposedly a cheap designer.

Of course Devil Wears Prada, the film, played up on all of that, having Meryl Streep lecture Anne Hathaway on her decidedly frumpy wardrobe and call her (a size 6) “fat.” But here, everyone who works at Vogue — particularly Wintour and other higher-ups like creative director Grace Coddington (who is really the emotional centerpiece of the film) are pretty mundanely dressed. They seem more like incredibly hard-working women who are far too busy to care much about how they look everyday at the office. No one wears much makeup, hair looks completely unstyled, Coddington munches on a rather bland-looking corner deli-bought salad while enthusing about the photo-shoots she’s designed and her romantic vision for the issue, talking about her past as a model and how she turned to the editorial side of things early on after a car accident ended her modeling career, and bemoaning the wasted money spent on photo spreads Wintour ended up not liking and axing entirely.

But my biggest surprise was how unattractive I found the models to be. And they weren’t — they were all really beautiful. But I think I’ve seen so much dance now that, as much as I used to admire models, I’m now almost horrified at their bad posture, their boney bodies, their completely uncoordinated frames, their sloppy-looking lines. During a shoot, this one model was playing around and she decided to do a kick — a battement — for the photographer and it was just about the worst kick I’ve ever seen. Her knee was bent awkwardly, her foot was doing nothing at all and gave her leg no line, and she almost fell over. The photographer seemed to think it was great though.

Made me think how much better dancers might be at making the clothes look good. I don’t know, maybe most dancers are too short or the fabric doesn’t drape as well over built musculature as it does over basically skin-covered bone.

This wasn’t the same model from the film — I can’t find a photo of her — but it’s taken from Italian Vogue. I mean the clothes look good — she’s pretty — but look at her lines underneath…

This in contrast to the New York City Ballet dancers, as photographed with this gorgeous flowing diaphanous fabric for NYCB’s Winter season calendar, which I just received in the mail today.

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(There’s another ballerina, to the left, in that first photo, but I’m still pretty amateur at scanning and couldn’t get her in.) Doesn’t say who took the photos but I assume it’s company photographer Paul Kolnik.

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STAND IN LINE FOR FALL FOR DANCE TICKETS AND LET MONICA BILL BARNES ENTERTAIN YOU

I think this is pretty funny. Fall For Dance tickets go on sale this Sunday, September 13th, at 11:00 a.m. In the past crowds have been known to line up beginning at 4 a.m. (this festival is popular), and the line’s been known to wend its way practically all around midtown. Well, this year, festival participant Monica Bill Barnes (above, on the left), a modern / experimental dancer and choreographer, is going to entertain the queued-up crowd from 10-11 Sunday morn. She and her dancers can be rather amusing.

These pics are from a site-specific performance of hers I saw last summer downtown and wrote about here.

Also, during the festival there will be three free, open-to-the-public talks in City Center’s Studio 5 (which is upstairs, I think on the 5th floor). All three talks will be about the legacy of the Ballets Russes (in honor of their centenary this year).

The first, on September 23rd at 6:30 p.m. will be a discussion with three original members of the legendary troupe: Frederic Franklin, Raven Wilkinson and Eleanor D’Antuono and will be moderated by Robert Greskovic, author and dance critic for the Wall Street Journal.

The second, on Sept. 25th, same time, will be about how BR’s collaborations with clothes designers, painters, and musicians of the day created lasting change for the dance world. Panelists include Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky, Juliet Bellow and Simon Morrison and the moderator is Lynn Garafola, a dance historian at Barnard.

The third, on October 3rd, same time, will be about BR’s influence on today’s choreography. Panelists are choreographers Nicholas Leichter, Robert Johnson, Mark Dendy, and Virginia Johnson and the moderator is Wendy Perron, the editor-in-chief of Dance Magazine.

Speaking of Ballets Russes, one final reminder: if you haven’t yet seen the fantastic exhibit at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at Lincoln Center, you only have until September 12th to do so. They’ve got videos of Baryshnikov dancing Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, of Anna Pavlova, of Fokine’s Les Sylphides, of Branislava Nijinska’s Les Noces, of original BR choreographer Leonid Massine instructing Joffrey dancers on reconstructing his Parade, they’ve got original costumes and poster designs by Picasso, letters and diary entries by Diaghlev, etc. etc. etc. Definitely worth seeing.

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KYLE FROMAN = VISIONARY

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Just looking at a couple of the photos New York City Ballet dancer turned photographer Kyle Froman has shot for Morphoses to publicize that company’s upcoming City Center season (tix go on sale for that today, by the way) and am realizing what an excellent photographer he is. I mean, he doesn’t just take pictures of dancers in action (which is an art in itself) but he has a real vision for dance with the way he poses his subjects against a setting and the overall images he creates and the feelings they evoke. He’s like Balanchine as a photographer. I don’t see a lot of dance photography like this.

Here are a few others that he took for the NYCB Dancers’ Choice event last year. The first I copied from Deep Glamour, the other two from Oberon’s Grove.

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I enjoyed watching him dance with NYCB — particularly his hilarious turn as the pompous Russian danseur in Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth — but sometimes I think a dancer finds his or her true calling when he “retires.”

Here is his website. He also has a book out, In the Wings, consisting of photos he took behind the scenes at NYCB when he was still dancing there.

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MICHELE WILES + SEBASTIEN MARCOVICI THIS WEEKEND IN MIAMI

This is a most interesting pairing, and one I hadn’t thought of before. One of my NYCB favorites, Sebastien Marcovici, and ABT’s Michele Wiles will dance the Black Swan pdd this weekend in Miami at the International Ballet Festival. It’ll be their first time as a partnership. Apparently, they both take class with David Howard here in NY and he thunk it up. Wish I could be there… There’s a lot going on this weekend.

Headshots taken from ABT and NYCB websites respectively.

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SLSG IN THE WESTSIDE INDEPENDENT

My recent rant about opera crowds being more respectful of a performance than dance-goers is featured in the Westside Independent, an online magazine about all things Upper West Side.

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BARYSHNIKOV REVIEWED

The LA Times’s Lewis Segal gives Baryshnikov — and Benjamin Millepied — a very favorable review.

Photo of Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna from LA Times.

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