Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lincoln Center Diminishes Dance This Summer

New York is so dance rich that it becomes a bit of a perverse sport to complain about the plethora. But in a twist, Lincoln Center's indoor summer festivals are ditching dance this year.

But first, we're on the eve of New York City Ballet's spring season, and two weeks hence, ABT's, which take us halfway through July. That's an insane amount of the finest repertory in the history of feet, danced by the finest feet in the history of dirt. 

ABT ends in July, and Lincoln Center Festival begins. Right after that, in August, Mostly Mozart takes over Lincoln Center.

This year, however, looks like I've got many free summer nights after ABT since neither the LCF nor Mostly Mozart is presenting any dance. 

LCF used to heavily feature dance. In 2006 alone, there was a mini-festival of Israeli dance with Batsheva, Yasmeen Godder, and Emanuel Gat, plus San Francisco Ballet with three programs including Mark Morris' Sylvia, STREB, Saburo Teshigawara, and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane. In 2010, the Mariinsky Ballet visited, and the festival hosted the clever Merce Fair.

Sure, LCF is further cultivating cross-genre performance, where the lines blur between music, theater, and everything else. One show, Murmurs, features the movement theater (or nouveau cirque) of Aurelie Thiérrée and Victoria Thiérrée Chaplin, but it is not dance. What happened?

Plus, Mark Morris has waved the baton in recent Mostly Mozart seasons, and usually brings one of his splendid full-length works, such as L'Allegro, or the sublime Mozart Dances, which premiered in that halcyon 2006 season. This year—nada. 

Lincoln Center Out of Doors just announced the season's lineup. Huzzah—it includes the companies of Mark Dendy, Kyle Abraham, and John Heginbotham.

So, dance mavens, more nights watching baseball this year. Now I've really gotta roots for the Mets. Maybe the timing is providential, because they need my support.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stanley Whitney—Other Colors I Forget

Other Colors I Forget, 2012. Oil on linen, 72" x 72". Courtesy the artist and Team Gallery.

Stanley Whitney has been painting since the 1960s, but — so — his work looks as fresh as anything today. Recent paintings are on view at Team Gallery (83 Grand Street through May 12) in a show titled Other Colors I Forget.

What is there to say to do justice to such gorgeous paintings? Sure, I could blather on about the emotional resonance of each unique color, the satisfying architecture, the vibrations between colors, the rogue drips and characteristics of the blended hues. But really, just look.

Songbird, 2012. Oil on linen, 48" x 48". Courtesy the artist and Team Gallery.
That said, in an interview with the Brooklyn Rail, some salient points emerged. He traces a path to his work through Newman and Judd. The architecture of the Egyptian pyramids and stacks of artifacts in an Etruscan museum in Volterra, Italy inspired his formal compositions. He paints from the top down. And, lucky for us, he's never satisfied—perhaps that's what drives him to make the next painting. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dance Theatre of Harlem is Alive!

Michaela DePrince and Samuel Wilson. Photo: Matthew Murphy
It would be easy to attribute much of the audience's rousing support of the Dance Theatre of Harlem to sheer good will—a response to the company's rebirth after nine years of being dormant while the school remained open. But the bright news is that Artistic Director Virginia Johnson has found some truly outstanding young dancers to support the legacy and vision.

A wide-ranging program at the Rose Theater demonstrated the dancers' versatility. Balanchine's Agon opened—the ambition and near-hubris of leading with this challenging classic itself a huge statement. The dancers performed with intent and confidence, if not yet completely feeling it in their bones. The relaxed swagger that comes by commanding Balanchine may yet come. Chyrstyn Fentroy (second from the right in the photo below) possesses the long-limbed physique that Balanchine favored, and made the most of it in her pas de trois. Also of note were the compact, dynamic Ashley Murphy, and Gabrielle Salvatto, who dances with savoir faire.

Michaela DePrince was a revelation as Odile in the Black Swan Pas de Deux, paired with Samuel Wilson. I somehow missed DePrince, just 18, in the documentary First Position (it's in my Netflix queue), which presumably elaborates on her biography—she is from Sierra Leone, made an orphan by the war, and was adopted at four by a family in New Jersey. Now, she's every inch a ballet princess, with astonishing flexibility, ballon, balance, and composure. Age can only help enrich her acting skills. And Wilson is no slouch, packing a punch with refinement and bravura. 
Return. Photo: Matthew Murphy
Return, to R&B hits, provided further discoveries. Robert Garland, resident choreographer, created it for DTH's 30th anniversary in 1999. He manages to reveal the prowess and admirable chops necessary to perform ballet at a high level while showing it can be as fun as club dancing. Da'Von Doane sold it though, shifting seamlessly between the two forms and looking for all the world like he'd won the lottery. Francis Lawrence (at left in the photo above) also looked like he was having a ball, soaring through leaps.

Less successful is the New York premiere of Far But Close, which is weighed down by spoken word text by Daniel Beaty; its earnestness hangs like a fog bank over John Alleyne's movement, a blend of lyrical, bold ballet with a dash of Forsythe, but undistinguished in dynamics between sections. Daniel Bernard Roumain wrote the score, which he played live with a small ensemble. Murphy, Doane, Stephanie Rae Williams, and Jehbreal Jackson danced with some heat, but the sum total missed the mark. Still, commissions are important and DTH's future... well, it exists! Kudos to everyone who made it happen.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

ABT Studio Company—Raw Talent and Promise

Catherine Hurlin in George Balanchine's Tarantella. © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo: Erin Baiano.
Notes on ABT Studio Company, which performed as part of Pace Presents at the Schimmel Center:

  • More interesting rep on the youngsters (see blog on Juilliard): Balanchine's Tarantella, Ratmansky's Les Carnaval des Animaux (Excerpts), Paul Taylor's Airs, and Raymond Lukens' Jerusalem Divertissement
  • Some familiar faces from The Nutcracker, including Catherine Hurlin in Tarantella (with Xavier Nunez), fast becoming a willowy, confident, versatile dancer. Neat to see her graduating like this through the stages at JKO/ABT (among others).
  • Jun Xia! This young man has extraordinary gifts and talent that could be called Hallbergian... fantastic feet, terrific extensions and flexibility, a gift for epaulement, and good presence. Watch him carefully.
  • Carnaval—a hodgepodge of animal-themed sections, including flitting birds, a dying swan, and bunnies. Not one of Ratmansky's best efforts but an entertaining short work appropriate for this troupe.
  • Airs—when Paul Taylor Dance Company performs it, it has a classical feel, but I wouldn't necessarily call it ballet, as seems appropriate on ABT SC. It also looks incredibly fast on these kids, another testament to the skill and athleticism of PTDC. But a lovely, serious dance that is a welcome variation on ballet.
  • Jerusalem provides a showcase for all of the technical skills that distinguish these youngsters

The company performs again today at 2pm (with the JKO Students) and tonight at 7:30pm.


Summation. Getting pelted with fruit.
Summation Dance is at the BAM Fisher from April 11—13. This relatively young group performs choreography by Sumi Clements that is bold, physical, humorous, structured, musical, grounded, and at moments evokes capoeira, Petronio, and gaga. 

The company presents Pathological Parenthetical Pageantry, which is as zany as the title sounds and involves fruit as projectiles, and a premiere that begins with an off-kilter pose suggesting imminent change. It builds momentum through orderly repetition and gutsy performances. Kyle Olson, a frequent collaborator, provides the commissioned score, with costumes by Brigitte Vosse. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sargent Watercolors at BMA; Fiorini at Drawing Center

John Singer Sargent, Corfu: Lights and Shadows, 1909. Translucent & opaque watercolor with graphite underdrawing, 15-7/8 x 20-7/8". Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Hayden Collection—Charles Henry Hayden Fund
The Brooklyn Museum has a dazzling exhibition opening today—John Singer Sargent Watercolors—on view through July 28. Put it on your must-see list.

On view is the BMA's collection of 38 Sargent (1856—1925) watercolors, purchased as an entity from his 1909 debut exhibition in New York, combined with that of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, totalling 93 works (including nine oil paintings). The subject matter focuses on exotic foreign locales including Venice, the Alps, and the Carrara quarry in Italy; Syria, and Corfu. His deftness with color, rhythm, and light perfectly suit the medium of watercolor. Some of the humblest subjects take on a monumental quality—laundry drying on lines, a tramp, gourds. He captures the chaos and magic of the Grand Canal in Venice, and the steely gaze of a Bedouin. 

You can practically smell the aromas and feel the aridity in his works. Breathe deeply.


Ragazza che piange (Crying Girl)1960. Pencil & aluminum enamel on
paper. 19-5/8 x 27-1/2"
Courtesy the artist
Also opening this week is Giosetta Fiorini: L'Argento (b. 1932) at The Drawing Center. This less-known Italian artist whose work falls into the Pop vein favors painting on paper and canvas in silver. A round framing device serves as a de facto viewing lens; glam women in sunglasses are frequent subjects. Feathery sketches evoke Twombly, a trio of enamel paintings on the entry wall conjure Warhol.

A series of sketches in the rear gallery are among the most fascinating. They depict landscapes or houses in a distant, abstract way—with a giant arrow, or defined by negative space. The tone of the show feels light, but the consistency and unique vision of this artist linger. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Juilliard Dances (Some Amazing) Repertory

Troy Herring and Daphne Fernberger in Four Brubeck Pieces. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor
This week, there are a couple of performances that stand out not only for the superb technique of their dancers, but for the range and intriguing selections of repertoire: Juilliard Dances Repertory and ABT Studio Company. You'd think that repertory dance companies would be common in a dance-crazy city like New York, but apart from the large ballet troupes, and apart from Cedar Lake and Ailey, most focus on one choreographer. So the chance to see several icons of choreography on one program is a sweet thought.

Juilliard Rep and ABT Studio are able to cherry pick dances for their repertory, mixing and matching completely different visions. I saw Juilliard's performance last night (through April 7 at the Sharp Theater, Lincoln Center), which includes Murray Louis' Four Brubeck Pieces (Opus 104) from 1984, with the terrific bonus of a live jazz quartet plucked from its illustrious music division. The work was performed with some regularity by Murray Louis Company in the 80s; I had never seen it before. A delightful, technical romp with bold b/w costume designs by Frank Garcia, the four songs are set apart by distinctive dynamic shifts and accorded appropriate movement pacing by Louis. There are plenty of pyrotechnics to show off the ensemble's talent; in particular, Troy Herring and Kara Chan seemed to wring the most out of the juicy solos they were given.

Sunset. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor

It was a treat in and of itself to hear the Juilliard Orchestra playing Elgar's musical accompaniment to Sunset, one of my favorite Paul Taylor works. It stands to reason that whenever his work is set on other companies, it takes on a different feel. Here, the emphasis on technique came across as brittleness. The Taylor company gives it a plushness and gentility that is missing, and the key male duet (here danced by Raymond Pinto and Christopher Kaiser) lacked the familiar, if unrequited, intimacy that is so touching in the PTDC rendition. (While I'm on the topic, this is a rebuttal to Alastair Macaulay's point that Taylor does not make same-sex duets. Also note the major male duet in Piazzolla Caldera, please.) Still, the full production with live orchestra, and Alex Katz's designs, is a treat.

One Flat Thing, Reproduced. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor
William Forsythe's One Flat Thing, Reproduced is another major production that is a rarity here; I believe it has only been performed in New York by his own company at BAM several years ago, surely in part because of the mandate of 20 work tables that form a hovering, puzzle-piece performance surface above the stage. Again, the Juilliard ensemble looks impressive, aggressively slapping the tables and vaulting them like pommel horses, but there is an integrity to the original performance that is missing, or maybe it's the feeling of trying a few shades too hard. Or perhaps it needs seasoning.

In any case, I won't quibble with the chance to see these monuments of choreography when given the chance. I'll see ABT Studio Company tomorrow as part of Pace Presents at the Schimmel Center, which features Ratmansky's Le Carnaval des Animaux, Taylor's Airs, Balanchine's Tarantella, and Jerusalem Divertissement by Raymond Lukens. Another chance to see excellent young dancers in riveting rep.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Mets Are Perfect

3B coach Tim Teufel giving CF Collin Cowgill some post grandslam hide 
The Mets have a perfect record, as does pitcher Jon Niese—not just in wins, but his batting average as well. Daniel Murphy, Marlon Byrd, and current phenom Collin Cowgill, who hit a grand salami yesterday, are batting .400. One game has been played and much has changed. And yet a lot hasn't: David Wright is still the team spokesman, albeit now in an official capacity as the designated captain, a role he's actually been playing since the minute he landed in Queens. Ike Davis is hitting .000. Johan Santana's on the DL, and RA Dickey's dispensing bon mots and philosophy, only in Toronto, and we are left to ponder whether, respectively, a no-hitter and a Cy Young Award were worth the consequences.

Back to what's here, now... After the team trounced the Padres 11—2 in yesterday's Citifield opener, Wright set expectations for the season. In a word: scrappy. That evokes names like Dykstra, Backman, Mex. All good, as long as we're only talking about the baseball diamond. Solid infield as long as they're healthy; spotty outfield; unknown but promising young starting lineup led by what amounts to marquee pitcher Niese. Anything better than mediocre will surpass expectations.

Media notes: 
Cover illustration by Mark Ulriksen
  • The New Yorker's cover this week shows key Yankees in geriatric mode. 
  • Even The New York Times, which on purpose or not seems to favor the Yankees in daily coverage by placing them on top or ahead of the Mets, gave a nod to the Mets today by running their coverage in color, and the Yanks' in black & white. The photos of the Yankees were even embarrassing: a Red Sox (Sock?) scoring, and CC Sabathia attempting to field a play. When you're a Mets fan, you take nothing for granted.  
  • Bobby Valentine is now in the booth doing the postgame shows on SNY. Yay or nay?

And you know you want one: a new Mets cap for 2013.