FALLing for Dance

When summer came around I had hoped to enjoy a quiet time that would allow me to do nothing, enjoy my family and, believe it or not, keep me away from dance for a few months. Well, it did not work that way, though I did enjoy my family. With me feeling physically better than ever during the past two years ever since the encounter I had in 2007 with a Taxi in New York, I embarked on constant travel looking for the new and exciting in dance.

I wrote to you already about my experience at the Pillow and Arts Midwest in St. Paul, Minnesota. Soon afterwards, I attended the free performance at Chicago’s Millennium of the Chicago Dance Festival. Though each number merited consideration, I thought the grand total of the parts did not make for an exciting program. I was somewhat disappointed. Some attractions were too small for the venue, and others were performed by good dancers but still lacked the experience of other companies that had previously shown that work.

Since then there has not been a weekend that did not see me flying the skies of American Airlines to view, appraise and be disappointed or inspired by dance.Fall for dance 09 graphic

No sooner was Chicago Dance Festival over than I flew to New York City for the opening of Fall for Dance. It was a special affair as Arlene Shuler, president and CEO of New York City Center and the founder of Fall for Dance, was being honored by the Capezio Foundation. Also, the entire festival wanted to focus on the legacy of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, a company that set the standards for all to follow in the early part of the 20th century. Every program was to have a work either created at that time and restaged by a company, or a work derived from those creations. A great idea, but it did change somewhat the outlook for the new that I had hoped would be the focus of Fall for Dance.

Sold-out theaters welcomed this year’s festival and opening night was no different. Needless to say 90% of those attending could have afforded more than the $10 being charged as admission.

Four companies graced the stage. Boston Ballet performedfaune L’Après-midi d’un Faune, choreographed by the legendary Vaslav Nijinsky. (Photo from nytimes.com). It set Paris on fire when first performed. Its use of a different vocabulary and its overt sensuality seemed to have shocked them. Today people accepted it as a valuable historical work, beautifully performed by the six women and one solitary man. (Watch one performance of this choreography on YOUTUBE). This was followed by the Paul Taylor Dance Company, a choreographer I admire and adore, performing Offenbach Overtures, a work that could be compared a bit with the old warhorse Graduation Ball. I was not as taken as the general audience was with the work. I felt the humor did not go far with me and it went for too long, but I was in the minority.

This was followed by the work I was most impressed with. Choreographed by Ohad Naharin, director of the Batsheva Dance savion-gloverCompany of Israel, and performed by two of his young women dancers, it was set to a re-arranged recording of Ravel’s Bolero. It was powerfully conveyed by these two women. Very imaginative, one of the better uses of the composition without getting bombastic. The evening closed with a showcase of Savion Glover’s artistry. As usual his mastery was palpable.

Having enjoyed all, I still felt somewhat empty. Like something was missing, and I have yet to put my finger on it.

Back on the skies to rush home, to make sure Cisco, my dog, had not forgotten me and to mow the lawn and trim some bushes before the leaves fall on the back yard and my back begins to ache.

baryshikovChores done, appearances at the office so my incredible staff knew I was alive and well, I prepared for my next journey, a trip to Chicago where I was to see Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna perform their program of solos and duets. We had unsuccessfully been trying to get them to stop by St. Louis, so I headed north to see what I had missed.

A most powerful hour and 15 minutes of dancing by two great artists. What a joy is to see two giants of our field, whom I had enjoyed at the height of their careers, find ways to continue sharing their mastery with the audiences and younger dancers. Letting us know that gifted and intelligent dance and dancing can continue beyond the days when jumping high and turning forever was the answer. Three solos and duet made for a program that was greatly appreciated by me.

The first solo for “Misha,” choreographed by Vladimir Ratmansky, a choreographer with whom I was looking forward to getting more acquainted, was for me the least successful. It did not clearly convey what it said it would and lacked some imagination. This was followed by a powerful performance by Ms. Laguna to a work by her husband, Matts Ekk. Strong and dramatic, she covered the emotions, vocabulary and space with ease and power. (See a clip on YOUTUBE). Baryshnikov followed with a charming solo choreographed by a young choreographer, Benjamin Millepied, a dancer with New York City Ballet. I had heard about him but had not yet seen any of his work. After viewing this, I certainly want to see more. It showcased Misha against videos of his dancing the work and established a fascinating duet between him and the images. The work culminated with a film of him as a young student, showcasing the prowess that made him famous and imbuing the piece with charming humor.

The evening closed with a poignant duet, again from Matts Ekk, that Ana and Misha performed with great magnetism and incredible rapport with one another. Backstage after the show, I saw two committed, spent artists who had left everything on that stage.

Once again home, this time it was time to wipe floors and vacuum rugs. At Dance St. Louis, time to readjust budgets and prepare for our upcoming season. Then once again up in the air, this time to Atlanta where I was to view the new creation of Twyla Tharp to Frank Sinatra’s songs, Come Fly with Me. An evening-long work filled with magical tunes performed by a live large band and jazz singer, and with Sinatra’s voice mastered over the live music. It was like hearing him in person. The evening as a whole was enjoyed by those in attendance. Though we all left humming and tapping our feet, I could not help but feel that the work itself needed some re-working. Some touching up, some tightening of sections that seemed somewhat disjointed. I am certain that by the time the work hits the road and ends up in Broadway, it will have polished itself further.

So, that is that for now. My next report will see me writing about the fascinating performances I just saw in Sarasota, Florida, as part of the Arts Festival that the Baryshnikov Arts Center of New York City produced there. Kansas City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Lucky Plush and BalletMet Columbus are in my mantle for the next three weeks. See you then.

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