A dozen years ago, a newcomer caught Washington’s dance eye. Intense, even when standing still, she moved with concentrated force whether flamenco, modern dance or balletic styling was called for. Soon she was choreographing portraits of problematic women – such as Mata Hari – for herself. She showed these throughout the country and won attention for what seemed a fresh approach to sensuality and protest. More recently, Yatkin has toured the world. From dancing and teaching in more than 20 different countries, Yatkin returned to Washington this past weekend with a long solo and a movie about her globe trotting.
Artists want to play the “Big Room”; actors aspire to Broadway, classical musicians to Carnegie Hall and increasingly dance companies to the Koch Theater, home to New York City Ballet and literally the house that Balanchine built. How much more so when it’s a prodigal son qua company founded by Edward Villella and currently directed by Lourdes Lopez (a City Ballet prodigal daughter). So when Miami City Ballet, dancing here in the middle of April, wowed the local audience with freshness and musicality interpreting Balanchine, as well as with the depth of the new repertory commissioned from the usual suspects -- Justin Peck, Liam Scarlett, and Alexei Ratmansky -- no one missed the point. The child here not only rivaled its parent, but markedly surpassed it, at least for this week. There was more vitality to this dancing than anything seen here for years.
It is rare in this country that a ballet company relies on the energy and talent of one creator. And having followed one of them for over twenty-five years, it’s tempting to suspect that there won’t be much new. Yet with the annual spring season's reprise of the 2014 "Shostakovich" and the premiere of "Sand", Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, on the eve of an upcoming eleven-city tour of Europe, presented a singularly satisfying program.
Everyone, including the entire staff of Miami City Ballet, knows that a New York tour is a mine-field. All the more heart-ening how strong the company looked at the end of a grueling engagement.
The company was on its game throughout a strong run, but by Sunday night, the dancers had done seven shows in five days. It showed in their exaggerated lines and attack: not sloppy, but the kind of tiredness you experience when you’re dancing on fumes and giving everything you’ve got just to make it to curtain fall.
Just about everything The Kirov Collaborative does is the work of trainees – students, young people. Not just all of the dancing and much of the choreography but mopping the stage floor, setting up the costume racks, applying the performers’ makeup and thinking up titles for the dances is the result of learning. Outcomes are recycled and become further lessons in the educational process. Five of the six pieces on this program were by new choreographers. All offered viewers worthwhile samples of skill plus intriguing introductions to distinct personalities. One ballet’s title referred to the human soul, another’s to plant life, and still another’s used the noun “eleutheromania” – evidence of an intense and irresistible desire for diversity and freedom among these collaborators.
Change is the essence of creative being, and Pennsylvania Ballet showed that under the new leadership of Artistic Director Angel Corella the company is embracing its future with particularly remarkable vitality. The works the troupe brought on its first tour to New York in over a decade were all New Year premieres, all recently created ballets, and all set specifically on the dancers of this company. Though PAB is clearly still transitioning into its new identity, both in overall look and performance style, as the evening progressed with very different ballets, the impact of their execution kept getting only better.
Although it is crammed with art, The National Gallery provides spaces in which visitors can rest their eyes. In one of these, the West Garden Court, there are huge columns, many green plants and a fountain structure but no exhibited objects. A hush seems to hang between the huge room’s skylight and its terraced marble floors. It is a lovely spot, yet difficult to use as a stage. Sight lines are obstructed and acoustics may sound muffled or acquire overtones. Petr Zuska (he is a dancer from Prague) and Jen Shyu (she is an Asian American musician based in New York) chose to perform their “dialogue” in this grand yet sheltering and also challenging location. Actually, the two entertainers’ artistic territories overlapped. She moved about and even danced a bit in addition to playing a variety of string instruments, vocalizing and producing sound with her high heels. He too, after dancing, sat down to handle musical instruments. Both contended not just with architectural facets of the place but with the motions of a rather restless audience. What sort of dancer is Zuska and what type of musician is Shyu?
Jen Rosenblit is a force of nature. Her work and her presence plumb something primordial. In "Clap Hands," she used a mix of athletic movement, compelling text, bold color and rhythm, and the insistent shock of her own nakedness to reach into our consciousness and nestle there, not comfortably but close and so personal.
The Oakland Ballet Company, under the artistic directorship of Graham Lustig since 2010, is trying to find its footing after long lost glories and several years of turmoil. Lustig is an experienced choreographer and company director who, in addition to Oakland, runs his own lustigdancetheatre in New Brunswick, NJ. He is both ambitious and realistic about what for the time being he can achieve in the competitive Bay Area. His "A Cappella -- Our Bodies Sing" was an imaginatively conceived and welcome program even though it disappointed on several levels. With two world premieres by Val Caniparoli and Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton and a local one by himself, Lustig offered two rarities: live music set to choral works.
The 16-member Studio Company, augmented with students from ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, opened its brief New York season with several New York and one world premiere; the works varied in quality but the dancing was uniformly strong, gracious, and engaging. Two of the works, "Knightlife" and "Danse Baroque", used dancers from Level 7 of the JKO School, though there was no whiff of the schoolroom in the polished, generous, and thoroughly professional dancing. Clearly ABT has a wealth of talent on its hands.
The title of Paxton’s solo for a male dancer is open ended. Prometheus sprang to mind instantly, before the performance began. Actual images of the action linger. One, from the dance’s final section, is of a man moving into a light beam along a cord or wire that seems strung through his head. Vivid, too, in my memory are the program’s curtain calls. The performer - Jurij Konjar – came out by himself and then brought on choreographer Paxton. Out of character and no longer behaving “as Paxton”, Konjar differed from both the choreographer’s current self and his own personification of him younger. It was then that I realized how good an actor Konjar had been.
This is your chance to be disappointed or relieved. The advance billing for Miami City Ballet’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” trumpeted the ballet as taking place full fathom five underwater, and sounded as if the beloved Balanchine work had been turned into something rich and strange.
The setting was envisioned as the estuaries of South Florida with designs by Michele Oka Doner. Tarell Alvin McCraney was credited with dramaturgy. Yet the text of the ballet, steps and mime, remained as-is. All changes were merely cosmetic.
Thank heaven for Dance Theatre of Harlem. The troupe, founded by Arthur Mitchell in 1969, has long been the home of especially strong and graceful diverse performers and a magnet for genuinely diverse audiences (sadly, still a rarity in New York and many major cities.) In a season devoted to the power of female dancers, the final program of DTH’s season at City Center also offered a special “Black Ballerina Tribute," in homage to dozens of the women -- “Black, Brown, and Beige,” as the program cites Duke Ellington -- whose dancing has graced this and other companies over many decades.