There is nothing fluffy about Elisa Monte’s choreography. During the opening night of her current season at the Ailey Theater, she showed her respect for her dancers from the earliest work (the 1979 classic, “Treading”) to her 2010 offering, “Continuum.” The movement was powerful, measured, entirely crisp. There was not a note of humor or lightness; this was dance to be taken seriously.
For his newest world premiere, the hour-long "The Cinderella Principle: Try These On, See if They Fit," choreographer Robert Moses assembled a first-rate cast and collaborators. He wanted to pay tribute to and celebrate the modern family which comes in shapes that fifty years ago would have been unthinkable. Single-parent, same-sex parents, multi-racial, blended families, a whole rainbow of people loves and raises children. "Cinderella" is a beautifully produced show whose emotional weight, however, is carried by the voices of actual parents, as assembled by playwright Anne Galjour, and eloquent musicians Todd Reynolds and Kid Beyond. Moses' choreography, beautiful and gorgeously danced as it is, doesn't enlarge "Cinderella's" thematic implications enough to carry the piece through its duration. Perhaps, he ran into Balanchine's "mother-in-law cannot
be choreographed" dictum. The complexity of modern parenthood might not be either.
"Don Quixote" & Triple Bill The Israel Ballet The Takoma Park / Silver Spring Performing Arts Center of Montgomery College Silver Spring, Maryland February 26 & 27, 2010
by George Jackson copyright 2010 by George Jackson
Protests outside and inside the theater on opening night greeted the company due to its provenance in the state of Israel. The protests outside were vocal but well behaved; inside, one intense woman circulated through the incoming audience and handed out what looked like a program for the performance but instead was a pamphlet. Printed on its cover was a quote from Cervantes about illusion. At least three different issues were at the crux of these political actions. Israel was accused of war crimes in Gaza, legal apartheid between Jews and Non Jews, and using cultural exports like dance as manipulation. I'm all for civil demonstrations. Why, though, have there been none at performances of dance companies from Arab lands that practice political terror, gender apartheid and propaganda?
"TheGreatGatsby" The Washington Ballet Eisenhower Theater The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Washington, DC February 25, 2010
by Jean Battey Lewis copyright 2010 by Jean Battey Lewis
Art likes to look at art, or comment on it, or find a different medium to present the same idea - witness Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", subsequent Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev scores and Jerome Robbins' updated version, "West Side Story". In this spirit Septime Webre, now celebrating his 10th anniversary as director of The Washington Ballet, has just unveiled an ambitious full-length ballet based on one of this country's most celebrated and iconic novels - F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby".
"As One," "Rushes – fragments of a lost story," "Infra" The Royal Ballet Royal Opera House, Covent Garden 19 February, 2010
by Judith Cruickshank copyright 2010 by Judith Cruickshank
How do directors plan triple bills? What kind of common or contrasting elements do they look for? The obvious link between the three works shown on the latest mixed bill from the Royal Ballet is that they were all commissioned by that company. And, what’s more, in the last two seasons. Quite a plus for a company which has frequently been criticised for basing its repertory around a few, full-evening heritage works.
So, are we celebrating a new creative spirit at Covent Garden? In the event it turned out to be a somewhat dispiriting evening; strong on angst, but with little to cheer anyone who believes that there is a future for classical dancing, rather than just classically trained dancers.
Mark Morris Dance Group "Behemoth", "Looky", and "Socrates" BAM Opera House Brooklyn, New York February 23, 2010
by Mary Cargill copyright 2010 by Mary Cargill
The Mark Morris Dance Company gave a brief season at BAM, with two works new to New York, "Looky" (2007), and the new ballet "Socrates", in addition to the 1990 "Behemoth". Morris, though always musical and inventive, has at times seemed deliberately quirky and overly cute, but this program was rich and moving. "Behemoth" showed his contrary side--this most musically astute of choreographers made a dance to silence, finding rhythm in coordinated moments and percussive footsteps. (Unfortunately, audience coughs added some dissonance.) For all the rhythm and coordination, "Behemoth" was generally dark and brooding (this is an observation, not a criticism). The various dancers, though performing the same steps, danced in isolation, often hunched over. Even the partnering seemed slightly ominous, as the dancers seemed variously ineffective comforters or sacrificial victims.
"Spartacus" TheBolshoiBallet Opera House The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Washington, DC February 17, 2010
byGeorgeJackson copyright 2010 by George Jackson
Refinement? Perfection of the body's line and pristine finishes to each and every motion? A rich and varied vocabulary of steps linked melodiously with one another and harmoniously to the music in order to hint at ideas and evoke emotions? Abandon all such values at "Spartacus", Yuri Grigorovich's block buster ballet. On opening night, February 16, the public's response mounted steadily to culminate in rounds of bravos and rhythmic applause. The second night's house, holding back a while, succumbed at the final curtain calls to express its fervor. Reports throughout the week were that audiences for all three* casts of Grigorovich's Soviet Communist propaganda piece approved vociferously of what they were seeing. Why? And especially why today in America?
"Spartacus" The Bolshoi Ballet Opera House John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Washington, D.C. 20010 February 16, 2010
by Alexandra Tomalonis copyright 2010 by Alexandra Tomalonis
There aren't many ballets with war, or political revolution, as their subject, and even fewer that glorify war. There is August Bournonville's "Valdemar," nearly 200 years ago, with battle scenes so realistic that it is said generals studied them, but that's about it. You'd have to go back to the 18th century to see men dancing in military formations. And then there's Yuri Grigorovich's "Spartacus," once the calling card of the Bolshoi Ballet during the late 1960s and '70s. The full ballet was last danced here in 1974. The second act served as the centerpiece of one of those wonderful Highlights Programs in the 1980s, and the work looked down at heel. It seemed of its time -- the Cold War -- and its time had passed.
Men, men, and more men seems to be the mantra for ballet today, and the line-up presented by this year's Kings--Jose Manuel Carreno, Guillaume Cote, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, Joaquin De Luz, Denis Matvienko, Desmond Richardson, and Nikolay Tsiskaridze--could dance a phone book and pack in an audience. At times the choreography did take on a mind-numbing similarity; kings of choreography aren't as prevalent as kings of the dance. But the overall effect was both warm and thrilling. There seemed to be a real camaraderie and respect among the dancers, who gave every cliched step their all. The evening opened with a film showing rehearsals, with brief interviews of the dancers talking about the project. This is clearly a serious effort to create an ensemble, not a gala set of party tricks.
Alex Escalante’s mouth was the star of “The 25th Frame.” Borrowing from Beckett, Escalante took “Not I” from small-scale to large, from theater to film. His own bewhiskered mouth and large teeth loomed on a screen hung from center stage at the Kitchen in his newest offering. Murmuring indistinctly at first, the mouth gained in volume and volubility, in a stream of wordswordswords; of politics, advertising, persuasion and lies. There was nothing subtle in this work, but nothing was meant to be.