the danceview times
Volume 1, Number 6 November 3, 2003 An online supplement to DanceView magazine
red headline indicates that an article has been added since the Monday edition
went on line.]
Lifetime in Dance; Frederic Franklin
The preservation of choreography is still mostly dependant on the passage of information from one dancer to another. Ballets go in and out of fashion, sometimes disappearing from rotation after only a few performances for reasons other than the merits of the work. Choreographers have a habit of moving on to the next work and those who have seen forget or die. For this and many reasons, ballet is lucky to have Frederic Franklin.
now 89, was both witness to and participant in ballet history. Known for
his 30-year association with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and his partnership
with prima ballerina Alexandra Danilova, the Liverpool, England-born dancer
not only performed almost all the prestigious roles in ballet, but was
there at the creation of works by Leonide Massine, George Balanchine,
Frederick Ashton, Agnes de Mille and Bronislava Nijinska. Franklin’s
talent was such that 45 principal roles were created on him, including
the Baron in Gaite Parisienne by Massine and the Champion Roper
in Rodeo by de Mille.
"Oh, Brad. They're dancing in the galleries!"
Lerman Dance Exchange
"Oh, Brad! They're dancing in the galleries!" And why shouldn't they? Dance, that is. In the galleries. In the streets. On stages. Off stages. Anywhere there's a space for people to gather and move, to create a community of body and spirit, there should be room for dance. That's what I've learned from Liz Lerman.
one of Washington's august spaces for contemporary art, the Hirshhorn
Museum and Sculpture Garden, opened its doors and its galleries for Lerman's
Dance Exchange to dance in, to explore the art and the art spaces. And,
oh my, what an hour it was.
Letter from New York
Jinx Falkenburg, one of the pioneers of live talk on television, estimated that, during the 1940s and ‘50s—when she was producing two radio shows and a live t.v. show daily, five days a week, with her husband, Tex McCrary—she conducted over 16,000 interviews. Many of them were with political figures, such as Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon. Some were with intellectuals, such as Albert Einstein. And thousands were with entertainers, among them, Fred Astaire, whom Jinx interviewed while dancing with him. Among the youngsters on the production crew for these programs were William Safire and Barbara Walters, who closely studied Jinx’s interviewing style and went on to incorporate it into her own way of approaching subjects on camera.
cover girl; movie starlet (she played a bit part in the Gene Kelly-Stanley
Donen movie Cover Girl, whose script was based on her own career); champion
swimmer, tennis player, and golfer—Jinx only danced for pleasure.
She was never formally trained. However, her lanky frame (5’9”
or so), intense athletic discipline, perfect posture, and lush, high-boned
beauty gave her the look of a dancer. Had her life taken a different turn,
she might well have been a great one. Two weeks before her death, on August
27th of this year, she excavated several publicity photos taken of her
on the set of Tahiti Nights, a hapless movie from 1945. One shows
her in a vivid leap, somewhere between a saut de chat and a grand jeté;
another shows her poised in sous-sus on high, 7/8th point, her legs pulled
up like the stems of martini glasses—each producing one smoothly
continuous line that might have been drawn by Al Hirschfeld.
Catch up on past Letters you may have missed.
Fragile—Engaging, but Slow
Kvarnstrom & Co.
Watching Fragile, Kenneth Kvarnstrom’s engagingly physical quintet from 2001, felt like entering a public space full of people whose language you did not understand. While perfectly civil, they were so completely focused on each other that they turned a public into a private event.
this hour-long discursion of movement possibilites, the Finnish-born Swedish
resident, who, starting this January will dissolve his company to take
on the directorship of Stockholm’s renowned Dansens Hus, invites you to
watch but does not seem particularly interested in projecting a unified
whole. Given the fact that the performance takes place in a proscenium
theater, this may sound like a contradiction in terms. But the work doesn’t
roll along an identifiable trajectory. Loosely structured, it meanders
with the dancers looking to each other for cues, for feedback, for energy.
One gets a sense that this process would be going on even if we were not
there. There is but the barest sense that Fragile has a beginning
and an end. The piece ends with the light (discrete but excellent design
throughout by Maria Ros) coming down on a single dancer as if she was
trying to finish a phrase not yet completed.
"I Am, and Will Always Be, a Hoofer"
DANCE! - A DANCE TRIBUTE TO HOLLYWOOD
Coherence is not usually a term one associates with gala evenings, with their hodge-podge of specialty acts and their dominance by star turns. But this year's Career Transition for Dancers annual gala took the theme of paying tribute to dance in Hollywood films and stuck to it in a smooth-running, intelligently organized program that covered all the bases—without showing a single film clip.
premise was to introduce each program segment with a Hollywood veteran
(or two), whose career had a connection to the ensuing number . This worked
very well when, for instance, Russ Tamblyn and George Chakiris—the
Riff and Bernardo of the 1961 West Side Story film—came
out to reminisce about the making of the film, leading into an excerpt
of from New York City Ballet's dynamic West Side Story Suite.
The underlying sense of impassioned spirituality that underlies Ronald K. Brown's work tends to evoke a powerful response in audiences, but it can also be problematic. He creates dances that allude to a higher purpose, using a blend of African-inspired movement and club-dancing sensuality, and they make a strong impact on an emotional level. His Grace (1999) for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater tends to leave audiences ecstatic, but while it a rich display of luscious movement, it creates what amounts to a cheap high, greatly buoyed by some luscious music.
program his company brought to the Joyce offered a great deal of wonderful
dancing, earnestly presented and propelled by noble or spiritual intentions.
But it revealed the weaknesses of Brown's choreography, which assembles
some blazing and thrilling passages of movement but doesn't always have
a structure or coherent plan behind it.
McKerrow's Powerful Hagar, and an Extraordinary Debut
piece of the ABT season is the revival of Antony Tudor’s Pillar
of Fire, staged by Donald Mahler. Three Hagars shared the six performances,
and Amanda McKerrow gave her first New York performance (and next to last
one, too, if rumors of her retirement are true; she repeats the role Friday
night) on November 5. McKerrow had worked extensively with Tudor on the
part of the Younger Sister, so her performance was greatly anticipated
by the eager audience. It was, I would suspect, one of the last chances
to see a dancer who had actually worked with one of the great 20th century
ABT's Innovative Works Program is a Popular Hit
if I were running a big, world-class ballet company, I might be tempted
to put on an evening much like ABT's "Innovative Works." Let's
show the world that ballet isn't all tutus and tiaras, that ballet can
be deconstructed, unconstructed and reconstructed to appeal to a "younger"
crowd, preferably in settings that allow the dancers to show off how powerfully
they can contort themselves, and how enticingly they can fill out a unitard.
I might even succumb, and would that necessarily be a bad thing? The big,
and very enthusiastic crowd at City Center Tuesday night wouldn't have
thought so. As Kevin McKenzie has seemed so far quite intent on borrowing
the Joffrey Ballet's very successful "old-new-borrowed-blue"
repertory formula, I was a little surprised at the homogeneity of ABT's
programming this season—all the slinky moderne works on one night,
all the Old Masters on another, etc. This is clearly a departure from
the Joffrey formula, yet, in an age where the three-ballet evening tends
to be Programming Death, McKenzie might be onto something. Or perhaps
anything works if you have enough guys who can jump and turn.
Flying Panthers and Other Wonders
were so many big, dramatic stories last weekend at ABT it's hard to know
where to begin. With Craig Salstein's wonderful last-minute substitution
for an injured Angel Corella in Fancy Free, after having danced
the difficult role of the Devil in Three Virgins and a Devil
not once, but twice that day? With Ashley Tuttle bouncing back from a
near-mauling at the hands of Herman Cornejo in Tchaikovsky Pas de
Deux with a strong and gutsy rendition of her solo? With Gillian
Murphy settling down a skittish David Hallberg in his debut in Theme
and Variations, and, perhaps not coincidentally, delivering the best
performance I've seen from her in Theme? With Paloma Herrera's
somnolent Theme, and her Aurora-like awakening in Tchaikovsky
Pas de Deux with the pantherish (if panthers could fly) Carlos Acosta?
Or perhaps with Irina Dvorovenko's never-to-be-forgotten send-up of every
diva-ballerina-assoluta curtain call you've ever seen, dreamed or had
a nightmare about, after a side-splitting performance of Le Grand
Pas de Deux (about which I'm about to eat some crow) with Maxim Belotserkovsky?
ABT City Center Season
Dorian—Not Quite Wilde Enough
else, American Ballet Theatre’s fall season proves that when critics
declare that William Forsythe is the antichrist of ballet, they really
mean Jiri Kylian. It’s always better to try something and fail,
as Forsythe is apt to do. Kylian, however, invents serviceable dances
that include the same basic traits: Mickey Mousing the music note for
note; the addition of props, however incongruous; Martha Graham contractions;
and meaningless gesture as a way to jazz up classical vocabulary. I’m
not sure when covering the eyes with the fingertips became accepted as
a part of the ballet idiom, but judging by Kylian (and that of his adoring
imitators, Nacho Duato and Stanton Welch) it is as crucial as the arabesque.
in to the Master Works
ABT's Master Works program sounds fantastic, given the choreographic masters
represented: Sir Frederick Ashton, Martha Graham, Antony Tudor and Marius
Petipa. Not too shabby, as they say. It is a bit odd, however, that the
company looked more at home in Graham's Diversion of Angels than
the three "real" ballets. Not that the dancers looked particularly
ill at ease in the other works, but rather that, while one might reasonably
expect that a ballet company must find its own path with a modern dance
work, particularly such good, old-fashioned idiosyncratic modern dance
as Graham's, the same can't really be said for works by ballet choreographers,
even ones as diverse as these, and here, although the ABT dancers usually
gave clear and strong renditions of the overall choreography, they were
less consistent in presenting the unique, subtle perfume of each of these
distinctive and truly masterful works—not that ABT, and Kevin McKenzie,
shouldn't be commended for trying.
BORIS WILLIS CAN MOVE
Willis is an intensely physical artist. His work explores physical relationships,
his unique movement vocabulary pushes the limits of the human body, and
his duets are held together by a compelling physical attraction that is
especially effective when he dances with founding member Cynthia McLaughlin.
While Willis’s physical power is what distinguishes him as a performer,
his young company is not yet at his level. At times, underneath the flying
foot work and the daring contact improv freezes, a distracting lack of
cohesion mars the flow of the pieces and the connections between the dancers.
At present, the company's strength is that it brings a much needed voice
of immediacy to contemporary issues of the world and matters of the human
©2003 by DanceView