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 Volume 2, Number 7  February 16,  2004            An online supplement to DanceView magazine

Letter from New York

16 February 2004.
Copyright © 2004 by Mindy Aloff

These days, it seems as if nearly everyone in the arts is looking for “edge,” as if creativity were no more than what academicians call “transgressive impulses.” We take it for granted now that the lingo for creative energy is often associated with crime, blades, aggression, wounds—sensational elements. One reason may be that audiences for the arts are so benumbed by the welter of images they encounter daily that, in order for most people to feel anything in the theater, they have to be hit over the head or skewered. In other words, people won’t recognize what constitutes edge unless they see a literal representation of its results, about to spill or actually spilling out of some orifice or entry hole. In dance, of course, what gets lost in this equation between creativity and literally sensational imagery is dancing: the edge becomes all, as in a nightmare where one is walking through a city that has no sidewalks, only curbs—which is why a number of choreographers over the past two decades have been acclaimed for works that have no formal shape, no theatrical expertise, and, all too often, no dance vocabulary. As long as the imagery pulls the right trigger, nobody cares about what else might be missing. The distortion works backwards, too. George Balanchine’s Apollon Musagète was much edgier than Vaslav Nijinsky’s L’Après-midi d’un faune in the relationships it presented between men and women and in its pervasive, analytical reconsideration of the rules and regulations that guided the classical syllabus taught at the Imperial School of St. Petersburg, where both Balanchine and Nijinsky studied. In the astoundingly revealing 1990 Juilliard production of Faune that notator Ann Hutchinson Guest worked on with Jill Beck from Nijinsky’s own notations of what he intended his choreography to be, the Chief Nymph exhibits a modesty of person, and a range of human feeling, that are completely absent from Balanchine’s god and muses. Nijinsky’s characters are recognizable Edwardians transposed; Balanchine’s are of another species entirely. Yet, owing to Nijinsky’s literal staging of the faun’s orgasm, it is Faune that is remembered as the more revolutionary work.

It’s a pyrrhic effort to fight City Hall on matters going back nearly a century; however, I will say that if you want to see true edge in action, in DANCE ACTION, look out for performances by the 23 year-old prodigy of Argentinian tango, Pablo Pugliese—a native of Argentina and the son of the distinguished milongueros Esther and Mingo Pugliese.
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read past Letters from New York

An Ambitious Evening

ODC/San Francisco
Dancing Downtown
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
February 12
, 2004

by Rita Felciano
Copyright © 2004 by Rita Felciano
published 16 February 2004

Dancing and music trumped choreography on the opening night of ODC/San Francisco’s 33rd season. Yet with four world premieres, two commissioned scores and a masterpiece of Western music, Bach’s Passacaglia in C Minor, used in an intriguingly fresh manner, the first of two programs certainly didn’t lack ambition. (Two other world premieres are scheduled for the second program which opens later this week.)
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Drama, Dancing and Music

Arts United of Washington
Theatre on the Run
Arlington, Virginia
Saturday, February 14, 2004 at 7:30 PM

by George Jackson
copyright 2004 by George Jackson
published 16 February 2004

Jean Racine's tragedy Phedre opens on sexual passions and power plays at high pitch among its protagonists. Other than variations and complications of these themes, it is hard to imagine that the play has anywhere left to go. But build it does to a seaquake of a climax that leaves in its wake not just death but a testament to the Olympian gods' jealousy of mortal humanity. Arts United of Washington, a brand new organization of limited means but much imagination, took on this 17th Century classical French drama's challenges—the grand oratory, the nakedness of the characters' emotions—and gave audiences a winning three hours of theater.
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Stephen Petronio Dance Company
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
San Francisco, California
February 7, 2004

Merce Cunningham Dance Company
[Presented by Cal Performances]
Zellerbach Hall,
Berkeley, California
February 8, 2004

by Ann Murphy
Copyright © 2004 by Ann Murphy
published 16 February 2004

Circumstance made bookends out of Stephen Petronio and Merce Cunningham last weekend with Petronio in San Francisco and Cunningham in Berkeley. And though it may seem about as apt to compare them as to compare the poetry of Wallace Stevens and Patty Smith (or, more pertinently, Lou Reed), the two concerts have been bouncing off one another in my mind all week.
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Some Fabulous Dancing

Don Quixote
Quattro Stagione, Study in Motion, Tu-Tu
San Francisco Ballet
War Memorial Opera House
San Francisco,  California
February 2004

by Paul Parish
Copyright © 2004 by Paul Parish
published 16 February 2004

Return visits to San Francisco Ballet's opening pair of programs gave lots of evidence of spirit, energy, and attention to style in the company, particularly in the performances of dancers in side roles, or even in the deep background. This was the quality that made Helgi Tomasson's Swan Lake so thrilling a decade ago—the easy idiomatic clear dancing among the also-rans, which does at least as much to create the world of the ballet as the performances of the principals (and can do more to break the spell if it's not present than an off-night effort from a star).

A mid-run repeat of the mixed-rep program (reviewed on opening night by my colleague Ann Murphy in last week's issue) showed some fabulous dancing in mostly-weak choreography, and the Saturday matinee of Don Quixote gave us a show that the audience ate up and wanted more of.
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Swanilda's World

New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York, NY
February 14, 2004

by Mary Cargill
copyright 2004 by Mary Cargill

published 16 February 2004

If ever a dancer lived up to her name, it is New York City Ballet’s new soloist, Megan Fairchild—although, based on the audience reaction to her New York debut in Coppélia, she might as well be named Sara Lee, since it seems no one doesn’t like her. The role of Swanilda, with its precise and elegant footwork, its classical clarity, and its sunny atmosphere, suits her many talents perfectly. She did dance it last summer in Saratoga on very short notice, but this was, I think, her first scheduled performance. There was no sign of nerves, other than a brief tumble in the third act, from which she recovered with aplomb.
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A Disappointing Encore

Music and lyrics by Cole Porter; book by Abe Burrows
City Center Encores!
City Center
New York, NY
February 12, 2004

by Susan Reiter
copyright 2004 by Susan Reiter
published 16 February 2004

When Can-Can opened on Broadway in 1953, most of the attention and praise went to Gwen Verdon, in her first substantial Broadway role. Playing a laundress-by-day, can-can dancer by night named Claudine, she was the show's second female lead, with top billing going to a French actress named Lilo. But reviews suggest that Michael Kidd's choreography (for three substantial dance numbers) and Verdon's dancing were its most memorable and bankable assets. "She is the dance discovery of the season," proclaimed Walter Kerr, while another reviewer noted that "the crowd's increasing delight with Miss Verdon was exciting to feel."
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This weeks' articles


Mindy  Aloff's Letter from New York

The Balanchine Celebration
New York City Ballet:
A Veteran and a Raw Recruit
by Mindy Aloff

Heart and Soul
by Mary Cargill

Kid Stuff
Cas Public's If You Go Down To the Woods Today
by Susan Reiter

San Francisco Ballet:
New Wheeldon (Rush)
by Rita Felciano

New Tomasson (7 For Eight)
by Paul Parish

Possokhov's New Firebird for OBT
by Rita Felciano

Moscow Festival Ballet and Scott Wells
by Paul Parish

Hamburg Ballet's Nijinsky:
Nijinsky—Lost in the Chaos
by Clare Croft

NijinskyMadness and Metaphor
by Alexandra Tomalonis

Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes
by George Jackson

Batsheva: Breaking Down Walls
by Lisa Traiger

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence
by Clare Croft

Choreographers Showcase
by Tehreema Mitha

Zoltan Nagy
by George Jackson






Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
Mary Cargill
Clare Croft
Nancy Dalva
Rita Felciano
Lynn Garafola
Alison Garcia
Marc Haegeman
George Jackson
Gia Kourlas
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Jean Battey Lewis
Alexander Meinertz
Tehreema Mitha
Gay Morris
Ann Murphy
Paul Parish
Susan Reiter
Jane Simpson
Alexandra Tomalonis(Editor)
Lisa Traiger
Meital Waibsnaider

Leigh Witchel


The Winter DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's opening night program is reviewed by Nancy Dalva

An interview with the Paris Opera Ballet's Laurent Hilaire by Marc Haegeman

Reviews of National Ballet of Cuba and American Ballet Theatre at City Center by Mary Cargill

Part 6 of Leigh Witchel's Coverage of the Balanchine Interpreter's Archive: Observastions of coaching by Violette Verdy, Conrad Ludlow, Maria Tallchief and Todd Bolender

Reports from New York (Mary Cargill: DTH, ABT Studio Company, SAB Workshop, more!)
London (Jane Simpson: Jonathan Burrows, Martha Graham, National Ballet of China, Birmingham Royal and Royal Ballets)
and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano: Hubbard Street, Alonzo King's Lines Ballet, Oakland Ballet, Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company, Axis Dance Company)

DanceView is available by subscription ONLY. Don't miss it. It's a good read.  Black and white, 48 pages, no ads. Subscribe today!

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last updated on february 9, 2004 -->