What a great spring so far, eh Everybody?
Just got an email from Paul Taylor Dance Company which says they are having a Snow Special for tonight's performance which starts at 7PM. All remaining tickets are $10 for which you must use the code SNOW18 if you order online or call or stop by the box office. The program includes Sara Mearns in Dances of Isadora, The Beauty in Gray by Bryan Arias, and Piazzolla Caldera 🔥, one of Taylor's finest and hottest works.
Haglund would jump at the opportunity to get a $10 ticket if he didn't already have a ticket to see Irina Dvorovenko in her singing debut in Grand Hotel, the Musical at NY City Center tonight.
Speaking of snow, how about that snow job that our Misty did on the Singapore audience with her big 13 fouettes in Swan Lake's Black Swan PdD!! She must be so proud of herself. McKenzie must be positively beaming with pride. Since he has gifted her with two performances of Swan Lake at the Met instead of the zero that she deserves, it would seem that she might do a grand total of 26 fouettes for the whole week. Oh man, good for her! But how do her colleagues keep from snickering on stage?
Edited 3/23 to add video of the epic failure. Some impressive sleuthing done by FoF to pull this truth to the surface: https://www.instagram.com/p/BgaS0wtF8iP/
Lincoln Center may never be able to out-do its outdoor free presentation last summer of Darlene Love in Damrosch Park. Oh lord, what a night that was. She was celebrating her 75th birthday and boasting how she still did three minutes of planking everyday. And boy oh boy, did she ever use her six-pack to belt out He's a Rebel.
Well guess who's coming to Damrosch Park as part of Lincoln Center Out of Doors in fewer than two weeks?
76-year-old Dionne Warwick will be taking the stage for "a set", whatever that means, during soft pop stylist Rumer's evening on July 29th. The only thing these two have in common is a fondness for Burt Bacharach's and Hal David's songs. Bacharach, by the way, is still touring at age 89 and still singing just as "well" as ever. We see on his calendar that he has some free time between the end of his Seattle gig tonight and his Las Vegas gig on August 4th. Wouldn't that be something if he showed up, too, for Dionne's "set" to play the piano. Oh, man, we're saying a little prayer for you along with no raindrops falling on our head. Oh yeah, this guy's in love with you, and he's hoping to see you walk on by that night. That's what friends are for.
Okay, back to the future perfect...
The prior evening (July 28) you will have had the opportunity to see Paul Taylor Dance Company perform Company B, accompanied by a live performance of the vocal trio Dutchess singing the songs made famous by the Andrews Sisters, and Airs.
So just stay in your seat and wait for Dionne to show up the next night. Come to think of it, you may want to bring a tent and a couple weeks of supplies in order to save your place. On August 13th, Bonnie Raitt closes the door on Out of Doors 2017 with a Sunday night concert with Memphis soulman, Don Bryant.
Always something happenin' in the 'hood...
Yesterday along 6th Ave, we came across a typical street fair with some atypical talent. We asked these three guys what their dance was about, and they said, "We're getting ready to audition for Ratmansky's Whipped Cream for next season at the Met." Haglund politely watched their whole routine and then told them that while they were exceptional, they were probably too short for production. OMG, did feathers start flying then. "Oh noooo we're not! If Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo can get themselves into Swan Lake, we should have no trouble winging our way through the Whipped Cream audition." Haglund told them to prepare themselves because ABT might just tell them to "Have a nice day." They wanted to know what the heck that meant...
What a fabulous Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema transmission on Sunday – and impressively attended! The Bolshoi dancers did fairly well with their two company premieres, Robbins' The Cage and Lander's Etudes, and showed that they are as fluent in Ratmansky's lexicon as any other company with their extraordinary performance of his Russian Seasons.
If the lady insects in The Cage weren't as bitingly aggressive as what we enjoy seeing at NYCB, just give them a little time. They'll come around. Let's hope they don't invite trouble by using theatrical makeup to make either of the intruders look like a less-than-beloved local politician. Uh-oh, we probably shouldn't have said that, but it's too late now... Perhaps our own home company could do something similar, especially if the NEA gets slashed and dismantled. The audience and the dancers would derive much more satisfaction from that than a simple burning in effigy.
Olga Smirnova acquitted herself well in Etudes. Bolshoi Superwoman spokesperson Katerina Novikova explained beforehand that we would be seeing the "1952 version" but didn't explain what that meant. We figured it out though, oh yes, we did. It was the pre-Toni Lander version of Etudes, you know, the one without the bells and whistles. But honestly, Olga was a pleasure to watch in what she did. In this ballet, her extensions a la second were a lot more turned-out and properly placed than what we saw during her unfortunate visit to ABT some years back. She also had those ribs under control.
Johnny Eliasen staged Etudes on the Bolshoi at Lise Lander's request. (She was the 3rd Mrs. Lander immediately after Toni Lander. Without question, Toni is the ballerina most identified with this classic, but Lise didn't mention her during the intermission interview with Novikova.) Eliasen still has some clean-up to do with the ladies in the early tendus section.
The men, Semyon Chudin and Artem Ovcharenko, had mostly successes with their variations but were not especially brilliant. Poor Semyon – the tempo of his first grueling variation was at a pace slower than a Pestov men's class. After that test, though, he was fine. Ovcharenko muffed his series of double tours, but impressively saved them.
All during Etudes, Haglund thought about Devon Teuscher, Christine Schevchenko, and Gillian Murphy. Since ABT now has enough ballerinas who can dance this spectacular piece, why aren't we seeing it? At yesterday's Bolshoi screening, some people were standing up at attention in the aisles to watch the last half of it. We need to see this ballet again in New York, and ABT needs to dance it in order to toughen up and clean up the ranks. These days every dancer there seems to have his or her own version of tendu and personal placement of legs a la seconde. The reality is that a la seconde is a la seconde. Side is side. If the dancer can't get the leg there, he/she shouldn't be in the ballet. At the screening yesterday, those dancers were so perfectly placed to the side that their legs looked like they were plotted on graph paper.
Speaking of lapses of discipline in today's ballet dancers, Diana Vishneva has now followed Paloma Herrera in publicly criticizing the current generation's distractions with the internet and over-focus on its own happiness rather than classical ballet. She also inferred that the students and young dancers are being coddled.
Most importantly, Diana ripped Nikolay Tsiskaridze and Makhar Vaziev for claiming that the Bolshoi and Mariinsky styles are "the same." In recent years, we've seemingly lost a lot of the cherished Vaganova style and perfume in the Mariinsky. That's lost art. To hear that Tsiskaridze and Vaziev claim that the styles are the same is like hearing someone claim that churches, mosques, synagogues, and all houses of worship are the same. Hopefully, when Diana finishes her flirtation with contemporary dance, she'll settle down and help restore Vaganova at the Mariinsky and wherever else in the world they value it – before it's too late.
After the Bolshoi in Cinema screening yesterday, Haglund ran up to Lincoln Center to catch the evening performance of Paul Taylor Dance Company with guest company Lyon Opera Ballet performing Merce Cunningham's Summerspace. Also on tap was Martha Graham's Diversion of Angels. Both were danced in the spirits of their creators and revealed the distinct paths that led to Taylor's own brilliant, very American choreography. Our greatest joy of the evening, however, was in seeing the season's single performance of Taylor's Promethean Fire to music by Bach. Created in the months following 9/11, this dance still packs an emotional punch after 15 years. As the dancers swirled in darkness, piled atop one another, rose from their human rubble, and lifted their arms, the most haunting images of the past still came to mind.
Haglund was unable to get to the Ashley Bouder Project over the weekend but he spoke with people who saw it and who were quite impressed with both Bouder's own choreography and Liz Gerring's. The NYT review of it, however, raises certain serious questions:
Why does Alastair Irrelevant plop down in his theater chair and proceed to watch every ballet on stage through his penis instead of his eyes? He spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on where his big boy might fit in the action on stage. Most every review these days obsesses over whether or not there is same-sex partnering in the choreography. When there is same-sex partnering in the dance, he now questions whether it's sincere or simply gratuitous. He needs to open his eyes when watching ballet and leave his zipper closed. And that's the straight up truth.
My goodness, we've covered a lot of territory on the blog today.
March is not going to be the "pause and catch our breath" month that it typically is between the end of NYCB's winter season and the busy spring season at Lincoln Center.
Pennsylvania Ballet will premiere its new Le Corsaire in Philly, Giselle will open at Washington Ballet, the Joffrey will stop by Lincoln Center, Paul Taylor Dance Company will be in season for three weeks at L.C., and ABT's Whipped Cream will premiere in Costa Mesa. Thanks to CMM for alerting us that the Met casting of the gala performance of the new ballet has been posted. It will be Simkin, Abrera, Hallberg, and Lane, who will also dance the premiere in Costa Mesa. We'll make it to most of these, but possibly not all.
Of course Haglund will be reporting on and reviewing the Segerstrom performances, and is fairly excited about seeing Hallberg back in the lineup. As we must continue to point out, Whipped is not going to be the Giselle that we need and deserve to see Hallberg and Abrera dance. Hopefully some sense will be knocked into McKenzie that will enable him to muster up enough respect for the ballet to avoid casting the fakerina twice in every ballet she isn't capable of dancing even once. It seems absurd to hand her three Giselle performances on a golden platter (Oman and two at the Met) all of which she is incapable of dancing at other than an amateurish level, while at the same time only allowing the company's ultimate Giselle, Abrera, one performance.
Haglund was thinking about this while at tonight's Westminster Kennel Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. Lots of the folks in the stands didn't know whether a pooch's frame was too bulky or whether its hind quarters were too big or its legs too short or whether its gait wasn't proper. They just looked at the cute hairy face on the MSG jumbotron and squealed. Those in the audience who spent a lifetime following the competition, love dogs more than most, and care deeply about the quality of each breed couldn't have cared less about what was on the jumbotron. For this dog show, the winner got the blue ribbon based on technical merit, not based on what the dog looked like on an oversized screen or how many people squealed for it. It seems that ABT's criteria for awarding Giselle performances (the blue ribbon ballet of all time) should at least have the integrity of a dog show. Wouldn't you think?
Rumor, the German Shepherd, won the big prize tonight. Haglund's fave, Adrian the Irish Setter, was runner up. They should get married and have little German-Irish Shetters, but we know it won't happen.
People, people, people –
Get to PTDC to see Martha Graham’s Diversion of Angels danced to the most exquisite interpretation of Norman Dello Joio’s score by the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and you will fall in love again. It is, after all, Martha’s ode to love: young love, hot love, mature love. The foremother of Paul Taylor’s company could not have wished for a better safe in which to stash her gold.
Haglund became acquainted with this dance long after the original interpreters left the Graham company. Some 30 years ago, the statuesque Peggy Lyman as the woman in The Couple in White brought such balletic tone and dramatic depth to the idea of mature love that it almost made one want to bypass the other two types of love. Peggy and Suzanne Farrell were/are the best ballet dancers ever to come out of Cincinnati. (She was Peggy Moerner in those days and embodied technique and style that reminded everyone in town of Cynthia Gregory.) Here are two Martha Swope photos of her in Diversion - click on each for a better view:
Last night Laura Halzack and Michael Trusnovec were wonderful as The Couple in White representing mature love. The style was easy on them and on the rest of the cast – all of it seeming so natural because they were, in a sense, going back to their roots. The strong body cores, the contract and release of the dancers’ centers, and the generous spiraling of their spines has always been indigenous to their home style. Mr. Taylor’s style will forever be linked to and reflect Martha Graham’s, but it mostly saves us from the angst and heavy moods that permeated so much of her work.
The Couple in Red (Parisa Khobdeh and Sean Mahoney) and The Couple in Yellow (Eran Bugge - a former student of Peggy Lyman, and Michael Novak) offered pitch-perfect characterizations of their erotic love and young love, respectively. Ms. Khobdeh was all ready-for-anything in her hot red dress. Her glide steps – those steps that look like fast crosscountry skiing – sizzled, and her sideways penches with arms extended were striking images. The ensemble dancers Michelle Fleet, Heather McGinley (a former Graham dancer), Christina Lynch Markham and the Fourth Man George Smallwood (a former Graham dancer who, over the past year, has found new and vibrant technical strength) all brought tremendous life, energy, and neatness to their phrases.
We wish that Mr. Taylor would ignore Alastair Irrelevant’s obnoxious knocks for including quotations in program notes and print the Ben Belitt poem that was the source of inspiration for Graham’s masterpiece. Belitt, a New York poet, was a fan of Graham’s and she of his poetry. In fact, Diversion of Angels premiered under the title Wilderness Stair in reference to a Belitt collection. We’re going to help out here on the blog and give you the verse, although we’re not sure of the line breaks:
“It is the place of the Rock and Ladder, the raven, the blessing, the tempter, the rose. It is the wish of the single-hearted, the undivided; play after the spirit’s labor; games, flights, fancies, configurations of the lover’s intention; the believed Possibility, at once strenuous and tender; humors of innocence, garlands, evangels, Joy on the wilderness stair; diversion of angels.”
We could not be more happy to see this dance live on and thrive at PTDC. To see it performed to music so lovingly conducted by Donald York was heavenly.
Last night’s program included Three Dubious Memories, a 2010 Taylor creation wherein two men fight over a woman and eventually discover that they, sans the woman, were made for each other. She returns to find them together and has a little hissy fit. Sean Mahoney, Robert Kleinendorst, and Eran Bugge were the trio supported by James Samson’s major contribution of dance power and drama as the Choirmaster.
The latest Taylor documentary, Creative Domain, covers the creation of this work. From the documentary, one did not get the feeling that this work had all the comic elements in it that were apparent last night. It was that same wonderful mix of darkness, lightness, humor (both dark & light) all shining through purposeful and delightful choreography.
The program closed with Spindrift, a 1993 composition that Taylor preambles in the program with John Donne’s famous quote “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of main…” Michael Trusnovec was the featured artist - his assigned choreography was rippling with difficulty, tension, drama and at times a sense of resignation as he bent to his knee in a profile that reminded one of a Rodin sculpture. The dance opened to the sound of ocean waves spraying as they were blown by winds followed by Schoenberg’s String Quartet Concerto (after Handel) played beautifully by four members of the Orchestra of St. Lukes.
Ensemble members often approached Trusnovec trying to engage him but then disappeared. Madelyn Ho, who reminds us more and more of Mary Cochran every time we see her, seemed to make the strongest contact with our protagonist. Haglund doesn’t really know what this dance is about but its content coupled with the Schoenberg and the sound of waves has always tended to leave him somewhat emotionally spent.
We are having the best time at PTDC this season, and there’s lots more delight to come. On a somewhat related note, the restoration of the gardens in Damrosch Park continues. More trees and shrubs were delivered this week. A while back we mentioned that it would be so great to see an ice skating rink in front of the bandshell during December instead of the circus. We probably won’t get our way, but we happened to notice that the evergreen grassy shrubs being planted are named “Ice Dance” — just sayin', maybe there’s someone else out there on our side.
Take a look at the park on your next visit to Lincoln Center which hopefully will include either next Wednesday or the final Sunday when the company once again dances Diversion of Angels – recipient of the H.H. Pump Bump Award:
Haglund is a happy Irishman today after enjoying two straight days of the Paul Taylor Dance Company which just opened its season at Lincoln Center. Two years ago, Taylor tweaked his company so that there is now an umbrella organization, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, that incorporates other American modern dance artists and choreographies within the PTDC season. Despite the whiney alarms set off by so-called critics who decried that it was the end of PTDC, this has turned out to be another one of Mr. Taylor’s great ideas.
Opening night of PTDC at Lincoln Center has quickly become a favorite tradition among dance-goers, in part, because the ticket prices are in the single digits and facility fees are waived. It always starts the season off with a positive vibe. This year there was a special treat as well: the New York premiere of Taylor’s Dilly Dilly set to some of 20th Century America’s most favorite old songs as fashioned by the peerless balladeer, Burl Ives. Jimmy, crack corn and I don’t care; Watch the doughnut, not the hole; Lavender blue, dilly dilly, lavender green; Froggie went a courtin and he did ride. Mhmm. Listen, if you weren’t singing along during this dance, you were probably dead.
America has had no choreographer better than Taylor for finding the light within the darkness and finding the darkness within the light in life’s moments - big and small. Here, with the dancers costumed in Western wear – the men in cowboy shirts (without sleeves), cowboy hats, the women with their shirttails tied in front like Daisy Mae Duke or Miss Ellie May would have – Taylor rekindled the charm of these childhood folksongs that most of us hadn’t sung in decades. Back then, we loved the tunes and the camaraderie of singing them with our pals, but paid little attention to the lyrics. Seeing them played out on stage by the Taylor dancers shed a little more light on what we were singing way back then when we were all in short pants. Wonderfully singable years ago, wonderfully danceable now. The opening program also included Mercuric Tidings and Esplanade, both in fine shape.
As a group, the Taylor men must be the most fit and best looking men in dance: six-packs, eight-packs, ultra-lean muscle. And, they are a spirited bunch, dancing with joy and energy that is infectious. Heading toward twenty years with the company, Michael Trusnovec is still one of the most compelling dance forces on the New York stage. Among the ladies, Madelyn Ho, a tiny sprite full of personality and in her second year with the company, was the highlight of the bright new Sullivaniana, a three-parter set to the Overtures to Iolanthe, Pirates of Penzance, and Patience that had its New York premiere on the second night.
Sullivaniana was handsomely costumed by Santo Loquasto who put the men in black bowler hats and colorful plaid coats with tails. The ladies wore knee-length dresses with modified bustles on the back – also plaid – black stockings and character shoes with narrow heels. The Iolanthe section saw the dancers mostly individually tripping hither, tripping thither across the stage – not like fairies, but like single people looking for their other halves. The Pirates of Penzance section found them in couples, and the final Patience section paid off with a lively group dance which evolved into an orgy with the dancers rolling about the floor enjoying one another.
Never has Larry Keigwin’s choreography looked better than it did on the Taylor dancers in the world premiere of his Rush Hour last night. The non-stop, push-pull of his vocabulary set to the accessible score by Adam Crystal that included minimalist influences and a pleasing use of percussion had the dancers, well yes, rushing in every direction and encountering those who were trying to stop them. And there was plenty of Taylor vocabulary within the choreography, too. It all meshed extremely well to make a very high-powered whole. Clifton Taylor’s lighting design of white squares on the stage and Fritz Masten’s handsome costumes in gray and black that complimented the dancers’ lines added much to the success of this new piece.
The final dance on last night’s bill is one of Haglund’s favorites. Promethean Fire is set to three pieces of Bach and premiered ten months following 9/11. One of its most stirring images is of the dancers one by one slowly falling atop each another in a pile. Finally a lone dancer emerges from this heap of humanity and pulls up one more dancer with him to continue on.
Much is owed to Music Director Donald York and the Orchestra of St. Lukes whose music enriched the evening beyond words. Tong Chen, the Music Director of the Yonkers Philharmonic, brightly conducted the orchestra in Sullivaniana.
The HH Pump Bump Award, a vintage Buster Brown, is bestowed upon Dilly Dilly. Sometimes it’s good to dance just to dance.
at Lincoln Center is going to be pretty exciting and will further clarify Mr. Taylor's vision and mission for his new organization.
The season will run from March 16 through April 3 and will include performances by the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and other musical guest artists to be disclosed at a later date. There will be live music at every performance.
PTDC will perform 14 of Mr. Taylor's works along with his newest dances: Sullivaniana and Dilly Dilly. The company will also perform Martha Graham's Diversion of Angels, made in 1948, and two new works that Mr. Taylor has commissioned from Larry Keigwin and Doug Elkins.
The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company will perform Donald McKayle's Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder which was created in 1958.
We're looking forward to seeing Promethean Fire again. The last of its four performances will be the final performance of the season on a bill with Diversion of Angels and Equinox.
Diversion of Angels will be new for PTDC. Since Graham's death, several ballet companies have acquired the work including ABT where Gillian Murphy and Stella Abrera both gave exquisite performances in the lead role in 1999. But it will be especially interesting to see the Taylor dancers tackle this masterpiece and to observe to what extent Mr. Taylor's own experiences dancing the work for Graham inform his company's interpretation.
In his book, Transcending Boundaries: My Dancing Life, Donald McKayle described Graham company rehearsals of Diversion of Angels back in the 1950s that he and Mr. Taylor had been thrown into when they were the newest men in the company. He recalled dancer Ethel Winter's frustration with Pearl Lang who was supposed to be teaching her the woman's role in the Red Duet section:
Ethel, who was learning the role from Pearl Lang who had originated the part, came out of those rehearsals with steam rising from her ears. "What's wrong, Ethel?" "That bitch refuses to teach me the dance." "Why.... what do you mean?" "She keeps saying, 'Martha never choreographed this section.'" "Why don't you ask her to teach you whatever the hell she's been doing for the last seven years?" The next day the part was learned but there were wonderful idiosyncratic movement transitions that were to remain with Pearl Lang and enter her own growing repertoire.
Esplanade, Offenbach Overtures, and Beloved Renegade will return for the season as well.
Tickets will go on sale to the public on September 16th. Friends of Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance may purchase them the week before by calling 646-214-5829.
The inaugural performances of the Hudson River Dance Festival are this week!
On Wed. 6/17 and Thu. 6/18 at 6:30 PM on the Great Lawn of Chelsea (Pier 63 @ 23rd Street) in Hudson River Park, this fabulous new annual festival will kick off with a bang. Of course, it's free.
Bring your blanket. No chairs allowed on the beautifully manicured Great Lawn of Chelsea.
ABT has made more alterations to the spring season casting. Marcelo Gomes has been deleted from Gillian Murphy's cast of Ashton's Cinderella and replaced by Alex Hammoudi. On the heels of the end of the season, Gomes is slated to perform in Matthew Bourne's The Car Man at Sadler's Wells; so maybe this was just an accommodation to release him earlier for that. ABT considers Ashton's Cinderella the least important part of the season, anyway. That's why they loaded it into the final holiday week, and that's why there is no mention of it or anything of Ashton's in the Anniversary Gala.
Stella Abrera gets the opening night Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty and Cassandra Trenary will be Princess Florine to Daniil Simkin's Bluebird. Wait until everyone gets a load of the clumsy Clydesdale clomping and hillbilly port de bras of the opening night's Diamond Fairy. . . .
WWD previewed the costumes for Peter Martins' production of NYCB's La Sylphide. Who knew that the designer who Martins used for his production at Pennsylvania Ballet 30 years ago and is using again for NYCB happens to be a part-time usher at the Koch Theater? Haglund wonders if she is the usher who once arm wrestled him to the ground to confiscate a bag of cough drops. "You can have cough drops but not the bag."
Yesterday Haglund watched a La Sylphide dress rehearsal and was mighty impressed with it all. He came right home and ordered tickets to several more performances.
Free outdoor dance performance:
Paul Taylor Dance Company, Parsons Dance, and Ballet Hispanico will perform at the inaugural Hudson River Dance Festival on Pier 63 @ West 23rd Street in Chelsea on June 17th and 18th at 6:30PM. That early-ish start time is only listed in one place on the Hudson River Park website and is the usual start time for Park events. The email sent out about the event didn't include any mention of time at all. It might be a good idea to check again on the start time in mid-June.