Chicago Dancing FestivalAugust 18-22
Posted 09 June 2009 - 09:36 AM
With three performance events and one lecture discussion, the CDF has grown once again...and incredible achievement in these challenging economic times. I've had the opportunity to attend the two prior CDFs and plan on attending all of this year's programs as well. While the programs are great I find special satisfaction in observing the audience, a mix of every demographic you could imagine. It's especially exciting to see the Pritzker crowd. From the reactions and comments you can tell there are many who are experiencing live professional dance for the first time. And many have kids with them. Many of us got our first taste of dance as a child when we had the opportunity to go to a performance with our parents or school, so in addition to being a great way to have a dance experience this summer, it's also an investment in dance audiences of tomorrow
Posted 09 June 2009 - 10:16 AM
In "New Voices", Tuesday, 18 August, Joffrey Ballet will perform Edwaard Liang's "Age of Innocence" (a short clip can be found here), Richmond Ballet performs "To Familiar Spaces in Dream" (Jessica Lang), and Oregon Ballet Theatre (fingers crossed) will perform Trey McIntyre's "Just".
In "Modern Masters", Thursday, 20 August, NYCB guests will perform Wheeldon's "After the Rain Pas de Deux", Joffrey Ballet "In the Night", and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in William Forsythe's "Slingerland".
In "A Celebration of American Dance", Saturday, 22 August, Houston Ballet presents Forsythe's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude", ABT guest artists will perform "Le Corsaire Pas de Deux", and Les Ballets Grandiva will dance " Star Spangled Ballerina".
Posted 12 June 2009 - 01:04 PM
Posted 19 June 2009 - 08:49 AM
If anyone is interested in discussing any of the groups that are going to be performing that night please let me know.
Posted 21 August 2009 - 04:37 PM
August 20, 2009
Thanks to the good people at the Chicago Dancing Festival, I managed to score a very good ticket (second row-center!) to the performance on the 20th. (Thanks Gregory and Kirsty!) The performances included (in order):
Luna Negra Dance Theater - There Is a Time (Jose Limon)
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet - Slingerland pas de deux (William Forsythe)
Lar Lubovitch Dance Company - Little Rhapsodies (Lar Lubovitch) (was supposed to be Lubovitch's Jangle)
Joffrey Ballet - In the Night (Jerome Robbins)
New York City Ballet - After the Rain pas de deux (Christopher Wheeldon) (was supposed to be Wheeldon's Liturgy pas)
Hubbard Street Dance - Gnawa (Nacho Duato)
Like last year, the evening began with a grand defile. Sitting in the second row made this an interesting experience as I really got to compare physiques at close range. This was a good and bad thing (as we will see later.)
The Luna Negra dancers comprised the last row of the defile and, after they were introduced, they quickly and smoothly formed the opening circle of Limon's There Is a Time. I had seen Luna Negra perform this work last Fall but, as I was sick as a dog on the night, I was anxious to see the work again in order to get a better impression of it. Alas, as I discovered as the dance unfolded, this would be a reductionist version of Limon's work -- Luna Negra dropped (by my count) four of the episodes from Ecclesiastes (on which it is based.) (The dropped episodes included the 'Time to speak' variation [the "clapping" variation].)
Based on what was presented, I'm of two minds about There Is a Time. On the positive side of the ledger, I think the opening and closing sections -- where the company maintains a unified circle and dances as one -- are breathtakingly beautiful (and are highly reminiscent of Henri Matisse's Dance.) There is a kind of courtliness to these sections which couldn't be more absent from contemporary dance and is much-missed (at least by me.) There's also a marvelous effect of Limon's at the close of the opening section where the dancers (save one, who remains behind) slowly unspool the circle and traverse offstage.
On the negative side of the ledger, I'm still not entirely convinced that the variations which occur in-between the opening and closing sections illustrate the verses from Ecclesiastes in quite the manner they should. I'm on this kick lately of not reading program notes before the performance to see if I can understand the material without the aid of the notes. If I can't, then I tend to think the dance has not been entirely successful. Watching the reduced version of There Is a Time last night, I couldn't help but find that some variations were more comprehensible as representations of the Ecclesiastes verses than others. Since I don't think it was a performance problem on the part of the Luna Negra dancers (who performed with clarity and conviction), I'm forced to conclude that Limon wasn't entirely able to utilize the dance as a means of expressing the subtleties of Ecclesiastes.
Still, all of the variations were of interest, even if only for the purity of their design. And Limon was clever in the way he used the concept of the circle in each variation. The dancers make circles with other dancers, they make circles with their torsos -- they even make circles with their heads.
I think I would like to see the Limon company itself perform this work before I decide whether it is a great work or a merely good work. As of today, I would not put it in the same league as Missa Brevis and A Choreographic Offering and The Moor's Pavane. But I'm certainly open to being convinced.
Grade for the opening and closing sections: A
Grade for the variations: B
Overall grade: B+
In the next part of this multi-part review: William Forsythe -- prophet or charlatan?
Posted 22 August 2009 - 09:44 AM
August 20, 2009
Review - Part 2
Next up -- Katherine Eberle and Sam Chittenden of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in William Forsythe's Slingerland pas de deux.
My first comment would be that this work is lit too darkly. My second comment would be that this work is lit too darkly. My 153rd comment would be that this work is lit too darkly. I suppose the general gloom and murk is supposed to convey something deep and meaningful but, really, when you're sitting in the second row, have good vision and still can't penetrate the murk to find the meaning, then the work is lit too darkly. The nondescript beige costumes and a score which is the aural equivalent of beige only added to the impenetrability of the production.
The production design would not be fatal to this work if Forsythe's choreography displayed any real merit. But, for all that people hail Forsythe's work as the direction all future ballet should take, the choreography displays a distinct poverty of means. Forsythe does not utilize the classical ballet's great strength -- the air. Nor does he utilize the classical modern dance's great strength -- the earth. Instead, the dancers' torsos remain largely static, unyielding and uninvolving. What variation there is does not flatter the dancers. Worst of all was an appallingly unattractive plie/squat for the poor ballerina which reminded me of nothing so much as a homeless person defecating on a city street. Terrible (and probably the worst single thing I've seen on any stage anywhere.)
The dancers tried to put this over as best they could so nothing I've written is a reflection on them. But this was just unsalvageable.
Grade: D- (Would have been an F but I feel sorry for the poor unfortunates who had to dance this -- greatly to be pitied.)
In the next part of this multi-part review: Lar Lubovitch -- do nice guys finish last?
Posted 22 August 2009 - 01:24 PM
I haven't seen very much of Limon's work, but I've liked everything I have seen and wish there were more to see. Thanks for writing in such detail about it. As for Forsythe -- your review was just like being there
Posted 22 August 2009 - 05:06 PM
August 20, 2009
Review - Part 3
After the disaster which was William Forsythe's Slingerland pas de deux, I did not have high hopes for the remainder of the first half, as I had seen Lar Lubovitch's Jangle last Fall and had been distinctly unimpressed by it. (To be fair, though, I hated it the least of the three Lubovitch pieces I saw that night.)
As it turned out, the Lubovitch dancers performed his Little Rhapsodies instead of Jangle. I don't know what happened with Jangle. There was no insert in the program announcing the change (as there was for the Wheeldon dances) so I'm not sure what the last minute problem was.
In any event, Little Rhapsodies is superior to Jangle (and is far superior to the Slingerland pas de deux.) The dance is for a male trio whose members are never quite at rest -- they are constantly on the move while on stage. It's a pleasant enough confection (charmingly performed by the three men) . . . but one with no discernible point of view.
As the dance unfurled, I found myself noticing Lubovitch's myriad influences (which are very apparent in the dance.) There was the ballet influence and the Limon influence and the gymnastics influence and the ethnic dance influence and even (I thought) a Saturday Night Fever influence. The effect all of this cross-disciplinary plundering was one of having leafed through an interesting catalog of dance styles and techniques. What was missing, though, was Lar Lubovitch himself. Where was he within the material? I headed to intermission conceding his ability as a craftsman (or, more accurately, as a compiler) but puzzled by the apparent absence of any point of view in his work (which is the same deficiency I have seen in other works of his.)
Nothing about Little Rhapsodies changed my view that Lubovitch's Concerto Six Twenty-Two is his real masterpiece and the one that will most assuredly survive him. That is one piece where the influences don't overwhelm the dance and the choreographer's point of view comes through loud and clear.
Grade: B- (Would have been a B but one of the performers wore this plastered-on smile throughout the performance -- drove me crazy.)
In the next part of this review: Jerry gets poetic!
Posted 23 August 2009 - 03:52 AM
August 20, 2009
Review - Part 4
The second half of the program kicked off with the Joffrey Ballet in Jerome Robbins' In the Night. This was the first true tights-and-tulle-skirts dance of the night and the beauty of the costumes and the exquisite lighting (evoking a romantic nightfall) stood as a silent reproach to the willfully perverse production design in Forsythe's Slingerland pas de deux.
In the Night is a dance for three couples. Each couple performs a duet and the entire cast assembles as a group for a final dance together. As with the Limon piece, I was of two minds about this piece. The Joffrey dancers looked beautiful in the romantic costumes and it is always a pleasure to see well-trained dancers move cleanly and with obvious love for the work they are dancing. Robbins put together some lovely combinations for In the Night -- there is a lush, romantic feeling to this dance that is quite captivating at times. He also gets the better of William Forsythe in the way he utilizes the entire stage for his three couples. They are not confined to a narrow horizontal strip of stage space the way the couple in the Slingerland pas de deux were.
On the negative side, I had a similar reaction to this piece as I did to the Limon piece. I purposely did not read the program notes prior to watching the dance. As I watched, I was somewhat puzzled by Robbins' intent because I saw two very similar lushly romantic duets followed by a third where the duet disintegrates under the weight of the couple's disintegrating onstage relationship. But when I read the notes, I discovered that the dance was supposed to, "explore love in all its phases, from young and tender to fiery and falling apart." I got the "fiery and falling apart" part but the first two duets (to my eye) were too identical in tone -- I didn't get how the first and second "phases" differed from one another. Having never seen this work before, I can't say whether or not this was a choreography problem or a performance problem. I would have to see this again with another cast to decide.
That being said, the best part of the dance came last when the three couples reunite. Again, like the Limon piece, there was a gentle courtliness to this section which was lovely. As the dancers greeted each other on stage with their gracious manners, I couldn't help but think that beauty never dates and becomes old-fashioned.
Grade: B+ (This work might actually be an A but I would need to see it again before I'm willing to grant a grade in the A range.)
In the next part of this review: The reviewer departs from orthodoxy . . .
Posted 23 August 2009 - 07:04 AM
You're right of course, and it's good for something to happen before your eyes to put you in mind of that again, but it seems to be somewhat the style to turn away from beauty and not to open yourself to it and to what it can do for you.
In the context of your account I was reminded of a program I sat through at the Kennedy Center which reached just plain raunchy depths contrasted to this one but which was redeemed for me by the dancers -- some dancing, and one speaking -- and where at intermission I found resonance in the words of President Kennedy cut into the west wall over the terrace (words you can hear him speak at the beginning of the annual Kennedy Center Honors telecast): "I look forward to an America which is not afraid of grace and beauty."
Thanks for your continuing account, miliosr; I too am looking forward to the rest of it. Among other things, it's making me think I was hasty and careless in deciding to pass up the Festival this year. I would have like to have seen In the Night, especially in the circumstances you describe, even if the cast didn't quite catch the difference between the first two dances.
Posted 23 August 2009 - 09:32 AM
August 20, 2009
Review - Part 5
The middle section of the second half featured Wendy Whelan and Sebastien Marcovici of the New York City Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain pas deux.
This was another last minute replacement as the performance was billed originally as Wendy Whelan and Albert Evans in the Liturgy pas de deux. Then it was Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall in the Liturgy pas de deux. (This is the billing which appeared in the program.) On the night, the actual performers were Wendy Whelan and Sebastien Marcovici and the actual dance was the After the Rain pas de deux.
Thursday night was my first encounter with Wendy Whelan in the flesh and all I am prepared to say is that she is not to my taste. Her partner, shirtless and wearing white pants, did not look like he was in especially good shape. (From the second row it looked like he had an incipient spare tire developing.) He stood out in very poor relief to the male Hubbard Street dancers who followed; all of whom were in peak physical condition. (So much for modern dancers being "fat dancers with dirty feet.")
As I found the performers distracting (albeit for different reasons), I had some difficulty concentrating on the actual work. The only after images I retained were of the lifts, which I found mostly unattractive and even vulgar. (I can't help but wonder what the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia, who (in)famously had Nijinsky sacked for appearing in a too-revealing costume onstage, would have thought of some of these lifts.)
Grade: No grade (I would need to see this work with different dancers to judge it fairly.)
In the last part of this review: Hubbard Street Dance carries us home!
Posted 23 August 2009 - 01:53 PM
August 20, 2009
Review - Last Part
Hubbard Street Dance was the closing act of the night and they brought the most dancers -- 16 (a lead couple and 7 supporting couples.) I took a look at the program before the piece started and I noticed that Alejandro Piris-Nino, who had been with ABT in recent years, was now with Hubbard Street. Right decision or wrong decision? We shall see.
The work Hubbard Street performed was Nacho Duato's Gnawa, which he created specifically for them. Honestly, I was half-dreading this because the only Duato work I was familiar with before Thursday night was his Remanso (from the ABT Variety and Virtuosity DVD) and it would be a lie to say I liked that work.
What a surprise, then, to discover how much I liked this work. The music was wonderful -- a combination of rhythmic North African and Spanish music which cast a luxurious spell over the entire piece. The lead couple's costumes were -- unfortunately -- beige (again!) but the costumes for the other seven couples were wonderful -- black dresses for the women and cornhusk yellow pants for the men (who were also shirtless.)
The dance itself is non-narrative but there are various episodes with different combinations of the dancers. What struck me the most about this piece is how it showed off the breathtaking speed and precision of the Hubbard Street dancers. To borrow a description, the dance revealed how "light, lithe, quick and strong" they are. I was mesmerized by them and by the dance.
Gnawa made for a nice bookend with There Is a Time because Duato evoked (knowingly or unknowingly) the Old Master by employing substantially similar patterned circles in his dance. The difference, of course, between the two pieces is that the Limon dance captures the slower pace of the mid-20th century classical modern dance while the Duato piece captures the frenetic pace of the 21st century contemporary dance. (The men's trousers for Gnawa also knowingly or unknowingly evoked those worn by the men of the Limon company in their production of Limon's The Unsung. I guess there are only so many new ideas beneath the modern/contemporary sun.)
If there is a flaw to Gnawa, it would be that I couldn't quite figure out what the lead couple had to do with the seven supporting couples. But that was something I thought of only in retrospect. It certainly didn't hinder my enjoyment of the piece on the night.
Grade: A (Best piece of the evening and sent everyone on their way in a happy mood. And Mr. Piris-Nino made the right decision. He will dance so much more with this company than he ever would have at ABT [given the male logjam at the top at that company.])
I hope people enjoyed the reviews. While I didn't love every piece equally, on the whole I had a splendid time. Thanks again to Gregory and Kirsty for helping me get a ticket (although I'm probably on the enemies list now given some of the things I wrote in these reviews.) Hello to Diane and Andy who sat next to me -- lovely couple! And a special thanks to Lar Lubovitch and Jay Franke for putting this wonderful festival together.
Posted 23 August 2009 - 03:13 PM
This distinction IS definitely there in the choreography. This was clear in NYCB's first performances in the early 70s. Miami City Ballet also got it right when they performed it last spring.
I wonder who worked on setting this on the Joffrey?
Posted 24 August 2009 - 05:18 PM
According to the program, Anita Paciotti staged this for the Joffrey.
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