miliosr

Modern Dance Company Survival Rates Since the 70s

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From Sunday's New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/08/arts/dance/paul-taylor-at-84-has-a-new-mission-with-american-modern-dance.html?ref=dance&_r=0

"Air for the G String" would have been wrong, wrong, wrong for the State Theater. It's meant to be seen close up in a space like that at the Baryshnikov Arts Center.

Love Taylor's rather wry comments about Tharp, Morris ("that long hair") and Cunningham.

"Morris ("that long hair")"

Especially since his hair has been pretty short for many years.

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But the poncho-like scarf remains!

The program at Meany Hall this weekend was gorgeous.

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I wound up sitting behind Morris on Friday evening, and the pashmina was in full evidence! And yes, it was a great program -- I was particularly interested in the the "Words" and hope to see it again fairly soon -- there's a lot going on!

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Not all the same. Graham was reluctant to develop anything like a codified technique -- she wanted to dance, and so she made material on herself. And when she wanted to dance in a group, she taught herself to other people. There are still aspects of the technique that are only done to one side, because those elements are only performed to one side in the repertory. The school gave her a home base -- the company members were the ones that really took on the tasks of teaching


No disrespect to you sandik but Graham most certainly had a set of codified technique. As a young modern dancer, I took "Graham technique" at both dher school and the Ailey school. It consisted of a series of identical floor exercises mainly involving how to do "contractions" which then progressed to standing exercises. It was really only the going across the floor (and the quality of the teacher) that differed.

I also did a residency with the Limon company in the mid '70's. He had died just a few years earlier; all the dancers in the company had been selected by him and Carla Maxwell was then an interim director. But as I was taught there was also a "Limon technique" which consisted of,breath and release. Again, there were a set of exercises taught, but it was not set in stone, like with Graham. And really, the only people who taught Limon were former dancers who had been selected by him. I think that's why his techniwue has not been so perpetusted.

From what I am reading here, I fear these techniques are no longer taught, except in rehearsal for performances. Everybody just takes ballet. I, myself, now struggle to like modern dance because I have no idea what it's about. However, when Diana Vishneva performed a Graham solo a few years ago (Errand Into the Maze, perhaps) I was utterly captivated. And about 10 years ago I saw ABT (led by Stella) do Diversion of Angels and it was pretty good. Also, the loss of Murray Louis (from the Hanya Holm school) was sad,

My point is that these techniques are indeed "techniques". However, now ballet dancers think one week of immersion is enough to perform the pieces. Also, it is really a shame the Merce Cunnungham's work is now lost to the general public and that Twyla basically doesn't let her modern dance works (like Eight Jelly Rolls) get performed. It's no wonder young dancers don't know their modern dance history.

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But as I was taught there was also a "Limon technique" which consisted of,breath and release. Again, there were a set of exercises taught, but it was not set in stone, like with Graham. And really, the only people who taught Limon were former dancers who had been selected by him. I think that's why his techniwue has not been so perpetusted.

From what I am reading here, I fear these techniques are no longer taught, except in rehearsal for performances.

And about 10 years ago I saw ABT (led by Stella) do Diversion of Angels and it was pretty good.

My point is that these techniques are indeed "techniques". However, now ballet dancers think one week of immersion is enough to perform the pieces.

Betty Jones, the original Desdemona in The Moor's Pavane and who teaches Limon technique to this very day, has written that Limon was asked many times during his lifetime to codify the technique. He always refused because he wanted the technique to be constantly evolving and not to become rooted in a particular time and place. This may have had the unintended consequence of limiting the spread of the technique as there is no one "set in stone" method for teaching it.

The techniques are all definitely still taught. Any good modern/contemporary school (i.e. Juilliard, SUNY-Purchase, Boston Conservatory) will expose students to the teachings of Graham, Limon, Cunningham, etc.

Michele Wiles (ex-ABT) danced in Diversion of Angels and she remarked that she didn't think she had done a good job in it because she didn't have time to dig into the underlying Graham technique and style. Indirectly, she exposed the faulty thinking that ballet will allow you to dance everything equally well.

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How fun to see this thread come back to the surface!

I didn't mean to imply that there was no Graham technique, just that Graham herself didn't want to make one. She developed the movement principals, in the process of created her repertory. She didn't really want to make a technique so much as she was compelled to find the way she thought she should dance, and, when she began to work with other dancers, she had to communicate those ideas and teach that material. It gradually became something like a technique, especially after she started participating in workshops like the Connecticut College summers (that became the ADF). Some of her early dancers (like May O'Donnell) were also integral to that process.

Think about it in contrast to someone like Doris Humphrey, who set out to make a complete technique, separate from ballet, but equal to it in its comprehensive nature. That's the tradition that Limon was first trained in, and it forms the bedrock of what we think of as Limon technique today.

(I miss Murray Louis's work too, and Alwin Nikolais. Those repertories seem to be slipping away even faster than the Limon and Graham works)

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(I miss Murray Louis's work too, and Alwin Nikolais. Those repertories seem to be slipping away even faster than the Limon and Graham works)

I saw the Ririe-Woodbury company perform a full program of Nikolais works in February 2007. Looking at the Ririe-Woodbury site now, though, I don't see that they are performing any Nikolais works in 2014-15.

I would put both the Louis and Nikolais works in the defunct or near defunct categories. Comparatively, the Limon and Graham works are still readily available. (How well anyone can dance the Graham works without Graham in them will forever be a matter of debate, though.)

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I know that the Nikolais and Louis alumni still communicate, and I hold out hope for more stagings of the work, but yes, I noticed that Ririe-Woodbury weren't doing anything from that rep this year.

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I liked this description so much:

"When asked to 'be nuttier,' the dancer Emily Stone hesitated. She was rehearsing a section of Trisha Brown’s 1979 'Glacial Decoy' with guidance from Stephen Petronio, who wanted to recapture the full abandon of the original, or at least his memory of the original.

'Try making a sound when you do it,' said Mr. Petronio, who never danced in the work but had seen it countless times in rehearsal and performance. Ms. Stone flung her arms out in front of her, letting them jangle along with the vibrations of her voice. What had looked tentative a few minutes ago now looked electric, a little cyclone sweeping through the studio. Mr. Petronio approved."

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And in the way that the internet shows you things, when I was reading the NYT piece on Stephen Petronio's company, I saw a notice for a performance of Anna Sokolow's work -- now there's someone we really don't hear much about any more.

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Yes! I saw that little piece about the Sokolow performances as well. An interesting repertory to be sure:

Steps of Silence (1968)

Ride the Culture Loop (1975)

Kurt Weill (1988)

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Thanks for the collection -- I'd lost track of the thread

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Thanks for the collection -- I'd lost track of the thread

Alas, I don't think Sokolow's brand of dance theater is long for this world. Jim May has tried to keep it going but his insufficient financial means only allow for short annual performances in New York. There's no financially stable successor company comparable to those of Ailey, Graham and Limon, and there's no 'Sokolow Technique' that can be methodically taught as there is with Cunningham, Graham and Limon. (Interestingly, I think this is a problem that Sokolow shares with Tricia Brown.)

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It's ironic, since Sokolow was herself involved in a couple of different projects that attempted to create a repertory archive for modern dance, but they just don't seem to have had enough success. I'm curious to see what happen with the Taylor project, but even if it were a roaring success, it's not enough.

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