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E Johnson

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About E Johnson

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  1. City Ballet 2016-2017 Season

    They certainly contribute to the whole "jane fonda aerobic wear" aesthetic!
  2. City Ballet 2016-2017 Season

    I saw two performances this fall, the "American Music" program on October 9 and then the modified 21st century choreographers on October 15. My comments on the first of these: Glass Pieces continues to be a great pleasure, and I continue to think its time to redo the costumes. Those shiny pastel unitards are terribly dated and also terribly unflattering; when Sara Mearns looks flabby there's something wrong. The third movement, Ahkenaten, with its long opening section for the male corps is my favorite, but this time I was drawn to the egalitarian-ness of the choreography. Robbins has some really misogynistic moments, but none here; the group of girls that enters is an even match for the boys' energy and while the groups end up dancing is very close proximity, and pair off a bit, there’s no actual partnering. Thou Swell -- my opinion of Martins as a choreographer sinks every time I see another of his works. I used to find the choreography stupid but this one I found contemptuous, and contemptible. Ok, it looks like a 30's jazz club and you have the fancy designer costumes (including ridiculous capes for two of the women, one of which looks like the pelt of a green Muppet) and you have singers onstage. Its obvious gala fare, intended to appeal to audience members who don't necessarily like ballet -- so let's distract them with mirrors and show tunes! But there’s nothing else there. the dancers generally stay in their pairings (as opposed to a lot of martins' works where people pair off randomly, it seems), but none of the relationships have a discernible emotional through line, and on the occasions when there are singers on stage-- so you’d expect the lyrics to somehow relate to or illuminate the dancing -- they seem to instead do nothing more than maybe convey a mood, and otherwise the lyrics often contradict what is shown in the steps. No blame on the dancers, they performed wonderfully for the most part (Ask LaCour really doesn’t have the jazzy thing down, though). Further, the costumes on the four dancers playing waitresses manage to make them look stumpy and flash their ruffled underpants constantly, and to make this all just more embarrassing ofe the four men cast as waiters, two were African American apprentices. "Welcome to the company! Now dress up in a waiter uniform and bring the white ladies their coats." Stars and stripes - either you love this one or you really don’t, and I have moved to the loving it side over time. Really nice turn as Liberty Belle by Megan Fairchild and by Daniel Ulbricht leading the men’s regiment, and I will confess to a lump in my throat when the flag started scrolling up the backdrop.
  3. NYCB Spring 2013

    If you haven't seen Ivesiana, i'd recommend that. the company isn't doing it next season and I think haven't for several years; its different from most of the Balanchine rep.
  4. DTH new york season April 2013

    I went to the performance last night, Thursday April 11. Program was Agon, black swan pdd (after Petipa and Seergeyev, staged by Anna Marie Holmes), Far Not Close (choreography John Alleyne, music Daniel Bernard Romain), Return (choreography Robert Ggarland, music James Brown and Aretha Franklin). First impressions: this is a very young company and it really shows, and not one that has, as far as I can tell, had that much classical and neo-classical experience. The dancers are super charming and energetic and have the wonderful bodies of youth -- pliable, huge extensions, lots of height -- but not a lot of musicality. Agon was to me the worst performed ballet, but also the hardest – not in terms of bravura technique, necessarily, but because the Stravinsky score is very challenging and the dancers didn’t seem to have a sense of how to fit the steps inside it, or how to vary their emphases appropriately. A lot of steps felt mechanical and square on the beat in a not-good way, and sometimes I could practically see the dancers counting. Also, these steps need to be crisp and some poses need to be snapped into; the steps were not done crisply enough and some of the partnering in the pdd was wobbly. That said Ashley Murphy (who appears to be one of the more experienced dancers) did a nice job with the bransle gay and her two partners, Jehbreal Jackson and Dustin James, were also good. Black Swan: this was here as a crowd pleaser/ exhibition piece, and as that it did its job, with the audience whooping at every leap and balance by the end. The dancers, Chrystyn Fentroy and Da'von Doane, did a nice job but again so young, you could see them trying to add some emotion on top of the steps. But aside from a few wobbles in supported balances, the technique was quite good. Far Not Close -- I hated this as a ballet, but it was very well danced. As soon as these dancers got into contemporary choreography, they were so much steadier, more confident, and just better. My guess is this is the kind of choreography they have the most experience with and are more comfortable in, but it the kind of choreography that does not have a particularly interesting relationship to its music, in my opinion. The music is a background that provides more emotional cues than anything else. In this particular ballet, the music reminded me of what you’d hear in a hotel lobby, and the piece also included extensive spoken word to tell the story expressed by the dancers (boy hits on girl on subway, girl invites boy home, boy and girl fall in love after boy magically repairs her daddy issues) which was not just clichéd but perpetuated the idea that a really romantic guy is the kind who won't take no for an answer. Now, admittedly, as a middle-aged white lady I am not the target demographic for any part of this ballet, but I really hated it, despite the performances being uniformly excellent. Return -- very very fun but who doesn't love moving to James Brown? It’s kind of stars and stripes using funk instead of Sousa -- Garland’s choreography is ballet steps (most of the time) and its fun to see those steps working with this music. Of course there’s some plain old shimmying (and a soul train line!). Again, in this kind of choreography the dancers are lovely and strong. I'm old enough to have seen DTH a few times before the hiatus, and this is not that company. While that company did have a varied rep, the dancers were comfortable in a lot of different ballet styles, not just contemporary ballet. They could also handle relating steps to the music in way that went beyond hitting foursquare on the beat. It is early days and again, mostly very young dancers, but to my mind they're looking more like Ailey with extra pointe shoes than Arthur Mitchell’s company. Maybe that’s what the company and its audience want, but to me it’s a loss of variety in the dance world
  5. DTH will be performing NYC next week, April 10-14, at the Rose Theater. details and tickets here: http://jalc.org/even...99#.UV8YuTeyLv6 Rep includes Agon and Glinka pas de trois.
  6. POB Headed to NYC in 2012

    tourists, is my guess. people do visit DC for the fourth. I have my tickets for the Giselle matinee in New York - despite my over 3 decades of ballet watching i have never seen Giiselle (that's what being an NYCB fan will do to you), so I am quite excited as is my seven year old daughter.
  7. A Ratmansky Ballerina? A Wheeldon Ballerina?

    Does it have to be a ballerina? in my opinion, Wheeldon's ballets were better if he made them on Jock Soto.
  8. Alicia Graf

    I did find myself casting her in Balanchine roles in my head, and dark angel and the siren were near the top of my list. I would love to see those. But I thought she looked strong and really really happy in Home. I have seen a lot of bad "concert" hip-hop and I liked that piece, although it could have been shorter.
  9. Alicia Graf

    I didn't know Graf was back with Ailey until i saw her name in my program - i had heard about her in the past but never saw her. What a lovely, lovely dancer, and she showed lots of versatility in the program i saw - including a big role in the hip-hop Home. Especially given her height and long limbs, she's got marvelous control and fluidity.
  10. Is NYCB Treading Water?

    NYCB did it last year at Fall for Dance. I really like it but my guess is its hard to cast, Evans' role in particular; the music also isn't performed by very many violinists, I don't think.
  11. Again, if dancers of colors are being rejected on the basis of their skin, I'll call that racism. But when I go to the theater I want to see the best dancers, and in that respect I'm colorblind. I don't assume that if the company is all-white, it shouldn't be. I don't presume to know who auditioned and who didn't and whether a white dancer beat out an equally good dancer of color. I don't presume racism. If I'm not mistaken, the word of mine you objected to was "prescribed." I don't prescribe. To my mind, that's heavy-handed and presumptuous. And it's judgmental. I hope we can agree on this. I'm not accusing people that run all-white, or overwhelmingly white, companies of deliberate racism. I have no way of knowing what’s in their hearts, and I don’t think it’s necessarily relevant. What I do presume is that just about everyone is affected by living in a society that is not at all colorblind, and specific to ballet, one that historically has not had many dancers of color. If people in power in the ballet world have never, or very rarely, seen a non-white Aurora or Odette or Giselle (or Siegfried or Desire or Albrecht), (through no fault of their own), there is an extra hurdle for a non-white dancer to get over. And it’s extra work to think about and try to overcome, no kidding. I don’t have a big problem saying I think people should do that work.
  12. Encourage diversity, but don't accept and promote on the basis of diversity, or at least primarily on the basis of diversity. Let diversity be the tie-breaker when other factors are equal. Is anyone advocating promoting bad dancers for diversity purposes? (Although there's an argument that bad dancers get promoted all the time for less noble reasons, so why not do it for a good reason for a change). I don’t think so. What I would like to see is thoughtful expansion of the dancer/choreographer pool at all levels, and more mindful casting/promotion/hiring. Before you even get to using diversity as a tie breaker, question the standards by which you got to the tie. For example, can a dark-skinned dancer with an atypical body get treated the same as a white dancer with one? I’d say not now, unless at the least the person doing the evaluating is keeping a good eye on his/her internal stereotypes.
  13. Of course it can be great. But if diversity is the goal, then halfway measures won't do, and the ideal, the real goal, is wide diversity and equal representation. So shouldn't NYCB have another Puerto Rican and/or Native American principal to replace Jock Soto? What about an Taiwanese-American male to replace Edwaard Liang? And how about Hispanic dancers? Wait, let's not be racist and say "Hispanic"to describe Chicanos, Cuban-Americans, Puerto-Rican Americans, etc., as if they're all alike. It needs them all. And what about sexual preference? Everyone knows that many dancers are gay men, but does the company have any lesbian dancers, and in the interests of diversity, shouldn't it have more than a few? If you start along that road, where should the company be allowed to stop? Don't forget that precisely due to that history of white privilege, there is an extra high percentage of white dancers in the talent pool right now.. So, any effort to encourage diversity=quotas? I don't think that's true.
  14. why are we setting these up as opposites? Balanchine valued good dancing, for sure, but he also seems to have set out to create an American form of ballet. That's how you get Rubies and Western and Symphony in Three Movements, and Maria Tallchief and Arthur Mitchell. All great, all something beyond Caucasian/European ballet. I love those ballets and I wish I'd seen those dancers live, but Balanchine and Kirstein had an artistic and, presumably, a marketing agenda, not a political one. If a choreographer or AD today has that goal, more power to them, and lucky us. But it shouldn't be prescribed for them. Why not? Unless you assume that making ballet more open/diverse automatically makes it worse, or demeans artistic integrity, why not say to AD's, and audience members, and Directors of schools, that they should think about looking outside the box? That they should consider that the art form has been and is shaped by history and white privilege (and other privileges as well but less relevant to this discussion) and that they should think about how to address that? Personally I think that looking at and addressing these issues would lead to aesthetic and marketing/audience development improvements too. I cite Balanchine’s work, and dancers, above in part to say that ballet can move away form its European roots and be great. And he’s not the only example of this.
  15. why are we setting these up as opposites? Balanchine valued good dancing, for sure, but he also seems to have set out to create an American form of ballet. That's how you get Rubies and Western and Symphony in Three Movements, and Maria Tallchief and Arthur Mitchell. All great, all something beyond Caucasian/European ballet.
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