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Kathleen O'Connell

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About Kathleen O'Connell

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    Member of the Audience
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    New York

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  1. There were a few posts re whether or not NYCB should revive Bugaku in the NYCB Fall 2019 thread. I was then and still am in the "nah, we don't need to revive this one" camp.
  2. Wow - Looks like Venice up there! https://gothamist.com/news/photos/photos-water-main-break-near-lincoln-center?image=5
  3. Melissa Harris, currently editor-at-large at Aperture, has written a thoughtful essay about Merce Cunningham: Redux, a redesigned, expanded, and updated version of James Klosty's 1975 book of photographs of Cunningham, his dancers, and his collaborators, which has been re-issued as part of the Cunningham centennial. In addition to Klosty's photos—including an additional 140 pages of photos not published before—there are texts by a number of Cunningham's associates, including Carolyn Brown, John Cage, Yvonne Rainer, Lincoln Kerstein, Jasper Johns, Gordon Mumma, Paul Taylor, and Edwin Denby. It's a big, beautiful book—and Harris' essay is worth a read if you have any interest at all in Cunnigham, or, more to the point, dance / performance photography. From Harris' essay, ‘That Single Fleeting Moment’: Merce Cunningham in Images: Performance photographs are rarely thought of as having the interpretive, authorial voice of powerful reportage, portraiture, or other photographic genres. They are often deemed important only as a historical record of another artist’s work, work that is by nature ephemeral. But this is short-sighted. An insightful photographer like Klosty who has viewed the same dance repeatedly, is able to impart a sense of the piece, to translate its very essence into still images, through the phrases he chooses to capture, and the way he chooses to render them. Ultimately, the staying power of any photographic project depends on the photographer’s vision, persistence, and ability to portray the subject with clarity, integrity, and ingenuity. Klosty achieved all three when, over the course of five years, and with unprecedented access, he photographed not just the performances of the Merce Cunningham Company, but also the more intimate, spontaneous, and sometimes goofy moments shared among the dancers and other collaborating artists offstage.
  4. When I first read this, I thought "the mister" was like "The Mister" who's been dispatched to the grocery store by "The Little Woman" and is on a quest for kiwi fruit. 😉
  5. I must admit that 2014 does seem like it was just yesterday! I think the trend of individual ballets being presented more often in any given season may be a at least partly a function of the company's embrace of block programming.
  6. One of my eyebrows shot way, way up when I read about Van Hove's plan to integrate the Jets. It betrays his ignorance about New York City, too—one of the most diverse places on earth that still manages to be profoundly segregated along racial, ethnic, cultural, socio-economic and religious lines. It's also not a prime locus of anti-immigrant sentiment: in 2006, 37% of the city's population was foreign born. U.S. Anti-immigrant sentiment is strongest in locations where there aren't many immigrants. There are tensions between NYC's various racial, ethnic, and religious communities, but they aren't "anti-immigrant" in the classic sense. And, in case it wasn't mentioned anywhere above, Puerto Ricans are natural-born American citizens; they aren't immigrants anymore than someone who moves from a dying rust-belt town to a coastal metropolis looking for better opportunities is an immigrant. ETA: There are important and compelling stories that could and should be told about race and ethnicity in America and about gang culture, too—but it doesn't sound like Van Hove is interested in telling one of those stories. And more to the point, I'm not convinced that WSS is, could be, or should be the vehicle to tell it in the first place. I'm concerned that out-of-town visitors will leave the theater convinced that they're somehow getting the straight skinny on race in America and gang culture in NYC.
  7. Shades of Vollmund! Honestly, 40 minutes of onstage rain sounds like an effect intended to wow the audience rather than tell the story. It doesn't even sound interesting as theater (although like On Pointe, I do want to know how it works).
  8. NYCB has been putting ballets "on repeat" for quite a few years now. As a way of checking my recollection, I pulled up the calendar for the Fall 2014 season, and here are the programs the company presented over the course of four weeks: Morgen / This Bitter Earth / Funérailles / Clearing Dawn / Belles-Lettres = 5 performances Serenade / Mozartiana / Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux / Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 = 5 performances Apollo / Monumentum pro Gesualdo / Movements for Piano and Orchestra / Duo Concertante = 5 performances Donizetti Variations / La Sonnambula / Firebird = 4 performances Chaconne / Interplay / After the Rain Pas de Deux / Everywhere We Go = 4 performances Square Dance / The Steadfast Tin Soldier / Le Tombeau de Couperin / The Concert = 3 performances Funérailles / Clearing Dawn / Varied Trio (in four) / After the Rain Pas de Deux / Todo Buenos Aires / In Creases = 1 performance Wendy Whalen Farewell = 1 performance I don't mind all the repeats, with some exceptions: there was a period of time a few years ago when the company seemed bound and determined to end every single program with Symphony in Three Movements, as if they wanted to turn it into their version of the Ailey Company's Revelations (which does in fact close out about 95% of its performances). I don't mind the block programming, either, for that matter. Some ballets still seem to only get two or three performances a season, such as Liebeslieder or Tombeau de Couperin.
  9. From the New York Times: "The choreographer and entrepreneur Gina Gibney announced on Wednesday that her dance company is the recipient of a $2 million gift, which is to be used for its reinvention as a commission-based repertory group. The money, which comes from Andrew A. Davis, a trustee of the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund, makes it possible for her company to double in size, to 12 dancers from six. Gibney Company, formerly Gibney Dance Company, will make its official debut at the Joyce Theater in November 2021." Two things strike me as particularly interesting about the new Gibney Company: 1) As the NYT points out, Cedar Lake, which closed down in 2015, was the "last major contemporary repertory company in New York not grounded in the aesthetic of a founding choreographer," so the new Gibney Company will be filling a perceived vacuum in the NYC dance world. Per the NYT article, Gina Gibney "was inspired by troupes like Nederlands Dans Theater and Ballet BC in Canada, repertory groups that she views as having outstanding dancers and world-class repertory." 2) But this paragraph from the press release really caught my eye: "By 2021, the expanded Gibney Company will offer 52-week contracts, health insurance, on-site physical therapy, an annual artistic sabbatical, and paid vacation to approximately 12 Artistic Associates*. Over the next year and half, Gibney Company will gradually grow, adding new Associates at annual auditions. Experienced dancers with strong technical and artistic abilities are invited to apply for the Company’s upcoming auditions, to be held February 29 through March 1, 2020." [emphasis mine] * The company refers to its dancers as "Artistic Associates" 52-week contracts and health insurance! The number of US dancers with 52-week contracts must be vanishingly small - I'm not sure even the mighty Ailey company can make that kind of commitment to its dancers. Gina Gibney is probably most well-known for the two non-profit dance centers she operates in lower Manhattan that offer affordable class, rehearsal, and performance space as well as a number of artist and community services. I hope this new venture is successful, too.
  10. It's the one with the big broken chandelier lying on the stage ... And that's just about all that I remember about it, other than not being overly impressed.
  11. Like I said, there's no shame in not liking Merce, and life's too short to sit through something you don't like. I happen to think The Trock's take on Swan Lake is the best incarnation of that particular work, so we're even. 😉 (Yes, I'm the one ballet goer in the universe who loathes Swan Lake with the heat of a thousand burning suns.)
  12. I know that some Ailey company members participated in "Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event," but I don't know if there are any plans to incorporate what those dancers performed into the Ailey repertory. The list of choreographers Ailey has drawn upon for its repertory is long and distinguished, but they tend to be positioned along very different branches of the modern dance tree—the ones that are more theatrically kinetic and forward-facing than Cunningham often is. I could see them adding a "MinEvent" (a sequence of excerpts from Cunningham works) to their rep, but not their acting as a true repository. Two French companies, CNDC/Angers and Lyon Opera Ballet seem to be at the forefront of Cunningham preservation. A lot of dance schools and university-based dance programs do license Cunningham's work for educational purposes. You can find a list of professional and educational licensees here.
  13. We all know it's not really great if The Trocks haven't blessed it with a send-up, and Cage/Cunningham is no exception. Patterns in Space is a hoot, although the on stage musicians never fail to steal the show. (Choreography after Merce Cunningham / live music after John Cage per the credits.)
  14. I wouldn't expect Cunningham to be a ballet company staple. But ballet companies aren't the only dance companies out there, nor is the audience for dance limited to those who only like ballet. There are Cunningham works that a ballet company might tackle with some reasonable expectation of success, e.g. Duets, Summerspace, Septet, maybe Antic Meet. But frankly, I think his work would be better served by companies and organizations that make their home in other dance forms.
  15. I think it's more than OK if Cunningham's work just doesn't work for someone (it doesn't work for Robert Gottlieb for example), but I for one hope that it will continue to be taught, staged, and performed regularly for many, many decades to come. It deserves to be more than a vintage rarity, although one could make that claim for any number works that have unjustly slipped into obscurity—and that, unfortunately, applies to many art forms, not just dance. (We almost lost Herman Melville, for instance. By 1876 all of his work was out of print and he was considered a minor writer until the 1920s-30s, when there was a major revival of interest in and critical appreciation of his work.) Cunningham didn't want his work to die with him. He may have dissolved his company, but he did create a very active and robust trust to "actively share his legacy and offer it to future generations." In addition to maintaining the materials and licensing structure necessary to restage Cunningham's works, the Trust also offers "classes and workshops in Cunningham's technique, repertory, and choreographic methods to dancers and the public, keeping interest and practice alive," which is equally important. Thirteen bucks will get you into a daily class taught by a former Cunningham company member. Many Cunningham dancers are now choreographers in their own right, and while they aren't, by and large, "mini-Merces," his art lives on in theirs. (Pam Tanowitz didn't dance with Cunningham, but she did study with Viola Farber, one of Cunningham's original dancers. The throughline to Cunningham is evident in her work, even though she definitely has her own voice.) One of the side benefits of the Cunningham Centennial was putting Cunningham's choreography into the bodies of dancers who never worked with him—including Sara Mearns, who appears to have embraced the opportunity to dance his work with fearlessness and joy: "After performing her third solo, Ms. Mearns went into the hallway and cried. (She isn’t the type to hide her emotions on or off the stage.) “It was out of pure joy,” she said. “I put everything I could into it and I took chances, and I couldn’t believe it when I came off. I haven’t had that feeling in a very long time.” Will ADs, dancers, and audiences hold on to their Centennial enthusiasm for another decade or another century? Who knows? But for the moment, at least, he lives on.
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