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Martha Hill was an incredible force in the development of American modern dance (studied at ADF back when it was in Connecticut, ran the Julliard dance department for years) -- there's a new film out about her and her work, opening tomorrow (January 23) in NYC.

Quad Cinema (35 W 13th St, at 1, 2:45, 4:30, 7, 9:15)

If you're in the city, go see it -- if you're not, look out for it when it starts playing elsewhere.

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I imagine the film will be devoted to her many accomplishments in the modern dance field. It would be interesting if there was some discussion of the criticism she received (from some quarters) for her belief in cross-disciplinary training for modern dancers. Probably too "inside baseball"!

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If you watch the trailer, you'll notice that there is a discussion about that topic (cross-training), and it sounds like they consider the long-term affects of that philosophy on the development of the art form. I agree, it's a big issue, and like many people I have some mixed feelings about how it's all playing out -- I'm thrilled to think that it might actually be addressed directly in the general conversation. Maybe it's "inside baseball" to some, but it's a major issue to me!

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I think Martha Hill was right in the sense that cross-disciplinary training would make the graduates of the Juilliard School more employable. But her critics were also right that all of the cross-training would blur what had been distinct about bodies trained to a particular aesthetic. A great example is the Graham company. I've seen them perform in the last decade and those stretched bodies cut across the grain of what the technique wants them to do.

The New York Times review says that the movie discusses how Balanchine and Kirstein tried to undercut the Juilliard Dance Department. I can imagine the commentary already!

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I'm looking forward to the film, whenever I get a chance at it!

There has been an incredible amount of discussion surrounding hybrid dance, both in terms of choreography and training for performers. Right now I think we're seeing changes in performance on all fronts -- ballet dancers who are adding contemporary material to their repertory have started to see a difference in their approach to their classical rep, as well as the changes in the dancing bodies that are still pursuing old-school modern works like Graham's.

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