The Buzz, 1-19: Up in
Blackout for Michelson's "Daylight"; Sagna's Exploding Dancer; Rockwell
Copyright 2005 The Dance Insider
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No Daybreak for "Daylight"
A week after its opening
at P.S. 122 was postponed for the same reason, Sarah Michelson's
"Daylight" has been cancelled due to an "insurmountable injury"
to the choreographer-performer, project director Barbara Bryan announced.
"As you might imagine,
this cancellation has been financially distressing for both Sarah
Michelson and P.S. 122," Bryan said, urging ticket-buyers to donate
the cost of their tickets to P.S. 122, which donation, she assured,
would "directly support P.S. 122's losses." A benefit event for
Michelson and her fellow performers will be announced at a future
date, she added.
Even before this latest
development, Michelson's saga, first highlighted by Elizabeth
Zimmer in the Village Voice, has re-exposed a nerve in the community
-- its most existential (in the practical sense of the word) nerve.
For anyone still missing the point, amplified in Michelson's letter to the DI last week, it's this: Regardless of
what you might think of her work, by the standard of marquee bookings
and commissions, Sarah Michelson is a choreographer who has made
it. She's been all but officially coronated as Dance's "It Grrrl"
of the new millenium. And yet she is contemplating quitting. Not
because she resents not having the limos and the country house,
but because at 40 years old, and despite all these accolades, she's
living like an economically strapped college student. If a dancer
can make it like this -- recognition-wise -- and still not make
out, what does it say for our ability -- in the States, anyway --
to support each other? And how can we do better? Send your ideas
-- no whining, please -- to email@example.com. Here's one: We
have some pretty toney readers here at the Dance Insider. Who among
you will step forward to provide this dancer, Sarah Michelson,
with some after-the-fact catastrophe insurance for her cancelled
show? She goes down, we all go down. (For more on this topic, see
Flash Response of today.)
The Tiny Dancer-Soldier who Blew Up
Speaking of exploding
spectacles, Carlotta Sagna's new "Tourlourou," which bows at Paris's
Theatre de la Bastille next Thursday, takes its inspiration, if
that's the right word, from the 2002 hostage seizure at Moscow's
Doubrovka theater. Of the 41 "suicide commandos," Needcompany veteran
Sagna points out, 19 were woman, their faces veiled and their bellies
strapped with belts of explosives. In Sagna's show, the audience
knows that in 25 minutes "kamikaze ballerina" Jone San Martin, "mercenary
of the stage," according to the PR, will be no more. It's an "homage
to the dancer..., petite soldier at the service of our pleasure
as observer-voyeur," writes Aude Lavigne, quoted in the press material.
"....When she exits the stage, her departure is retained like an
explosion and wounds our bodies...." "Tourlourou" runs January 27
Come Back Anna, All is Forgiven
There are explosions,
and then there are duds. John Rockwell's early days as the New York
Times new Anna Kisselgoff do not portend well.... They do not even
portend of a dance critic, let alone a 'chief dance critic.' (Disclosure:
As editor of the Times Arts & Leisure section, Rockwell once took
an assignment away from me.) Suggesting either a by-line mix-up
or a deadline assist from Jack Anderson, the best adjective Rockwell
could come up with in his lead to Monday's review of Christopher Wheeldon's
"Carnival of Animals" was "charming." Do we really need the New
York Times for this degree of eloquence? At no point in his review
of the New York City Ballet performance does Rockwell actually attempt
capture the choreography -- "buoyant balance" doesn't count.
Here's Kisselgoff on
the same ballet, describing Christine Redpath's portrayal of the
Aunt in her May 16, 2003 review: "Ms. Redpath begins her
swanlike solo like Pavlova, facing the rear. She is not in a tutu
but in a bare-backed cocktail dress and heels, and she is not an
expiring creature. Rather, she is one who relives the past, and
she achieves a moment of depth by using the minimum to the maximum.
Her long white gloves evoke swan images in the air, and Mr. Wheeldon
works brilliantly against familiar associations. There is a low
arabesque, but no deep curtsy to the floor. The solo becomes a self-contained
reverie." All Rockwell had to say about this passage was to ponder
pedantically why a character alluding to Pavlova -- famous for her
"Dying Swan" -- would be named after "Swan Lake"'s Odette. A pertinent
question, but no substitution for poetic criticism.
Most of us had our problems
with Kisselgoff. Chief among them, she sometimes let politics cloud
her and the Times's judgment when it came to dance, most notoriously
when it came to coverage of the Martha Graham Dance Company's noble
struggle to wrest itself from the usurper Ron Protas, which Kisselgoff
and thus the Times viewed from a vantage point inside Protas's pocket.
But at least Anna, when she can set such prejudices aside (and I
can hardly cast stones at this particular Achilles heel), knows
dance and can intricately, at times even poetically evoke how movement
is used to tell a dance story. Some in dance referred to her as
Kissofdeath -- meaning a bad review from Anna's pen could sink a
show -- but the real kiss of death to dance criticism is lack of
imagination. It doesn't just do injustice to the performance; it
squanders the golden opportunity to win new fans that is a review
in a mainstream vehicle like the Times. It's not enough to say a
ballet is charming -- the critic has to explain why and how
-- in movement terms -- he or she was charmed. The other soubriquet
some applied to Anna was "Kissitoff" -- referring to what you might
as well do to your show if she hates it -- and by replacing her
with Rockwell, this is exactly what the Times has done to its dance
readers. When it came time to hire new film critics, the Times sought
fresh voice's like Elvis Mitchell's. Kisselgoff's retirement could
have been used as a similar opportunity to introduce a fresh perspective.
Instead, we got Jacked.