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The Buzz, 1-19: Up in Smoke
Blackout for Michelson's "Daylight"; Sagna's Exploding Dancer; Rockwell Fires Duds

By Paul Ben-Itzak
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 paul@danceinsider.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 Suki John's 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 - 30.

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.





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