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The Buzz, 8-2: Big Thinkers
Introducing the Dance Insider Forum; Dancenow/NYC Announces Festival Line-up; Neumeier Spotted in Tulsa

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2007 Paul Ben-Itzak

Your turn

Almost a decade ago, Robin Hoffman, Veronica Dittman, Jamie Phillips, Rebecca Stenn, Aimée Ts’ao, Ben Zackheim, a few others and I started the Dance Insider to give a voice to dancers, build the dance audience, and tell stories not told elsewhere. Today we move to the next stage in fulfilling tenet #1: The Dance Insider Forum, the brainchild of another accomplished dancer colleague, Tim Heathcote, graduate of the Australian Ballet School, alumnus of Sydney Dance Company, and dance wear and shoe expert extraordinaire. We'll be asking you to draw from your own knowledge as dance insiders to comment on a variety of topics -- and to pose questions yourselves. To get started, just click here.

Autumn in New York in August

If you're a grizzled editor and critic like me, it can get a little tiring to see certain of the same names popping up again and again on press releases -- Doug Varone, David Parsons, Stephen Petronio, Christopher Wheeldon -- creatively spent voices that perhaps once upon a time had something new to say but that (on last view, anyway) seemed to have run out of ideas. By contrast, I always look forward to receiving the lineup for the annual fall Dancenow/NYC festival from artistic director and producer Robin Staff, founding director and producer Tamara Greenfield, and publicist Janet Stapleton.

Mary Cochran in Sara Hook's "Rue." Sharen Bradford photo copyright Sharen Bradford and courtesy Dancenow/NYC.

It's not that the Dancenow/NYC festival, this year produced in partnership with and playing at Dance Theater Workshop and running September 4 - 10, doesn't have its share of veterans. Rather, as opposed to the over-hyped, over-produced, and over-funded choreographers mentioned above, the veterans chez Dancenow/NYC tend to be historically under-produced, underfunded, and some of the hardest working creators in the business. This year, the roster of veterans includes Murray Louis, Paradigm (Gus Solomons jr, Carmen de Lavallade, and Hope Clark), Sara Hook Dances, Brian Brooks, Gina Gibney, Donlin Foreman, and Nicholasleichterdance. (The festival has commissioned new work from participating artists celebrating their 10th anniversary.) Demi-veterans include Tami Stronach, Larry Keigwin, Jordan Fuchs, Chris Elam, Julian Barnett, Dusan Tynek, and Darrah Carr who, like Gus Solomons jr, also writes for this publication. But my favorite part is seeing names I've never heard of: Helen Pickett, Aaron Draper, Kyle Abraham, Tze Chun, Emily Harper and Justine Gaddy among them this year.

Kyle Abraham. Steven Schreiber photo copyright Steven Schreiber and courtesy Dancenow/NYC.

To see a complete line-up of artists performing at this year's Dancenow/NYC festival, go here. And to tell us -- and discuss with each other -- what you think of the festival line-up, as well as who you'd program if you had your own festival, click here.

Return of the Native

Part of the frustration in seeing some of the same tired names and exhausted talents popping up again and again in press releases and on stages in the U.S. is that there are artists here in Europe, perpetually fertile or progenies, who are under-programmed or never programmed on the other side of the Atlantic. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is one; universally acclaimed as the hugest talent to emerge in Europe in the past seven years, he'll probably be old wave by the time BAM deigns to recognize him as 'next wave.' (To read more about Larbi, as he's short-handed here, just enter his name in the Dance Insider search engine. But there's another who's been working for a lot longer -- and he's American, to boot! In more than three decades in charge of and creating for and on the Hamburg Ballet, Milwaukee-born John Neumeier has established himself as perhaps the only living choreographer working in ballet able to tell a story ballet. And I don't mean just re-tell or re-stage. Applying classical tools to classic texts -- "Camille," "The Odyssey," "Peer Gynt" -- as well as massive subjects like Nijinsky, Neumeier creates stories with living relevance. By relevance I don't mean contemporary tricks or music, but simply heart. And yet the work is rarely performed by U.S. companies and thus barely seen by U.S. audiences. So I was heartened to learn, from a fly on the wall, that as you read this, El Neumeier is in Tulsa, watching Tulsa Ballet company class today in the midst of a three-day visit. That's no guarantee, of course, that he'll grant the company permission to perform one of his works, but it's a promising sign (from my point of view anyway), and the omens are good: Tulsa has just secured permission to perform Kenneth MacMillan's 1974 "Elite Syncopations." "I am elated by this news," artistic director Marcello Angelini told the Dance Insider. "I would bet that we are the smallest company in the world to have one of his works." In size, maybe -- but never in ambition.

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