The Buzz, 9-30: Moscow
to the Hudson
Bolshoi 'Buked; Tudor Processed; Remote Eye Wash; Forsythe Rants
By Paul Ben-Itzak (Bolshoi
& Forsythe), Richard Philp (Tudor), and Tom Patrick (Eye Wash)
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider, Richard Philp, & Tom Patrick
The "Fat" Lady Stings
The Russian government
of Vladimir Putin has handed the Bolshoi Ballet a big fat rebuke
a principal dancer on the shady, irresponsible (my words) pretext
that she was too big, saying it should restore Anastasia Volochkova
to the company, the Associated Press reported yesterday and the
Paris newspaper Liberation today.
"The Bolshoi Theater
personnel department has breached the law," Labor Minister Alexander
Pochinok told the Russian Interfax news agency, as quoted by the
AP. "... Anastasia Volochkova should be restored to her position."
In its September 17
report suggesting Volochkova was fired because "she has become too
fat," the New York Times quoted Bolshoi spokesperson Katarina Novikova
as saying, "She is heavy for a ballerina, she is hard to lift."
The Times also insinuated that the ballerina's heft had landed at
least one swain in the hospital. (Novikova has not responded to
a Dance Insider request to verify her remarks to the Times.)
The Russian government's
finding is a healthy rebuke to the Bolshoi for irresponsibly conjuring
a waning ballet stereotype as an expedient means to resolve a personality
conflict. It should also make the Times think twice the next time
it would irresponsibly give weight to such claims, reporting which
can have mortal consequences on the minds of young dancers, reinforcing
anachronistic ideas that confuse artistry with appearance.
-- Paul Ben-Itzak
By mistake I went last
week to the Guggenheim Museum on Fifth at 89th in order to see the
program that had been, in fact, scheduled for last night. I wasn't
disappointed with either evening staged in the museum's sleek downstairs
jewel box of a theater: Last week, to my foolish surprise, featured
a panel discussion about and vocal demonstration of the New York
City Opera's new production of Mozart's youthful opera "La Finta
Giardiniera." And last evening and tonight, as part of the Guggenheim's
same Works & Process series, was a program in a similar format called
Antony Tudor and American Ballet Theatre. Among other upcoming events
especially worth noting in the same series is Frederic Franklin
and Maria Tallchief on November 16 and 17 recreating "lost choreography"
from two Balanchine ballets, "Mozartiana" (1933) and "Le Baiser
de la Fee" (1937). Judging by the two segments that I have seen
so far, this is a series that works wonderfully well for an appreciative
audience. It is also free, as were the palatable wine, cucumber
sandwiches, and salted nuts at the receptions afterwards.
I have the greatest
respect for Donald Mahler, who has made a very legitimate spot for
himself in the pantheon of former dancers and probably underemployed
ballet masters in what we in the magazine business call a niche
market. Mahler's niche is Antony Tudor, and so who better to demonstrate
and discuss the Tudor canon? Michael Owen, a former ABT principal
and the last dancer to whom Tudor taught all of his own roles, was
the other member of the panel, which was moderated by former ABT
principal Susan Jaffe.
Tudor remains a mystery
to a great many people who profess to love his ballets. I like his
work, but I can't really explain the reason for his appeal beyond
the obvious obsession the choreographer had for the human dimensions
of his characters. The plots in his plotted works are not all that
easy to follow on the first encounter -- or the second or the third,
if you don't prepare yourself ahead of time. And his unplotted ballets
can be dangerously soporific if they aren't performed by dancers
indoctrinated into the roles, as Tudor intended them to be. Mahler
reminded us that Tudor was never as taken with a beautifully arched
foot or high extensions as he was with "interesting dancers" and
their ability to imbue roles with validity and honesty. Tudor's
ballets are about love -- the difficulty of expressing that which
was, for Tudor, so often masked or unspoken -- and they were created
for a handful of intensely dramatic dancers who understood his style
and would tolerate his abuse. Today, I am afraid, most dancers have
neither the maturity nor the dramatic training to approach the Tudor
repertoire with the kind of preparation it demands. Without Tudor
at the helm, his ship too easily drifts off course.
has been re-setting Tudor on ABT in recent years, keeping the works
alive on stage for new generations. Once considered cornerstones
of the ABT oeuvre and, by extension, of contemporary American ballet,
the Tudor rep has declined in both presentation and popularity.
Thirty years ago when ABT featured an "all-Tudor evening," you might
have had trouble getting a seat. Today, an "all-Tudor" evening would,
I think, probably be a programming disaster in seasons at the Met,
where ticket sales are a paramount consideration.
In the context of his
times, as Tudor himself points out in a very old film clip shown
during the Guggenheim's program, the world of most ballets -- the
princes, swans, sylphs, and spooks -- was basically inaccessible
to what Tudor actually calls the "middle classes." He changed that.
And the effect of that change was far-reaching, creating new possibilities
that we have come to take for granted in contemporary ballet. Agnes
de Mille, whose dramatically charged dance works deal with a cowgirl
in the old West as well as a psychotic hatchet murderer, made no
secret of either her admiration or her debt as a choreographer to
Tudor's influence. What Graham was doing for modern dance in America
during the second and third quarters of the last century, Tudor
was doing for ballet, although he was nowhere near as prolific as
Graham. That they both taught at the same time in the dance department
at Juilliard in New York is an extraordinary coinciding of two powerful
forces unlikely to be repeated any time soon.
Beginning in the 1930s
in London with Marie Rambert's struggling company performing on
its postage-stamp size stage, coming to America by an invitation
wangled through de Mille to join the newly formed Ballet Theater
in 1939, Tudor would redefine the subject matter of ballet. Although
he did away with mime, he told his story entirely through movement.
Is it possible to say
that there is such a thing as a Tudor technique? Watch how Tudor
dancers seem to lead with their torsos, which are lifted, appearing
thrust forward; his signature movement does not rely that much on
the position of the arms. His lifts are particularly difficult because
he wanted them to "come from nowhere," without any visible preparation,
without visible mechanics. "Things," Mahler explained, should appear
"to just happen," and he demonstrated this point last night on Julie
Kent and David Hallberg in a scene from "Pillar of Fire" (1942).
The first time Kent fell forward, she slid into Hallberg's arms
on her way down to her knees. Under Mahler's direction, the same
fall the second time was startlingly more effective when Hallberg
allowed her to drop almost to the floor before catching her "any
way you can," according to Tudor's own instructions years ago to
Mahler. Tudor's work is a careful interlacing of many such moments
in which interpretation and presentation are far more important
than mere steps.
John Gardiner, a former
ABT soloist, and Amanda McKerrow, an ABT principal performed an
excerpt from "The Leaves are Fading" (1975), which will be included
in ABT's upcoming season at New York's City Center, October 22 through
November 9. A performance of "Continuo" (1971), one of three works
created for Juilliard, was danced by members of the ABT studio company,
including Melanie Hamrick, Blaine Hoven, Daniel Keene, Jennifer
Lee, Caitlin Seither, and Roman Zhurbin. In addition to Kent and
Hallberg in the "Pillar of Fire" excerpt were Xiomara Reyes, Erica
Fishbach, Misty Copeland, Ashley Ellis, Yuriko Kajiya, Anne Milewski,
and Luciana Paris. The ABT Studio Company will perform in December
at New York University's Skirball Center.
-- Richard Philp
Eye Wash by Remote
On a recent Wednesday
evening, I found myself in the East Village, headed for Remote Lounge
and Eye Wash. With the front-window treatment of disembodied video
screens behind mirrored glass, I could tell from down the block
and across the street that I had arrived.
I know Eric Dunlap,
Holly Daggers, and the folks at Forward Motion Theater who bring
these evenings of high-tech video together, and after being at several
of their events across town at Freight I think that Remote is a
most appropriate site. The space provides myriads of tiny cameras,
monitors and vid-phones everywhere for customers' perusal, the stuff
of video is everywhere, and Eye Wash capitalizes on this, turning
the club's in-house toys into tools for art.
Downstairs from the
slim main bar, there's a great open space for lounging and enjoying
the banks of monitors and several large projection screens, comfy
and high-ceilinged there. Adjacent to this I found a cozier balcony
area, which housed mission control: this evening's four VJs were
set up deep in cables and surrounded by a lot of cool portable gear.
They were mixing DVDs, tape, and video straight from the laptop.
Technologically it's all very powerful stuff yet compact, and onscreen
of course everyone has their own style and signature. So we're talking
everything from computer generated patterns to retro-looking overlays;
there's almost too much to watch. All of the VJs represented in
this line-up -- Feedbuck (of Feedbuck galore), Holly Daggers (chromakey
goddess), Mixxy, and Eric Dunlap presented stunning work, and they
obviously were enjoying tweaking things on the spot. I like this
venue a lot in that the VJs are among the party, not sequestered
off in a booth somewhere.
I've always liked Eric
and Holly's work precisely because they can do such neat things
with images of the human body, and where they go is definitely a
dance take on film and a film take on dance. The digital work they
do enables a lot of neat exploitations of the medium with a smart
and witty viewpoint. Eric also took the opportunity to experiment
with some live-movement interaction last night, resulting in some
wild kaleidoscopes of him. This was really trippy, and he assures
me this is just the beginning. Dance Insiders will want to watch
out for a later episode of Eye Wash this fall and an evening that
features dance more prominently, which sounds exciting.... (Great
music, too, from DJs Zemi17 and Whitey.)
Eye Wash returns tomorrow
night, 9 p.m. - 1 a.m., at Remote Lounge, 327 Bowery at 2nd Street.
Admission is free.
-- Tom Patrick
No visit from William
Forsythe and his Ballett Frankfurt would be complete without a lot
of talking, and the company's last visit to Gotham under Forsythe
-- he steps
down at the end of this season -- will include a talk
by Himself. Taking time out from the company's Brooklyn Academy
of Music season, which opens tonight, El Forsythe heads across the
bridge Saturday afternoon to the Michael Schimmel Center for the
Arts at Pace University for a "Downtown Dialogue." From 3 to 4:30
p.m., says a spokesperson for sponsoring organization Lower Manhattan
Cultural Council, he'll discuss "his vision for furthering artistic
practice in an increasingly conservative political and economic
environment, and the role of cultural institutions in civic life."
There's no admission, but if you want to go, best reserve your place
by calling 212-346-1715, between noon and 4 p.m. Monday through