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The Buzz, 12-12: Nuts to You!
Extraordinary Things

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider

Season's greetings, Dance Insider, from your "Nutcracker"-free zone, Paris, where the Tchaikovsky classic has not been seen on the Paris Opera Ballet in at least two seasons. (Not that we're not getting into the holiday spirit; this morning at Les Deux Moulins -- the real cafe where Amelie Poulenc 'works' -- I was just ordering my first cup of coffee while the staff was already on its second glass of champagne.) So I am left musing over "Nutcrackers" of Christmases past. But before we get to my picks of the good, the bad, and the ugly, how about a couple of holiday picks for you moderns and you balletomanes looking for something a little different in New York?

Among the displaced in lower Manhattan September 12, 2001, were the students of PS 234. In the ensuing months, teacher and former Merce Cunningham dancer Patricia Lent found a unique way to give the kids a break from their crowded temporary location by taking field trips to Cunningham's Westbeth studio to observe the dancers. Next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, Lent's students will join the company in an Event at Three World Financial Center, taking part in the onstage action. The performances,commencing at 7 p.m. at American Express, are free to the public, says the PR, with a 'suggested donation' of $15 for adults and $5 for kids. Providing the setting for this event, which is sponsored by A.E. and the Joyce Theater Foundation in association with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, is "Rewarding Lives," an exhibition of photographs by Annie Leibovitz, including one of Merce. If I read the PR right, It's all situated -- photos, dancers, and kids -- among brightly lit, translucent canopies.

Farther uptown, Francis Patrelle brings his "Yorkville Nutcracker" to the Kaye Playhouse Friday through Sunday. Now, I haven't seen this "Nutcracker" so I can't vouch for the choreography. But I have seen the spirited New York City Ballet soloist Pascale van Kipnis and the exuberant and soulful NYCB principal Jenifer Ringer, and they'll both be guesting with Patrelle Dances for this season. Partnered by Dance Theatre of Harlem's elegant and noble principal Donald Williams, van Kipnis performs tomorrow at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. You can see Ringer in this relatively intimate setting, partnered by the sturdy NYCB principal James Fayette, Saturday at 7 pm. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

....So, briefly, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from my Nutcrackers of Christmas Past.

The Good: Wendy Whelan, ever-consistent, persisting in moving her mouth to the music, even though the music for this 1999 New York City Ballet "Nutracker" opening had the dancers interpreting Balanchine's version of the ballet to a pastiche of various recorded scores, the live orchestra having opted to play Grinch and strike the Nut. As a dance insider later explained to me, what required extra courage from Whelan and her cohorts was that a recorded score did not allow for volume shifts. But the dancing sang with courage and aplomb.

The Bad: This would have to be when a Newsday editor, having sent me to Long Island to review a local "Nutcracker," said that I wasn't allowed to criticize Clara. "Excuse me, I thought you said you wanted a review?"

The Ugly: This would have to be the first act of San Francisco Ballet's currently decrepit version -- the US's first complete. That's not a crack on the brilliant dancers, and not even necessarily on the age. Well, actually, it is about the age -- of the 'children,' who looked to be about 16 when I caught the San Francisco 'Nut' in 2000.

....Speaking of 'ugly,' the "Live Advent Calendar," presented by Hubsi Kramar in Vienna's Tanzquartier this past week-end, was apparently just that. As DI managing editor and Vienna bureau chief Tara Zahra reports:

"So the 'Live Advent Calendar' at the Tanzquartier turned out not to have much dance in it. Or any really. But it did have a screaming naked tatooed man with an erect penis (day 10), a dwarf dressed as a dummy singing 'White Christmas' and throwing eggs and feathers (day 5), a woman binging and purging the contents of her change purse (day 19), and to finish it all off a rendition of 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' in a Viennese working class home (day 24). Let's hear it for the Catholic Avant-Garde.... Do you still want a review??"

As my French friend Marc said when he he examined the unique plumbing situation in my kitchen: "C'est pas tres Catholique."

....Speaking of things I've never seen before, did you know that MIkhail Baryshnikov, rightly celebrated for his dancing, stewardship of the White Oak Dance Project, and promotion of Modern and Post-Modern Dance, is now a choreographer too? Neither did I, until someone sent me to the web site of something called the Monaco Dance Forum, which lists, under possible awardees for 'the performance of the year 2001!," and I quote, "Past Forward, choreography from Mikhail Barychnikov (sic) and David Gordon, White Oak Dance Project." Well, not exactly. Along with Gordon, the choreographers featured in White Oak's admirably ambitious Judson redux program included Steve Paxton, Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, and other Judson alumni -- but not, as choreographer anyway, Baryshnikov. I suppose the MDF is attempting to honor Nijinsky by giving its award his name, award his name, but maybe first it should honor some of the last century's most important choreographers by remembering theirs.

.... Speaking of dance history lessons, that's what you'll be able to get if you're in New York over the next two months, as the New York Public Library presents "Martha Graham: Steps of a Giant: Insiders' Stories." The panel discussions commence this evening at 5 p.m. at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, where Barychnikov I mean Graham's "Clytaemnestra" will be dissected by composer Halim El-Dabh and dancers Helen McGehee and Ethel Winter, with Ellen Graff and Kenneth Topping of the Graham School moderating. On January 4, 2:30 p.m., same venue, Miriam Cole, Mary Hinkson, Linda Hodes, and Yuriko, with moderators Graff and Marnie Wood, take on the topic "Ensemble Works and Myths and Legends." And on January 16, at 5 p.m., Robert Cohan, Stuart Hodes, and Pearl Lang talk about "Americana and Martha's Funny Bone," with Graff moderating again. Admission to all these events is free, with limited seating. For more info, in a recorded message, you can call 212-642-0142.

.... And speaking of Judson forwards, dance insider AG forwards the news that the the Reverend Peter Laarman, leader of the Judson Memorial Church, was among the chief organizers of the New York edition of Wednesday's nationwide civil disobedience opposing the Bush Aministration's oil I mean war lust directed towards the country of Iraq. At least 100 of the activists, including many other local religious leaders and Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's, were reportedly charged with disturbing the peace after they clustered before the U.S. mission to the U.N. Now that's what I call walking the talk; nothing pedestrian about it. Somewhere up there, the late American hero Philip Berrigan is smiling.




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