Fresh. Unprocessed. Dance.
How many career advice books are there in publication? You could spend hours in the Personal Development section learning about the health and growth of your personal financial portfolio, how to hone your interview skills, tips on networking in “the field,” not to mention ways to innovate in your office.
But how many are there on those of us who don’t have an office? How many manuals have been written about getting home at 2 AM from a bar shift and auditioning the next morning at 9 AM and how to make the coffee strong enough to stomach it? How about the roller coaster of successful performance tours and the confusion when tours end? Or advice for musicians who have worked tirelessly to build a band through the nights, but still sit at a service desk in the day? We performers are strange creatures who have a hard time squeezing our carefully quirky lifestyle into the paradigm of 9 to 5. This is old news. We are used to thumbing through career books to find the one chapter that might truly apply. The one about time management.
Ciara Pressler just put something new on the shelves, and it’s for us.
Dance like any language is alive and morphing. We continue to add ideas and flair; to create new dialects altogether. Even so, we seem to embody many nuances of those who came first.
Here are three iconic dancers and one choreographer who have set the stage for much of what you see today. The links below will show each of their distinctive influences, threading from one era into the next. So when you find yourself in that blissful place, trying on a dance that fits just so, perhaps you’ll think of those who sewed the seams.
Dancers struggle to make their New York rents.
They also struggle to make their $18.00 fee for dance class, and often skip class because they can’t afford it.
These two conditions combined to create quite the conundrum for Dance New Amsterdam, one dance studio in Manhattan committed to keeping prices low for dancers, but accumulating massive rent debt because of it. If, as suggested by local government, dance studios take a “more entrepreneurial” approach then what follows are higher class prices, lower teacher payments, higher studio costs, higher ticket prices and ultimately loss of the original goal: to train and nurture artists. For sustainability, a studio requires a combination of revenue from the services they offer and strong fiscal support from the community. Even an organization that seems to be thriving may be in danger of losing its home…
Outsiders of the dance world often marvel at the discipline, commitment and sheer tenacity of those trying to be professionals in the business.
Dancers however, never think twice about what it takes to make it. Raised on the mantra “no pain, no gain,” they often thrive under high pressure and high expectations. To them, all this effort is common sense. If you really want it, you are singularly-focused on the pursuit of a career in dance. If you lack the passion, you quit early. It is simple.
Swedish choreographer and dancer Pontus Lindberg’s Labyrinth Within is a series of pas de deux on film that explores the lines between reality and perception. The majority of the 28 minute film, with a score created by David Lang (and recorded in 2009 by The Symphony Orchestra of Sweden’s Norrlands Operan) takes place in Giovanni Bucchieri and Wendy Whelan’s apartment. The two main characters are in the later years of a now stale marriage.
Ballet Next opened its season at the Joyce Theater Tuesday with Alison Cook Beatty’s premier of “Tinntinnabuli.” Set to Arvo Part’s “Tabula Rasa”. the piece begins on a solemn note. The audience is peering in on a dark and fearful hour. Michele Wiles prays desperately into a beam of light upstage. We hear strings and Church bells that seem to warn of some impending doom.
Then it gets a bit muddled for me…
Tiffany Mangulabnan looks on from downstage, as Jason Reilly steps into the light, his back to Wiles. The turmoil is palpable, but the dots are not connecting. What is she praying for? Why does she look to Mangulabnan for assistance? Why does Mangulabnan not reply? (Tiffany Mangulabnan seems under-utilized choreographically here, but manages to look stoic and commanding in her stillness.) Why does Reilly enter and leave without facing forward? These are strong visuals but do not make for a comprehensive introduction.
Eventually, a lovely, haunting tale begins when a slow motion pas de deux reveals the story of a death–not a crime of passion, glamorous or gory, but a slow decline.
It is rare that a viewer can describe a dance performance as a full-bodied experience, but that is exactly what occurred for those seated in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House, during Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother.
Israeli born, British based musician turned choreographer, Hofesh Shechter, engulfs viewers with loud, thrashing music of three percussionists, four guitarists, and an inaudibly booming vocalist. In an elaborate, yet strategic stage design the musicians are revealed in dim pools of light in two tiers – militaristic percussion below and fear-invoking vocalist wedged in the middle of piercing rock guitarists above.
The Fall for Dance Festival always seems to offer a healthy smorgasbord of dance treats. Program 5 of the festival offered the usual variety from intellectually stimulating work to compromised artistry.
To open the evening, Shen Wei Dance Arts presented their creation, Rite of Spring, set to Igor Stravinsky’s historically controversial composition of the same name. Director Shen Wei mentions in the program his avoidance of narrative influence and instead focus on the musical complexities that Stravinsky is known for. Breathtakingly precise, the work is an abstract representation of the score brought to life. The music’s power is matched equally by the choreographic creativity, often using a variety of avenues to represent musical change and maintain audience interest. Perhaps the most impressive moment in the evening is when Shen Wei decides to shed the virtuosic physicality and place his confidence in minimalism. A long line of dancers stand at the edge of the stage with their eyes closed and almost imperceptibly twitch at seemingly random moments. For what seems like two minutes, an entire audience is searching the stage for motion only to catch the tail end of what they thought was a muscle spasm. Further proof that a large statement can be made with the smallest detail.
Speaking an old language in a new way with a contemporary accent,” are the words that come to mind for Bessie nominee Sean Curran while discussing collaborations happening in New York’s dance scene. Curran’s own collaboration with Darrah Carr Dance Company earned both the company and guest choreographer a Bessie nomination for Best Production (of a work that stretches the boundaries of a traditional or culturally specific form).
The category is one of many that are more clearly defined in the recent redesign of the Bessie awards and it’s selection committee. The expansion of the Bessie’s selection committee from 15-20 to 41 and a division into subcommittees has allowed for the Bessie’s to reach beyond primarily modern and experimental work to include performances and choreography including ballet, modern, and cultural dance.
The new system is not without its critics; however, the enthusiasm and growth of the Bessie’s as it prepares for its second ceremony at Harlem’s historical Apollo Theater speaks volumes – both for the dance community at large and the artists that are highlighted as a result.
Program 4 of the 2012 Fall For Dance Festival at New York City Center featured live music for all four companies presented, breathing new life into the half point of the two week dance sprint. The curtain opens on a solo by Shantala Shivalingappa, a gripping torchbearer of the traditional Indian dance style of Kuchipudi. Shivalingappa is famous for her physical storytelling.
I first saw her in a black box theater that allowed me the privilege of catching every switching glance , every curled finger and every slight smile. Each and every detail carries great significance in this tradition, and it is through the exactness that a story is told. For Fall for Dance, that story is one of Shiva Ganga. Shiva, the program notes, is the Lord of Dance whose dance sustains the Universe. Ganga is the Goddess of the River Ganges, known for grace and fluidity.