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.
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.
n January 27, 1881 Elena Kunikova and Marius Petipa premiered the Grand Pas from Paquita. In 2012 at the Fall For Dance Festival, over a century later, the piece still brings sequined glamour and romanticism. These are the patterns we all know and love: the half circle created by a cleanly positioned corps, the strong soloist, the princely male partner entering with gusto and enticing solos. Originally developed to crowd-please by highlighting beloved Russian ballerinas Paquita’s solos are now done by the cream of Ballet West.
The piece, very simply stated, reminds us of our roots. The footwork is clean and uncomplicated. While the musicality is perhaps the most important element for success, there is a notable patience in the music. There is space to complete movement where in more contemporary work transitions are quicker and often complicated. Ballet West’s solo women stand up boldly to the challenge of the spotlight, but there is one who triumphs: Sayaka Ohtaki, whose coy charisma charms the audience to cheers.
In many Balanchine works, the first strains of a Stravinsky score serve as musical nitroglycerin: poised in stable tension, dancers suddenly explode into movement well matched to the music’s complexity and precision.
Such was the case Saturday afternoon in New York City Ballet’s “Black and White” program, which continues the company’s seasonal tribute to one of the last century’s most iconic creative partnerships.
Featuring such masterpieces as “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” and “Symphony in Three Movements,” the program consists of five works whose minimalist sets and costumes only augment their timeless grandeur. Against a solid azure backdrop, dancers stripped down to black-and-white practice clothes perform solos, duets and large ensemble segments that glorify their own instruments as well as every note of the composition.