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.
One year ago, visual artist Daniel Arsham proposed a set design for choreographer Jonah Bokaer’s new work CURTAIN: “The stage design will be composed of a non-Newtonian substance that I have developed over the last year,” Arsham wrote. “It is a material that has properties of both a solid and of a liquid. It defies the laws of Newtonian physics. This material will be used to construct architectural forms of various scales that will transform into an amorphous form. Structures will dissolve as the dance is occurring.”
Without hesitation, Jonah Bokaer started a dance.
Running tonight through Sunday at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires, CURTAIN is the real deal of cross-disciplinary exchange. Without a hierarchy determining which element would be created first, the piece emerged from the simultaneous evolution of images, music, and movement. The result is a non-narrative exploration of the transitory nature of dance. On every level, it reminds us that dance happens once and is gone forever.
Alexis Convento and Brandon Cournay created the Current Sessions in 2011 because they wanted to see emerging choreographers take creative risks in a supportive environment. They felt that the most interesting and provocative work could emerge from a working period of only six short weeks. Last weekend, 18 choreographers showed the results of their time in this “incubator.” Sunday evening featured a selection of 8.
Classtivity.com, a brand new online database of over 2,000 classes in New York, could potentially solve these problems once and for all. Founded by MIT brainiac (and professional dancer!) Payal Kadakia, “Classtivity” strives to inspire New Yorkers to inspire themselves through taking classes. What does this mean for dancers? Any class you want to take whether with a well known teacher or not, in a common dance genre or not, will be listed in one place. You won’t have to hunt for times or prices. And those five tabs you had open with varying studio schedules will now be just one.
While “Classtivity” covers fitness, yoga, cooking, visual arts and sports, it all began with dance. “One day I had my ballet clothes with me and I wanted to pop into something. I went online to Broadway Dance Center and Steps, etc., and looking for class was a nightmare” Ms. Kadakia says, “I just thought, ‘Why is this so frustrating?’” The idea, now the motto of “Classtivity,” was born: Finding a class shouldn’t be harder than taking one.
Larry Keigwin, known for his wit and electricity, returned to the Joyce this week for the company’s fifth home season. The mix of old and brand new works presented expected pizzazz but perhaps also a more studious side of the hip choreographer.
The evening opens with 12 Chairs. They (the chairs and the dancers that filled them) are set in a grid pattern through the stage space. Dancers, dressed in pedestrian chic, are in “human” mode. Sitting slightly slouched, they sometimes scratch their heads, look out inquisitively or lean to a side. All shifts occur on beat to the driving electronic score of Jonathan Pratt. At first the dancers confine their movement to their chair only. But soon the dancers are shifting spots, carefully calculating their next chair move as if pieces of a chess match. An attitude of nervous possession of a seat is very reminiscent of a panicked round of grade school musical chairs. Keigwin showcases his knack for efficiency. No step is too drawn out. Dancers step up on the base of chairs and spin as if it is as simple as sitting down. They are snappy when they need to be, they freeze in stillness, they are economical with changes in space. I am struck by the ripple effect of motion down the line of chairs when I zoom out to see the whole picture. The piece culminates in a straight line across the stage where we get a slowed down version of the earlier shifts, but this time we can examine each dancer. Although the choreography is quirky, the mood is serious. I feel as if perhaps I am missing an underlying turmoil.
This Wednesday night the Gotham Dance Festival went cross-coastal with L.A. based BODYTRAFFIC, resulting in some serious fun. In the work of three international choreographers, Barak Marshall, Stjin Celis and Richard Siegel, BODYTRAFFIC displayed their strong capacity for technique, theatrics and overall exuberance.
First introduced to the culturally critical dances of Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall two summers ago at Jacob’s Pillow, I have been mesmerized by his gutsy approach ever since. BODYTRAFFIC opened with the world premiere of And At Midnight The Green Bride Floated Through The Village Square, Marshall’s latest glimpse of Yemenite life and tradition. Marshall dresses the dancers in traditional village fare which paired with distinctive Yiddish and Ladino songs immediately transports the piece. Movement consists almost entirely of intricate series of hard hitting gestures, performed in unison and fitting inseparably into musical rhythms. Look closer and you notice that staccato action is enhanced by subtle facial expressions: seduction, disgust, rage, suspicion. And, voila— with this Marshall has made a village of distinct characters.
The piece follows a strict non-fiction narrative. When she was growing up Marshall’s mother, renowned singer and performer Margalit Oved, lived near a family of eight sisters and one brother in what the town nicknamed “the burning house.” (You can imagine eight sisters out of adolescence and competing for male attention.)