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December '99 Newsletter from New York City

 

By Jennifer Leake Ó

Welcome to the long-awaited New York newsletter. I apologise for keeping you waiting. Time simply flies in this fabulous city of bright lights, shop windows full of Christmas tableaus, Broadway musicals and more dance performances than one person can possibly see in a lifetime. My life span in the "Big Apple" has been little over a year (I’m not a native New Yorker) and my visits to New York’s performance venues have met with a few surprises. Amongst the broad array of (up to 30 occur in one evening) dance events, I’ve savored some gems -- what I call the "pink diamonds of dance"-- such as; the newest works of Mikhail Barishnikov’s White Oak Dance Project, Kitty Lunn’s Infinity Dance Theater, and Germany’s Hautnah (close to the skin), and I’ve witnessed some disasters. I will refrain from naming the not so successful troupes, however, until you get to know me better.

One newsletter can hardly pay tribute to every dance event available in a city overflowing with physically expressive beings. Please read on, keeping in mind that there is more to New York City’s dance scene than meets the eye.

The 8th Annual Improvisational Festival/New York 99 (founded by Julie Carr and Sondra Loring in 1992) is already up and running. The festival presents two weeks of downtown performances, classes and workshops, involving dance, music, film, video, spoken word, visual art and mixed media collaboration. Events presented by Danspace Project at St Mark’s Church run November 30, December 2-3, 5 & 11. I caught the show on November 30. The program; Intercoastal Conversations danced by Ray Chung and Katarina Erikson, Repair performed by Sondra Loring, Francisco Rider, and vocalist Lois Isaksen, and Beauteez ‘n the Beat, led by gorgeous and adept tapper Roxanne Butterfly, left me feeling uplifted by the spontaneous contemporary dance improvisation, and the jam session (between two tappers, a percussionist and a vocalist) of the evening’s final piece.

The Kitchen -- the downtown performance space that’s somewhat hidden, yet full of surprises -- will present an evening titled Combustion: It only happens once for The 8th Annual Improvisations Festival/New York. Performers include Katie Duck, Fausto Matias, Bebe Miller, and Ray Chung.

Also at The Kitchen:

On December 10-11 @ 8PM Works in Process will showcase dances by choreographers new to the venue including Pat Cremins, Erin Cornell and Miguel Gutierrez, Mike Iverson, Sarah Michelson and Adrienne Truscott and David Thomson.

&

Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar, the creaters of the techno dancers featured in Merce Cunningham’s newest dance, Biped, will present TV Dinner No. 6 at The Kitchen, from Dec 9-11 @ 2 6PM. The evening explores the ideas that have formed a platform for Kaiser and Eshkar’s digital art in performance.

What else is Danspace Project presenting at St Mark’s Church this month?

December 9-12 @ 8:30PM: a dance and theater production by David Gordon, titled Autobiography of a Liar.

New York City Ballet got off to a rough start for its 1999-2000 season, with the New York’s City Ballet Orchestra walking out before the fun started (as a result of a dispute over whether the musicians should or should not be required to attend rehearsals). Consequently the opening night benefit scheduled for November 23 couldn’t go on. The company’s 45 performances of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker are already up and running at New York’s State Theater, with or without an orchestra – there’s always taped music. Performances commenced November 26 and run through January 2.

Jack Anderson wrote about the first of NYCB’s Nutcracker performances this season for the New York Times: "The children in the cast -- students from the School of American Ballet -- were delightful, including Kara Buckley, as a sweet Marie; Tyler Gurfein, as a prankish but never nasty Fritz; and Ezra Hurwitz, who was especially gallant as the little boy who becomes the Nutcracker.

The grown-ups were in fine form. As the Sugarplum Fairy, Wendy Whelan looked slightly brittle in her opening solo. But when she and Damian Woetzel were together in the pas de deux, they offered a grandly scaled and unusually spacious duet that built to a brilliant coda. Maria Kowroski was a sparkling Dewdrop. And Benjamin Millepied and Tom Gold leaped merrily through the Tea and Candy Cane divertissements. Robert La Fosse suggests he enjoys portraying Drosselmeier, the toymaker. Season after season, he experiments with the interpretative possibilities of the role. One can never predict what his characterization will be like."

Eliot Feld’s company Ballet Tech will return to The Joyce with its Christmas production; NotCRACKER. Running December 21 1999 – January 2 2000, NotCRACKER is the title for a season of upbeat works (without a Sugar Plum Fairy in sight). Ballet Tech dancer Patty Tuthill will be available December 6 @ 8PM (E.T.) for an online chat. If you have any questions just go to www.voiceofdance.org and click on chats.

Dance spectacular Burn the Floor was choreographed and directed for the stage by Anthony van Laast, with David Mallet ("Lord of the Dance"). This sassy kaleidoscope of dance routines for 22 champion ballroom dancing couples will preview on Thirteen/WNET New York’s Great Performances, December 5 @ 9 P.M. (E.T.) prior to its US tour in March 2000.

While we’re focused on US television, the American Ballet Theater, will perform Le Corsaire on PBS, December 20 at 9.PM (E.T.). This 19th Century Russian classic is a stormy tale of love, abduction, betrayal, and murder featuring dancers Ethan Stiefel, Julie Kent, Angel Corella, Paloma Herrera, Vladimir Malakhov and Joaquin De Luz.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is here to stay for one whole month -- December 1 1999 through January 2 2000 at the City Center @ 8 (varying performance times weekends). This famous predominantly African American troupe has a number of events to celebrate. The 10 anniversary celebration of Artistic Director Judith Jamison, and three world premieres by choreographers Ronald K. Brown, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and Donald McKayle. In a tribute to Duke Ellington, the Ailey dancers will also perform Ailey/Ellington classics to live music by the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band. Also on the program are: Bill T. Jones’ Fever Swamp, John Butler’s After Eden, Ailey’s Revelations, Han’s Van Manen’s Polish Pieces, and Ulysses Dove’s Episodes.

Ballet Hispanico launched its 2-week New York season of mixed works at The Joyce Theater, November 30 through December 12. Anna Kisselgorf wrote of the opening night’s "Somthin’ from Nothin" choreographed by David Rousseve in the New York Times: "As vibrant and virtuosic performers Ballet Hispanico's dancers could give any gaggle of pop stars a run for their money in the pelvis-swiveling category. Somethin' From Nothin' makes the case easily, thanks to the company and choreographer's response to a witty salsa score commissioned from Eddie Palmieri, the Latin orchestra leader and jazz pianist. Hard sell, however, is not Ballet Hispanico's style, and Rousseve's images of young people dancing today are filtered through the elegance that Tina Ramirez, the company's founder and director, has imbued into her dancers. In the end, "Somethin"' becomes a showpiece for stylized salsa, less concerned with extravagant charisma than individuality among the performers."

The Dance Theater Workshop’s (DTW) Work of Artists Fall 1999 season gives us the chance to watch Roseane Chamecki and Andrea Lerner continue their investigation of movement (stripped to the bare essentials) in I MUTANTES SERA. During a 2-week season -- December 2-12 @ 8PM -- shared with other choreographers (as is common for all DTW guests) Chamecki and Lerner open our eyes to the facility of the human body. They contort, twitch, slither and fall across the performance space in costumes made of flesh-colored rubber, only to leave behind an ensemble of balloons, and an entertained, if somewhat perplexed, audience.

Choreographer and filmmaker Pooh Kaye will present The Disastrous Act with Eccentric Motions artists: December 16-19 at the Joyce SoHo @ 8PM.

Merce Cunningham Studio Theater will host Kristi Spessard Dance in Topography: landscape of the imagination. Performances run December 9-11 @ 9PM (8PM on the 11th).

The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College will celebrate the 15-year anniversary of Peridance Ensemble with 7 world premieres by the troupes’ choreographer, Igal Perry. Shows run December 16-19 (matinees and evenings). Benefiting organizations are: Free Arts for Abused Children, New York AIDS Coalition, Greenwich House, The Dance Library of Israel, Action Against AIDS, New Alternatives for Children and Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

The Theatre of the Riverside Church in upper west Manhattan (one of my favourite neighborhoods) will present Rosa Mei Dance Company in Messiah: the Dance. Choreographer Rosa Mei describes Messiah in her press release: a mixture of fierce dancing and soulful meditation, a poetic allegory of sharing and exclusion. Performances in the Riverside’s intimate theater run: December 10-19 @ 8Pm and 3Pm on Sundays.

PS 122 ‘s December season looks like this:

Crutch (Bill Shannon), Dec 2-5 @ 8:30PM

I saw me when we were dancing (Toshiko Oiwa), Dec 9-12 @ 8:30PM

New Stuff, Dec 16-19 @ 8:30PM

Being an Australian myself, I can’t leave out the New York season of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus from "down under." Admittedly this group of trapeze artists/acrobats/dancers belongs in a niche of its own, but this niche has yet to be defined. Performances will be at The New Victory Theater from December 3 ‘1999-January 2 2000 at vary times.

Given that this newsletter is dedicated to dance in New York, Broadway simply cannot be forgotten. A large number of dancers in productions such; as Walt Disney’s The Lion King (choreographed by Garth Fagan), Contact (conceived by Susan Stroman and John Weidman) and Swing! (directed and choreographed by Lynn Taylor-Corbett), as well as Radio City Music Hall’s famous Christmas Spectacular: The Rockettes, are working until they drop, in up to 10 shows a week.

On December 7, six film directors will meet to exchange ideas and discuss their work at AFA (2nd Ave and 2nd Street, New York City) @ 7PM. The evening, the ninth in the Dance on Camera series hosted by Dance Films Association (DFA), will feature directors; Skip Blumberg, Doris Chase, Laura Margulies, Dennis Diamond, Gerda Johanna Cammaer, and Amy Greenfield, and their works.

If you are looking for something to do with dance, that isn’t necessarily a performance, don’t miss Imogen Cunningham’s photographs of Martha Graham at the John Stevenson Gallery, New York. For a cyber-glimpse of the exhibition go to: www.johnstevenson-gallery.com

Before I leave this fast and frantic city I feel compelled to share with you the one thing about New York City that impresses me the most: its audiences continue to welcome everything that’s new and experimental in dance, without ever forgetting the artists who have already carved their niche in the city’s cultural landscape. As a result, anyone with "something" to express is welcomed with the notion that "anything goes."

Happy New Year, New Century, New Lease on Life! Don’t forget to reserve your square inch of sidewalk for the turn of the century party of a lifetime in Times Square.


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