Before, Between, and Beyond
Three Decades of Dance Writing
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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Voice of the Zeitgeist
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Some writers belong wholly to their age. They speak in its voice and accent, and in their work one hears its many tonalities—the broad sweeping themes, the minor chords and dissonances, the countless, almost imperceptible variations that enrich the historical moment...
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This collection of writings by Sally Banes covers thirty-odd years, taking us from her young, here-I-am beginnings in a small alternative paper in Chicago to the long, sober, Bakhtin-citing essays she wrote as the highly honored Marian Hannah Winter Professor...
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Sally Banes became a dance writer because of a fear of close spaces. After finishing her undergraduate degree (an interdisciplinary degree in arts criticism) at the University of Chicago, Banes was writing restaurant and theater reviews for Chicago’s weekly newspaper...
Dance before Midnight
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An interesting sequence of events happened last week that’s been on my mind ever since. I haven’t figured them out yet, make of them what you will. I went to see the Pilobolus dance concert at the University of Chicago. The concert promised to be new and revolutionary...
Bizarre Newborn Universe
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Inside Jim Self ’s improvisation at MoMing: Friday evening, and people are gathering in the lounge of the four-story ex-church. Jim goes upstairs to turn on the tape and his two sets of instructions are passed out to the spectator/participants, half receive...
About Quarry, about Meredith Monk
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Ladies & Gentlemen, Meredith Monk will attempt the death-defying feat of presenting history as both a circle and a line in the opera Quarry, a four-ring circus of the Holocaust, at Brooklyn Academy...
Disco Dance: Boogie Down the Blues
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“Artists from all over the world recorded ‘Onda Nueva’ music. It didn’t catch on because it didn’t have a dance,” Tito Puente, the legendary Puerto Rican musician, claims. “Shame on you if you can’t dance to it,” Shirley, the disco singer, scolds. The country has been infected with...
The Art of Ballezz
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Unlike Rob Baker (see Dance Magazine, February 1977), I don’t enjoy the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s ability to do everything— classical, modern, pop, vernacular, and show biz dancing. I do agree that the mixture of physical types, races, and nationalities on stage is exciting—in fact, it’s uniquely democratic and expressive...
Changing and Growing and Changing Colors
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Remy Charlip is a kind of legend. It’s been seven years since New Yorkers have seen a dance that he’s choreographed here, through he has been leaking dances by correspondence into the city from South America and Europe by a method I’ll explain in...
Stepping into Time
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The late 1970s is a period of retrenchment in the arts. We are in a time of uncertainty. The accepted projects of the 1960s have all but exhausted themselves. The very nature of the crisis breeds a respect for the past as if we fear that we have taken the wrong...
David Gordon, or, the Ambiguities
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David Gordon’s work over the past eighteen years has been concerned with finding structures for framing the individual, fleeting act. His focus on the differences between people’s bodies—rather than design or the organization of space—has led him...
Merce Cunningham 101
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If you haven’t seen dances by Merce Cunningham, the best thing to keep in mind when you go to see them at City Center next week is a word Cunningham himself often uses. Flexibility. It applies to so many aspects of the dancing itself: his elastic...
Douglas Dunn Talking Dancing
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In Douglas Dunn’s 101, a dance he made in 1974, he lay motionless for four hours a day, dressed in white overalls with blue and red makeup on his face, on top of a large maze he had constructed in his SoHo loft. The piece questioned a number of expectations...
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“If Lucinda Childs and Laura Dean got married,” a friend mused after we’d seen Molissa Fenley’s Mix, “their child would be just like Molissa Fenley.” Fenley, a young choreographer who has given four works in New York City over the past year, belongs to a generation that has a rich heritage from various modes of postmodern dance....
A Walk on the Wild Side
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Choreographers during the 1960s performed a number of radical operations on modern dance, raising questions about the nature of dance movement as well as the ways it could be put together. Several key tactics that people like Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, Steve...
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The latest tour of the United States by the Bolshoi Ballet was surrounded by controversy at both ends of the New York leg. Rumors preceded their arrival that the Moscow troupe was plagued by infighting, with one faction led by Yuri Grigorovich, the main choreographer and director of the company, and the other by Maya...
Notes on Some Dances
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Dance curator Eric Bogosian organized Dance Day, a benefit for the dance program at The Kitchen. Bogosian has presented a lot of fine dancing there since he took over the dance program a couple of years ago, and his taste and sense of organization were...
Rhythm for the Eyes, Ears, and Soles
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“Geriatric dancing,” Honi Coles called the program at BAM in a mock self-deprecating tone, and everyone in the audience roared with laughter. We knew full well that there’s very little dancing today that’s livelier, sexier, more smashing or breathtaking than that of...
Awhirl in Every Port
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Fancy Free, choreographed in 1944, was Jerome Robbins’s first ballet. It was made for the Ballet Theatre, of which the twenty-five-year-old Robbins had been a member for four years. The ballet was also a triumph for the young Leonard Bernstein, Robbins’s exact...
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Everything about Blauvelt Mountain is finely crafted and compelling. It’s almost too beautiful, too refined. I watched it mesmerized and now I can’t remember very much about it, except the crystalline perfection that gives its athleticism and roughhouse...
Trisha Brown and Fujiko Nakaya Play Misty
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Trisha Brown’s dances always seem to me like docks along different channels of investigation. The dancing and the process of choreographing go on. The performances fix the flow, long enough to let the world catch a glimpse. Brown’s earliest dances...
“Men Together” and Bloolips
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The persistent myth about the male dancer in Western culture is that he is gay. Sometimes the “myth” is true and sometimes it isn’t. Can you tell a person’s sexuality by the way he/she moves? The standard stereotype ignores the fact that some of the strongest, most muscular presences on the dance stage, in this century at least, have been...
Paul Taylor Dance Company
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I met someone at an intermission during the Paul Taylor season at City Center (April 14–May 3) who told me how excited she was by the concert. “It’s the first time I’ve seen avant-garde dance,” she confessed. The same night, a friend complained, “Why doesn’t he...
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All the arts have taken a beating from the recession, inflation, and Reaganism, but dance’s black and blue marks feel especially cruel—the result of fate’s ironies. Perhaps no other art has grown so prodigiously in recent memory. Americans have always danced,...
Nearly Sort of Not Dance Maybe
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Almost Dance was a curious conglomeration of performance art, music, and dance. On the one hand, it represents a new movement, in the 1980s, away from the purism of genres that dominated the 1970s, toward hybrid forms. As in the 1960s, the blurring of boundaries...
Choreographer Steps Spryly into Television
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David Gordon is a New York choreographer who shuttles between avant-garde loft performances and opera house ballets. In 1986 Gordon made the ballet Murder, his second commission by Mikhail Baryshnikov for the American Ballet Theatre. Now Gordon has made television...
Between the Arts
From “Messin’ Around”to “Funky Western Civilization”
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“Shake,” by Sam Cooke, was recorded at the height of the dance instruction song craze of the 1960s. In this genre—which originated in African American dance and music traditions—choreographic instructions are given or “called” while the...
Theatre of Operations
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One of the dilemmas of modern theater and dance is their rivalry with film. In the nineteenth century the stage was a venue for magic, a place that bedazzled the theatergoer with spectacular...
Imagination and Play
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Ericka Beckman was trained as a visual artist. While an MFA student at California Institute of the Arts in 1974–76, she moved from painting into filmmaking. The environment at CalArts was permissive and supportive of interdisciplinary art; Beckman’s mentor, John Baldessari, headed...
The Last Conversation
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In 1947 Sergei Eisenstein choreographed a miniature ballet. Since Eisenstein was a man of the theater and a visual artist as well as a filmmaker, it should not surprise us that he also ventured into the world of dance, although he had no formal dance training...
Homage, Plagiarism,Allusion, Comment,Quotation
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Although choreographers have complained regularly about plagiarism at least since the early nineteenth century, until the Copyright Act of 1976 choreography per se was not protected under U.S. federal statute. But in the twenty years since that law has been...
Institutionalizing Avant-Garde Performance
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The performance avant-garde has historically positioned itself as an oppositional, anti-institutional movement. The usual narrative of the birth of avant-garde performance locates its nineteenth-century roots both in the little-theater movement in France and...
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The smells of Western culture attenuated for much of the twentieth century; modern sanitation reduced “bad” odors in daily life, while changing values diminished the rich use of scents for special occasions, such as religious rituals and theatrical events (see Classen et al. 1994). The beginnings of Western theater in ancient Greek festivals...
Beyond the Millennium
Our Hybrid Tradition
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Although we regularly categorize theatrical dance traditions as “Eastern” or “Western,” and we often speak of cultural hybridity or fusion now as if it were a brand-new phenomenon—in dance, as in world music, an outgrowth of multiculturalism and...
The Scent of a Dance
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Recently, Western culture has been distinctly undergoing a reinvigoration of the senses, including that of smell. (Whether our more fragrant world is a physical fact or a discursive formation—whether, as Foucault pointed out in terms of sex, it’s not that we’re doing it more [smelling,...
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When I lived in the SoHo area of New York City, working as a dance and performance art critic in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was a frequent visitor to The Kitchen Center for Video, Music, and Dance. Recently, while in New York to dig through The Kitchen’s archives in preparation for this article, I saw their production...
“A New Kind of Beauty”
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Following Kant, the Russian-French ballet critic André Levinson states in his 1922 essay “Some Commonplaces on the Dance” that “it [is] difficult to define beauty.”1 A few years later, in his seminal 1925 essay “The Spirit of the Classic Dance,” Levinson remarks...
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Although a great deal of scholarly attention has been paid to representations of women in music videos, very little work has been done on how television-dancing creates gendered images and how women are represented through dancing for the TV camera...
Elephants in Tutus
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In 1942 the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus commissioned the ballet choreographer George Balanchine and modernist composer Igor Stravinsky to create The Ballet of the Elephants for “fifty elephants and fifty beautiful girls.” The elephants wore...
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Publication Year: 2007