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Through the Eyes of a Dancer

Selected Writings

Wendy Perron

Publication Year: 2013

Through the Eyes of a Dancer compiles the writings of noted dance critic and editor Wendy Perron. In pieces for The SoHo Weekly News, Village Voice, The New York Times, and Dance Magazine, Perron limns the larger aesthetic and theoretical shifts in the dance world since the 1960s. She surveys a wide range of styles and genres, from downtown experimental performance to ballets at the Metropolitan Opera House. In opinion pieces, interviews, reviews, brief memoirs, blog posts, and contemplations on the choreographic process, she gives readers an up-close, personalized look at dancing as an art form. Dancers, choreographers, teachers, college dance students--and anyone interested in the intersection between dance and journalism--will find Perron's probing and insightful writings inspiring. Through the Eyes of a Dancer is a nuanced microcosm of dance's recent globalization and modernization that also provides an opportunity for new dancers to look back on the traditions and styles that preceded their own.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


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p. 1-1

Through the Eyes of a Dancer

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pp. 2-3


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p. 4-4


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p. 5-5


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pp. vii-x

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

I appreciate all of my editors, starting with Richard Philp at Dance Magazine, who gave me my first opportunity to publish in 1973. Robb Baker pulled me in to the SoHo Weekly News and let me have free run of the downtown scene. On his (later my) “Concepts in Performance” page, I could define performance however I saw fit. ...

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pp. xv-xxiv

My older brother Reed wrote poetry and would sometimes let me in on the questions he was pondering: What is a poem supposed to do? How is my poetry different from anyone else’s? His letters to me from college and medical school were funny, wise, full of wonder, and alive to paradox. ...

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I. The Sixties

A few years ago, when I came upon an old program from my days as a teenage ballet student, I noticed that the date of our summer recital in Cape Cod was the exact same date as the first Judson Dance Theater concert. So when Sally Banes asked me to contribute a memoir-type story to her anthology Reinventing Dance in the 1960s I couldn’t resist ...

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One Route from Ballet to Postmodern

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pp. 3-16

On July 6, 1962, the day of the first performance of the members of Robert Dunn’s workshop at Judson Memorial Church, I performed with my ballet teacher on Cape Cod. Miss Fokine (Michel’s niece, Irine) took a group of students to Nauset Light Beach, where we had class for two hours every morning and late afternoon ...

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II. The Seventies

The three years I wrote for the SoHo Weekly News roughly coincided with the years I danced with Trisha Brown’s company—1975 to 1978. My deadlines were on Fridays, so I would stay up late Thursday night, stalling till around midnight, and then devour a pint of Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream. ...

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Barbara Lloyd (Dilley)

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pp. 19-20

Decades after I wrote this for Deborah Jowitt and Marcia Siegel’s writing course, Deborah asked me about the review I’d written on Barbara Lloyd (who was later known as Barbara Dilley) dancing nude. I had no memory of it and said, “I never saw Barbara Dilley naked.” But when I looked in my old files, there it was—a carbon copy, typed on two pages. ...

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Followable Dancing: Mary Overlie and David Gordon

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pp. 21-23

The unison between David Gordon and Valda Setterfield that I describe in the second half of this review floors me anew. In a way, it was the foundation for the next thirty-six years of their work together, though they haven’t actually danced with each other all that time. Their onstage partnership is very different now—his dancing ability has faded as his playwriting talents have risen; ...

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People Improvisation: Grand Union

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pp. 24-26

This viewing of the Grand Union took place in the last year of that legendary improvisation group’s six-year life. Trisha Brown and Steve Paxton had already left to do their own work. I don’t think it lasted much beyond this date, but oh, what a group it was. Seeing the Grand Union at a gallery, loft, or student center was part of our lives in the downtown dance world. ...

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Consuming Determination: Lucinda Childs

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pp. 27-28

I am going to press shortly after seeing Lucinda perform Pastime, a solo she made at Judson Church in 1964, at Danspace as part of its Judson Now series. She climbed inside a little boat-like container, wrapping herself in a length of jersey à la Martha Graham, and slowly extended a leg out. Simple and stunning. ...

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Older Is Better

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pp. 29-31

So many young dancers have breezed into town in the last few years that it seems like an invasion of the small, we’re-all-friends dance community in New York. For my own mental clearinghouse, I would love to be able to discount them all by deciding they’re talentless or pushy or tasteless. They’re not. ...

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Exporting SoHo

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pp. 32-36

Looking back on this moment of European presenters’ fascination with the American avant-garde, I realize that it’s gone the opposite direction recently: American presenters are now rushing to import the latest European artists. And I think that’s partly because of the seeds sown in Europe by American artists during this very period I talk about below. ...

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Improvisation: The Man Who Gets Away with It—Radio Host James Irsay

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pp. 37-38

I was thinking about improvisation so much that I decided to write a series on it. I led off with a quote from Frances Alenikoff, a dancer/choreographer/writer who had made a solo for me a few years before. I decided to extend my definition of improvisation to James Irsay, my favorite wayward radio host. ...

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Only an Illusion: On Street Performers

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pp. 39-41

A woman I met in Paris in 1972 had told me to keep an eye out for her ex-boyfriend, a street performer and tight-rope artist named Philippe Petit. I started seeing him in Greenwich Village soon after, and later learned of his death-defying hike between the Twin Towers. At the same time, New York was—and still is—rich with street performers. ...

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Starting from Nothing: Michael Moschen

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pp. 42-44

I went to the Big Apple Circus looking for Philippe Petit and found Michael Moschen. I didn’t know anything about circus arts, so this piece became a hybrid that’s part review, part interview (in italics), and part profile. Today Moschen, who received a MacArthur “genius grant” in 1990, is widely considered a visionary artist who transformed juggling into a concert form. ...

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Masters of Surprise: Baryshnikov and Astaire

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pp. 45-49

There is no way I could have guessed that Mikhail Baryshnikov would become more than a superstar ballet dancer. As artistic director of American Ballet Theatre, he led that magnificent company for a decade; he started his own adventurous modern dance company (White Oak Dance Project); and he created his own presenting space, Baryshnikov Arts Center, in midtown. ...

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Interview with Susan Sontag: On Writing, Art, Feminism, Life, and Death

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pp. 50-57

After reading Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation (both the essay and the book containing the essay), I couldn’t get enough of her. She became a role model as an artist, a critic, and a feminist. The occasion of this interview was the release of her book On Photography. I met with her in her apartment near Columbia University, camouflaging my awe by acting casual and even, at times, almost rude. ...

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Dumb Art: Beautiful but Not Too Bright

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pp. 58-64

As a Trisha Brown dancer and a writer/editor of the “Concepts in Performance” page, I was steeped in conceptual art. Possibly as a reaction, I began to take special pleasure in art that was somehow non-brainy, preverbal. I probably was also influenced by Sontag’s plea, in Against Interpretation, to look at the sensuous surface of a work rather than “excavating” or analyzing it. ...

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III. The Eighties

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pp. 65-68

The eighties was my busiest decade so there was less time to write. I think I got more gigs as a choreographer because my work became more defined. I had a voice, and it was part of the zeitgeist. I was one of the downtown, “postmodern” choreographers; we were each working to unearth our own, like-no-one-else’s movement. ...

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Bausch, Brecht, and Sex: Kontakthof by Pina Bausch

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pp. 69-71

In the last couple of decades of Pina Bausch’s life, her work was full of pleasure, so it’s easy to forget how disturbing the earlier pieces were. This review certainly brings that back to me. I happened to be in Basel, performing my own solo in a gallery at the same time that Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch was there. ...

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The Structure of Seduction

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pp. 72-74

In May of 1985 I was still wallowing in heartache over sculptor Don Judd, who had ended our relationship abruptly a few months before. I was a wreck . . . in a funk . . . wearing the same flannel shirt every day for a year. I tried to understand how I’d fallen so hard. Making pronouncements on the nature of obsession probably helped me to feel that I had some control over it. ...

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Book Review: The Intimate Act of Choreography

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pp. 75-80

I would never have given this book a second glance. But Sally Banes, who was the editor of Dance Research Journal at the time, persuaded me to review it by saying I could use the book as a springboard to write about whatever it brought to mind. And what it brought to mind was teaching. I always loved teaching dance composition. ...

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The Holes in Tin Quiz—Notes on My Duet

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pp. 81-82

While working on Tin Quiz with the young dancer Donald Fleming in 1982 and ’83, part of the process was getting to know each other in the studio. I gradually realized how brilliantly spontaneous Donald could be—and I wanted to draw on that gift to make a duet. I remember too that Donald was the first person I heard mention AIDS. ...

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Containing Differences in Time—My Choreographic Process

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pp. 83-91

This was my only real attempt to describe my choreographic process, which was usually way more fraught than I let on here. Regarding the making of Standard Deviation, all I say here about my doubts is that I considered separating the two parts into two different pieces. In actuality, I agonized over the decision for weeks. ...

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Shoot for the Moon, but Don’t Aim Too Hard—On J. D. Salinger

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pp. 92-98

J. D. Salinger’s books have always been my favorites to read and reread. I decided to write him a letter in 1982, knowing full well of his reclusive nature. But like many of his readers, I felt I knew him—or knew Holden, or Buddy, or Zooey, or Phoebe. It was a pleasant shock to receive a letter in reply. ...

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IV. The Nineties

Over the years I became increasingly bothered by how critics handle (and possibly abuse) their authority. When I wrote “Beware the Egos of Critics” in 1991, I wanted to drive home the point that critics are as subjective as artists in what they bring to the public. ...

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Beware the Egos of Critics

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pp. 101-104

This tirade was part of a series initiated by Voice theater editor Ross Wetzsteon called “Crritic!” In his opening salvo, Ross said he chose that title because that word, spelled this way, had been the ultimate insult—one notch beyond “Cretin!”—uttered by Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. ...

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Trisha Brown on Tour

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pp. 105-109

I had written an advance article on Trisha Brown for the New York Times Arts & Leisure section that was ultimately “killed.” The assignment fell between two editors who didn’t communicate clearly with each other. That was the first time I approached Arts & Leisure (well before John Rockwell was its editor). ...

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American Dance Guild Concert Review

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pp. 110-111

For a few years I produced radio programs for WBAI, the Pacifica, listener-supported community radio station in New York City. Usually I interviewed artists, but I also occasionally wrote reviews and read them over the air—not my favorite way to do radio. This particular review later saw print in the American Dance Guild’s newsletter. ...

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Love Is the Crooked Thing: Paris Opéra Ballet

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pp. 112-113

When I started writing for the Voice again, I wanted to challenge myself to write ballet reviews. I guess I was still smarting from what Doris Hering had said about my writing years before. I was grateful to Elizabeth Zimmer, who was editing the dance reviews at the Voice, for trusting me enough to let me cover this age-old, purely classical company—which I had never seen before. ...

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Book Review: Jill Johnston’s Marmalade Me Reissued

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pp. 114-115

In the late sixties I occasionally read Jill Johnston in the Village Voice. Though I appreciated her out-there imagination, her writing seemed incoherent to me. It wasn’t until I read the first edition of her collection, Marmalade Me, that I was captivated. She made no attempt at “objectivity” in her observations, but rather reveled in her subjectivity. ...

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Looking Back on the “Embodiment of Ecstasy”—Sara Rudner

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pp. 116-119

This feature story, written in advance of an anniversary event I was part of, had the biggest real-life impact of anything I’ve ever written. A musician named Christopher von Baeyer, who had been Sara Rudner’s sweetheart in college, read it in his Sunday New York Times in Seattle and decided then and there to recontact Sara. ...

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The Power of Stripping Down to Nothingness—The Butoh Diaspora

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pp. 120-123

The growing presence of butoh in all its intensity and strangeness has enriched the international dance scene. Watching one of these performance was like being inside a dream that could turn into a nightmare at any moment. I decided to go on a search for what was “authentic” butoh and why its slow-motion imagery packed such a punch. ...

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The New Russia: Sasha Pepelyaev’s Kinetic Theatre

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pp. 124-126

When I started visiting the Soviet Union in the eighties, I happily sated my curiosity about the land of pure ballet. But I saw no modern dance. Someone explained to me that this form of “free expression” did not exist there. It was considered too American and therefore corrupt. You weren’t even allowed to utter the words “modern dance.” ...

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V. From 2000 to 2004

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pp. 127-130

In January 2000 I was asked to speak on a panel about how women are discriminated against in dance and how the men get all the breaks. I had been so angry about this in the seventies that I had co-written (with choreographer Stephanie Woodard) an exposé of male privilege in the dance world. ...

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Seeing Balanchine, Watching Whelan

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pp. 131-134

On my first visit to New York City Ballet as a critic, I hit the jackpot with Wendy Whelan. She had a kinetic sizzle that transcended the conventional pretty-girl ballet aesthetic. It made me sit up, pay attention, and learn her name. At the same time, I reacted against the triple dose of Balanchine and vowed never to attend an all-Balanchine program again. ...

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Merce at Martha@Mother—Richard Move

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pp. 135-137

The popularity of Richard Move’s nightclub act revealed the need—indeed the craving—that many of us had to relive, or maybe revise, the Martha Graham experience. I started studying at the Graham school at fifteen and was a scholarship student there my first year out of college. I’d moved on from my fascination with “Martha” long ago, ...

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Moving, Joyfully and Carefully, into Old Age

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pp. 138-141

With this story, I uncovered a treasure trove of mind/body wisdom. Asking dancers how they dealt with the aging body was far more interesting—and entertaining—than consulting medical professionals. It also helped me to remember why I still identified as a dancer, even though I was in the midst of transitioning from being a dancer who writes a little to an editor/writer who dances a little. ...

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An Improbable Pair on a Quest into the Past—Baryshnikov and Rainer

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pp. 142-146

To me this was a miraculous coming together of two vastly different worlds—two worlds that I had inhabited at different times in my life. Although Mikhail Baryshnikov had worked with modern dancers from Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey to David Gordon, I couldn’t imagine him cottoning to feminist firebrand Yvonne Rainer. ...

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Katherine Dunham: One-Woman Revolution

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pp. 147-151

As a teenager I had loved Katherine Dunham’s autobiography, A Touch of Innocence, for its eloquent writing before I knew anything about her as a dancer. I remembered that she grew up so poor she had to wear cardboard shoes. I never saw her dance onstage, but my mother told me what a beautiful, sensual dancer she had been—which you can easily glean from YouTube clips. ...

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Martha Clarke: Between Terror and Desire

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pp. 152-156

Not since my interview with Susan Sontag twenty-three years earlier did I have the sensation that every sentence my subject uttered was worth repeating. Martha Clarke was keenly in tune with her own psyche, and her fertile imagination spilled over in every direction. We laughed a lot. ...

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Misha’s New Passion: Judson Dance Theater

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pp. 157-162

As it turned out, Mikhail Baryshnikov’s collaboration with Yvonne Rainer (see “An Improbable Pair on a Quest into the Past,” Section V) was a prelude to a larger project. Misha’s Past Forward tour was similar to the Bennington College Judson Project I had organized twenty years earlier in that both drew on the seminal Judson period of the early sixties. ...

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Living with AIDS: Six Dancers Share Their Stories

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pp. 163-169

When I joined the editorial team of Dance Magazine, I was asked, What is the issue we are not covering? My immediate answer was AIDS. The disease had ravaged the dance community, yet not much had been written about it in the magazine. I was devastated when my friend Harry Sheppard died in 1992, and that was just one death of thousands. ...

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Irina Loves Maxim—ABT’s Russian Couple

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pp. 170-174

I’ve always found that Russians, if they are not completely dour, have a sharp sense of humor. So it was with Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, two of the most classically trained ballet dancers in New York. This profile was the first section of a five-couple story for our Valentine issue with the headline “Irina Loves Maxim . . . and other real-life pas de deux.” ...

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Twyla Tharp: Still Pushing the Boundaries

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pp. 175-181

This cover story came at a time of transition in Twyla Tharp’s work. When I watched her rehearsal, it seemed like she was reaching a peak of a certain genre of dancing to music—or, shall I say, another peak, since In the Upper Room (1986) had certainly been a peak. She was a master of “pure dance,” and this was clear at the photo shoot, where she improvised for three hours straight, without even a sip of water. ...

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The Struggle of the Black Artist to Dance Freely

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pp. 182-185

In the late nineties I sometimes had lunch with Joe Nash, the revered historian of blacks in dance. We both worked at the “God Box,” the Interchurch Center building at 120th Street and Riverside Drive. I was stationed at Physicians for Social Responsibility, he at the National Council of Churches. ...

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A Dance Turns Darker, Its Maker More American—Patricia Hoffbauer

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pp. 186-189

When I asked Patricia Hoffbauer to dance with me in 1991, I had no idea she would develop into such an outrageous performance artist. She managed to combine an almost slapstick humor with a scholar’s erudition. Her duets with George Sanchez poked delicious fun at the budding fields of performance theory and cultural identity studies. ...

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Paying Heed to the Mysteries of Trisha Brown

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pp. 190-194

As I look this piece over, I think of the last time I performed Trisha’s work, in January 2012. It wasn’t on a stage, but in an art gallery for a benefit to raise money for the Trisha Brown Dance Company archives. As part of the event, which doubled as her seventy-fifth birthday party, five of us alumnae—all women in our sixties—lined up to do her “Spanish Dance.” ...

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East (Coast) Meets West (Coast): Eiko & Koma Collaborate with Anna Halprin

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pp. 195-199

This October issue of Dance Magazine came out just before September 11. That morning I was supposed to go to a meeting at the New School. Although both World Trade towers had already been hit and I had seen the footage on television, I stupidly thought the meeting might still go on. So I packed three copies of the issue to give to colleagues and took the subway downtown. ...

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Bill T. Jones Searches for Beauty, and a New Home

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pp. 200-204

Well, he found a new home, but it’s not in Harlem as he had envisioned. In 2011 Bill T. Jones merged his company with the venerable presenter of contemporary dance in Chelsea, Dance Theater Workshop, to form New York Live Arts. One of the factors that made this possible is that Jones had pulled in a pile of money from two Broadway shows: ...

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Snip, Snip: Dance, Too, Needs Editing

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pp. 205-207

After years of anxiety when starting to choreograph, I learned to just doodle or noodle to get any kind of movement going, and then I’d have something to play around with and reshape. It’s in the editing stage when the piece tells me where it wants to go. From the other side, as an audience member, it’s sometimes frustrating to see where or how a piece could have been edited to save itself. ...

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Batsheva Dance Company: Naharin’s Virus

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pp. 208-210

For the first Batsheva appearance in New York since Ohad Naharin took over twelve years before, they brought a piece that showed all the strangeness and emotional power he’s capable of. Although I had loved his Sinking of the Titanic (which he made in 1990 when he was still in New York) for its beautifully sad vision, ...

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Kirov Classics Hit and Miss

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pp. 211-212

Although it was the Bolshoi’s fierce abandon that made me fall in love with Russian ballet, the Kirov captured my imagination with its ethereal port de bras. Perhaps because of my high expectations, I came down hard on the company in this review. ...

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Way Up High, Soaring, Floating, Diving, Dancing—Joanna Haigood

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pp. 213-216

I had found Joanna Haigood’s Invisible Wings at Jacob’s Pillow in 1998 absolutely haunting. Her own performance as a runaway slave, her transformation of the Pillow landscape, and her aerial work to represent both folklore and freedom transported the audience back to another time. The piece was epic in its embodiment of how black culture turned suffering into hope. ...

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Russia Makes Room for Contemporary Dance

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pp. 217-220

As I mentioned in my review of Sasha Pepelyaev (“The New Russia” in “The Nineties”), I was interested in the new dance scene in Russia. I heard about Lisa First, the mover and shaker from Minneapolis who organized exchanges with Russia, and got myself invited to her festival. There I saw that Pepelyaev was the tip of the iceberg. Modern and postmodern dance had taken root all over Russia. ...

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Wendy Whelan: The Edgy Ballerina

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pp. 221-224

Wendy Whelan transformed ballet into something new for me, something utterly contemporary (see “Seeing Balanchine, Watching Whelan,” in Section V). I felt charged up to try to describe her dancing for this cover story. The other editors at Dance Magazine—they were in the California office and probably had never seen Whelan dance—deemed my descriptions too effusive, so they scaled back my praise. ...

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VI . From 2004 to 2007

The moment I was appointed editor in chief of Dance Magazine in February 2004, my workload increased exponentially. I was editing, assigning, writing connective bits, interviewing, and meeting constantly. It took at least a year to figure out how to delegate among my small staff— which is why there is nothing here from 2004 and only one review from 2005. ...

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Tere O’Connor Dance

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pp. 227-252

Tere O’Connor’s work ricochets between chaotic and geometric, absurd and natural, robotic and raunchy. Frozen Mommy, premiered at the Kitchen last year and brought back by popular demand, crystallized the rhythms of ambivalence. ...

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Lori Belilove and the Isadora Duncan Dance Company

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pp. 228-229

When my mother taught “interpretive” dance in our basement (from 1952 to ’55), she would sometimes give us the “Isadora skip” across the floor. You skip on the left leg with the right knee coming forward while you round your back, and then you skip on the right leg as you arch your back and the left leg swings behind you. ...

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Susan Marshall & Company

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pp. 230-231

Enchanting. Whimsical. Magical. It’s hard to say why Susan Marshall’s latest work is so satisfying. A string of gently surreal vignettes, Cloudless reveals a sexy imagination and a bemusement about human connection. Stripped of the elaborate costume and set elements Marshall has used in recent years, Cloudless makes clever use of the occasional chair, table, and ladder, ...

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Stan Won’t Dance

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pp. 232-257

Like the movie Brokeback Mountain, the British group Stan Won’t Dance brings the danger of gay love to center stage. The place is a smoky gay pub in London, and the movement idiom is rough-edged Contact Improvisation with sinister overtones. ...

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Urban Bush Women

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pp. 233-258

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar goes to extremes of emotion that most choreographers never get near. This concert (one of two programs) brought on a sharp, spicy joy as well as overwhelming feelings of grief and rage. ...

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Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People

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pp. 234-235

Nietzsche called that very rare person who can handle uncertainty an “übermensch.” In the same vein, or so its seems, Gutierrez is calling his group the “powerful people.” They are the ones, in Nietzsche’s words, who “dance on the edge of the abyss,” who do not depend on what’s known or familiar. ...

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American Ballet Theatre

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pp. 236-238

The night that Julio Bocca gave his farewell performance, the Metropolitan Opera House turned into a stadium of yelling, cheering fans who threw things at the stage—oranges and flags—even from the highest side balconies. Each principal dancer who had partnered him, from Cynthia Gregory to Julie Kent, showered him with kisses and flowers. ...

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Book Review: Feelings Are Facts: A Life, by Yvonne Rainer

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pp. 239-241

For generations of dancers, Yvonne Rainer is an avant-garde icon. In the sixties she was a moving force behind Judson Dance Theater, the incubator of postmodern dance. With an Olympian stubbornness, she was hell-bent on making her rough-hewn, “difficult” dances. She was a feminist and antiwar activist who spoke her mind. ...

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New York City Ballet: Winter Season 2007

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pp. 242-245

My original first sentence of this review was “American Ballet Theatre has the men, but New York City Ballet has the women.” At that time ABT famously had the most spectacular contingent of male dancers on the planet—Herman Cornejo, Ethan Stiefel, Angel Corella, Jose Manuel Carreño, and on and on. (All but Cornejo have retired from ABT.) ...

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Enchanted by Cuba

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pp. 246-250

Havana is a city where, when you tell a taxi driver to take you to the theater to see a ballet, he (or she) asks, “Who is dancing tonight?” Tickets for the biannual International Ballet Festival of Havana are sold out weeks in advance. The audience, a mix of all economic classes, bursts into applause when their favorites appear. ...

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VII. From 2007 to 2012

The Internet explosion affected everything about magazine publishing. In the blogosphere I found a more immediate outlet for my (at times swoony) enthusiasms and (at times cantankerous) observations. It also became a way to engage in the online conversations that were heating up in the dance world. ...

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A Brave, Illuminating, Terrific New Book—Carolyn Brown on Cunningham and Cage

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pp. 253-254

This book is one dancer’s account of working with one choreographer. I learned so much about Cunningham’s early work that it made me want to re-see his choreography right away and apply the new knowledge. Not theoretical knowledge, but something more real: knowing what a struggle it was to become accepted ...

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New York City Ballet: Winter Season 2008

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pp. 255-257

The big news this season was Mauro Bigonzetti’s world premiere Oltremare (Beyond the sea). It transformed the stage at New York State Theater into a dark place, full of uncertainty yet rich with emotion. Gone were the upright, clean, pure bodies with sparkling tutus or sleek leotards. ...

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New Works Festival: San Francisco Ballet

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pp. 258-260

This festival of ten world premieres, celebrating SFB’s seventy-fifth anniversary, put its faith in contemporary ballet. Almost all the works had live music (hallelujah!) and elegant sets. I would wager that six of them will have long lives. ...

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Akram Khan’s Bahok

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pp. 261-262

Akram Khan embodies a contemporary global perspective that has changed the dance landscape in England and beyond. Bahok, like his previous pieces, transformed culture clashes into art. His work is very physical, not at all theoretical. In Bahok, it was the light moments, the humorous miscommunications, that revealed how deeply we are all connected. ...

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Flamenco Master in Silence: Was Israel Galván Improvising?

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pp. 263-288

On a terrace in front of the Hispanic Society of America up in Washington Heights, Israel Galván walked out to dance on a small platform. Dressed in black, he started by clapping his hands in that special flamenco way (palmas), feeling the rhythm well up inside him. This usually happens when the dancer and musicians are setting up their rhythms together. ...

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Trey McIntyre Project

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pp. 264-265

Trey Mclntyre is doing something right. Anchored in strong craft, his dances invite the audience to enjoy his mix of classical ballet, playful movement invention, and down-home humor. His music choices are full of pleasure and we walk out smiling. A great start for his newly full-time company, based in Boise, Idaho. ...

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Pacific Northwest Ballet: All Tharp

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pp. 266-267

Not every brilliant choreographer can be tapped for three ballets that, when put together, yield a varied, satisfying evening. Upping the ante in PNB’s “All Tharp” program was the fact that two of the three ballets were world premieres. ...

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Boston Ballet: Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes Centennial Celebration

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pp. 268-269

The year 2009 saw many ballet companies paying tribute to the Ballets Russes, which was launched by Serge Diaghilev in 1909. But it was only this program at Boston Ballet that led me to an epiphany about the mystique of the legendary company: It was all about forbidden desire. Yes, the period was famous for the interdisciplinary collaborations that Diaghilev masterminded. ...

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Spoleto Festival (Festival dei 2Mondi)

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pp. 270-273

Alessandra Ferri, new director of dance at Spoleto’s interdisciplinary Festival of Two Worlds, organized three programs of international significance. One program, Choreography Today, gathered works by three of the hottest ballet choreographers alive: Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, and Wayne McGregor. ...

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The Forsythe Company: Decreation

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pp. 274-275

In Decreation,the performers each find a fertile center of madness within themselves. From the first moments, when Dana Caspersen yanks herself by the collar while reciting both sides of a conversation from poet Anne Carson’s “Decreation,” to the last, when one dancer sits atop a table while others lunge at her, the characters careen toward insanity or violence. ...

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Twyla’s New Musical Flies, But . . .

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pp. 276-277

What a ride Come Fly with Me is! It’s great to see Twyla Tharp return to Frank Sinatra; she gives his songs such zing. The women are luscious, totally in charge of their sexuality. This piece, which just opened at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, is midway between Nine Sinatra Songs and Movin’ Out in terms of narrative. ...

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International Exposure—The Tel Aviv Festival

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pp. 278-281

This festival of bracing Israeli dance spanning twenty-seven choreographers (I caught only eleven) concluded with Israel’s crowning glory, Batsheva Dance Company. Other exciting pieces included Barak Marshall’s Rooster and Inbal Pinto’s Trout. (It was a week for animals.) ...

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Lemi Ponifasio

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pp. 282-307

A mysterious, cataclysmic piece, Tempest: Without Body descended on the audience like an apocalypse. Starting in dimness with noise so loud that you felt your seat vibrate (sound composition by Russel Walder, Marc Chesterman, and Ponifasio), the piece features a huge, thick, textured wall that hangs in the upper reaches of the stage space. ...

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Necessary Weather (revival)—Dana Reitz and Sara Rudner

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pp. 283-308

An oasis of calm, light, and exquisite simplicity, Necessary Weather is an extraordinary 1994 collaboration between two dancers and a lighting master. Although Dana Reitz came up with the concept, Jennifer Tipton’s lights and Sara Rudner’s dancing contribute equally. ...

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Why Don’t Women Make Dances Like That Any More?

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pp. 284-285

Like a bat out of hell, each woman bounded across the space with leap/runs, hands in fists, face set in determination. The all-female ensemble of Sketches from “Chronicle” (1936), led powerfully by Jennifer DePalo, worked up to a fever pitch, infusing the spare geometry of Graham’s choreography with energy and resolve. ...

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Blogging about the Process of Choreography—Ugh!

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pp. 286-287

I have to admit that when I wrote this, I wasn’t remembering that I myself had written about my creative process (“Containing Differences in Time,” in “The Eighties.”) Now, of course, that irony is not lost on me. However, as I tried to make clear in the posting, which turned out to be inflammatory (see postscript), I was objecting not to the after-the-fact account, ...

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The Times They Are A-Changin’

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pp. 288-291

In our second Race Issue (the first was in 2005), we set ourselves this simple question: How diverse is the up-and-coming generation? This soon splintered into other questions: What opportunities are available to young dancers of color? How are students engaging with cultures other than their own? What is diversity, anyway? ...

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Biennale de la Danse de Lyon

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pp. 292-294

Where else does a dance festival overtake an entire city? With forty companies spread out over thirty-four venues (plus three outdoor sites), this year’s Biennale de la Danse was the main event in France’s second largest city. It attracted ninety-five thousand spectators, young and old (not counting the even larger number that showed up for the parade that opens the festival). ...

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Ralph Lemon

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pp. 295-320

Ralph Lemon’s piece was so resistant to the expectations of performance—and yet so powerful—that I found myself writing in the form of Yvonne Rainer’s famous No Manifesto (see “An Improbable Pair on a Quest into the Past,” Section V). ...

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Crystal Pite

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pp. 296-297

This piece blew me away. The only way I could think to describe the impact was to use three adjectives followed by periods. Looking over my past reviews, I discovered, with chagrin, that I had employed the same device four years earlier in my review of Susan Marshall’s Cloudless (in “From 2004 to 2007”). I hereby vow never to use it again. ...

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Politeness: Is It Crucial to the Future of Ballet?

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pp. 298-300

Jennifer Homans’s Apollo’s Angels caused a stir when the last chapter, “The Masters Are Dead and Gone,” was posted by the New Republic online. This was the conclusion to a 500-page book that claimed to detail the history of ballet. A former student at the School of American Ballet, Homans is an exemplary member of the Church of Balanchine. ...

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National Ballet of Canada

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pp. 301-302

With this triple bill, the National Ballet of Canada plunged headlong into ultra-contemporary weirdness in ballet and came up triumphant. They are the first company outside of the Royal Ballet to dance Wayne McGregor’s astonishing Chroma. In this landmark work, the glare of lights seems to push the dancers into extreme territory, ...

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Is Appropriation the Same as Stealing and Why Is It Happening More Now?

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pp. 303-306

I took offense to Sarah Michelson’s obvious appropriation of In the Upper Room, Twyla Tharp’s 1986 masterwork, but it seemed that no one else did. Perhaps appropriation is just an accepted part of the culture now. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. After I posted this blog I learned about choreographers who “borrow” in a more transparent way than Michelson in her piece Devotion. ...

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Is There a Blackout on Black Swan’s Dancing?

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pp. 307-308

Aside from the horrific portrayal of a ballet dancer gone mad (Natalie Portman) in Darren Aronofsky’s popular movie Black Swan, I was again bothered by the lack of credit given. In this case, Sarah Lane, a beautiful soloist at American Ballet Theatre, served as a double for Portman: In the more technical dance scenes, Lane’s pirouettes and pointe work were shot instead of Portman’s. ...

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Putting the Black Swan Blackout in Context

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pp. 309-310

After reading my previous blog, a mutual friend contacted me and put me in touch with Sarah Lane. This is what I posted after that talk. It generated a furor online, both for and against Sarah, and for and against Portman. Some entertainment websites picked it up and escalated the controversy, claiming that Portman would not have won the Oscar if the judges had known how little of the dancing she’d done. ...

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Can a Floor Give You Spiritual Energy? Ask Jared Grimes

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pp. 311-312

A surge of energy went through the crowd the moment Jared took the mike and vamped to the beat of his own voice. What a natural—as a dancer, as a host, and as a voice of encouragement to younger dancers. ...

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Eiko & Koma: The Unnatural Side of Communing with Nature

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pp. 313-315

Eiko’s face floats, partially submerged in the water, like a bright moon gliding across a dark sky. She is a doomed Ophelia who is rescued by Koma. The driftwood that mysteriously sails toward them is their survival raft, but it also ensnares them in some kind of trap. ...

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Merce’s Other Legacy

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pp. 316-317

Yesterday I witnessed the very last night of Merce on Earth. I mean the last Legacy Tour date at the Park Avenue Armory. But I’m not going to talk about the event because plenty of dance writers have and will. Sure it was nice to see the dancers and guess what piece they were excerpting. ...

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A Debate on Snark

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pp. 318-320

This post—and the panel discussion it was based on—garnered support from many dancers. Not surprisingly, a couple dance critics voiced their displeasure. I guess I got what I deserved. On the other hand, Robert Johnson, whom I take issue with here, remains a buddy; we often enjoy disagreeing with each other. ...

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The Joffrey Ballet

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pp. 321-322

With this bold triple bill, the Joffrey reclaims its place as the edgy American ballet company. No, it’s not Robert Joffrey’s sexy, trippy Astarte of 1967. It’s not Tharp’s visionary hybrid Deuce Coupe of 1973. And it’s not the company’s brilliant 1987 reconstruction of Nijinsky’s riot-inducing Rite of Spring of 1913. ...

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pp. 323-324

What follows was a spoken story for From the Horse’s Mouth in February 2010. I have been part of this roving framework several times since its inception in 1998. Masterminded by Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham, the dance involves thirty or so performers. One at a time, they talk for a minute and a half while others dance in an improvised structure. ...


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pp. 325-326


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pp. 327-343

E-ISBN-13: 9780819574091
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819574077

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013