Dance: July 2002

Wednesday July 31

NEW TURN IN HOUSTON: It’s been 27 years since Houston Ballet last hired an artistic director. With Ben Stevenson’s resignation, the company’s choice of a new leader will say much about what direction it wants to go. “The perception is that it’s a very good dancing classical company, not a great dancing classical company. … That it had reached a very high level of (technical ability), but it has fallen back a bit,” he said. “Everyone feels there’s a company that they can personally improve. Whether or not that is a reality may be more because of what they’ve toured than what the company really is.” Houston Chronicle 07/28/02

Monday July 29

DANCING AS A CRIME: An Iranian American visiting Iran is arrested there for the crime of dancing. Is dancing dangerous? “The truth is that dance can be about communication, rumination and celebration. It embodies ideas about religion, politics, culture, individuality, survival and more. Is dance dangerous? The governments and religions that try to control and ban it think so. The Khordadian case is not just about one dancer. Before him, people have died for the right to dance or, sometimes, they have just died inside without it.” Los Angeles Times 07/28/02

BUILDING A BRAND: A little good marketing and branding would get England’s National Ballet back on the right track again. “Why has high culture such reticence to get down there and exploit its international reputation to bring in hard cash? Tuesday night showed the wealth of talent in the Royal Ballet, and the genuine charisma and star quality of their principals. But, for all the massive interest in dance, they remain known only to a relatively small and select audience.” The Independent (UK) 07/27/02

Sunday July 28

9/11 REQUIEM: Hopes have not been high for a Banff Centre Canadian-government-funded memorial dance to September 11 set to Verdi’s Requiem. The project has seemed, to many observers, as a bit over-the-top. But the work premiered this week and “if not for the title and a brief still image at the end, Requiem 9/11 has the potential to be a nicely costumed, well-lit and beautifully danced generic expression of mankind’s aspiration to triumph over evil.” National Post (Canada) 07/28/02

Wednesday July 24

STILL MOVING INTO NEW TERRITORY: Merce Cunningham is 83, and the subject of a retrospective at Linoln Center this summer. “For all his reputation as a master producer of impenetrably difficult modern dance, Mr. Cunningham’s long voyage through the art of dance has been surprisingly simple. At heart, this journey of six decades has been a matter of ‘how adroitly you get one foot to the next,’ as he describes his notion of rhythm.” The New York Times 07/24/02

Monday July 22

NOT READY TO CONCEDE THE POINTE: “As regulars at Covent Garden will know, the Royal Ballet is changing. Under the new artistic director Ross Stretton the company is becoming less classical and more modern, less traditional and more adventurous. Today’s ballet dancers need to be versatile, to try anything, even if it means going barefoot.” That’s not good news for the company’s more classically inclined dancers. Dancers like Miyako Yoshida, who are not about to give up a career-long devotion to classical training. The Times (UK) 07/22/02

Sunday July 21

RESTLESS IN PORTLAND: Some people just aren’t meant to stay in one place for too long. Such was the case last winter when James Canfield, the 42-year-old Joffrey alum and choreographer of the Oregon Ballet Theater, called his most senior dancers to his office and announced to them his intention to step down from the company. Canfield has built the OBT into one of the nation’s respected ballet troupes, and was certainly facing no pressure to move on, but he described a restlessness that has become a familiar theme in his professional life, one that has almost always resulted in a career move. What’s next for Canfield is uncertain, but there is no doubt that there will be a next. The New York Times 07/21/02

Friday July 19

AUSTRALIA’S GREATEST DANCER: Russell Page was only 33 when he died suddenly this week. Thursday he was eulogized as “perhaps the most talented dancer Australia has produced, skilled in both the old traditional dances and contemporary forms.” A fiery principal dance with Bangarra Dance Theatre “Page was an amateur daredevil and a truly ‘deadly’footballer, often sneaking off from dance practice to play touch footy with Redfern’s street kids.” Sydney Morning Herald 07/19/02

Wednesday July 17

CITY BALLET FALL: A consensus seems to be building among the critics – New York City Ballet is in a state of alarming decline. Why? “The problem at City Ballet lies partly in what’s being danced. Not only is there less and less Balanchine on view, but much of what’s replacing him comes from a very different, often antagonistic, aesthetic.” New York Observer 07/17/02

Monday July 15

DANCING SOUTH AFRICA: “South African dance is the latest global trend to capture the attention of British audiences. Whether it’s been Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe’s ritual dances of possession, or Gregory Maquoma’s wittily constructed statements of personal and political uncertainty, South African dance has seemed to display an identity refreshingly different from our own.” But coming out of a culture of Apartheid, South African dance is in a precarious state, warns one of its leading practitioners. The Guardian (UK) 07/15/02

BALLET TO OPERA? Kevin Garland’s defection from working on building a new opera house for the Caadian Opera Company to becoming director of the National Ballet of Canada has fired speculation about whether the companies might work together. Is the Ballet going to share the Opera Company’s newly brokered home? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/13/02

CHOREOGRAPHER KILLED: Noted Russian choreographer Yevgeny Panifilov was found stabbed to death in his apartment. “Panfilov, 47, became popular in the early 1980s when he was among the first to create a Russian modern dance group. He was particularly well known for his choreography of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet, which has been performed in major Russian theaters and around the world under his direction.” Nando Times (AP) 07/15/02

Sunday July 14

THROWBACK AT THE KIROV: “Makharbek Vaziev, the dynamic and opinionated 41-year-old director of the legendary Kirov Ballet, represents something of a break with the past. Unlike his recent predecessors, he was not a choreographer or a star dancer, although he danced respectably in principal roles through the early 1990’s. And unlike ballet directors of the Soviet era, he does not seek to modernize the 19th-century classics, the Kirov’s signature pieces. Instead, he has stirred controversy at home and abroad by presenting reconstructions of these ballets in virtually original versions, based on turn-of-the-century choreographic notation.” The New York Times 07/14/02

SORT OF AN ELITIST PR MAN: Gerald Myers has an interesting job, that of philosopher-in-residence at a dance festival. “In layman’s terms, he is trying to give dance the intellectual respectability that many of its practitioners say it lacks. He contends that scholars like the college president who dismissed dance ‘as that hopping and jumping going on down in the gym’ need enlightenment.” The New York Times 07/14/02

Friday July 12

SF BALLET GETS A WINDFALL: “[California governor] Gray Davis approved $20 million in bond financing Thursday to enable the San Francisco Ballet to renovate and expand its Franklin Street headquarters and fund the creation of new productions, including a new “Nutcracker” in 2004. The bonds will be issued by the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, and the Ballet has 30 years to repay the loan.” San Francisco Chronicle 07/12/02

SOFT LANDING: Jacob’s Pillow is 70 years old, and dance luminaries are gathering. “Ted Shawn started the tradition of welcoming the public to ‘Tea Lecture-Demonstrations’ in 1933, and then expanded his invitation into this annual summer festival. Jacob’s Pillow was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest continuing dance festival in the United States.” Christian Science Monitor 07/12/02

Thursday July 11

GENERATIONAL MALAISE? Several longtime New York City Ballet stars retired this season. That means a new generation of dancers is being asked to step up. But too many of them seem underpowered and passionless. “This is all too true of many City Ballet dancers these days: technical facility combined with a near-total lack of expressivity.” New York Observer 07/11/02

DEATH STANDS ALONE: Reception to the news that the Canadian government is helping sponsor a dance production commemorating September 11 set to Verdi’s Requiem has not been good. Celia Franca, founder of Canada’s National Ballet: “The Requiem stands alone. It doesn’t need any embellishment. I’m speaking as a ballet dancer and I love ballet, but I feel I also have respect for music. I think it’s a matter of respect for the way Verdi wrote it, and Verdi didn’t write it with ballet in mind.” Ottawa Citizen 07/11/02

Tuesday July 9

REQUIEM 9/11: A flood of art about and commemorating September 11 is on its way. In Canada, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Ottawa’s Opera Lyra company, and the Banff Centre for the Arts are teaming up for a piece called Requiem 9/11 – a dance set to Verdi’s Requiem. The production funded in part by the Canadian government, has the feel of an official national commemoration. “I think they’re quite relieved to see that we have this unprecedented collaboration that’s truly national in scope and that’s practically been handed over to them.” National Post (Canada) 07/09/02

DANCE AS CORRUPTING FORCE: “A Tehran court has sentenced Iran’s best-known male dancer to a 10-year suspended jail term for promoting corruption among young people by setting up dance classes in the United States, his lawyer said Monday.” Nando Times (AP) 07/08/02

Friday July 5

TOP JOB SWAP: Kevin Garland, head of the Canadian Opera Company, is leaving to run the National Ballet of Canada. National Post (Canada) 07/04/02

Wednesday July 3

SCOTTISH BALLET CHIEF WALKS OUT: Scottish Ballet’s embattled director Robert North has quit is contract a month before it was to end. North has been critical of the company board’s decision to reinvent as a modern dance company. Glasgow Herald 07/02/02

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Katherine Dunham’s name has never been as immediately recognizable as Martha Graham’s, but the 93-year-old dancer/choreographer has contributed arguably as much as Graham to the world of dance. An innovative choreographer, a quietly political crusader, and a devoted student of African and Western dance traditions, Dunham is finally starting to gain the recognition many aficionados feel she has long been deserving of. Boston Globe 07/03/02

Monday July 1

THE DOWN SIDE OF BEING THE TOP GUY: Christopher Wheeldon is arguably the world’s hottest choreographer right now. Does he have any aspirations to run one of the big companies? “I see what artistic directors are going through, and I think it must be one of the worst jobs in the world. You never seem to be able to do what’s right for the company. If you’re trying to push the envelope, you’re attacked for that. If you’re a great advocate for tradition, you are attacked for that.” The Age (Melbourne) 07/01/02

WANTED – A GOOD EDITOR: How long should a dance be? Hard to tell – and choreographers aren’t always the best ones to know. “Novelists submit to editors, and directors and playwrights have dramaturges to help them maximize theatrical impact. Filmmakers trust editors to make the final cut of movies. But choreographers get no such formal assistance while work is being created.” The New York Times 06/30/02

RUNNING OFF TO JOIN THE CIRCUS: For 15 years Sally Ann Isaacks was a star of the Miami City Ballet. But along the way she began to want something different. So she quit the ballet at the end of last season and ran off to join the circus – performing with the Cirque Du Soleil. Miami Herald 06/30/02

CAMP DANCE: Thousands of young dancers across America are off to dance camp. “From early June through late August, many such programs flourish across the country, attracting far more applicants than they accept. While no exact figures on summer programs exist, the January issue of Dance Magazine, in what is considered the most complete listing, included more than 400. The programs are chiefly for young dancers, many of whom hope their progress will be noticed by professionals.” The New York Times 06/30/02

PICTURING BARYSHNIKOV: A new book tells dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov life in pictures. But first he talks about a long career. “In this country, there’s so much dance, so much talent, so much choice. American tradition of entertainment is very strong. We are entertainers, you know, and there’s nothing wrong with that.” The Plain Dealer 07/01/02