Dance: September 2002

Sunday September 29

SOUND MOVEMENT: “No one goes to the ballet for the conductor. But conductors matter.” Music matters too – and there can be a tension between what serves the music and what serves the movement. Which should take the lead? The New York Times 09/29/02

DANCE DIALOGUE: Boston has traditionally been a tough sell for modern dance. So presenters have started a program to not only bring significant dance companies to the city, but also create a dialogue for them with the city. ”We’re hoping to create an across-the-board ferment of interest in dance, to raise the level of awareness.” Boston Globe 09/29/02

Friday September 27

ROUSTING ROSS: Ross Stretton’s ouster as director of London’s Royal Ballet was the result of many factors. “They certainly made the right decision, artistically. Stretton’s first two seasons showed that he had little instinct for either the scope of the job or the character of the company. If he had carried on, it was reasonable to fear for the loss of the Royal Ballet’s unique character, as programming became blandly internationalised.” The Telegraph (UK) 09/27/02

  • WONDERING WHY STRETTON RESIGNED: More speculation about why Ross Stretton quit as director of London’s Royal Ballet, including “accusations of sexual liaisons with ballerinas and a series of behind-the-scenes-rows”. But “ballet unions and management yesterday denied the alleged affairs had played a part in the departure of Stretton, 50, as artistic director.” The Age (Melbourne) 09/27/02
  • ON THE OUTS: Stretton was always the outsider – in Australia when he ran the Australian Ballet, and at the Royal. “Ross is a one-man show. He does it his way. He could do that in Australia but not at the Royal Ballet. That’s not the way it works. It’s too big, and there are too many people involved.” Sydney Morning Herald 09/27/02

Thursday September 26

UNHAPPY DEPARTURE: Ross Stretton’s abrupt departure from the artistic directorship of the Royal Ballet was messy. “After months of mounting resentment about his management style, and whispered accusations of favouritism, his departure after only a year is a humiliating blow to Covent Garden. Publicly, dancers had accused him of confusing audiences by changing advertised casts and making them feel uncertain whether they would be performing in productions until the last minute. Privately, more fundamental concerns were expressed.” The Guardian (UK) 09/26/02

TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE TO THE SIDE: So how is the Boston Ballet faring under its new leader? Mikko Nissinen has certainly brought buzz back to the city’s dance scene, and most reviewers agree that the quality of performance was up in this season’s opener. But an artistic director can only do so much, and Boston Ballet continues to have something of a bush-league feel: “All four musicians’ names are unconscionably omitted from the program; the insert and the program diverge on the number of intermissions (there are two, not one); the running time is badly underestimated (it’s close to two and a half hours); and after 10 years they still can’t spell principal ballerina Pollyana Ribeiro’s name right.” Boston Phoenix 09/26/02

Wednesday September 25

STRETTON RESIGNS: Ross Stretton, controversial artistic director of London’s Royal Ballet for only one season, has resigned. “Recent reports that dancers were ‘infuriated’ by the Australian’s methods were followed by a series of negotiations to resolve ‘a number of casting and management issues’.” But the negoiations failed and Stretton is gone. BBC 09/25/02

Friday September 20

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT: “In the most anticipated event in Boston dance in the last decade, Boston Ballet opened its 39th season last night – the first season with new artistic director Mikko Nissinen in charge.” It didn’t take Nissinen long to break with local tradition, scrapping the customary season-opening “story ballet” for a series of modern shorts. Time will tell if he can take the company past its recent history of infighting and high-profile flops, but his debut is awfully promising. Boston Globe 09/20/02

Thursday September 19

DIABLO SAVED: The Bay Area’s Diablo Ballet has escaped oblivion after benefactors came through at the last minute and the company raised the $150,000 it needed to continue. “We have no operating funds and the dancers are waiting in the wings. We’re all on unemployment here. It would have been the end of the company, because I would have had to get a full-time job, as would the staff and the dancers.” Contra Costa Times 09/19/02

Tuesday September 17

CHINESE CONNECTION: Seven dancers from China have been brought to America to teach and perform in Silicon Valley for a year. “Given the outlandish economics of life in Silicon Valley, all seven – five men and two women – are sharing a single three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment.” San Jose Mercury News 09/17/02

Thursday September 12

REVIVING GRAHAM: A judge’s ruling in favor of the Martha Graham Company and against Graham heir Ron Protas means the company can begin dancing again. The judge ruled that Graham created her work “for hire” and so it is owned by the company. But “retrieving the fullness of Graham’s legacy will prove an uphill task. In his time as director Ron Protas estranged many of Graham’s veteran performers, the very people who knew her works in their bones. Throughout the 1990s, as the company sank further into financial decline, it performed less and its seasons became progressively shorter.” Ballet.magazine 09/02

Tuesday September 10

NOT EMBARRASSING (AS IT COULD HAVE BEEN) BUT AS A PIECE OF ART… One of the most famous (infamous?) attempts at a piece of art about 9/11 so far is Canadian choreographer Brian MacDonald’s Requiem 9/11 ballet, set to Verdi’s Requiem. Even before it hit the stage, the project has been slammed for cluttering up Verdi’s music. Some have charged “that the whole thing smacked of opportunism and was tasteless and gratuitous.” The piece debuted this week at Ottawa’s National Arts Center, and Michael Crabb reports that while not as bad as it could have been, “Macdonald’s actual choreography is uninspired to the point of being academic and prosaic.” National Post 09/09/02

NOTHING SIMPLE: Merce Cunningham gets ever more complex as he gets older (he’s 80). He creates his dances now with a computer: “I am finding out that movement is ever more complicated. I began to see this through working with the camera, because when you look through it you don’t have to think of it as a stage space – you can just move the camera to get a dancer out of sight. With the computer you are asking ‘How does that movement translate to a dancer who is trained to move in another way?’ ” The Telegraph (UK) 09/10/02

SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED: Darcey Bussell has been a star of London’s Royal Ballet for 13 years. “She received an OBE at 25; she has modelled for Vogue; appeared on French and Saunders; her statue is in Madame Tussaud’s; her painting is in the National Portrait Gallery and, if you look her up on the internet, you’ll find 5,880 websites matching her name.” But what she’d really like to be – is a Bond girl. The Telegraph (UK) 09/10/02

Monday September 9

UNION ASSESSING STRETTON: The British performers union Equity is meeting this week with dancers of the Royal Ballet in London. “The union is investigating a series of complaints about maverick Australian [artistic director Ross Stretton], who has been accused of infuriating his company by making last-minute casting changes that leave them unsure if and when they are to perform.” The Independent 09/08/02

CHICAGO (DANCE) BLUES: Why don’t more major dance companies visit Chicago? “Despite some innovative smaller programming and the year-round presence of two of the nation’s leading dance companies, the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, this city suffers some disadvantages that rank it lower than even third when it comes to high-profile visiting dance. Ironically, that’s partly because we are so big: Competition for the entertainment dollar here is fierce, starting with a world-renowned music scene and the second busiest theater industry in the land.” Chicago Tribune 09/08/02

Sunday September 8

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: When Cleveland’s Public Theatre decided to shut its doors for six months this year to save money and revitalize itself, the decision was applauded as a fiscally sound method of saving a beloved Cleveland institution. But the closing is having a devastating effect on several local dance groups which have called the Public home. The theatre’s management has been working to find a home for some of the troupes, but others are in serious danger of having to shut down their entire seasons. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 09/08/02

DANCE MEETS THE TECHNOGEEKS: “With the formal opening on Oct. 2 of the new Dance Theater Workshop in Chelsea, New York dance officially enters the cyber universe. The new D.T.W. is the most technologically sophisticated dance theater space in the nation and perhaps the world, judging by anecdotal evidence from touring dance companies… Every room in the complex is wired for video and computers. Even more impressive is the in-house Artist Resource and Media Laboratory, which will provide arts technicians and dance artists with extensive access to video-editing, digital video creation, graphics layout and digital performance playback.” The New York Times 09/08/02

Friday September 6

THE KIROV’S BACK: “Perhaps no ballet company in the world is more daunting to write about than the Kirov. The company has a deep and detailed past which is the stuff of scholars, and a performance history that is hard to know given restrictions during the Cold War.” Yet the book on the company in recent years is that it lost a step or two. The cliche goes something like: “if the Kirov watches us enough they’ll learn how to dance. Actually, maybe it’s time for us to watch them.” New Criterion 09/02

SAVING DANCE: Dance is an ephemeral artform. After it is performed, it is often lost, usually recreated from the memories of those who were taught it. A video archive project attempts to record the teaching of important roles. “During a taping session, which lasts from one to three days, the teacher coaches young dancers through the principal roles – not the entire ballet – in an informal studio setting; the teacher also takes time for interviews and commentary with a selected dance scholar or critic. The tapes are edited into a final version that is usually about an hour in length. Copies are kept at selected libraries around the world, where they are available for on-site viewing.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram 09/01/02

Thursday September 5

WHY MERCE DOESN’T WATCH DANCE: Merce Cunningham, “rarely watches other dance performances. He says it is because he has too little time, but he also admits, as politely as he knows how, that too much of what he sees is dull. Cunningham, whose company celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, has dominated modern dance for so long that he has acquired the status of guru, wise man, even saint. Changing fashions, artistic burnout and underfunding limit most choreographers’ careers to a decade or so; yet Merce has survived to become a still point.” The Guardian (UK) 09/05/02

Tuesday September 3

GRAHAM COMPANY IS BACK: The Martha Graham Company is preparing to dance again. “The prospect of performing again came with a victory on Aug. 23 in the long and bitter legal struggle over the rights to the name and work of Martha Graham. As soon as the federal district court decision was announced, calls and e-mails went out to the Graham dancers, who had been laid off when the center suspended operations for financial reasons in May 2000. Understandably, they were overjoyed.” The New York Times 09/02/02

DANCE OR FIGHT: Is capoeira – developed 400 years ago in Brazil by African slaves – the next big thing in participatory movement? “It is half a fight and half a dance, beautiful as ballet, brutal like kung fu, and just breaking into the American mainstream, popping up in dance revues and on college campuses, in video games and on the big screen. It is by many accounts the next big thing in the world of . . . well, martial arts, music, dance, cultural studies or all four. “It is physical theater, language with the body, communication without words.” Chicago Tribune 09/03/02

Sunday September 1

GOOD BEAT, BUT CAN YOU DANCE TO IT? Selecting music is one of the hardest jobs a choreographer has. Audiences judge a performance almost as much by what they hear as by what they see, and a score which is grating, or too complex, or, heaven forbid, too pop-based, can ruin a perfectly good dance for a large chunk of the crowd. So when Christopher Wheeldon choreographed a trio of dances to the music of noted atonal, arhythmic composer Gyorgi Ligeti this year, eyebrows were raised all across the dance world. The central question, of course, is what makes a piece of music danceable? The New York Times 09/01/02