Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ballez: La MaMa Moves presents ballet on the wild side

Khadija Griffith (left) and Deborah Lohse in
Sleeping Beauty & The Beast,
a Ballez world premiere
(photo: Theo Coté)

Ballez is performance, company, class and community, that invites everyone to witness and celebrate the history and performances of lesbian, queer, and transgender people.
Ballez dancers claim our inherent nobility and belonging within, around, and on top of a form that has historically excluded us. 
Ballez celebrates the virtuosity of complexly gendered embodiment, energetic eloquence, queer coding, and the magical adaptability of expression that Ballez dancers have cultivated through their lives as a way to survive and thrive.
--some statements from www.ballez.org

Sleeping Beauty & the Beast--the latest project of Katy Pyle (with Jules Skloot and members of Pyle's Ballez troupe) is big.

How big, you ask?

So big, it requires more than two hours and two--not one--theater at La MaMa to tell its story.

So big, it's really telling multiple stories, mashing up classical ballets and fairy tale archetypes with Lower East Side labor organizing history and with L.E.S. queer culture--resulting in a hot mess that is and isn't.

So big, Pyle needs two dozen versatile, well-trained and coached dancers (most playing multiple roles) and eighteen classical musicians (New York's Queer Urban Orchestra playing straight-up Tchaikovsky for Act 1) plus a DJ JD Samson's house music (Act 2) and even that's not enough.

So big, it Occupies the Ballet Canon; big enough for a look-in from Graham and Loie Fuller; too big for the gender binary; too big to behave.

So big, it can embrace sweetness, humor, revolutionary fervor, sexual heat of diverse and ever-shifting varieties, and the pain of loss.

So big that--well, you know those old timers who regale you with stories about being there when so-and-so made her stunning debut or first danced with Nureyev and knocked their socks off in that difficult role? One day, if you're lucky, you will be that old timer, unable to shut up about how you saw Ballez premiere Sleeping Beauty & The Beast at La MaMa Moves.

That big. Historic. Meaningful. Moving.

Pyle and company get so much joyfully right, starting with the complex precision work of Act 1's opening yarn weaving dance. But I'm going to let you discover the best of Sleeping Beauty & The Beast for yourself, because you're going, right?  You're going.

Sleeping Beauty & the Beast continues tonight and through May 8--Wednesday to Saturday at 7pm; Sunday at 4pm. For information and tickets, click here.

La MaMa
at Ellen Stewart Theatre and The Downstairs
66 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor (between 1st and 2nd Avenues), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Kimberly Bartosik: In close quarters at Gibney Dance

Lance Gries (front) and Joanna Kotze perform alone
in the small Agnes Varis Performance Lab at Gibney Dance
(photos above and below: Scott Shaw)




If you're lucky enough to get in--I almost was not!--your first experience of Étroits sont les Vaisseaux might be the shock of nearly bumping into its two dancers already standing, breathing heavily and eyeing each other just inside the studio door. Well, there's not a lot of "inside' to the lobby studio at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center. Choreographers seem to be increasingly drawn to its challenge.

For this world premiere by dance artist Kimberly Bartosik and lighting, sound and set designer Roderick Murray (Kimberly Bartosik/daela), audience seating must stop at around twenty. Chairs and cushions fill skimpy corners of the narrow space with the performance area marked off by tape strips. Dancers Joanna Kotze and Lance Gries don't get a lot of room to roam, but their powerful actions make that little space ring like church bells. Their more intimate actions make space disappear entirely.

Étroits sont les Vaisseaux ("Narrow are the vessels") draws inspiration from an Anselm Kiefer sculpture that is long, narrow (like the Gibney space) but also rough, forbidding, even violent in form. The performance runs precisely 24:50, with an 8pm performance recapped each evening at 9. That sounds short but proves to be just enough. We're sealed in--door closed; shade to the street window mechanically lowered--and so close to the performers as to be able to focus on individual sweat beads, strands of hair and fingernails.

Each dancer's focus varies--deep, quiet interiority; attempts to glimpse something other than each other; close engagement, loving and erotic in its implications. The spiky, birdlike Kotze gazes upward a lot, Gries, more compact and intense, often looks elsewhere. But then they do regard each other, almost touch, touch and guide, use one body as another's support, or melt away together towards the floor. Subtle sounds--thunder? crashing waves? a distant train?--imply an unseen environment that holds these two, perhaps an imagined or remembered "outside" to this radically confining "inside." We don't know who they are, but we can infer how they are, how they might have been and how they might yet be.

Leaving them is not easy, but when the time comes and the window shade draws up to once again reveal a mundane city street, we're literally shown the door (by Bartosik) and given access to our checked coats and bags. We leave Kotze and Gries to themselves and their lives. For all we know, these two beautiful dancers could have been in that narrow room forever and will remain so.

Étroits sont les Vaisseaux continues through Saturday, April 30 with performances at 8pm and 9pm. Contact boxoffice@gibneydance.org to inquire about ticket availability and standing room. For other information, click here.

280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art announces new MetLiveArts season

Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming
will perform Max and Alan, his evening-length musical work
inspired by German Expressionist Max Beckmann.
(photo: Steven Trumon Gray)
Mali's legendary master singer-musician Boubacar Traore
will perform in December.
(photo: courtesy of World Music Institute)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's 2016-17 season of live performances, newly renamed MetLiveArts, was announced last evening. The lineup features music, theater and dance events, the latter represented by the indefatigable Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass, whose latest project with artist Maira Kalman, The Museum Workout, aims to both introduce you to art works and get your blood pumping each morning of its run, one hour before the museum officially opens.

Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass
will perform and lead The Museum Workout
for a troupe of early-bird participants at The Met.
(photo: Paula Lobo)

Introduced by Thomas Campbell (Met Director and CEO) and Limor Tomer (General Manager of Concerts and Lectures), the announcement event previewed The Museum Workout and offered a lively performance by chamber music group PUBLIQuartet and a Q&A with Nate DiMeo, creator of The Memory Palace podcast. DiMeo--MetLiveArts's Artist in Residence for the 2016-17 season--will spend his year crafting ten podcasts inspired by an exploration of the Met's American Wing.

Describing himself as "culturally omnivorous," DiMeo explains that his passion for history is guided by an intense interest in people.

"Abraham Lincoln is really just a dude doing real things in the world. And the Met is a place that makes history, tells people a story about what's valuable and valued in art." His series will be available on The Met's Web site as well as on The Memory Palace.


New York's adventurous PUBLIQuartet,
will be MetLiveArts's 2016-2017 Quartet-in-Residence.
(photo: Paula Lobo)

"In the 2016–17 season we will unleash the power of the Museum's collection to make sense of our world by challenging performing artists to stretch the boundaries of their craft and genre—playing with our pre–conceived notion of what performance is, what a museum experience can be, and what to expect when we go to The Met," Tomer says.

A question of how to change both performers and audiences guided Tomer's development of these new projects. One fun way was to commission Monica Bill Barnes & Company, long noted, as Timor joked, for "bringing dance where it does not belong." Just ask NPR's Ira Glass (This American Life). We all know dance definitely does not belong on radio--or on national tour with an acclaimed radio and podcast star. And yet....

With recent reports of emergency belt tightening at the Met, it's clear that Campbell faces challenges more pressing than finding "something shiny" to wear to take part in The Museum Workout.  Still, the expansive MetLiveArts initiative seems a positive move towards heightening interest in the museum across artistic disciplines and boosting accessibility without sacrificing quality.

Get more information on the full schedule of MetLiveArts events here or call 212-570-3949. Tickets are also available at the Great Hall Box Office, which is open Monday-Saturday, 11 am–3:30 pm. Tickets include admission to the Museum on day of performance.

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Jenny Diski, 68

Jenny Diski, Author Who Wrote of Madness and Isolation, Dies at 68
by William Grimes, The New York Times, April 28, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Jen Rosenblit presents "Clap Hands" at The Invisible Dog

Displaying Jen_Rosenblit_ClapHands_Baranova-0185.jpg
Jen Rosenblit in Clap Hands
(photo: Maria Baranova)

In Jen Rosenblit's Clap Hands, I first notice color. A choreography of color. Color dancing across a wide space. Yellow. Red. Black. White. A fractured medicine wheel of color of sorts pulling attention every which way. Because that's what's dancing. Piles of tomato red felt neatly folded and stacked or unfolded and scattered or placed just so here and there. My eyes go to this and the spotless white of Effie Bowen's fencing uniform, the sunny, satiny yellow of Admanda Kobilka's wrestler unitard, the black that wraps Rosenblit, which she eventually sheds.

Clap Hands--hosted by The Invisible Dog Art Center , co-presented with New York Live Arts--was conceived as a complicated solo (add or remove quote marks as you will) performed by three people. And, actually, there's a fourth--the "supportive" alexia welch, whose role seems to be to hold a boom mic for Rosenblit and look impressively butch dykey with her laden toolbelt.

Clap Hands diffuses "center" and focus, allowing us to hold fast to nothing, especially our need to hold fast to something. So much there, so little there. At the same time, it feeds us, immerses us in color, texture (that fabric, the rabbity fur of the mic's windsock), shape (all that scarlet felt in folds, rolls, drapery, mounds, trains of a makeshift gown), sound (even the almost volumeless flow of air from Kobilka's yellow-red-black melodica), voice (Rosenblit's clear, resonant speaking). When Bowen dresses Kobilka in a bright pink turtleneck sweater, she adds a new, irrational splash of color. It first looks like an assault--the fabric restraining his throat, a sleeve bunched up tight around his arm. Then she unwinds it, draws it over his body in the normal way before, for good measure, slipping a red felt vest over his already burdened torso. You sense an uncomfortable heat, reminding you of his body...and yours.

But disappearance, I think, is the one through line and ironic touchstone--references to a disappearing ship, disappearing hair, escape routes, departures. Generally speaking, bodies, and their grounding force, aren't key here...until they are. Rosenblit, matter-of-factly nude, going about her workmanlike business, uninflected. Bowen, in her fencing gear, introducing skilled physical alignment, precision. Rosenblit folded up on a table before audience members whose metal bleacher row has been reoriented to place them just a few feet away from naked skin. Rosenblit, again, with a half-chewed strip of yellow plastic dangling from her mouth, dancing like...I can only call it the rustling of seaweed...with her gaze wild.

Here is something she would like us to consider:
How do we continually locate ourselves and what is it to deal with the haunting nature of remaining alone? Clapping hands is a phenomenon we do together, to celebrate, mark or culminate. Clap Hands is something we have to sit alone with, to recall being together.
--from publicity for Clap Hands
Clap Hands concludes tonight with a performance at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

The Invisible Dog Art Center
51 Bergen Street (between Smith and Court Streets), Brooklyn
(directions/map link)

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