Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cuba's Malpaso Dance Company returns to the Joyce

Scene from Trey McIntyre's Under Fire,
performed by Dunia Acosta, Maria Karla Arujo and Tahimy Miranda
(photo: Yi-Chun Wu) 

Besides the new thaw in relations between Washington and Havana, there's another big Cuban story in the news--the return of Malpaso Dance Company to eager US hosts at The Joyce Theater. Last year, the Joyce helped the company make its first trip out of Cuba and first landing in the states. New York was charmed especially by the combination of this young but tremendously capable ensemble and the choreography of our own Ronald K. Brown.

This season, New York premieres of Under Fire by another US dancemaker, Trey McIntyre, and Despedida/Farewell by Malpaso's artistic director Osnel Delgado offer a telling contrast. Both works are fresh to the troupe, premiered just this year, but only one appears to have already taken firm root in muscles and bones.

Osnel Delgado (standing rear) with his company in Under Fire
(photo: Yi-Chun Wu)

Set to unvarnished country folk by Idaho singer-songwriter Kelsey Swope (aka Grandma Kelsey or, now on Facebook, Bijoux), Under Fire commands the stage, re-imagining every molecule of space on and above it. The air seems a thick-ish, malleable, animated substance immediately surrounding the dancers' bodies. Not just transitioning from step to step, dancers acknowledge space as partner and platform. Legs hitching up, arms hooking over, using superb flexibility and facility throughout their bodies, they pair up or group up, swirling or twisting around one another in remarkable chain reactions. McIntyre's flow across the stage seems endless and endlessly inventive.

Under Fire's interesting backstory concerns McIntyre's decision to disband his own Boise-based company to pursue independent projects within and outside of dance. One night, he made a bonfire of his old documents. Clearing away the charred paper, he discovered untouched materials beneath. The sight of those remains--he called them "pristine"--recalled his own search for authenticity. In Swope's ragged voice--especially her chilling delivery of Dolly Parton's "Jolene"--I hear another sign of longing for what's true, what's essential, even when it scares you.

Under Fire fits so handsomely on Malpaso's bodies that I can only hope McIntyre, as he moves on in life and artistry, will maintain strong ties with these Cuban dancers--and with dancemaking.

For the score for Despedida/Farewell, Delgado partners again with Arturo O'Farrill, Mexico-born son of Cuban jazz legend Chico O'Farrill. O'Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble perform live, a feast in itself. In fact, their music is such a tasty feast that one wonders why Delgado did not turn his dancers loose to feed on it.

Make no mistake, they dance this thing. They're good but muted and blunted while O'Farrill's music struts out and busts out all around them, confident in its energy. As in Under Fire, pliable Joan Rodriguez, forceful Dunia Acosta and Delgado himself make the looking rewarding, but Under Fire provides the more persuasive introduction to every one of Malpaso's dancers.

Dancers: Osnel Delgado Wambrug, Daile Carrazana Gonzalez, Taimy Miranda Ruiz de Villa, Randy Cívico Rivas, Maria Karla Araújo, Joan Rodriguez Hernandez, Dunia Acosta Arias, Manuel Durán Calzado, Isvel Bello Rodriguez, Beatriz García Díaz

Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble: Arturo O'Farrill (piano), Vince Cherico (drums), Carlo de Rosa (bass), Carly Maldonado (percussion, bongos), Rafi Malkiel (trombone), Ivan Renta (tenor sax), Tony Rosa (congas), Adam O'Farrill (trumpet, replacing Jim Seeley)

Malpaso Dance Company continues at the Joyce through Sunday, March 8. For the complete schedule and ticket information, click here.

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (corner of 19th Street), Manhattan

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What's to become of American dance? Sarah Anne Austin's analysis

A New York Observer article about Gibney Dance closes with its founder, Gina Gibney, asking a community forum, “How are we going to build a new audience?” She continued, “It’s not enough to say what artists need in a performance venue — you also have to ask what audiences need.” 

No one had an answer to her question, because no one was educated on it before. Dance in higher education is about your body, about your work, about your thoughts about the field, not figuring out how to get other people to see what you make.
--Sarah Anne Austin
Read more in:

Is American Modern Dance a Pyramid Scheme?
by Sarah Anne Austin, Dance/USA From The Green Room, March 2, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reminder: Meet the Publicists...and Eva! Tomorrow!

Here's a quick reminder to RSVP for Meet the Publicists!, a free panel discussion that I'm moderating at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center (280 Broadway) tomorrow evening at 6pm.

Four top-notch arts publicists--Amber Henrie, Fatima Kafele, Chris Schimpf, and John Wyszniewski--will share their knowledge and wisdom on best strategies to connect with the media and your audiences. We look forward to seeing you and taking your questions!

For more information and to RSVP, click here now!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, 83

Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83
by Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times, February 27, 2015

Mariangela López opens new season at Gibney Dance

Mariangela López in El Regreso
(photo: Oskar Landi)

In her new solo, El Regreso--commissioned by and presented at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center--Mariangela López starts out lying prone on the floor, head and upper back obscured in a tangle of brightly-colored costumes recognizable from two of her earlier works. She's wearing her history, encased in it, perhaps worn down by it, with only the small of her back and legs in fuschia tights visible. She remains still for a very long time until music rouses her. As she gradual stretches and unfolds limbs and fabrics, she displays gnarly textures and layers. Most dramatically, she wraps her head in these cloths of many colors, starting to evoke, for me, sculptor (and flamboyant self-sculptor) Chakaia Booker who I remember seeing walking city streets adorned in one or another mammoth headdress constructed of disparate cloths.

López sculpts herself like Booker and like a Kabuki artist, taking her time. For a while, you cannot see her eyes for the headwrap, and then you do. Through shifts in energy behind her gaze--glazed at first, then alert, sparkling--she lets the audience detect the minute changes that transform a pile of discards into a container of intelligence, even imperious nobility, before slipping into other states of being and tokens of sensory experience. Having divested herself of her costumes, she might lash the floor with them, striking quite close to our feet, or attack the bunched up fabric with canine ferocity. Or she might create a broad circle with the costumes, calmly fussing over that circle's curvature. For some reason, it must be perfect. She pinches it here and there, smooths it out.

In El Regreso (The Return), I see an artist at work on herself and her materials, never at rest, pulled by past and by future.

ACCIDENTAL MOVEMENT/Mariangela López continues through Saturday, February 28 with performances at 7:30pm. On Friday, February 27, stay for a post-show talk with López facilitated by Marya Warshaw. For information and tickets, click here.

The inaugural Making Space spring season continues at Gibney through June 27. Click here for the complete schedule.

Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis
Performing Arts Center
280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan

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