That time of year again. It’s fall and it’s time for the Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center. Five programs performed over 10 nights. Only $15 to see four world-class companies perform in one evening.
Last night’s program had a pre-show with a panel – “Commissioned to Create New Dance Works: Now What?” Wendy Perron (Editor-in-chief, Dance Magazine) was the moderator and Sara Mearns (Dancer, NYC Ballet), Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (dancer, choreographer), Kevin O’Hare (Director of The Royal Ballet), Liam Scarlett (dancer, choreographer), and Eduardo Vilaro (Artistic Director, Ballet Hispanico) were the participants.
Perron opened the panel saying that most think of artistic work being borne of inspiration but most choreographers work from commissions. She asked the panelists how their pieces changed from the first concept. After a couple of answers, Peter sitting next to me wrote, “Meandering answers?” and I told him yes. It was difficult to keep the panelists on point (NPI). Scarlett mentioned choreography as a dreamlike trance with a little reality thrown in. Mearns, who commissioned a piece for her and Justin Peck of the NYC Ballet, said that she had to take a break in rehearsals for the commissioned dance while she worked on dances for the NYC Ballet. When she got back to the commissioned dance, she said, “It was still in my body.” What a lovely phrase – it was still in my body.
Lopez Ochoa said she was commissioned for a 12-1/2 minute piece for Ballet Hispanico but used 14-1/2 minutes because each of the six men needed to show their stuff. Originally Lopez Ochoa wanted to do something celebrating the Hispanic heritage but not cliché. She decided to use hats in the piece since different types of hats are worn by the men in different Latin American countries. Then she decided all the hats should be black. And then, in order to honor her half-Belgian heritage, she decided to use derbies (Magritte).
Mearns said that at the first rehearsal you don’t know what’s going to work. But with the commissioned piece she was excited to dance something created for her instead of portraying a well-known character.
Both choreographers said that a piece is never done. Despite tapes of dances that show how the dance should be performed the dance will change each time because you are using different dancers with different strengths and or it’s years later and you’ve grown as a choreographer. Lopez Ochoa mentioned seeing one dancer performing a dance that Jim Carrey used in The Mask. She stole it for her piece. Vilaro said stealing is okay as long as it is under 11 seconds.
One of the most interesting things in the discussion was about music. When asked when they decide on the music, everyone said that the music comes first. Part of it is practicality – you have to obtain rights or have to commission new music. But when the dancers arrive the choreographers do not have a piece in mind. They play the music and let the dancers move and get the dance from that. Scarlett said he did not want to push his ideas onto the other dancers. Lopez Ochoa said she didn’t prepare steps but will have an idea of situations and then will find the journey in the music. Later, while reading the program, I saw that all of the music used was something already written.
When asked who owns a commissioned piece, the answer was that it varies. The FFD commissions are owned by FFD for five years. Other contracts will allow the piece to be performed for a certain number of years and then not for another five years and then allowed to be performed again. Mearns said that was a very good question because she had no idea who owned her piece and she needed to find out.
Peter and I met rtb in the lobby for the show. We had great seats in the center orchestra section right under the Grand Tier. Just before the first dance the two men in front of us started to argue and we were afraid that was going to cast a pall over the night but luckily it was a short argument.
American Ballet Theatre
Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie
The Moor’s Pavane
(Variations on a Theme of Othello)
Choreography by José Limón
Music by Henry Purcell
Arrangement by Simon Sadoff
Direction and Reconstruction by Clay Taliaferro
Costumes by Pauline Lawrence
Premieres: Limón Dance Company – August 17, 1949 and ABT – June 27, 1970
The Moor – Francisco Ruvalcaba (courtesy of the Limón Dance Company)
His Friend – Thomas Forster
His Friend’s Wife – Stella Abrera
The Moor’s Wife – Julie Kent
All four are on stage. The Moor is dressed in a long red robe with long slits on each side of the front of the robe. His friend has on a brown shirt and brown tights. His friend’s wife is dressed in a beautiful red gown. And the Moor’s wife is dressed in a long white chiffon gown. The dance is not a literal interpretation of Othello but the story is very familiar. The friend whispers in the Moor’s ear, who shoos him away and later battles with him. The friend’s wife steals the Moor’s wife’s handkerchief and then gives it to the friend so that he can use it to accuse the Moor’s wife of infidelity. And it all ends tragically.
Forster seemed a bit stiff – especially next to Ruvalcaba, who commanded the stage. Kent was a wimpy little thing following her husband around and Abrera had the much stronger and fun role.
The dance was part Western classical and part modern dance. It’s an interesting combination of techniques and I’ve always found it interesting to watch classical dancers perform (and sometimes struggle with) the flowing way of moving instead of the stiff hard lines.
Choreography by Colin Dunne
Music by Linda Buckley
Live Sound Processing by Linda Buckley
Lighting by Michael O’Connor
Production Manager: Michael O’Connor
Premieres: Ireland – July 14, 2013 and U.S. – September 30, 2013
Dancer – Colin Dunne
Violin – Katherine Hunka
Violin – Anna Cashell
Viola – Cian O Dúill
Cello – Rudi de Groote
This was no Lord of the Dance routine. The musicians stood off to the side while Dunne (who is a cutie) danced on a mic’d wooden platform. He was dressed simply in white button-down shirt, black pants, and heeled shoes. As he step-danced, his heels clicked over and over again on the wood. The music was not typical Irish but more new classical. Then Dunne kicked a mat over the platform and the mic picked up the swish of feet and the rubbing of his shoes on his pants or his toe kicking his heel. All the noises were heavily echoed and when Dunne stopped to catch his breath there was silence. Then he whistled and the musicians played along with some electronic music coming from elsewhere. The last piece had Dunne performing without the mat and step-dancing facing left.
It was an amazing showcase of heaviness and lightness all in the same move.
Artistic Director, Eduardo Vilaro
Choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Music by Banda Ionica featuring Macaco El Mono Loco, Titi Robin and soundscape by various artists
Costume conception by Ananbelle Lopez Ochoa
Costume development and Construction by Diana Ruettiger
Lighting by Joshua Preston
Production Manager: Lutin Tanner
World Premiere – Fall for Dance Commission
Dancers – Christopher Bloom, Jamal Rashann Callender, Alexander Duval, Mario Ismael Espinoza, Marcos Rodriguez, and Joshua Winzeler
Six men wearing derbies. Six men trading the derbies. Six men sliding and trading derbies. Six men throwing derbies. As Lopez Ochoa said during the panel, each of the men got to show off his strengths in dance and in personality. For the Latino vibe there was a lot of dancing with yourself – where you position yourself as if you have a partner but dance around alone. One part played with the shadows on the wall behind them – something about the derbies and some of the movements made me think of Charlie Chaplin.
The dance was meant to show off the athleticism of the men and it did so.
Artistic Director, Roel Voorintholt
General Director, Ton Wiggers
Choreography by Nacho Duato
Music by Carlos Chávez
Scenery by Walter Nobbe
Costumes by Nacho Duato
Lighting by Nicholás Fischtel
Premieres: The Netherlands – June 7, 1984 and U.S. – September 30, 2013
Dancers – Merel Janssen, Jamy Schinkelshoek, Alexis Geddes, Jurriën Schobben, Mathieu Di Scala, Alberto Villanueva Rodriguez, Vivian Sauerbreij, Elena Pampoulova, Aymeric Aude, Ruben Ameling
At first this dance had me confused. The music sounded vaguely Southwestern U.S. – sometimes Coplandesque. The backdrop was an abstract sun and what could have been a barren tree or a wooden cross. The dancers and their costumes were very Grahamesque, with their legs and arms spread apart and the long skirts. Later I heard what I thought were tablas in the music but they must have been a different type of drum.
The dance (as was the music) was inspired from the ritual dances of the Mexican Indians. I couldn’t really feel that connection.
But what the dance was was very joyful. Each one of the dancers expressed clearly the joy of dance – the freedom and the passion. It was a pure display of joy that swept over the audience. You could feel everyone getting more and more excited as the music and dancing sped up until finally we couldn’t take it anymore and we exploded into applause.
Our first night at FFD bodes very well.
By Carene Lydia Lopez