Monday, June 30, 2008

slow blog...

Apologies for the lack of posts this past's been a little rough with lots going on.

I solved one problem though...found a new apartment yesterday. I'm glad that's over with (or will be when I sign the lease this week)...Manhattan real estate is insane.

I'm hoping to return to normal blogging later this week when I'm back to my normal self.

And PS- I can't believe it's the end of June already. I'm one month away from turning 20. Eek.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Caines review up

Check out my Christopher Caines review on ExploreDance here.

I went to part of ABT's matinee of Bayadere this afternoon. The corps is beautiful! Couldn't stay for Act III but it was still good.

Having yet another crazy week...I turned in a big draft of my graduate thesis this morning, which I spend the ENTIRE day doing yesterday. Lovely.

Off to class tonight.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

From the Archives

This week has been devoted to writing my graduate thesis (ugh!) and attempting to find a new apartment (double ugh!) and so I make another excuse for not blogging promptly.

I still need to write about DCA in detail, and do a few more reviews...but for today's post I'm digging to the blog archives...

It was this time last year that I got to be a super in ABT's Romeo & Juliet, an incredible experience that I wrote about as my very first blog entry. I was behind the times so it's not quite my blog anniversary yet (stay tuned...July 14 Off Center is one year old :) but I thought it would bring back memories to reread it.

I was lucky enough to be cast as a super in ABT’s full run of Romeo & Juliet at the Met this season. I got to be a bridesmaid in Act II, walking on half way through the village scene and basically standing as an extra in the background. THAT was an experience unto itself: first of all, there is no better view of that incredible company or that beautiful ballet than being right there in the action. But that theater - the wings, the house, the orchestra - when I first stepped out during our brief onstage rehearsal the Friday before I swear my heart stopped. I know it sounds cliché. I live for translating those kinds of moments into words, but it just cannot be done with this one - it was indescribable. Unreal. I’ve been on big stages before, but there is nothing like the Met. And in performance, even though I was only an extra, it was so amazing. There is something comforting and yet mysterious in knowing that nobody is looking at you, and yet EVERYONE can see you...

Continue reading the original post here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Christopher Caines Dance

Breaking free from work work for a brief moment this afternoon, I got to see a performance by Christopher Caines Dance Company that I was asked to review for Exploredance and that was suggested to me by Philip.

I was not thrilled with the venue (the same place they host Jazz at Lincoln Center...not a dance place by any means...)but overall it was a nice afternoon. Full review below, which should be up on exploredance soon. I'm so backed up on other reviews but I'm forcing myself to get them done this week!

Before the start of Christopher Caines Dance Company’s performance of “Spirits,” the director asked a favor of the audience. In the transition to the last piece we were to close our eyes. Blackout. Then open them slowly to create the effect of lights going up. Unfortunately this game of pretend didn’t serve to improve the mediocre program held at the Frederick P. Rose Hall.

The space, which usually hosts Jazz at Lincoln Center and music events, might be much to blame. Tables and chairs set up cabaret style don’t exactly scream concert dance. The hardwood floor great for acoustics does little for dancers on pointe (though these dancers managed to work through their Gaynor Minden shoes quite successfully). And the limited technical options – work lights only on or off, a black barricade as the single wing – certainly don’t compare to even the smallest of New York dance theaters.

Yet the 8-year old company made due with what they had. Their mission is to “explore, experiment with, and celebrate great music through dancing,” and if nothing else the program lived up to this with live accompaniment, a luxury few chamber-size groups have. In fact, “Spirits” was dedicated to a mezzo-soprano, Alexandra Montano, who sang with the company until her death last year. Through six dancing “toasts” Caines paid homage to his former artistic companion and to his current team of outstanding musicians who make the show worthwhile (Silvie Jensen, mezzo-soprano on Sunday, was particularly lovely).

“Slivovice” popped the cork of the celebration with little bubbling excitement. A quartet turned into short pas de deuxs with tender moments between the couples, but little was memorable. Gisella Quinteros held a particularly long attitude balance that radiated in her face moments later. That genuine emotion was otherwise absent from all.

“Water of Life” looked optimistic as the charming Michelle Vargo slowly stepped into the preceding dance, her dark hair and fire red dress making her so sleek. Again, though, there was much to be desired. Mid-dance an elderly couple walked slowly down stage right. Periodically the woman (a nimble Rika Burnham) would faint into the man’s arms (Ammon Dennis). Later, Vargo lied as a corpse, arms folded a la Giselle, and was lifted by her three partners.

“Cognac” was only brightened by a brief solo for Edgar Peterson. His lyricism stuck out in an otherwise raw-looking cast (seasoned as some may be on paper).

Caines seemed to try to induce humor with “Absinthe.” Yet it was hard to see why much of the audience obliged with laughter. Jamy Hsu and Justin Wingenroth engaged in a quasi-rehearsal duet. They danced, got tired, and stopped. They knocked each other over. She danced and fell repeatedly into his arms off a lime green table (an eye sore in an already muddled costume choice: she in a deep green dress, he in gray tight shorts and a t-shirt). It’s as if they were making fun of dancing through cheesy kick lines and hopping high fives.

The sobering “Water and Salt” finally offered something more. Set to music by Meredith Monk, the piece showed Vargo struggling center stage. To her right the elderly couple seen earlier waltzed, and to her left two children (Amelia and Olivia Pinney, both adorable and admirably disciplined) imitated, though not directly. One young girl fell into the other’s arms, fainting as her older counterpart did before. The contrast of age, of life and death, of experience and innocence, seemed to be what Caines was aiming for all along.

To close the evening was the “Champagne” toast, a visually stunning work highly welcomed after the previous pieces. Men in tuxedos partnered the women, who each wore a different style bright yellow evening dress. Here was the celebration we had been waiting for. Perhaps with a better facility and some technical improvements we could dance with them all night.

amusing Balanchine quote...

The insane busy-ness never ends. So just a quick post...

One of my teachers who had many solos created on her by Balanchine back in the day was telling us a story yesterday in class. I found it really amusing. She crinkled her nose and made the nasally voice so familiar in impressions of the great choreographer and I laughed.

"You know, nobody really knew it, but Mr. Balanchine was really a nice man. He bought me a refrigerator once..."

I guess you had to be there. I thought it was funny anyway...I guess he had been to see her new apartment and noticed she didn't have a fridge so he handed her money to get one for her food. Hah guess he wasn't totally the skinny-obsessed director he's made out to be...

Friday, June 20, 2008

quoted on Media Bistro

Sometimes I really laugh at my life.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was interviewed for an article on the popular media/publishing industry website discussing arts criticism and breaking into the freelance market. At the time, and now, I found it really amusing mostly because I am NO expert on this, as I'm still a newbie (relatively speaking considering the typical mediabistro reader) to the field. I was honored to be included, but now that the article is out I'm still laughing - I'm quoted next to writers from The Boston Globe and The Village Voice. I WISH I were as important as them, haha.

The full article is available here on, but only if you're a paid member (if you are, go to content and then 'what to charge'). I shouldn't copy the entire thing here, but below is an excerpt where she quotes me, for your amusement:

Staying close to her own expertise has benefited Taylor Gordon, a dancer and freelance writer who transitioned from a rigorous ballet background to pursue a college degree at 16, and was approached by editors at and Movmnt Magazine after they came across her writing on The Winger, a dance blog. "There's real opportunity out there, you have to kind of find your niche and see where you fit in and what you can do to set yourself apart to get your writing out there," she says. "Right now the best way to go is write for online, and the hard part about that is that most of it doesn't pay."

Gordon, who is currently pursuing her graduate degree in magazine publishing at Pace University, has also contributed freelance work to Pointe Magazine and Dancer Magazine's blog. She established her contacts at Pointe through an internship at the publication, while her other blog credits helped her secure an assignment at Dancer. While most of her blog work doesn't pay, she earns up to $200 for an average magazine piece and $45 for an article on Her other online gigs, Gordon says, are unpaid.

"Get yourself online, even if you have to write for free for a while," she advises aspiring critics. "Get yourself a blog or a Web site where you can host all your writing so editors can see exactly what you've done."
Like Gordon, many critics find it necessary to supplement their writing work with a day job or a separate freelance business. While some publications pay writers based on their experience level or the length of their tenure, others don't have the means to raise their budgets.

My favorite part is that I "advise aspiring critics...". I AM an aspiring critic haha, as I learned last weekend at the DCA conference.

Anyway, thought I'd share. Still have tons to blog about and little time as always.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

DCA in DC: Photos 2

Another set of pictures from the weekend in DC. Details still to come, I swear.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

DCA in DC: Photos 1

I've spent the day bidding farewell to one of my best friends leaving the city tomorrow :( so I haven't had a chance to write about the conference panel discussions yet. For now, here's the first batch of photos I took at the Kennedy Center and around DC. More to come.

I'm off to see ABT's Sleeping Beauty tonight :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

DCA in DC: Narrative Overview

Of the many things I should be doing on my 4 hour bus ride back to NYC from the Dance Critics Association Conference in Washington, DC, blogging about the events of the weekend is not high in priority. But I can't help sharing the excitement and information I experienced. I took excessive notes through the many panel discussions (yes, I am still a student by nature) and will soon post separate entries about the seminars and details of the conversations, but to start here's a general overview of my weekend. There's tons more to say but this is just a start.

It should be noted that I take great amusement in my excitement because I rarely get this optimistic/excited/inspired/intrigued by something these days.

Being the overambitious person that I am, I decided to join and attend the Dance Critics Association (DCA) annual conference in Washington, DC this weekend even though I’m a far cry from the established writers in attendance. It was perhaps one of the most insightful, educational, inspiring, and stimulating weekends of my (miniscule) career.

I arrived in DC just early enough to catch the beginning of the conference. After receiving my nametag (so official!) and registration folder with the schedule and membership card information, I walked to find a seat for the welcome and first panel discussion. It was held at The Kennedy Center, Washington’s big, beautiful theater that houses companies like Suzanne Farrell Ballet, The Kirov, ABT, Joffrey, and others when they tour. It is huge! I got out of the cab and was a bit lost at first, but I slowly found my way to the elevator and up to the Terrace Gallery, where the sessions were held.

Inside there were about 80 seats set up as the audience and a single long table in front for panelists to sit at, complete with skinny microphones at each seat that reminded me of the kind hosts held on those old tv game shows you see reruns of.
The people who may have been kids watching those dated shows made up the majority of the audience. The first thing I noticed was that I was the youngest one there – by at least 30 years. I had to laugh to myself as I took a seat in the last row in the corner trying simultaneously to be inconspicuous and to pay respect to those who have been writing about dance for so long.

There was a lot of chatter as I flipped through the schedule and presenter biographies. Eavesdropping was no option – there was too much going on. As I read through the packet listing who would speak over the weekend (Alistair Macaulay of the NY Times, Laura Jacobs of Vanity Fair, John Rockwell formerly of NY Times, Apollinaire Scherr formerly Newsday…) I looked around in excitement, wondering which faced belonged to which name I so admire in print.

Soon a familiar face came to the podium to start the conference: Robert Abrams, my editor at ExploreDance and current DCA President. He kicked things off and the first of many lively panel discussions got underway.

Soon after that and the amusing keynote speech by Macaulay ended, I went to lunch with a fellow dance blogger and “media master” (as indicated by his DCA nametag), the ever-intriguing Doug Fox of We continued the interesting discussion started in the first panel and brainstormed about what he could speak about during his later panel on Dance and New Media.

After getting settled in my hotel and sitting through another lecture, I got to see one of the programs included in the Kennedy Center’s Ballet Across America series. Not only was it my first time being in that theater, but it was my first time to see the 3 companies being presented. I won’t be writing an official review for this one (wasn’t a press ticket, and I have other reviews I’m backed up on!) so this bare bones account must suffice: Pacific Northwest Ballet did “Jardi Tancat” choreographed by Nacho Nuato. The six dancers roamed barefoot across the stage to chants and drums. I enjoyed their energy. Next, Kansas City Ballet performed Todd Bolender’s “Still Point,” which I was less fond of. The dancers were pretty but the piece itself doesn’t offer much excitement for the three couples. The last, and best, piece of the night was Tharp’s “Nine Sinatra Songs” danced by The Washington Ballet. This was the only piece I’ve seen before (Pennsylvania Ballet a few years ago) and I really like it. Tharp’s partnering is an intriguing mix of traditional social dance and her notable contemporary style. The disco ball that sets the mood got a great reaction from the audience, but The Washington Ballet’s dancing was equally as luminous. Certain couples were better than others, but overall it was a hit.

Sunday I got up early for the rest of the panel discussions. These, to me, were much more interesting than the first day’s topics. And, it should be noted, there were a few more of the under-50 crowd in attendance, haha. Not that it mattered really, but it was interesting to observe who showed up for what panels.

I’m not good at the whole small talk, socializing, networking kind of thing that is a huge benefit of these conference events (a skill I really must work on) but I was fortunate enough to be introduced to several interesting people. Walking to the elevator Saturday I met Lee, a freelancer for Dance Magazine. Sunday morning I sat next to a younger critic from the Washington Times. Of course I knew Robert and Doug. I also ran into the editor of Pointe Magazine, Virginina, whom I interned with two years ago. We caught up briefly and it was nice to see her. Other people I recognized there but didn’t get to talk to included Wendy, editor of Dance Magazine, and Barbara Weisberger (founder of PA Ballet!).

But perhaps the most exciting introduction was the last of the day before leaving the conference. In the final panel on Dance and New Media anyone in the audience who has a blog was asked to stand up just so all could see how few there were. Of course I stood up and maybe about 5 others, most of whom were the youngest there (my thing with age has a point and I promise I’ll get to it soon in this post or in those to come about the panels…). They wanted us to each briefly explain our blogs but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to get around to doing so.

After that finished, and a wrap up report from John Rockwell, I started to gather my things to head out. Soon two of the older critics came over to me. “Did you say you have a blog?” the man asked me, and we got into a conversation about The Winger and how he had no idea about blogs or anything like that. I gave him my card (a DCA promotional card Robert made me, which is very exciting haha) and he and the woman next to him introduced themselves: Alan Kriegsman and Jean Beatty Lewis, both formerly of The Washington Post. Lewis was the first dance critic for the Post. And she proceeded to tell me that the modest Kriegsman was the only person to win a Pulitzer Prize for dance criticism. WOW! I felt so honored that two such distinguished critics bothered to talk to little old me, just getting started in this dying field. And that they were interested because of my blog. Wow.

Maybe I’m the biggest dork on the planet (I readily admit to it) and am living in the clouds thinking that dance writing is one of the many things I want to pursue when the atmosphere is of pessimism and jadedness in the field thanks to recent layoffs, etc, but I was SO inspired by the whole weekend. These people have such an immense wealth of knowledge about the art form and a deep passion for spreading the word and advocating for it. I couldn’t help thinking I was in the company of a wonderful but sadly dying breed (no, not because of their age. Because of opportunity to do what they do).

I’ll be posting detailed reports of the various panel discussions soon, but keep in mind it’s all through my naïve eyes and ears. If there’s one thing to know it’s that critics – particularly dance critics- are passionately opinionated people. And they raise deep questions with so many answers that their can never be a conclusion. I’m going to attempt to share some of their many thoughts while adding my meager two cents in these posts to come.

Feel free to comment and add to the discussion. Just because they’ve been doing it for years and had their voices heard at the conference doesn’t mean it’s the end all be all. Share your opinions even if just in blog comments for now!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

DC day 2

...was amazing.

Detailed report to come this week when I get home and have time, finally.

I am overwhelmed with information, admiration, ideas, and so forth...this DCA conference has been amazing.

Pictures from beautiful Washington, DC also to come...I was a tourist tonight and took a trolley tour, haha. Only way to see everything in a short period of time. Next time I travel (anywhere...) I need to make time to actually see things rather than just stay long enough to what I HAVE to do.

PS- I just got back to the hotel and flipped on the Tony's just in time to see Patti LuPone accepting her award amusingly. Now anxiously awaiting Best Musical Award...In the Heights. Cool - haven't seen any of the new shows but really should make time this summer!

Ok, off to a nice full night of sleep - the first in a month - before heading back to NYC tomorrow.
Busy blogging ahead!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

in DC

In Washington, DC for the Dance Critics Association Conference.

In between things now just checking into my hotel but I'll blog major details late tonight or tomorrow. Going to a performance of Ballet Across America tonight.

I'm definitely the youngest one here at the conference by about 30+ years. It's hilarious.

So interesting though, so far!

Details to come.

And details for yesterday's ABT intensive conclusion too.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

more pics from Ailey student showcase

No time to breathe as I finish up ABT this week, so here's another picture post.

Our "official" photographer, the wonderful Arthur, has finally uploaded 300+ pictures from the student showcase we had at Ailey last weekend (actually 2 weekends ago hah). Quite amusing. He took photos practically every 2 seconds so you can flip through the slideshow and pretend you're actually seeing us dance, haha.

Check them all out here.

ABT intensive performances tomorrow (hopefully - or not hopefully haha - Arthur will take pics then as well so I can share) and then off to DC for the weekend.

Blogging will return to my normal, slightly less insanely busy self after that :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

the final stretch

Two more days to go of the intensive.

I'm ready for a break, but looking forward to our performances on Friday.

Today we had our last rehearsals together before the dress rehearsal/run though tomorrow afternoon. It's exciting putting together a piece, particularly the contemporary work I'm in that's totally from scratch, in just two and a half weeks. It's nice to see things through to fruition quickly.

The next two days are going to be insane (that's pretty much a given statement in every blog post, haha sorry) and then this weekend I head to DC for a few days. Hopefully I'll catch up on performance reviews once things calm down (I have like 3 to do from the past 2 weeks..oops) and I'll get a chance to blog about some other stuff going on.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

body toll

Yeah...three weeks of this intensive on top of my normal ridiculous schedule is definitely taking its toll on my body this week.

Up to this point, my body has been surprisingly resilient from the ballet overload throughout the intensive. I really haven't been that sore aside from my bad achilles tendon - I've just been dead tired by the end of the day. In the mornings I've woken up actually being able to walk and sometimes without the crackling rhythms of my back and hips that usually greet me as I roll out of bed.

Until this week, haha.

Between many pairs of dead pointe shoes, too little sleep, and general busy-ness I'm feeling it all today. Ugh. Ouch.

Luckily there's only 3 more days, and one of them is basically devoted to our little performances, so I think I'll make it out alive.

The thing is, I used to do this kind of intense training for way more than just 3 weeks and I'd be fine. You know, tendonitis like crazy and exhausted - but fine. Hah. Now I'm a little smarter and though I COULD go on and on like this I know that it's safer for me to rest and stop while I'm ahead.

For instance, the summers I spent in Boston (05' & 06' I think) I was at the studio 9am-9:30pm...the thing was, we did have breaks but I was overambitious (what else is new) and since I lived at home an hour away and didn't have a nearby dorm to run to for dinner and a rest between rehearsals, I would simply take extra classes. A third technique class during the dinner break, men's class during the morning break (yes, men's class. I love to jump when my achilles is good).

But now I can't really put myself through that and retain sanity, haha.

Now instead of taking those extra physical classes I'm mentally working extra hours (writing, work, etc) throughout the intensive.

I'll be glad when next week comes and I can just crash for a bit. Not much going on the rest of this month besides summer school classes and some reviews here and there. When you go through insanely busy times I've learned you HAVE to slow down when you can. I'm trying to figure out how to pace myself and might need just a little more practice, haha.

Monday, June 9, 2008

pics from last week's showcase

No time to write today/tonight so I thought I'd share some pictures from last Sunday's student showcase at the Ailey Extension that some friends recently sent me.

Many thanks to Arthur and Tonya for taking pictures throughout the show :)

I positively HATE seeing pictures of myself dancing so most of these are of other people, haha.

Other news of the day..I braved the heat briefly to check out DRA's Dancing at the Crossroads performance in Times Square. They set up a greta stage right in the middle of all the traffic and lights and such and have a variety of companies performing for the charity. The way it was set up wasn't very conducive to the size of the touristy audience, though. Sitting down in their relatively few seats we were unable to see a thing onstage, and when we tried to stand in the back the security people shooed us away (many times). Plus it was a scorching 95+ degrees in the city today, so that added to the fun. I had to leave for work anyway and only got to stay for the first 5 dances or so. Great show though!

Back for my last week of ABT's intensive this week. We have 2 performances on Friday but they only allow you to bring 2 guests to 1 of the shows, so if I invited you to come before I have to regretfully uninvite you now, haha.'s VERY limited seating even though the studio is huge. They keep the space more for dancing rather than for the audience!

Alright, on to the photos:

me mid-pirouette...


me doing god knows what during my variation. i just liked the blurriness, haha

other folks bowing

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ah, the Met

I have decided that I think I would be perfectly content to move in and just live at the Metropolitan Opera House for the rest of my life.


Yesterday for the intensive we had a lecture and tour backstage at the theater and, of course, it was amazing.

First the was with the former head stage manager of ABT, and the artistic & executive directors of Career Transitions for Dancers. First they spoke about that company and their services for older dancers and then they went into discussing the behind the scenes work they do for their annual CTFD gala performance at City Center. The point was to talk about what it's like to work on a gala and what production aspects must be considered.

I went to the CTFD gala 2 years ago when Liza Minelli was hosting and it was great!

Anyway, their conversation/lecture was really interesting and got me thinking of all kinds of stuff. I guess it was like trying to show other options besides being a dancer but still being involved in the dance world, and the two options presented were director and stage manager. As I was listening my head was spinning with ideas...I always do that - I hear someone inspiring and I think, oh my God, I want to do that, I could do this and this and this...and an imaginary future rolls out for me. That fantasy lasts just about as long as the lecture, haha, before I remember I have another life (2 or 3 actually) already going on and headed for an exciting future.

But whenever I'm in a highly creative period (aka right now, and not just with dance but with my writing as well) I become inundated with ideas for projects to pursue. If only I had the time to see them through!

After the lecture they took us all backstage. Like when I was lucky enough to tour State Theater last week, they only took us in the immediate backstage area, like in the wings of the stage. Of course it was amazing. Though not as amazing as when I was back there as a super for ABT's Romeo & Juliet last year. THAT was incredible because not only could I experience the stage but it was in action with the company warming up and stagehands at work and so forth. Wow.

Where there once stood beautiful scenery for R&J in the wings was lots of "quick change booths" for the dancers. Our tour guide (the former stage manager) said it was because Twyla's piece had a lot of costume changes. The rest of the gynormous backstage was crowded with scenery for Don Q next week, and last week's Swan Lake set being prepared to load out on Monday.

Then we got to go out onstage.

That theater is the best place on earth.

It was totally empty, as was the stage because the program (Etudes & Tharp) didn't call for that extravagant scenery. Beautiful. Not nearly as exciting as when you look out when it's dark and anonymous faces fill those ruby seats and lights blind you and dancers whizz past and the orchestra lulls in live performance. But still, beautiful.

And my awe really doesn't have anything to do with dancing (well, not entirely anyway). It's more just the vastness of the stage and the theater itself.

I was practically born in a theater, performing since I was, like, 2. And I think it's the only place I would call home.


After that wonderful morning I stuck around and saw the matinee of Etudes & Tharp. Formal review to come for ExploreDance (when I ever get a moment to write much writing to do this weekend and NO time), but: Etudes was pretty save for a few minor mishaps. And Tharp, I loved it! I've made a point not to read anyone's reviews of the new piece yet, which has been hard because that's usually part of my routine, but once I write my review I'll see what others thought. I thought it was great.

One more insane week to go. I have 2 BIG articles due tomorrow (eek) in addition to reviews I need to catch up on, plus school work, and of course the intensive. Craziness. And next weekend I'm headed to Washington, DC (never been there!) for the Dance Critics conference, which sounds very exciting according to the planned schedule.

Hopefully after that I can rest a bit later this month :)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Cedar Lake blog discount

Quick note for blog readers:

In an email from Cedar Lake:
"We would like to offer a special discount to blog readers for the Spring Season. If buyers use the code "blog15" on they can get 50% off of the ticket price which is a $15 ticket. We're offering this only to blog readers from now until the end of the run, June 15.

Code: "blog15" for a $15 ticket (50% discount)
URL for tickets:

Many thanks to Cedar Lake for the generosity. Take advantage of it, it's a very interesting program!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

branching out

Tonight I went to review Trinayan Dance Collective, an Indian dance troupe that I was completely and utterly unfamiliar with.

It was definitely an experience.

I'm writing a full review for exploredance soon so look for was nice to get a taste of movement outside the ballet/modern/contemporary realm I'm so accustomed to. Usually for reviews I pitch ideas or shows I want to see anyway, but this one my editor knew the company or something and asked me way ahead of time to write on it. I think it's good to branch out!

Another highlight of today besides the usual ABT intensive business was heading over to Bloch dancewear to resume my little "job" (it's not a job, no money involved) as test dancer for their pointe shoes. In the fall I was working with them to develop a new shoe for beginners on pointe and they had me test shoes for free in exchange for my feedback on how they fit and whatnot. The shoe I "helped create" is now complete and on the market, so they asked me to test a finished pair now to compare. Nice to get shoes (when I'm going through them like water) and be involved in that.

ABT was fine today. Pilates, class, pas de deux (kind of slow since there's so many people to get through in combinations with few guys), rehearsal, and modern (with the better teacher). Tomorrow I have jazz, which we also had yesterday instead of modern. Good times.

Busy weekend ahead with work and such...seeing ABT's Twyla piece Saturday, and DRA's Times Square free show on Sunday between classes and stuff.

Tired as usual but loving this busy-ness.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Meet the Artist, & more

Back in my stricter ballet school days when our class was overtired and overworked and couldn’t muster the energy to take yet another intense series of barre exercises, we would try to convince the teacher to do a “meet the artist” with us. Instead of plies and pointe shoes we’d beg to hear the life story and career highlights of our teachers. You know they loved talking about themselves, but we had to be pretty exhausted to convince them to skip out on normal class.

Fortunately, ABT’s intensive has these “meet the artist” seminars built in – on top rather than instead of regular class. Given the credentials of the faculty there it’s really interesting to hear what they have to say. Today we “met” two people.

The first was Ethan Brown, who taught my level’s morning class. He was a soloist with ABT and danced in the company for 23 years. He spoke about his time at SAB and how he was asked my Misha to join ABT just randomly in class one day. He also talked about his sister, Leslie Brown, who was in the moving “The Turning Pointe.” Very cool.

The longer seminar was with Rachel Moore, the Executive Director of ABT. She's great. She was actually the exec director of Boston Ballet School while I was still there back in the day. She mentioned quite a few things of note…

After describing her career in the corps de ballet of ABT and her admirable transition to college and grad school (Arts Admin @ Columbia), she went into a discussion about the state of dance today and the financial issues companies face. One of my favorite quotes she said: “In the totem pole of culture, dance is probably just above mimes and just below poets.” That got a great laugh.

One thing she mentioned was how she has to help balance the repertoire the company does so that they can balance the budget. For instance, if they want to do a more avant-garde work they have to also do something like “Swan Lake,” which consistently sells out for them. She said it’s hard for them to do things like Tudor ballets, which are often darker and not “children fare.” She said people don’t want to see that when they come to the ballet. “If Muffy from Idaho comes to NYC to see the ballet, she wants to see Swan Lake. It’s familiar.”

My opinion: that’s the reason ballet is stuck where it is. People only think of ballet (if they do at all) as sugar plum fairies and swans. It’s so much more than that!

She spoke quite a bit about NYCB and it being the competitor and some of the differences between the two companies. Apparently NYCB pays better and has more dancers, but ABT prides itself on being more of a touring company. She mentioned how when ABT does a Balanchine ballet it’s completely different from when another company does it, even just in the approach and style. Neither is better, just different. And she mentioned the vast difference in training, of course, which I’m witnessing firsthand in the classes there (personally, I’m finding I prefer the more freedom Balanchine training allows, although it can go overboard. The new abt curriculum style is a little to rigid for me, personally).

Moving on, she also discussed how they cast different ballets. She said that, particularly for the men in the company, there’s no one distinct look they want, but certain roles automatically make you think of certain people. She said you don’t think of Albrecht in Giselle as the short, firecracker type but more the tall, handsome princely type (making the obvious comparison, without directly naming them, between principal dancers like Herman Cornejo and David Hallberg).

My opinion: why not a short, firecracker prince? Why do we continue to live in a word of stupid stereotypes and archetypical appearances when there is such a multitude and diversity of talent out there? Just look at the casting. I know some dancers with atypical bodies are breaking the mold, but in general, as she pointed out and exemplified, the hero must look like a hero (whatever that is), and so on. Why does this continue, and am I the only one who doesn’t get it?

This kind of brings me to another poignant issue she discussed in the seminar: body types. Someone asked about body issues related to the company and she made a point to announce that they are very serious about dancers who are too thin, and they remove them from performances until they return to a healthy weight as determined by a doctor. After that cautious schpiel came the dirt.

She listed off the typical physical characteristics companies look for in a ballerina: “long legs, pretty feet, a long neck…” And then she went on to say that it was particularly difficult when she was in Boston to tell people that, “you know, some feet are just not going to change. And I’d never encourage someone to put themselves through this to hurt themselves in the long run just for the sake of completing a short term goal of being a dancer.”

Ouch. I was one of those kids they said that too.

“You’ll never be a dancer,” since age 10. Yet here I am folks…

No, not in ABT. But why does that – being prima ballerina in the best company in the country – have to be the only thing drilled in our heads to aspire to in the dance world? This is an everlasting frustration for me that resurfaced this afternoon, haha, so I’m just venting a bit.

After a lengthy discussion on this that had me shifting in my seat she mentioned her dislike of ballet competitions because they only award tricks instead of artistic nuances. An interesting point she made was that competitions CAN be beneficial “for people with odd bodies that wouldn’t necessarily be picked in a cattle call” and for those that look better onstage rather than in class. I agree with the weariness of competing…yet is it ironic then that the grand prize for the Youth America Grand Prix competition is a contract with ABT’s studio company?

Earlier Ethan mentioned that he works with that competition, judging and teaching. When asked by one of my classmates what he thinks are some good ballet schools, the first thing out of his mouth was one of my former schools that has transformed into a HEAVY competitor in these things. I had to laugh.

I am baffled and amazed at the same time at the range and depth of opinions in the dance world. It would be nice to have access to more of them, and to have a louder discussion going on about these kinds of issues. It’s so intriguing to hear what these teachers and so many others have to say from the extent of their careers.

That being said, it also got me thinking about dance history. Last week’s seminars at the intensive were powerpoint lectures about long ago choreographers and how ballet came about. Honestly, I was kind of bored – and not because the content isn’t important or interesting but because I couldn’t feel a personal connection to that history. So what if some guys danced with their feet turned out in fancy costumes in the royal courts…I can memorize names and dates but it’s hard, for me at least, to appreciate and learn from that past.

That’s a problem.

My solution to this problem is my finding that, again for me anyway, I am much more eager to hear stories and learn about the past through personal anecdotes and experiences of my own teachers and those they pass on from THEIR teachers. I always laugh when I hear yet another teacher get all nasally and crinkle their nose while saying, “No, dear, like this…” in imitation of Balanchine. They all do it the same way! It makes for a really clear, amusing, and humanistic picture of what that famous ballet maker was like. THAT’S the history I’m interested in – stories of what it was like to be in rehearsal with Jerome Robbins; what Balanchine used to tell his dancers before performances; what Alvin Ailey’s choreographic process was like. It adds such a deeper meaning and value to information when it’s a personal account, and though it may not be an objective historical lesson like dance history textbook, it’s a heck of a lot more fun to learn about.

I realize the problem with this is that soon enough we won’t have those bloodlines to trace back to those great choreographers and teachers. Even now we don’t have anyone to give a personal account of Louis XIV’s days starting the art form (of course), and those from the Ballet Russe are just about gone. It’s sad, but I think the preservation of those anecdotes and stories and such would be of great value to our generation.

Huh. That was a long rambling. Perhaps I’m not making sense anymore, as I’ve danced about 9 hours today and slept a little more than half of that.

But, thoughts? I’m interested to hear other opinions on these topics, etc!

Cedar Lake reviews posted

Just checking things on my very quick lunch break and saw that my Cedar Lake review is posted on ExploreDance here

And the Times review is here


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Cedar Lake spring season review

Here's my review of last night's Cedar Lake performance, which should be up on ExploreDance soon.

I wrote in a rush this afternoon but what can you do...
Also see Philip's writing on it here (which I have yet to read myself since I had to get mine done...).

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet has once again transformed their Chelsea space into a traditional theater for their Spring Season after their eccentric “Glassy Essence” installation removed audience boundaries last month. Yet this program is anything but traditional.

Nicolo Fonte’s “Lasting Imprint” is a play with silence. Several people dance some secret code of alternately sharp and continuous movements. In groups they pit phrases against each other, only to the beat of their breath. Then red light flashes. Violins eek. And the pace quickens with the contained language where their hands hold a magic power that reverberates in their bodies as they swipe down their fronts often.

Jason Kittelberger appears later with white paint splattered across his head and chest. From the front row it appears as if the harsh lighting creates the effect, but soon he wipes his covered face around the lovely Jessica Coleman Scott, head stroking her back to leave paint. Maybe this is the imprint that was supposed to last, but the piece might have sufficed with a further exploration of the imprint of Steve Reich’s music on silence rather than that of gunk on splotchy costumes.

Based on the Catholic symbolization of the Virgin Mary, “Annonciation,” a duet for Jessica Lee Keller and Acacia Schacte (on Monday), is equal in intensity. The floor that was white for the opening piece is now stripped down to a vibrant red, matching the fire inside each girl. Choreographer Angelin Preljocaj blends the signature movement quality of the company – boneless, fluid, powerful – with periods of robotic gestures. They rigidly connect the dots in the air before melting into a sensual head on shoulder moment that leads to a kiss. The moment is powerful, but largely thanks to the rumbling build up of the music and lighting.

To finish the evening on a high note (very high for those enjoying the champagne reception for all at each intermission in celebration of opening night) was the premiere of Jo Stromgren’s “Sunday, Again.” The piece features the full company in a series of large groups and duets centered around a badminton match that was never actually played. The sport can be boring to watch, but this humorous work is not at all! Frequently a tousled net is dragged on, and birdies galore toss around.
At one point Harumi Terayama sits in a chair as popping noises are made backstage. A white sphere forms at her mouth. Bubble gum? No, the head of a birdie that she soon reveals. Jubal Battisti chases her in a teasing game of “you can’t catch this.” Their playfulness is wonderful.

And then there are the sexual moments, where Scott passionately reaches into Ana-Maria Lucaciu’s white pants. To pull out a birdie.

Amongst the chaos of heated friendships and relationships surrounding badminton opponents is a truly witty piece of dance that lightens Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s spring program. It’s worth the laugh.

me and modern

I wrote in a post last week after having a modern class at ABT's intensive that I prefer to stick just to ballet.

Then I thought about it more and realized that's the exact kind of attitude of bunhead-land that I can't stand anymore. SO when I saw that we had modern on the schedule for today I decided to go in with a more optimistic view.

That was actually quite easy to start, mostly because I was relieved to take off my pointe shoes for an hour and a half, haha. But more to the point, I realized that it's wrong to generalize all modern dance with my earlier statement. Of course I know I shouldn't generalize about ballet either and I hate when people do that as well, but it became clear today that, for me anyway, it really depends on the modern teacher and the class itself (combinations, pace, atmosphere) that make be feel strongly one way or the other towards the style.

The thing is, I've always really enjoyed dancing more contemporary work, which always includes modern movement. Especially when I was working with Rebecca Kelly Ballet, I learned a lot about integrating modern and balletic feelings. And it's great. It's just taking a full modern class that gets to me (and has since I first took modern in Boston during my 2nd summer or so there - maybe 9 years old?).

Today's modern class was a million times better than last week. We had a different teacher, and it really has nothing to do with liking or disliking the teacher as a person. It's more whether or not the class works for you, and the same goes for ballet teachers (believe me, there's a lot to say there but I will refrain myself...). So today's class I actually really enjoyed. It was much more freeing and move-y (I make up words) as opposed to last week, where I was just trying to repeat uncomfortable nuances my body didn't want to do. And neither class named itself as being a particular form of modern dance (Horton, Limon, etc). Both were a mix.

We have this teacher again this week, and also a different one tomorrow. We'll see how that goes, but again, trying to stay optimistic :)

Swan Lake rehearsals are going well. We finished learning all of Act II so now it's on to cleaning up details and such. Looking forward to the little performances next Friday.

It's been another long day and it's not over. I have several articles/reviews/school stuff to be writing this week, plus I'm working til midnight tonight. Better get off the blog and onto Word, haha.

Monday, June 2, 2008

It's Nights Like These

It's nights like these that make me so thankful I'm immersed in the dance world of New York City!

After a super long Monday of week 2 ABT intensive (and after taking an additional ballet class later since we got out early...have I mentioned I'm an overachiever? It's a sickness.) I went to the opening of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet's spring season. It was such a nice evening even though I'm beat, haha.

Many thanks to the company for inviting the bloggers. I was joined by Evan, Ariel, Philip, Matt, and the newest blogger (and, more importantly, New York Times critic) Claudia - all in the front row. It was great to see them all there and catch up after I missed the last Cedar Lake blogger meet-up when they did Glassy Essence. Plus I saw a few other dancer friends at the mini reception after the show. Good times.

The program was very interesting...I'm writing about it for ExploreDance, so details to come soon. And during intermissions there was lots of schmoozing and conversation amongst the packed audience since it was opening night. The program runs through next weekend, so check it out if you have time.

More about ABT the next few days, plus I might be attending a book party for The New Yorker this week even though my internship finished, AND photos from yesterday's little showcase thing coming soon.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

student showing a success

Today's student showcase at Ailey was so fun!

We had a HUGE crowd - way more than last time, and WAAAY more than expected. I was in charge of the program and we thought making 200 would suffice for the 60 person cast + audience, but it so didn't. It was crazy! Apparently they had to turn people away because it was a fire hazard to have that many people in the double studio. Crazy.

Tonya came - see her photo post, hehe.

It was really a lot of fun. It felt like a real performance this time, whereas last time it was kind of thrown together and we only had 20 or so audience members. This was great.

I was fairly pleased with my variation (I only had 1/2 an hour of a coaching session this afternoon and the rest was just be learning it on my own...eek) and the pas de deux went quite well. The other dances were fine, too, and the pieces I wasn't in all looked really good. It was a success :)

Long day though...rehearsing before hand alone and then with everyone, plus the show body is going to need a nice break after the ABT intensive is done, cause I haven't stopped at ALL haha.

Also got called in to do a VERY last minute article for momvnt, so I was trying to contact people for that in between all of this. PLUS a summer online class for school has started. PLUS work.

Have I mentioned that my life is insane?

Have I also mentioned that I thrive off of that?

...If only I had an equal amount of time in the day to sleep, though. Haha.

On to another week at ABT. Going to a few performances this week to review (Cedar Lake, Trinayan Indian dance, ABT) so keep an eye out for some exploredance articles.