Sometimes we take New York City for granted. Well, the dance world of it anyway.
There’s always so much going on to see and so many wonderful people to meet, but sometimes it takes an organized gathering to really make you appreciate dance all over again. Last night dance blogger Deborah from Dance in Israel organized a blogger meetup at Dance Theater Workshop. Founder of DanceBloggers.com, she’s visiting on a brief trip from Israel and thought it would be great to put a face to the names we all read about online. And what a great night it was!
It reminded me of the very first time many of us New York based bloggers met at a Cedar Lake Dance performance back in January 2008. As we introduced ourselves back then we already knew so much about each other from keeping up online and it was like we’d known each other for years. It was the same finally meeting Deborah in person, but even more funny now because we all keep in touch practically by the minute on Twitter, haha. They knew about yesterday’s audition and how I couldn’t sleep and where I was off to next. The internet is funny that way!
Besides Deborah and her boyfriend Tal, friends Tonya and Doug were there along with Marc from TenduTV and DJ. We had some great conversations ranging from why male dancers have it easier than women to discussions of particular choreographers (who then walked right past us, haha) to how we can facilitate more dialogue and support between dance bloggers around the world. I’ve said this before, but having the opportunity to chat, brainstorm, and gossip with such an intelligent and passionate group of dance lovers is such a rich experience. You don’t find that anywhere – but luckily we’re bringing that conversation online now.
After we talked for an hour we sat to hear a brief “Coffee and Conversation” panel there in DTW’s lobby. Another blogger (and longtime professional dance writer) Eva Yaa Asantewa spoke with Israeli choreographer Deganit Shemy about her piece that was premiering later that night. It was so nice to finally meet Eva as well, after following InfiniteBody and almost taking her Writing on Dance course last fall (before Radio City got me too busy). The conversation with Deganit was very interesting and covered her background and the choices she makes when choreographing. She didn’t start dancing until she was about 26 years old and didn’t have the first showing of her choreography until she was 32. She spoke about the financial struggles the art form faces (mentioning she has paid her dancers from her own pocket in the past) and her great fortune of winning the A.W.A.R.D. Show prize money. She went on to discuss her reasons for working mostly only with females and then made some interesting remarks about the concept of memory and how we shape and change it over time.
Listening to everything made me really want to see her work, which is exactly what hosting conversations like that is supposed to do – a great marketing technique not many dance companies take advantage of right now! Unfortunately my dance calendar is beyond packed for this weekend so I won’t be able to go. But if anyone else gets to see her work do report back ☺
We had a few more laughs before saying our goodbyes and heading to our respective performances we were seeing. I walked the half a block to the Joyce to see Pascal Rioult’s company, which I blogged about after seeing a rehearsal recently.
Rioult’s current season includes the premier of the full length work “The Great Mass” (read Tonya's review of it here) as well as a repertory program, which is what I was pleased to see.
“Views of the Fleeting World” opened the program in a series of nine broken up sections. Between each the projected backdrop changed between colorful paint splatterings that almost resembled tiger stripes. Earthy sound effects rose in the darkness that reflected the titles of the associated dances: “Gathering Storm,” “Sudden Rain,” “Summer Wind.” In each the strong dancers wore gray short unitards with varying accessories.
In one section two of the dancers lay on the floor, never standing higher than a kneel until the end of the piece. They roll sensuously, arms reaching for each other or legs aiming for the sky. The woman crawls her foot across her body to her partner, caressing his side with the pads of her toes. Tender but animalistic movement mark their relationship. This and a lovely featured section for Anastasia Soroczynski were highlights of the rather long work.
The second half of the program was much more alive. “Les Noces (The Wedding)” is a clever take on the ceremonial rituals a couple undergoes in getting ready just before being married. Rioult’s sexual references throughout the work are tasteful but obvious. He mixes movement with human images that slowly unveil a sort of narrative.
The stage begins divided in half by David Finley’s lighting, women lit on one side and men in the dark on the other. Four chairs are used as props they dance on while four white hoop skirts hang behind them. In their white underwear they seem to move in anguish, nervous or scared of what is to come, and lift each other one by one, knees splayed with crotch exposed.
Soon their side is dimmed and the men are revealed, also wearing their underwear with tuxedos hanging just upstage of them. They have their own go at emotional, sexual movement before they invade the women’s side. The chairs are shifted often to make an aisle center stage or to line the wings. Eventually the men and women meet, dancing together properly at first before letting loose. Then thye return to their respective areas to don the clothing waiting for them. One couple at a time they meet at the center, turn, and march straight towards the audience like zombies before the curtain comes down. The piece itself is a perfect marriage of humor and humanness.
Similarly, “Wien” causes a chuckle. The stage begins with dark lighting, the dancers moving almost in shadowy silouette. They shuffle in a circle around the stage as a tight group, their heads down and shoulders hunched as if they are an insecure New Yorker trying to go unseen. One falls. She stands quickly and rejoins the group. Another falls. She continues on. The pattern repeats throughout the piece, never failing to surprise the audience when one drops violently to the floor. The dancers then emerge as characters, humorously introducing themselves briefly through movement. They change, evolve, and make us laugh throughout. It’s definitely a work to see! The season runs through Sunday at the Joyce.
Also for dancers, Rioult is offering a free master class on April 25 with the purchase of a $20 ticket to their season. Info is on their website, so act fast before their season ends. I'll be at the class :)