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Performance

Spring Ahead, Fall Back: New York City Ballet’s Tradition of the New

- By Mark Franko

The Fall 2023 season of New York City Ballet’s seventy-fifth anniversary year was themed Foundations, the Winter 2024 season Evolutions, and the Spring 2024 season the Future. This spring futurity was represented by a plethora of new and/or recent choreographies and the increased presence on stage of the younger dancers of the company.[1] Some of the works premiered or reprised featured garish lighting, pop song music with lyrics that literally serve to translate the choreography’s meaning, and haute couture costumes by leading fashion designers showing off signatures more than effective costuming. I don’t see a choreographic future in any of this as it distracts from ambitious dance making even though it cannot be denied that ballet is inherently spectacular given its origins in...


Performance

From The Till Trilogy

- By Ifa Bayeza

The Ballad of Emmett Till explores the life and afterlife of Emmett Till, a Chicago teenager who takes a fateful trip to Mississippi in the summer of 1955.

He goes by the nickname Bo or BoBo and he stutters. Like the African bata “talking drum,” his stammer is percussive, a rapid-fire repetition, without hesitation. His is not a stammer of insecurity but a physical disability which he has chosen to ignore and even to exploit. He is in a hurry to say everything. He whistles in a variety of ways. These moments in the script are indicated with variations of the sign ((o)). He is both a youth who never ages and an old soul, longing for death.

He is accompanied by a troupe of fellow travelers, a quintet composed of two women and three men, a chorus of shape-shifters, trapped between life and after. Lost souls, who cannot find their way, they cling to life and the...


Performance

The Dante Project at the Paris Opera Ballet: Moving across Media

- By Tatiana Senkevitch

More than a century ago, in his essay “On the Anniversary Celebration of Dante,” the legendary literary critic Erich Auerbach, observed that, “Dante is far from having achieved his maximum impact even now.”[1] The Dante Project—a recent collaboration between choreographer Wayne McGregor, composer Thomas Adès, visual artist Tacita Dean, and dramaturg Uzma Hameed—demonstrates that Auerbach is still right. Until this ballet, the world of dance referred to or evoked Dante’s poetry with its rich visual imagery only tangentially, as for example in several choreographic interpretations based on the music of Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante by Tchaikovsky.[2] The Dante Project, commissioned by the Royal Opera House, is the first...


Performance

Notes on Giselle: Angel Corella’s Production for The Philadelphia Ballet

- By Mark Franko

The charmingly historical Academy of Music with its gilt and red décor was an ideal frame for The Philadelphia Ballet’s production of Giselle. It is subtitled “a pantomime ballet,” which recalls the nomenclature of the late-eighteenth-century ballet reform movement: action ballet or ballet pantomime. Telling a story through expressive movement and without words is frequently associated with Jean-Georges Noverre’s still very readable Letters on Dancing and Ballets (1760). Today we think of Giselle (1841) as a romantic ballet that is unique in the nineteenth-century repertoire for its well-etched characters evolving through an unusually plausible plot with realistic social class distinctions affecting a love triangle. The use of musical leitmotifs strongly supports the narrative thread. All these...


Performance

Virtuosity: I Know It When I See It

- By Ariel Osterweis

Excerpt from Body Impossible: Desmond Richardson and the Politics of Virtuosity. Forthcoming from Oxford University Press, 248 pp., April 2024.

Flung out and dispersed in the Diaspora, one has a sense of being touched by or glimpsed from this door. As if walking down the street someone touches you on the shoulder but when you look around there is no one, yet the air is oddly warm with some live presence. That touch is full of ambivalence; it is partly comforting but mostly discomforting, tortured, burning with angered, unknowable remembrance. More disturbing, it does not confine itself to remembrance; you look around you and present embraces are equally discomforting, present glimpses are equally hostile. Art, perhaps music, perhaps poetry, perhaps stories, perhaps aching constant movement—dance and speed—are the only comforts. Being in the...


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