Dance Commission Launches Park Avenue Armory’s 2015 Season

FLEX Dancers rehearse for FLEXN at the Park Avenue Armory. Photo Credit:  Stephanie Berger

Park Avenue Armory has commissioned dance pioneer Reggie “Regg Roc” Gray and visionary director Peter Sellars to create a performance piece that transforms the tradition of flex, the Brooklyn-born street dance. Characterized by sharp, rhythmic contortion, pausing, snapping, gliding, and animated showmanship, the flex form evolved from the Jamaican bruk-up style popular in the dance halls and reggae clubs of Brooklyn in the 1990s. Opening in March 2015, and marking the first presentation of the Armory’s 2015 artistic season, FLEXN transforms the dance from its traditional, individual, combative style to create a collaborative work of social commentary and storytelling.

The commission brings together 18 dancers from the Brooklyn neighborhoods where the flex movement was born.  Assembled specially for this engagement and performing together for the first time, the dancers will animate a 70-foot-long runway-style stage within the muscular Wade Thompson Drill Hall, which will incorporate images by photographer Richard Ross, creator of the work Juvenile In Justice.  The dancers will perform alternatively solo and as a group to choreography created by the ensemble itself, with music performed live by DJ Epic.

Park Ave. Armory

FLEXN has been in development at the Armory since the second half of 2014, with workshops and rehearsals taking place in the drill hall.  Previous dance presentations at the Armory include the final performances of the Merce Dance Company, Trisha Brown Dance Company’s iconic Astral Converted, the world premiere of Shen Wei Dance Arts’ Undivided Divided, and Streb Extreme Action’s Kiss the Air!. Tickets for FLEXN will go on sale later this fall. The production will run from March 25 through April 4, 2015.


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BALLET 422 – In Theatres this February

The documentary BALLET 422 is set for theatrical release on February 6th, 2015 from Magnolia Pictures. Directed by Jody Lee Lipes and produced by Ellen Bar and Anna Rose Holmer, BALLET 422 takes the viewer backstage at New York City Ballet as dancer and rising choreographer Justin Peck (who is now NYCB’s resident choreographer) crafts a new work for the company’s 2013 winter season. The film follows Peck as he collaborates with musicians, lighting designers, costume designers, and his fellow dancers to create Paz de la Jolla, NYCB’s 422nd new ballet. The film captures a process that has never before been documented at New York City Ballet in its entirety.

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Dance & Fashion Exhibit at FIT

New York City Ballet dancer Lauren Lovette in Iris Van Herpen's costume for "Neverwhere", photo by Erin Baiano

New York City Ballet dancer Lauren Lovette in Iris Van Herpen’s costume for Benjamin Millepied’s “Neverwhere”, photo by Erin Baiano

Today I stopped by the Museum at FIT to check out “Dance & Fashion”, an exhibit that explores the relationship between the two art forms. Nearly 100 dance costumes and dance-inspired fashions are on display, ranging from the 19th century to present day. This post includes photos of several ballets whose costumes were included in the exhibit.

It is clear that costume and fashion designers have taken inspiration from each other. Tutus and pointe shoes of the Romantic ballet closely resembled fashions of the 1830s and 1840s, and designers from Christian Dior to Christian Louboutin have been inspired by the iconic image of the ballerina. In recent years, fashion designers have increasingly been invited to design costumes for ballet and modern dance (not always to great effect, but when dance and fashion mingle, the publicity opportunity cannot be denied). The challenge, of course, is that dancers require clothing that doesn’t restrict the choreography. Marc Happel, costume director for New York City Ballet, is quoted in the exhibit: “Fashion designers need to realize that the dancer is not walking down a runway – she is leaping into the air. When they design for a dancer, they are designing for an athlete.”

New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild in costumes by Valentino for Peter Martins' "Not My Girl", photo by Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild in costumes by Valentino for Peter Martins’ “Not My Girl”, photo by Paul Kolnik

Maria Kowroski and Robert Fairchild of New York City Ballet in Versace for "Herman Schmerman"

Maria Kowroski and Robert Fairchild of New York City Ballet in Versace for William Forsythe’s “Herman Schmerman Pas de Deux”, photo by Jeff Wheeler

Costume by Halston for Martha Graham's "Tangled Night"

Costume by Halston for Martha Graham’s “Tangled Night”

While the number of costumes on display is impressive, one limitation of the exhibit is that it fails to show the beauty of costumes on dancers in motion. A few videos show brief footage from a variety of dances, but all of the costumes were displayed on mannequins. I would have loved to have seen even more videos and photographs to capture the costumes at their liveliest moments.

The exhibit also includes an in-motion portrait of dancer Wendy Whelan by her husband, the artist and photographer David Michalek. The slow-motion footage is from the Dries Van Noten retrospective Inspirations, which took place in Paris earlier this year.

“Dance & Fashion” is well worth the visit. The exhibit continues through January 3, 2015, and admission to the museum is free.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company in costumes by Rei Kawakubo for Cunningham's "Scenario"

Merce Cunningham Dance Company in costumes by Rei Kawakubo for Cunningham’s “Scenario”

American Ballet Theatre in Norma Kamali's costumes for Twyla Tharp's "In the Upper Room", photo by Andrea Mohin

American Ballet Theatre in Norma Kamali’s costumes for Twyla Tharp’s “In the Upper Room”, photo by Andrea Mohin

Dancers in Narciso Rodriguez's costumes for Stephen Petronio's "Locomotor"

Dancers in Narciso Rodriguez’s costumes for Stephen Petronio’s “Locomotor”

Posted in American Ballet Theatre, art, Balanchine, ballet, Dance, Education, Entertainment, History, modern dance, New York City, New York City Ballet, wendy whelan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wendy Whelan’s Farewell at New York City Ballet

Wendy Whelan in George Balanchine's "Symphony in Three Movements", photo courtesy of New York City Ballet

Wendy Whelan in George Balanchine’s “Symphony in Three Movements”, photo courtesy of New York City Ballet

“There is so much untapped movement in me.” These are some of the words Wendy Whelan shared in a video clip shown last Saturday evening at her final performance as a principal dancer with New York City Ballet. Even though she has already had a remarkable 30-year career with the company, and at 47, is a dinosaur in the ballet world, Whelan is in no way retiring from dancing. Thankfully. According to Whelan, she has a lot more to say through dance now than she ever did in her twenties.

While it is a huge loss for City Ballet, where she debuted countless original roles by rising choreographers and put her own unique stamp on myriad roles in works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, the tone at Saturday’s farewell was celebratory and upbeat. Footage from a forthcoming documentary about Whelan emphasized that she is already making moves in the contemporary dance world. Her Restless Creature collaboration with four contemporary choreographers continues touring this spring, and she has other projects in the works. If it’s not already clear, every dancer and choreographer is dying to work with her. Continue reading

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Petition to Live Stream Wendy Whelan’s Farewell Performance

wendy_whelanOn October 18, Wendy Whelan will end her 30-year career at New York City Ballet with a farewell performance. It sold out in minutes, and plenty of her fans won’t be able to watch in person. Over the weekend, a petition was started on Facebook to get New York City Ballet to live stream the performance. The page already has more than 1,000 likes. If you support this effort, go ahead and give it a thumbs up. It will be quite a win if City Ballet listens and moves forward with live streaming. And it would surely be memorable and meaningful for Whelan’s fans around the world.

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