Batsheva’s “Sadeh21″ at BAM

Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin's "Sadeh21" at BAM, photo by Stephanie Berger

Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s “Sadeh21″ at BAM, photo by Stephanie Berger

Last week, Batsheva Dance Company brought artistic director Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21 to BAM as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. The 75-minute work, whose title means “Field 21” as in “field of study”, consists of 21 segments that emphasize the individuality of each dancer. Although all 18 dancers train in “Gaga”, Naharin’s movement language and training method, Batsheva is not a cookie cutter dance company. There is a unique, explosive energy unlocked within each performer at different moments throughout the work.

On a stage split horizontally by a white wall, bodies curl, twist, and bend in every direction. Rubbery spines and light footedness allow for abrupt shifts. The whirling limbs of one dancer are mesmerizing, but are suddenly replaced by another. Naharin’s pacing choices are noticeable; you can’t settle into any particular section for too long before the dancers, costumes (neutral or brightly colored shorts and tops), and sounds all change.

The mood is melancholy, with hints of humor and absurdity. A woman walks rhythmically with a pronounced lift of her hips with each step she takes. A man’s gibberish seems filled with a desire to be understood, but also with fits of giggles. Men in flowing, black gowns leap elegantly as a line of women do a groovy sequence of moves. Tender moments shared between two dancers seem less about plot and more about the combination of external forces pushing them together and emotional quivering from deep within.

Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin's "Sadeh21" at BAM, photo by Stephanie Berger

Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s “Sadeh21″ at BAM, photo by Stephanie Berger

Projections on a screen mark the start of each “sadeh”, but after the first six segments take up nearly an hour, the audience chuckles (and perhaps is relieved) when the screen shows that the seventh through eighteenth segments have been combined into one.

There are no formal bows in Sadeh21. The dancers aren’t performing for our entertainment, but rather for each other. And the ending is strikingly serene and powerful. Each dancer climbs atop the white divider and leaps gracefully to a fall that we don’t see, continuing the climb-and-fall pattern as the credits role on the screen below. This is their world – filled with beauty, joy, sorrow, and humor. We’re allowed to have a look, but it’s their playground.

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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.  Continue reading

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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.  Continue reading

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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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