Saturday, June 19, 2010

Onstage last night

Another program of ballet at The Kennedy Center Opera House: Red Sweet by Jorma Elo performed by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Tulsa Ballet performing Por Vos Muero by Nacho Duato (which Dance History students watched this spring semester - begins with men and women in undergarments facing away from the audience, running upstage in slow motion…), and The Joffrey Ballet performing Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence. All three dance-makers have spent years in Europe - dancing, directing or choreographing - and their ballets explore contemporary twists. The first two pieces are done in slippers instead of toe shoes and all three require dancers to sink their weight into the floor, to accentuate the curves of their torsos, to test the limits of their physicality. This was especially apparent in Liang’s work where the performers let some of their effort show alongside the illusions of ballet. Watching the program made me think of risk-takers, not only the choreographers, but also the dancers and directors. Duirng intermission when I ran into Susan Shields and Martin Wechsler this word resonated more deeply. Wechsler is the director of programming for The Joyce Theater and his fall schedule, starting in September, includes Jérôme Bel, Batsheva Dance Company, Sankai Juku, les Ballets C de la B, and Cedar Lake in repertory by Alexander Ekman, Jacopo Godani and Hofesh Shechter. Every week explores a different approach to dance and performance.

Without programmers and artists willing to take intelligent risks, the vitality of dance as an art form fades. A combination of courage and competence allows for growth and development. All the melting, flickering and gliding that happened onstage last night results from a mix of perseverance and possibility. Without opportunities to present their works, artists cannot grow, our ways of seeing cannot expand, and we miss the chance to see how performance continually reinforces and challenges our values.

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