Sunday, May 26, 2013

education and entertainment

Kristina Windom, Kate, and Stephanie Walz backstage at THEARC

Yesterday’s show by the Washington School of Ballet (WSB) was both a trip down memory lane and a depiction of how much the school has evolved. The performance took place at THEARC Theater, a venue that didn’t exist when Mary Day ran the school, but Day’s incredible teaching and attention to detail are still alive and vivid.

Several of the current WSB teachers were students of Day  -- Kristina Windom and Stephanie Walz pictured above -- and preserve her legacy while also preparing students for the changing landscape of companies today. Kee Juan Han, the school director, does a stellar job of honing students’ abilities and producing dancers who fuse exquisite technique and breathtaking excitement: when Albert Gordon is dancing it is hard for me to see anyone else.

Albert possesses an uncanny maturity considering that he is still a teenager. His calm demeanor belies his extraordinary dancing. His turns are marked by his ability to effortlessly coast his rotations and then finish in perfectly balanced positions. His leaps yesterday at THEARC caused gasps in the audience. The fluidity of his lines and his impeccable phrasing make me think a lot of David Hallberg (which makes sense since Hallberg's teacher is also Albert’s teacher: Kee Juan Han.)

Even though I have never met him, I have watched Albert’s dancing both at the school and at various showings, and his performances are amazingly consistent for such a young artist. My guess is that he has been as committed to his training as his teachers have been.

Watching yesterday’s performance I thought about Keesha Beckford’s letter about teaching that was picked up from her blog and published by Huffington Post. Her letter resonated for all the reasons that I enjoy watching a dancer like Albert: he has achieved such technique and artistry through the mutual dedication of student and teacher.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

exploring a range of choreographic ideas

Prentice Whitlow, Ashleigh Gurtler, and Maya Orchin

On May 2 I was in Brooklyn to see “Spring Movement.” One of the choreographers selected for this showing of choreography and performance was Maya Orchin, a student I met at George Mason in 2009 who moved to Europe after graduating from GMU in 2010. She shared some of these adventures abroad here and here.

I was particularly excited to see her recent work because she was a wonderfully inventive choreographer as a student at GMU and I imagined that her exposure to other ways of performing had enriched her singular approach to dance-making. Her trio – performed by Maya with fellow Mason alumni Ashleigh Gurtler and Prentice Whitlow was fantastic. Now, 10 days later, it remains one of those pieces that I keep thinking about each day and enjoying all over again.

It began with a charge of energy, Maya and Prentice tumbling and rolling, and even though there were fluctuations in this energy as the piece evolved, there was never a dropped moment. My focus and interest were steadfast.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Today at the East Building

Today marked the opening of the Ballets Russes exhibit at the East Building and a quick walk-through revealed that it is an impressive look at this company, especially the artists and conversations that surrounded and contributed to its innovative productions.

Today also marked the closing lecture of a series called “Out of Site in Plain View: A History of Exhibiting Architecture since 1750” by Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art, and a professor at Columbia University. 

Every week I attended, Bergdoll delivered a talk that not only revealed a connection between the development of design and techniques of display but also made me think about connections between architecture and dance. In the first lecture Bergdoll spoke about the impossibilities of “collecting” architecture: how exhibitions transfer designs intended to be viewed in their environments to objects that are framed and hung. The correlations with performance and choreography seemed clear: these forms are often preserved or “collected” by being transferred to film, photographs, and written words. When Bergdoll spoke about architecture being exhibited through its simulations, I considered its resonance with dance.