Archive for January, 2011


Horrible.  Rain again.  Found out yesterday my xray of last week shows I have a fractured kneecap from a fall more than a month ago.  I’m supposed to stay off of it.  OK, starting next week. On my way to review I Think I Ken, take my rental car back to the airport.  (This is not Enterprise.)  They’ve lost my records, can’t give me a receipt or release the hold on my credit card.  I make a stink.  They do it, but I miss my train back into town from the airport.  Finally at Market East I get a cabbie from Nairobi who insists on slowing down at the green lights even though he knows I’m in a hurry.  I jump out and run the rest of the way to the National, refusing to pay him.  At the National showroom the volunteer won’t let me in.  NO LATE SEATING ALLOWED.  I tell her to tell @dance why they didn’t get a review.  Before I leave the building, someone grabs me and they take me in.  Another reviewer tells me it got better since I arrived.  Show’s good.  Jokes fly faster than you can catch them.  Barbie tells Kira, the “Oriental” doll “You can’t drive,”  and I laugh louder than anybody cause I just yelled that at the cabbie.

Go to St. George’s for a Relache piece by Joe Kasinskas, a favorite composer of mine.  It’s last instead of first and we must sit through an excrutiating half hour of the Taylor/Madof Acoustic Trio — supposedly partly structured and partly improvised.  But I’ll be dadblamed if I could tell the difference.  I had shingles on my forehead 15 years ago and their music reactivated it.

Go to Cabaret with Jack D.  G Rich sings some songs and asks for a smoke machine.  Deborah and Diane get Camels (the venue’s sponsor — hey there were no kids there) and get down on their knees, puffing away.  I lean over to Diane and say, “Boy, Deborah really will do anything for her job.”  Diane says “Yeah but that’s her boyfriend.”  I say, “So, I guess she’s not just blowin’ smoke.”

Hanging around, dancing

Posted on Thu, Jan. 20, 2011

Local choreographer and spectacle-creator Brian Sanders will celebrate 18 3/4 years with his dance company, JUNK – slithering, sliding, tumbling from all kinds of found objects.

By Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer

APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer

Brian Sanders (upright) with dancer and partner John Luna at a rehearsal for the retrospective shows. Luna will perform Sanders’ “The Grid.”

If you’ve been a regular at the annual Live Arts Festival/Philly Fringe or Shut Up and Dance performances, you probably have been mesmerized by dancers hanging from fences, flipping their bodies in the air like trapeze artists, cocooned in plastic beneath the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, or costumed like liquid robots. This inventive choreography, in such pieces as The Gate, Flushdance, AdShock, Sanctuary, Urban Scuba, and Patio Plastico, is all the work of Brian Sanders, spectacle-creator, repurposer of found objects, and dance-hijinks master.

In the last two decades, Sanders, 44, has become one of Philadelphia’s most enduring and beloved dance-makers. His prolific, daring, and mischievously fun-loving work has endeared him to audiences far and wide, and to the local dance community. Dancers with gymnastic backgrounds or aspirations vie to work with him; other companies commission his choreography; critics fight to review his pieces.

Now, Sanders and his company, JUNK, in typical disregard of convention, are presenting an “18¾ Anniversary Season” through Sunday at the Arts Bank, featuring a work from each of their 18 years since 1992.

To read more:

Posted on Fri, Apr. 25, 2008

For the Inquirer

Ever since the right-wing attacks on the arts in the ’80s, arts funders have been driving artists to make multicultural, community or issue-based art, and driving arts organizations to base their operations on business models. So a for-profit, business-model dance company, not beholden to private funding, might sound interesting.

Not so with the Rebecca Davis Dance Company, which has been making art-like shows for the last two years and now has attempted one based on a serious world issue.

Davis presented her 70-minute Darfur as a world premiere at the Arden Theatre Wednesday evening. Twenty-five percent of ticket revenue is pledged to Global Grassroots, a nonprofit organization founded by the sister of Brian Steidle, an American adventurer who witnessed genocide in Africa. Davis based the show she calls a ballet on Steidle’s book, The Devil Came on Horseback.

The show opened with a rear-projected Google map zooming down to a Manhattan intersection and dooming the show to mediocrity: Its comic-strip video was totally out of sync with the subject.

What seemed like the Hullabaloo Dancers appeared in the intersection, wearing berets and red-and-white-striped shirts, as in French apache dancing. That’s a la mode in the Big Apple these days?

Davis’ choreography consisted of basic ballet preparations, jumps and tours on demi-pointe, which kept most of these earnest dancers off balance. Their ballet slippers were mystifyingly comedic in this poorly conceived effort.

A couple of Davis’ dancers have done well in other companies with better material, but few displayed any visible technique here. Under-rehearsed, they were ill-prepared for an opening night.

Gabe Stone Shayer, as the young boy, showed the most promise. But LaMar Baylor and Lauren Putty, as his mother and father, threw him down in so unsafe a way it could literally have injured his ankles.

After Manhattan, the Google map zoomed into Sudan, plummeting Darfur from victim of Khartoum to cartoon. At the airport, pilots and attendants tossed gaily colored baggage to each other while dancing lightheartedly to weird alternative rock. In a clumsy rape scene, the lyrics were vapid to a V. “Do you brush your teeth before you kiss?” the singer asked of the girl who’d gone off with another man. “Do you miss my smell?”

How off-base can you be? This was too big and horrific a subject to be trivialized by an amateur, no matter how well meaning or businesslike. One audience member wondered, “What is she going for, Darfur, the Musical?”


I drive by Findings on my way to a poet’s spoken word performance (she doesn’t want to call it poetry) My Life As a Dog. Findings will be open late and they’ll hold the head for me. The  poet reads a poem about her dog who gives a hat mold as a gift to its shrink. I nearly choke.  Afterwards we are going to see Brian Sander’s Patio Plastico, but I drag her down Race Street first. “Where are you taking me?” she asks protestingly. I pull her along like she was my dog on a leash. “You’ll see and you won’t believe it,” I say, “Just wait.” Inside, I hold the head/hat mold triumphantly aloft and announce “Arthur’s birthday present,” while she howls with laughter. I lay my dickering plans aside when Mel offers me the head at the top dollar price I was willing to pay for it.

Off with the head, we bump into my daughter and son-in-law, who are dumfounded when we show it to them. We dump the head in the trunk of my car before cutting over to Patio Plastico.  Sanders’ has recycled two-liter soda bottles as shoes for his dancers. What a whooshing noise they make. Eerie.


Hurricane Floyd floods the streets with debris. Fringe organizers are frantic. Should they cancel? They decide no. I am reviewing Tere O’Connor Dance at 7pm.  Can I make it downtown in time? Kelly (still the East River Drive to me) Drive is closed and the Surekill is at a crawl. I decide I can get into town via Ridge Avenue and down through my old Fairmount neighborhood. At Ridge and Midvale I commit the driving sin I most hate — gaper gawking, rubbernecking, call it what you will — but the river has come almost up to Ridge Avenue and up to the chins of the traffic lights on the drive. In my whole life in Philly, I’ve never seen anything like this!

Though the winds are still high, the rain has died down to a spit. I wind through Fairmount around 2601 and cut over to Spring Garden where I park in my secret spot and walk down Second Street. (Despite the wind I detour past Findings to get my head, but the hurricane has kept it and many other shops and restaurants closed.)

The show goes on to a sparse audience. Wimps, I call the no-shows. Meanwhile, O’Connor’s six terrific dancers engulf the stage with tears and laughter.

The Painted Bride won’t comp me to see Danny Hoch, and on freelance wages I can’t afford a ticket. I pop down to Serrano for a beer and a bite at the bar before deciding whether to go home and write my review or see something else.  Sean is the new bartender there. Jude, one of the owners, introduces us. We get to talking. Turns out he’s the composer for a dance concert called Crush, on at 9:30. I rush over to National to see if its worth adding a sentence or two to my already circumscribed five inch review space. Hmm, sampled drum and bass type stuff (in my book usually not what I would call composing) but the choreography and dancing of Kate Watson-Wallace are terrific to take in and so is Rebecca Sloans harness work inside a strobe lit box. Very David Parsons a la Caught, but the box takes it to another dimension. I try to fit something into my review, but O’Connor gets all my space.

Wednesday, Fringe Fest opening day:

Making my way over from one reception to another I stop in Findings on Race Street. There I spy a rather abstract, faceless head. Turns out to be a Victorian hat mold.  I decide on the spot it’s one of the perfect gifts for my husband’s birthday. He loves Kandinsky and this head had a strange Kandinskyesque quality to it. Also it is made of balsam — my husband is a heavy thinker so I thought, hmm, maybe this’ll lighten him up. But I don’t buy it. Too bulky to carry around. I’ll come back Friday.

Later at Bald Mermaids most of the wonderful dancers who filled Smoke’s basement performance space with archetypal feminine imagery have shaved heads.  In one piece, as my colleague Miriam Seidel, put it in her review, They brought new meaning to the term couch dancing.”  Still I kept thinking of that hat mold.  I should go get it before it’s snatched by someone else.  But it gets late so my companions and I check out the Fringe opening party for the time it takes to down a beer and then we check out of Old City for the night…To be continued

PrimeGlib Editor’s remarks: Below is a post by Marc Kirschner published July 16, 2010 on TenduTV. It is reposted here with permission.  It illustrates the failure of the Dance Critics Association to actively advocate for dance and dance criticism. To see a potent and lively example of how a community of critics can effect the amount of ink an arts media receives, visit While features like Members Blogs and Links, and Members Milestones offer huge value for current members and encourage new members, other features such as Perspectives in Criticism may be of interest to the general public as well as to the theater community who may wish to know just who their critics are and what qualifies them to write about theater. So…

Back to the Future Part II: Dance Critics and Technology

By Marc Kirschner

Posted by tendutv in Advocacy, Distribution, Newspapers, Technology, TenduTV, The Dance World on 07 16th, 2010 | one response

In my response to the NEA’s Audience 2.0 survey, I listed a number of key technologies that had permeated the consumer market place and changed audience behaviors since the survey began. I also asked a simple, but important question:

“Once a dance company has actionable information and presumably wants to act, can it?”

With the Dance Critics Association (DCA) conference coming up, I decided to implement similar methodologies in evaluating the dance world’s very important “fourth estate”, which has been under extreme pressure over the last few years. Dance critics need to be supported, and we need to preserve this valuable sector of our industry. When intelligent and skilled writers have nowhere to publish, artists and audiences suffer.

It’s time for dance critics to take some steps on their own.

Many critics today, even those with a long-standing online presence, are further behind the technology curve than their artistic counterparts. In some cases, the basic infrastructure and capabilities supporting their websites haven’t been upgraded in over ten years.*

Yet, when we’ve spoken to critics, or listened in on panel discussions, they talk about their websites definitively. They believe that since they have websites, people should be reading their reviews, and since they don’t, there must not be an audience for dance. They never consider that failure to address basic requirements via concepts such as metadata, search optimization, syndication, analytics and even a minimal grasp of aesthetics are all acting against their ability to be seen by their audiences. The facts are beyond subjective. For example, one website doesn’t even resolve its domain name properly – if you type in the web address without typing “www.” before the domain name, you get a three-year old version of the site. Another claims millions of annual hits (a long-discredited metric), while industry-recognized third-party analytics services show fewer 10,000 unique visits (a more credible metric) per year.

This is a troublesome situation. While there certainly are many factors that continue to contribute to the plight of dance critics, a majority of which are out of the criticsphere’s control – for example, short-run seasons that make reviews past news before they’re even printed, what can be done doesn’t appear to be part of the conversation. Organizations continue to host workshop after workshop to empower aspiring writers to hone their craft, nothing is being done to help writers fulfill their purpose. While there is always a concern about cost, many of these websites would take a multi-generational leap forward simply by transitioning to even the simplest free blogging platform. A 1-hour WordPress workshop could do miracles to advance the field.

The DCA needs to take a public leadership role in this area rather continually mourn bygone days and lost jobs, while simultaneously pleading for someone else to pull them to safety (which was the general gist of the DCA panel at the Dance/USA conference – one of the panelists actually said that they needed someone to give them an audience). While the DCA conference is full of planned discussion about a wide variety of styles of dance, there is not a single minute of necessary basic skills training or conversation.

So, where should the DCA go from here? The DCA needs to

• Reach out to and grow its membership to include younger, developing writers who are more adept at using technology. Experienced writers can share their knowledge and developing writers can contribute their skills in exchange.

• Advocate and empower modernization of the infrastructure of digital dance criticism, not only among its members but among funders as well. The DCA should also add a technology advisor to the organization.

• Educate their members on contemporary measurement metrics and analytics packages. It is vital to be able to discuss reach and traffic using the same language and metrics that other stakeholders (advertisers and companies) require.

• Be a part of the conversation, which is already taking place here and here.

There can be no delay. The future must be now.

*In order to look at how websites once were, we used, aka “The Wayback Machine”. We would have gone back in time, but the DeLorean is in the shop.

For more at TenduTV:


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