Archive for July, 2011

Posted on Thu, Jun. 23, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer


Performing “Chinnamasta: The Parts and the Whole” are (from left) Lesya Popil, Hedy Wyland, and Marie Brown.

Philadelphia’s dancers have built a community that’s the envy of other cities around the country. A Washington City Paper article last month cited Headlong Dance Theater as a ringleader, quoting one of its founders, David Brick, as saying, “You have to figure out how to do things on your own.” Sometimes that requires contorting into unlikely partnerships such as the one between Headlong, another long-established dance group, Group Motion, and Viji Rao’s newer Three Aksha. Their show, called “Sam-Gam BAM!”, opened at Drexel’s Mandell Theater last weekend and continues Thursday through Saturday.

Headlong is the postmodern, hipster/brainy dance company that relocated in Philadelphia from Wesleyan University in the early 1990s; German expressionist Group Motion had arrived from Berlin back in 1968. Traditional Indian dance company Three Aksha’s been around for the better part of the last decade.

“Sam-gam” – Sanskrit for “flow together” – is the title and overarching theme of the new works presented by the three companies, whose flowing together was pure serendipity.

“Group Motion had reserved the Mandell for two weekends,” said company director Manfred Fischbeck, “and since Headlong and Three Aksha inquired about the Mandell for the same dates, it made sense to join forces with the support of the Dance UP rental subsidy program.”

Headlong’s world premiere, I cannot tell you how to watch this, is actually an amusing primer on how to watch it, featuring Lorin Lyle as a referee and several dancers who form Headlong’s new ensemble springing off and melting into one another, contact-improv style. Headlong’s Amy Smith soloed in a classical Bharatanatyam dance taught to her by Rao, to jazz and country music. It was wonderfully quirky at first, though the quirk didn’t outlast the conceit, especially as a solo on a large proscenium stage.

Rao led her group of seven women in Uurja, expressing Bharatanatyam’s nine emotions with live music and vocals. They later danced a more contemporary theatrical work, Faces Behind the Mask, in which four masked couples represent ordinary life situations.

After reprising a luminous 2003 work by Japanese choreographer Kenshi Nohmi, Group Motion provided the strongest work on the program. With an electronic score by Andrea Clearfield and live music performed by Tim Motzer, Thomas Wave and Fischbeck, the world premiere called Chinnamasta – The Parts and the Whole drew on the legend of the Hindu goddess who is self-decapitated. Text by poet and dancer/choreographer Jaamil Kosoko provided chilling monologues about greed, compassion, and sex.

With a video installation by John Luna projected onto billowy rectangles of plastic dropped from the fly, and a full complement of Group Motion dancers and guests, the piece had the sense of spectacle the concept called for. Bathed in golden light by lighting designer Matt Sharp, the group writhed behind the semi-opaque sheeting in an erotic and mystical tangle.

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Posted on Fri, Jul. 22, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer

                                                                                                                              ALEXANDER IZILIAEV

Barry Kerollis and Chloe Horne dancing in BalettX’s performance of Amy Seiwert’s “It’s Not a Cry.”

Two impressive world premieres by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa set BalletX’s summer season ablaze at the Wilma Theater on Wednesday evening.

Ochoa has choreographed for the company before, and Laura Feig and Adam Hundt danced her Bare with charming tenderness. In ordinary underwear, they languidly spill over each other, entwining and uncoupling as if drowsy with morning love.

Duets perpetually serve as studies of coupledom, and Amy Seiwert’s It’s Not a Cry explores the couple over the long haul. To Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s hallowed anthem to love gone bitter, “Hallelujah,” Chloe Horne and Barry Kerollis appear in separate spotlights. If Kerollis pulls Horne along in a slide, she convulses in mid-glide and twists off in the other direction. It seems they’ll never make it work. Yet by the final iteration of “Hallelujah,” the two are coiled together, bathed in a single pool of light.

A Soliloquy Among Many, by Roger C. Jeffrey, opened the evening with costumes by Loris Doran that evoked a medieval theme – monk-brown skirts, flat suede boots. The group sections looked crowded at times, but Horne, as the lead, drew me in with her lissome solo.

En Dedans, a short film by Gabrielle Lamb, served as an entr’acte. Voice-overs reveal the individual thoughts of the company’s dancers in rehearsal, making apparent the hardships, pain, and doubt artists endure to bring us the pleasure of their company.

But it was Ochoa’s morbidly sad, yet freakishly beautiful Castrati that ended the program with an unexpected concept – a study of the “last seven castrati” who endured being maimed for life in order to acquire voices that could range over three octaves.

Along with Colby Damon, Jesse Sani, and Hundt, Ochoa smartly used four female dancers whose long, smooth limbs resemble those developed by boys after prepubescent castration.

Avid Arik Herman’s golden masks and marquisette and faux brocade costumes recalled the foppery and excess of the era. Music by Friedrich Handel and David van Bouwel wrapped this gorgeous lot in the high-pitched voice that sounds as dismembered as the body. Various tics and exaggeratedly grotesque gestures expressed how damaged these performers were. Damon’s overly courteous bows drew laughter. Hundt, extracting his voice from his yawning mouth as if it were a long silken scarf, drew pity. Tara Keating, lying leopard-like off to the side, surveyed the audience as if all this were our fault.

Hell no. It isn’t a glutinous, gummy, grayish clump of quivering mush with a few pinkish flecks of clam poked into it. In the versions at the low-scale “family restaurant” at Bay Village’s Gazebo in Beach Haven on Long Beach Island last week and on the way back from LBI last night at the upscale Blue20 on Route 70 in Cherry Hill you can’t say the clams were floating in the soup because the stuff is just too gluey. It figures an Ohio-based would-be chain (the Mancy family in Toledo)would get it wrong. At no time should FLOUR be used to thicken a New England Clam Chowder! At no time should it be potato soup with a few clams thrown in.

But Ohio-bastardized or not, most of what we get in area restaurants is a ghastly version of Maine-style New England chowder, a cream-based soup with little, if any flour. When well-made its good, but you haven’t lived if you haven’t tried Rhode Island-style. The best example of that is at The Black Pearl in Newport, RI. The first time I visited, the other patrons began placing bets on how many bowls I would eat after I finished my third. I ordered nothing else, but stopped at six bowls. Not that I couldn’t have eaten a couple more, but I started to feel a little embarrassed.

Emeril Lagasse’s hometown of Fall River, MA is just a scant 21 miles from Newport, and I get close to the Black Pearl’s chowder by blending his method with my own. If you can’t make it to the Black Pearl, make it at home.

For six servings:

  • 5 pounds large cherrystone clams, scrubbed, rinsed, discard open clams
  • 1/4 lb fatback or Salt Pork finely diced (Bacon is an OK substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus a couple for finishing
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • salt  to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives or green onions
  • a small dash of cayenne

In a large stockpot bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the clams, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Shake the pot and cook 5 to 10 minutes longer until the clams are open.

Transfer the clams to a bowl and strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheescloth into a bowl. If you have less than a quart of broth, add some bottled clam broth. When the clams are cool enough, shuck and chop them.

Cook the fatback in a large heavy pot over medium heat until crisp and the fat is rendered. Pour off all the fat except 2 tablespoons. Add the 2 tablespoons butter, leeks, onions, and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes, being careful not to brown. Add the potatoes and reserved clam broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the broth thickens slightly and the potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the thyme stems and bay leaves, stir in the clams and cream, and season with the pepper and the salt to taste. You may add more cream or clam juice at this point, to taste.

Set the chowder aside for 1 hour, covered, to blend the flavors. Reheat on low, but do not boil. Serve hot; garnish each bowl with a pat of butter, parsley and chives, and I add a bit of freshly chopped thyme as well. I find the thyme brings out the clam taste best. Finally, a wee dash of cayenne pepper on each serving, as the big E would say, kicks it up a notch.

The Black Pearl Newport Bannister’s Wharf Newport, RI 02840
401.846.5264 [email protected]




With Alexei Ratmansky’s new production of Don Quichot mounted on the breathtaking dancers of The Dutch National Ballet, story ballet lovers have a luscious new ballet to view online. The Russian choreographer, now Artist in Residence at American Ballet Theatre, took on the remake of the epic literary classic first realized as a ballet by Marius Petipa in 1869. Researching the original choreography and that of Alexander Gorsky’s versions yielded few clues to the original choreography, leaving Ratmansky free from having to hew to Petipa’s choreography step for step. Instead he drew inspiration from Petipa’s libretto, giving these dancers, who today have technical skills far beyond what dancers had 150 years ago, plenty to show off with.

The production too, gives it the luxuriant feel this big, travelogue of a story needs. The opening scene with Don Quichot in his library is a study in the art of stage lighting. Designed by James F. Ingalls, the sunny, clear side lighting venerates the Dutch painter Vermeer’s luminosity. Yet throughout the following scenes, the Spanish sun dominates, coating the atmosphere with the heat of the land of flamenco and toreadors. But the tinselly set design by Jérôme Kaplan for the Dream Paradise scene in Act 2 is my favorite, striking the right tone of frivolity.

Cupid, danced by Maia Makheteli, flits about throughout, and has one of the best solos in that scene. Lighthearted and faery-like, she inflects a bit of tomboyishness into her character. Anna Tsygankova as Kitri and Matthew Golding as Basilio  play at love, even faking suicides to get to the altar and beyond. Actor Peter de Jong is the addlepated Don Quichot who moves well whether on foot or horsey. Renting it from iTunes might prompt you to want it for your collection.

Alexei Ratmansky’s production of Don Quichot performed by Dutch National Ballet is now available for rental/purchase in the US and Canada. Pricing is as follows: on iTunes in the US at $4.99 to rent and $19.99 to own in High Definition, $3.99 to rent and $14.99 to own in Standard Definition; iTunes in Canada at $5.99 to rent and $17.99 to own (for a limited time, regular price $24.99) in High Definition, $4.99 to rent and $14.99 to own (for a limited time, regular price $19.99) in Standard Definition;  Amazon Instant Video in the US at $3.99 to rent and $14.99 to own; CinemaNow in the US at $3.99 to rent and $14.95 to own.


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