Archive for September, 2011

Also Worth a Look

Posted on Sun, Sep. 11, 2011
By Merilyn Jackson
For the Inquirer

Olive Dance Theatre’s ‘Brotherly Love’ Olive, formed in 2002 by Jamie Merwin, has just returned from a national tour with this show about the early MOVE confrontations in Philadelphia. Through hip-hop-inflected “breakin,'” the company’s dancers explore personal struggles with the questions and issues the radical movement evoked. Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at the Painted Bride, 230 Vine St. (215-925-9914

The Blind Faith Project The First Wave is a sensitive, witty treatment of the early-20th-century suffragist movement. The wit comes in the choreography, with its admixtures of American folk steps and modern dance to jazz and trip-hop music. Blind Faith also premieres The Chair Piece, an examination of the roles chairs play as we sit in different kinds at different life stages. Oct. 8 at the Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine St. (215-520-3538, [email protected]).

See The First Wave at

Gabrielle Revlock & Nicole Bindler, plus the Lawrence-Herchenroether Dance Company and Gregory Holt. Revlock and Bindler reprise their in-your-face I made this for you, a hellzapoppin’ commentary on judging dance. Hula hoops, crutches, nudity, yoga, making out, cute kids, balloons — the two throw in the whole nine yards to win the audience’s favor and a $10,000 prize, succeeding in at least one of those goals. Oct. 13 and 15 at the Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine St. (719-761-5489 or

‘Ties That Bind’ Work by Philadelphia choreographers Olive Prince, Jennifer Morley, and Nora Gibson. Gibson presents Phase II of Trinity Project, featuring three dancers (Gibson, Jessica Warchal-King, and Eiren Suman.) This phase is a collaboration with composer and sound artist Michael McDermott (Mikronesia) and lighting designer Clifford Greer Jr. Dec. 2-3 at the Painted Bride, 230 Vine St. (215-925-9914,

See an excerpt from Trinity Project’s Phase I at

Family Holiday Events

Pennsylvania Ballet Get those little girls’ frocks fluffed out and the boys’ oxfords shined! George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, a timeless holiday bonbon and the best excuse ever to dress up, returns to the Academy of Music Dec. 4-31. (215-893-1999,

… And another Brandywine Ballet’s handsome version of The Nutcracker runs Dec. 9-18 at Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, West Chester. (610-696-2711, [email protected]).

Eleone Dance Theatre presents the 20th anniversary of Carols in Color, retelling the Gospel according to St. Matthew by using contemporary music, exuberant dance, and powerful narration. Dec. 17-18, Kurtz Center at William Penn Charter School, 3000 West School House Lane. (267-235-0163 or 1-800-838-3006).

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Posted on Sun, Sep. 11, 2011
By Merilyn Jackson

Julie Diana in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue

‘I love dance as an art form,” says current Chicago mayor, former White House chief of staff, and onetime dance student Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago native who wants his city to be known for its moves. Like Philadelphia, it is a first-rate dance town, and, with Philadelphia, it is recognized by national dance media as one of the top five in the country. But it doesn’t eclipse Philadelphia.

Four well-established, critically acclaimed resident companies – the Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadanco, BalletX, and Koresh Dance Company – bring choreographic cachet to the Avenue of the Arts. This fall we’ll see another world-class season by Dance Celebration at Annenberg. And dozens of other small but robust companies will be presenting as part of a newly funded venue-rental program.

Our dance makers are artists, athletes, activists, healers, and teachers who may actually serve your diner breakfast the morning after you’ve seen them leap from the flies. With plucky start-ups bubbling like so many water-main breaks, you just can’t stem the tide of dancers here. Our own mayor would do well to tap them as role models for Philadelphia’s youth.

– Merilyn Jackson reviews dance for The Inquirer

Carbon Dance Theatre Carbon ironically calls its season-opening concert “Swan Songs.” World premieres by Kate Watson-Wallace, Matthew Neenan, and Carbon artistic director and retired Pennsylvania Ballet soloist Meredith Rainey are set to a range of final songs, from Schubert’s Schwanengesang to those of contemporary (if late) popular artists Amy Winehouse, Nick Drake, and Tupac Shakur. Oct. 28-30 at the Performance Garage ( or

Group Motion/Masaki Iwana As part of a long-established Japanese-American dance exchange, Group Motion presents a one-night-only chance to see Japan’s Butoh master, Iwana, in a solo dance, as well as the dance-theater artist Moeno Wakamatsu in Naked Water. Sept. 23 at the Community Education Center, 3500 Lancaster Ave. (215-387-19110

Subcircle Seed was conceived in New Zealand early this year and fleshed out in the Czech Republic over the summer as a duet for Niki Cousineau and Gin MacCallum, with choreographer Carol Brown directing and performance design by Jorge Cousineau. The multi-award-winning Cousineaus are founders of Subcircle, one of the city’s leading dance-theater companies. Nov. 2-5 at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St. (215-829-1449, [email protected]).

Philadanco It’s more than 40 years old, yet as young at heart as its founder, Joan Myers Brown. The company dances the Philadelphia premiere of Watching Go By, the Day by one of its former stars, Hope Boykin, on a bill with Gene Hill Sagan’s glamorous full ballet La Valse, Christopher Huggins’ all-male Blue, and Suite Otis by George Faison. Nov. 3-6 at the Perelman Theater (215-893-1999,

Headlong Dance Theater Desire, an original, full-length dance-theater piece directed by Swarthmore College’s K. Elizabeth Stevens, stars Headlong’s codirector/founders Amy Smith, David Brick, and Andrew Simonet. You’ve been waiting for this loopy trio to repossess your sensibilities with onions, hippos, and watermelons, haven’t you? Nov. 11-13 at Bookspace, 1113 Frankford Ave. (215-545-9195,

Lionel Popkin Here’s a not-to-be-missed chance to see former Philadelphian and Trisha Brown alum Popkin dancing in his quartet There is an Elephant in This Dance, joined by Carolyn Hall, Ishmael Houston-Jones, and a mystery guest, in the Philadelphia Dance Projects Presents 2011-2012 series, “Dance Up Close.” Gabrielle Revlock’s Share is also on the program. Nov. 18-19 at the Performance Garage (215-546-2552 or

BalletX The often-puckish choreographer Matthew Neenan collaborates with composer Robert Maggio on a piece for the company’s dancers, with music scored for and performed live by Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra cellists Jennie Lorenzo and Mark Ward. San Francisco-based choreographer Alex Ketley’s 2009 Silt repeats. Nov. 16-20 at the Wilma Theater (215-546-7824,

Dance Celebration at Annenberg This stellar presenter has snared two of the world’s most brilliantly unorthodox choreographers in one season – Australia’s Gideon Obarzanek, founder of Chunky Move, and Montreal’s Marie Chouinard in her Compagnie Marie Chouinard.

Those who loved Obarzanek’s Mortal Engine at the Live Arts Festival two years ago – in which light displaces music as a driving force – will no doubt flock to see his new work with kinetic sculptor Reuben Margolin. In Connected (Nov. 17-19), the dancers construct Margolin’s sculpture in real time.

I cut my professional reviewing teeth on Marie Chouinard’s Rite of Spring shortly after it premiered in 1993. I’ve since seen at least seven other Rites by renowned choreographers, but none surpasses Chouinard’s for steamy atmosphere of a savage life cycle annually rising from the slime. No less turbulent will be her 24 Preludes by Chopin, also in its Philadelphia premiere. Dec. 8-10 at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (215-898-3900,

Jack DeWitt, Steven Weisz and 7 others recommend this.
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

Aw, come on. Fess up. You know you’ve done it when nobody’s looking — stood in front of a mirror and conducted your favorite Mahler or, at least, played air guitar.

In 2007, Xavier Le Roy turned his “conducting” of a recording of Le Sacre du Printemps into a marvelous dance performance. He’s taken this concept to another level with More Mouvements, not so much choreographing on the musicians in the piece, but allowing the music (or the score) to impel the movement, which looks more like pantomime than dance, especially when the instruments have gone missing and/or are hidden with musical doubles playing them behind screens.

Local new music group Bowerbird has pulled off the coup of bringing this piece to the Live Arts Festival this year, performed by eight musicians who include members of the Klangforum Wien. Helmut Lachenmann’s musique concrète pulls sound from each instrument’s entire body; conversely, the musicians’ movements are mostly upper body.

by Merilyn Jackson on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 12:51pm

The following is a brief remark I add to the interesting and dynamic discourse taking place on Lisa Kraus’s FB page regarding the meaning of meaning and undiscerned meaning in dance reviewing. More than a dozen people have weighed in with some 40 remarks regarding the question: If you are on FB and have something to add, please go to Lisa’s page. Lisa Kraus

Must it mean something?

I found a great deal of “meaning” in Jasperse’ Canyon. I would even say he was dismissive of the audience during the 10 minutes or so he forced us to watch his crew pull up tape. But in a longer review would ponder why and posit some answers. I would describe the Catherine Wheel this discussion has sparked as if we were dancing around Ellen having said “there was no meaning.” She said “it was difficult to discern much meaning out of the piece.” She has a right to say that, for as critics we must identify with the audience no matter how insiderish our knowledge is. Is the audience ever wrong? You bet, and history often proves it. The best writers struggle to inform the audience and lead them to thoughtful reversals of their first reactions.

More on this in Broad Street Review next week.


“Merilyn Jackson says Shantala Shivalingappa brings spare elegance and beauty to the four solos she performs in tribute to her teachers and mentors, particularly Pina Bausch.”

Posted: September 12, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

For the Inquirer

The moment Shantala Shivalingappa appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s in Tanztheater Wuppertal’s Bamboo Blues in 2008, the audience inhaled collectively as if a floral scent had suddenly wafted onto the stage. It had.

It wasn’t the first time Shivalingappa danced with Pina Bausch’s company, but it was the first whiff of her we had in the States. She appeared shorter, more adorably childlike than the older, wiser, perhaps jaded, Wupertallers.

At the Arts Bank Sunday night she danced four solos in a brief evening she devised, looking anything but childlike. She called the evening Namasya, an homage to her teachers and mentors, not the least of whom was the late and still-mourned Bausch.

Sept. 8, 2011


Theatrically, Headlong Dance Theater’s Red Rovers has a beginning, middle and end. So why was I always waiting for it to begin, until the end? By then I realized the little dances by Christine Zani and actor David Disbrow that took place around the middle, were going to be “that’s all there was.”

It was another clever setup/sendup by the three wizards of wisenheimery, David Brick, Andrew Simonet and the ever-charming Amy Smith. In the lobby beforehand, audience members were given fake name tags (I chose Donna Galuska) and were greeted by Smith as if we were arriving for a conference. Inside the cool set, designed by Chris Doyle, we were divided by into four groups and taken away (Amway-style) to confer so that no group knew what the others were up to.

Donna did Disbrow…

Disbrow’s swell and sweaty nerd/scientist was trying to get the Mars Red Rover working again. But as he explained how things got so screwed up, clearly his mind and Freudian slips were on trying to get his marriage to his partner and colleague Zani working again. Zani played her role with severity and danced with disdain for Disbrow. They texted mathematical solutions back and forth, with Zani mostly seen remotely on a skype-like screen. The clumsiness between them, the show’s conceit, and the two little remote controlled robots made by students at Central High, were adorable. But just as with Headlong’s 2009 More, there was a lot of stuff that just didn’t add up.

The dances, which could have summed it all up, were too little, too middling.

Instead of leaving Red Rovers excitedly chattering over what we had seen, we were puzzling over what we hadn’t. Has Headlong forsaken dance? John Cage, whose birthday was just yesterday, could get away with doing a piece for four minutes and 33 seconds in silence. But there has to be someone sitting motionless in front of the instrument to create the tension in the audience. Will she or won’t she play?

Creatively and collectively, the Headlongers need to rebalance their somatic and cerebral processes.

Live Arts Studio

919 North 5th St.

(at Poplar)

Sept. 8-10

Tickets: $25-30

The 2011 Rocky Awards

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

This year’s Rocky Awards, presented Monday night by the previous year’s winners to other dancers of their choice, moved at such a clip they lasted a mere hour and a quarter.

The host, as in recent years, was the inimitable Jaamil Kosoko, in spanking white attire (well, it was Labor Day), blonde wig, and gorgeous feather ruff. The formal look belied his laconic demeanor as he moved the show along with the assistance of Melanie Stewart, in a slinky blue sheath.  The first of the 2011 awards (wooden shoe molds) was given to Leah Stein by Gabrielle Revlock.

In amongst subsequent presentations, several entertainments had been devised for our amusement. Few other cities can boast the range of talented people it takes to pull these little bagatelles together, but between our dance and theater folk, we’re never in want.

And the winners were:

2011 Rocky Award winners: Germaine Ingram, John Luna, Kelly Turner, Michele Tantoco, Tommie-Waheed Evans-, Brenda Dixon Gottschild and Leah Stein

Saturday, September 3, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

 After 18 years on the boards, Brian Sanders, artistic director of JUNK, showed thematic maturity with last year’s Live Arts smash, Sanctuary. This year, Sanders hews to a morbid theme in this self-produced Fringe work, a ghoulishly touching show prompted by recent deaths of people close to him. If part of grief is healing and part of healing is laughter, then Sanders puts the nail in grief’s coffin.

Part of Sanders’ genius lies in finding the right venue. For Dancing Dead, he’s in an old factory sub-basement rigged with roping and large squares of real turf, dimly lit by Terry Smith. Sanders, a crotchety old cemetery caretaker, does his rounds on skates or a rickety bike, pulling Connor Senning from a mound of dirt where he’d been lying long before the large audience entered.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Review: Zon-Mai

By Merilyn Jackson

Zon-Mai. It means home in French slang – maison backwards, but (appropriately) it also sounds like my zone in reverse. Everything about this film installation is turned inside out and upended with 21 dancers from 10 countries allowing us a peek at their intimate domains.

Each is an emigrant from somewhere else, and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui set dances on them in their current places, to perform in their bedrooms and bathrooms, under their tables, on their windowsills. Larbi and cameraman Gilles Delmas try to discover what home means when you have to set up far away from the home you knew.

The installation is shaped like a house made of screens, and the projections on it are like windows through which we can spy.




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