Archive for the ‘ Dance Critics Association ’ Category

Courtesy of the artist:Choreographer Yvonne Rainer will be celebrated at a mini-festival Oct. 15-19 presented by Philadelphia Dance Projects.

Updated: October 13, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDTby Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer

Beginning in 1962, Yvonne Rainer, along with other dance innovators of the last half-century, experimented at the Judson Church in lower Manhattan. They became the Judson Dance Theater, and by 1964 they spun off in their own orbits without losing touch with one another. Rainer wrote her famous “No Manifesto,” which attempted to negate American dance conventions. Rainer now says the manifesto “dogs my heels,” but some of its dictums continue to shape contemporary dance to this day.

Rainer will be celebrated Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday in a mini-festival arranged by Terry Fox, director of the Philadelphia Dance Projects, who met Rainer at the American Dance Festival in 1969. On Saturday and Sunday, there will be dance workshops on Rainer’s seminal work, Trio A, at the Performance Garage. Wednesday at Christ Church Neighborhood House brings a screening of a Jack Walsh documentary on her, Feelings are Facts: The Life of Yvonne Rainer. Rainer herself follows with a talk, “What’s So Funny? Laughter and Anger in the Time of the Assassins.”

Walsh has been recognized for decades for his film work, and his documentary on Rainer’s life is his directorial debut. It premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015, the same year he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. The title comes from Rainer’s 2006 memoir, Feelings are Facts, a truth expressed by one of her psychotherapists.

In a recent phone conversation, Rainer spoke of her parents’ decision to send her away at around age 5 to a boarding school.

“Oh, yeah,” she readily jumped in, “that resulted in therapists most of my life. My mother was emotionally very frail. I was premature, and she hadn’t properly prepared my brother Ivan, who was four years older. He showed a lot of hostility to me, and they didn’t know how to deal with two lively children. My father went along with it. She had to get rid of us for her own sanity.”

The boarding school “was a beautiful place in Palo Alto,” she said. “My brother remembered only good things, and I remembered the punishments and regimentation. Two women who may have been lesbians ran it. It was wartime, and most of the children were there because their mothers were working and the fathers away in the army.”

Her shockingly cool and intellectual dance Trio A was created in 1966, initially as the first part of a larger work titled The Mind Is a Muscle. This dance marks her rejection of audience seduction, elaborate smiles, flourishes, and spectacle. Yet at times her work shows a possibly unconscious neoclassical sensibility, as in Trio A, when her pointed toe skitters through a ronde de jambe like a pebble skips across a pond.

She turned to filmmaking in the early 1970s. “I feel very warmly about my first film, The Lives of Performers,” she said. “I never did anything like that again. It’s much cruder in a way, and out on a limb as far as strategies go. And then, I guess, Privilege and MURDER and murder are much more elaborate, with professional actors.” Of Walsh’s documentary on her, she said, “I have nothing but admiration for what Jack did. It’s pretty inclusive, classic talking-heads documentary, and still being shown after a year.”

She turned back to choreography in 2000, when Mikhail Baryshnikov commissioned After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. “It was a very unique experience working with a dancer of his celebrity,” she said. She calls the conditions at the Baryshnikov/Mark Morris White Oak Dance Project, near Jacksonville, Fla., “very sumptuous.”

At 56, she met and began a domestic life with artist Martha Gever. “Martha is better educated than me,” she said. “I pay attention to her opinions, and I show her my work. She is very appreciative, and we’re still together.”

Is she bored with dance now? “No,” she said emphatically, “dance now is going in all different directions. Just last night, I saw the latest work of Deborah Hay. I think it’s the best thing she’s ever done. And also recently, I saw a French choreographer do a work on four hip-hop-trained women.”

Her legacy, Rainer said, is “in the hands of my current group of dancers, and my archive is up at Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. In fact, Steve Paxton and Simone Forti and I are performing Tea for Three in a gallery in Los Angeles in November, so dance goes on.”

Posted: Sat, Jan. 21, 2012, 3:01 AM
By Merilyn Jackson
For The Inquirer
“Gravity of Center” was performed by the Montreal troupe RUBBERBANDance at the Annenberg Center.

The 10-year-old Montreal troupe RUBBERBANDance returned to Annenberg Center on Thursday evening with the Philadelphia premiere of Gravity of Center. In focus and technique, the soulfully danced work far surpasses the company’s last offering here in 2008.

The vision of company founder and former hip-hop dancer Victor Quijada is to blend his b-boy background with ballet as well as such martial arts movement as capoeira. In Gravity of Center, he’s crystallized this style into what I’ll call “acro-balletic.”

With his co-artistic director, dancer Anne Plamondon, and their collaborators, DJ Jasper Gahunia, who wrote the music, and Yan Lee Chan, who created the lighting design, the team has made a homogeneous work in perfect pitch with its concept. I like seeing hip-hop danced raw on the street, but seeing it danced more slowly and by well-trained dancers like these is like eating tournedos de boeuf instead of hot dogs. There’s nothing wrong with hotdogging on the street, but it can go only so far.

With this work, RUBBERBANDance pares break-dance phrases down to their core and spins lovely strands that seamlessly link them. Quijada was inspired by the disparity between social classes created by the economic failures of recent years. Elon Höglund, Emmanuelle Lê Phan, Daniel Mayo, and Plamondon appear with Quijada in near-darkness struggling with one another, but also against something larger, outside their understanding. The movements flow one from the other in an endless stream, arms slipping over shoulders, legs over backs, necks under torsos. In one phrase, dancers appear to be stepping out of each other’s circled arms as if from a pair of trousers.

Plamondon and Quijada go at each other, simulating head butts; the men have several elegantly crafted fight scenes, always blending the dynamics of hip-hop with the stretchy formalisms of ballet.

They all wear multiple layers of clothing that one expects will be peeled away as the dance reveals itself. But they remove only a vest here, a shirt there. In one instance, a male throws his jacket away after he is ejected from the group. It becomes, for the woman who loves him, a talisman. Eventually, she finds him again, and, forming a human chain, they all pull him back into their community.

Somehow the despair and fear of living in poverty come through. A pulsing light high in the flies beckons. The woman ventures out beyond their circle of light into darkness and is left alone at the end. Is she the one who escapes or is she abandoned?

Read more:

By Merilyn Jackson
For The Inquirer

BalletX opened its fifth season at the Wilma Theater on Wednesday with a triple bill sparkling with surprising and lovely performances by company newcomers and more-senior members. A new initiative backed by the Knight Foundation and Wells Fargo included intermission entertainment that kept the excitement going. During the first, the Conestoga Angels Precision Marching Drum Corps shook things up by marching down and taking the Wilma stage with stomping, rib-pumping drills and bold-as-brass drumming.

It was like taking an expansive breath between the show’s two dark opening numbers. The first, Two Ears, One Mouth, a world premiere by up-and-coming choreographer Loni Landon, evoked a steamy after-hours street scene, with clubgoers in confrontations that spun out in backbends. In one beautiful phrase, new member Barry Kerollis gorgeously curled his fingers into a fist, then bobbed his head three times as he ducked under Anitra N. Keegan’s waiting upraised leg. Kerollis knew where to go but the work didn’t always.

Alex Ketley’s Silt (2009) looked more solid on second viewing than the title implied. Keegan and Kerollis started with exaggerated studio poses, while the other dancers sat around, observing. Veteran X-er Tara Keating and newcomer William Cannon clipped their movements short to metronomic music. In the second section the movement became more attenuated, the women’s arms went ribbony. Keating’s solo opened the final section to a plinking piano piece by Arvo Pärt, soon stomping to it with Cannon and the others. Colby Damon and Laura Feig ended it with a duet of compressed passion.

The entr’acte here was First Person Arts winner R. Eric Thomas, talking about moving to Philly because “everybody here has it in them, and that’s freedom!”

Matthew Neenan went to the Andrew Jackson School in South Philly for inspiration for the first installment of an education venture funded by the Philadelphia chapter of the American Composers Forum. For it, he and his musical collaborator, Robert Maggio, created a charming and strong work called Jackson Sounds. A little video of the kids they worked with set the stage, including a song an Asian student sang that later became Maggio’s theme and variations for two live cellists, Jie Jin and Thomas Kraines, upstage center.

The five women en pointe and in Martha Chamberlain’s adorable flirty skirts toyed with the company’s five men, including marvelous Jesse Sani and Adam Hundt. Their interplay shows that BalletX, even when fooling around with its schoolyard playmates, is quite grown up.


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:

Dance Critics Association

Making your plans for this year’s DCA conference? We hope so. And in a slight change from previous years, the Friday of the conference – July 16 – will feature a full day of workshops.

Don’t wait until the last minute to make your hotel reservations for this year’s DCA conference. Remember, the DCA conference is being held in conjunction with the World Dance Alliance conference. The conference hotel is the Doubletree Hotel Chelsea, 128 W. 29th St. Call (212) 564-0994 and ask for the DCA/WDA conference rate.


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