Photo credit: Julie Lemberger
Amelia Sanders, a homeschooled sophomore and a scholar in 92Y’s Recanati-Kaplan Program for Excellence in the Arts, interviewed Harkness Dance Festival artist, Ronald K. Brown and his dance company, Evidence, in advance of this weekend’s performance.
In 1985 a nineteen-year-old Ron Brown, with his friends as his dancers and his family as funders, put on the first performance of what would become Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company. Since then, Brown has gone on to win great acclaim in the dance world for his inventive movement, inspired by traditional dances from Africa and elsewhere, and his powerful, human stories. His work caught my interest a couple of years ago when I first saw Evidence perform. When I got the opportunity to visit some rehearsals, I was more than a little nervous at the prospect of meeting these dancers I admire. But everyone was so kind and welcoming. The atmosphere was very warm and friendly and I found myself laughing out loud more than once as they laughed with each other. They are like one big, dancing family.
Video: Faye Driscoll dance rehearsal
Emilie Stoll, a scholar in 92Y’s Recanati-Kaplan Program for Excellence in the Arts, interviewed Harkness Dance Festival artist, Faye Driscoll, for this week’s feature. Emilie will be attending Connecticut College this fall as a dance major.
Sunlight streamed through a wall of windows at the Baryshnikov Art Center dance studio, illuminating Faye Driscoll’s rehearsal. In the middle of the studio, three female dancers and two male dancers were submerged in full body contact, using each axis of their bodies to lean, pull, and push, as an amoeba-like motion began to synthesize. Each dancer completely trusted the other dancers, providing necessary support for the group to fully experience the intense physicality of moving as one being in a seamless way.
Ariel Romage, a senior at Clara Barton High School and a scholar in 92Y’s Recanati-Kaplan Program for Excellence in the Arts, interviewed Harkness Dance Festival (starts Feb 22) curator and opening artist, Doug Varone. Here is her report.
When Doug Varone was a young boy, he was fascinated by musical productions. He got his foot in the door with tap dance and began his lifelong journey in the arts. Growing up, a young Varone watched artists such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and enjoyed thinking of life as a musical. Varone was compelled by dance and always felt the need to be creative. Musical theatre captured his heart and he realized his destiny was in the arts.
Joan Acocella in The New Yorker on this past week’s Fridays at Noon performance of New Dance Group works:The “New Dance Group Celebration,” a series of remounted pieces by the members of that early modern-dance collective (1932–1955), was presented at the 92nd Street Y’s Harkness Dance Center, on February 1st, and it was an eye-opener. First, it showed you just how political the art of that period was. The New Dance Group was founded in one of the worst years of the Great Depression. Many members of the N.D.C. were proud Communists—their F.B.I. files swelled annually—and you can certainly tell from their work. Second, this concert of pieces that are rarely, if ever, shown today provided something that is sorely missing from dance history: a context for the dances that survived.
We look at Martha Graham’s early choreography and we say, How pioneering! Those sharp lines, those flexed feet, those big squats! And if we then look at the N.D.G. dances—let me name the choreographers represented in the concert: Joseph Gifford, Charles Weidman, Mary Anthony, Pearl Primus, Jane Dudley, Anna Sokolow, Hadassah, Eve Gentry, Valerie Bettis, Daniel Nagrin, Sophie Maslow, and Jane Dudley—you see a lot of same things. I’m not saying that Graham stole these people’s stuff; they may have stolen some of her stuff. Furthermore, hers may have been the dances that did not die because they were better. But boy, was she part of a movement.
Finally, some of the now forgotten work was wonderful: passionate in an uncorny way, and beautifully structured, often with a chaste simplicity. (Later, American dance vanguards, such as Judson Dance Theater and the Grand Union, emphatically did not share this fondness for the classical. To trample on it was their joy.) At the same time, the dances were good representatives of modernism, or one variety of it: blunt, heavy, angular. Every one looked like a sculpture by Gaudier-Brzeska.
The Harkness Dance Festival begins on Feb 22.
Girl Walk // All Day - A music video of epic proportions
If dancing makes you smarter, the Dancing In The Cloud/Dancing For Small Screens panel discussion on January 27, with excerpts from Jacob Krupnick’s new video Girl Walk//All Day, will definitely make you a bit more intelligent than you were previous. Watch an early trailer from Girl Walk//All Day, above.
Dawn Paap, producer of the site VideoDanceTV, will join Richard Daniels, Peter Kyle, and James Garver on the panel, with 92nd Street Y’s Edward Henkel. They’ll discuss dance for small screens and how the forging of new collaborative territory can have a significant impact in creating uniquely personal experiences for the viewer.
In addition, Paap selected excerpts from Girl Walk // All Day for screening and discussion. Looking to “expand the boundaries around the idea of the traditional music video”, Girl Walk//All Day is a 71-minute dance music video of epic proportions, set to the tune of Girl Talk’s All Day.
More info, and tickets, available here.
Read more about Girl Walk//All Day, and Anne Marsen, the dancer seen within, on The New York Times.
Judith Brin Ingber has an informative and interesting piece in The Jewish Daily Forward, on the global interest in Israeli modern dance.
Dance has always been popular in Israel, but it’s taken different forms. Before independence in 1948, there was fervor among kibbutz artists and new city dwellers to find a way that the people could express their excitement about reviving the land and finding their pride of place. Israeli folk dancing became a signature phenomenon of the new culture and was such fun to perform that it spread internationally.Read the full piece here, where she offers a lengthy and enjoyable review of “International Exposure 2011,” the festival of contemporary Israeli dance.
Today’s worldwide interest in contemporary Israeli dance is in watching it rather than participating. Its performers are astounding for their reckless, highly technical accomplishments: Choreographers are daring and relentless in the ways they capture an ennui, along with the frustration and abandonment of the older generations’ idyllic hopes. Their works are specific to Israel, but speak for many beyond its borders.
Is there a specific look to Israeli contemporary dance? Not exactly, because so many are creating it, though it’s noteworthy how easily dancers execute difficult technical moves and stops, sometimes perched on one leg with the other raised at an extreme angle, or suddenly drop to the floor backward, or snake their spines in a fluid ripple that might go sideways, or search behind their bodies like antennae. The performers are also acknowledged for their creativity, since many choreographers credit them as “co-creators,” in their printed programs.
Google Honors Martha Graham With Ryan Woodward Animation
When you visit Google.com today, you’re met with the graceful and beautiful animation of Martha Graham (seen above) created by animator Ryan Woodward—in collaboration with the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance—to commemorate dancer Martha Graham’s 117th Birthday.
“How do you fit seven decades of American innovation into 15 seconds?” It’s not easy, but the Martha Graham Center has the story behind the “Google Doodle.”
We found this delightful. Martha Graham has a long and storied history at 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center. She was a pivotal founding faculty member beginning in 1934 and became a regular on our stage both in performance and with Walter Terry for his Dance Laboratory Interview Series.
Learn more about the history of dance at 92Y in this highlight video celebrating the Harkness Dance Center’s 75th Anniversary.
Related: Here’s another fantastic dance animation created by Ryan Woodward that we’ve watched multiple times already.
And here’s a bonus dance themed video exclusively available only to those who clicked the aforementioned link.