May and dance are a perfect match. Warmer weather. Greener grasses. It’s a month in which everything seems to begin afresh and so too does the New York dance community, for May begins the season of the outdoor dance performance. If you have not yet had the pleasure of viewing dance al fresco, May and beyond is your chance to experience the heady mix of movement and fresh air. There’s plenty of site-specific, mixed-bill and indoor performance as well—all works worth far more than the minimal ticket prices.
Noemie LaFrance’s Noir
Site-specific choreographer Noemie LaFrance brought audiences into a clock tower in lower Manhatttan for her Bessie-award winning Descent earlier this year. Now, the Canadian choreographer who is based in Williamsburg, has set her sights on a parking garage for Noir, her latest work inspired by American film noir of the 1940s and 50s. The requisite film noir elements are all present here—femme fatales, fedoras, and fear. Aiming to create a movement style that bespeaks both the tension of this film genre and the requisite male-female love-hate relationships, LaFrance’s dancers slink and slither in partnering sequences that at once feature women as passive and rag-dollish, and then present them moving with a burst of potent, sexual agency. LaFrance has also tried to develop a sense of suspense within the choreography, which includes sudden shifts of weight and a palpable play of resistance as couples experiment with leaning on and pulling away from each. Fittingly, audience members will view Noir from the seats of parked cars, the windshield serving as a kind of film screen and the music heard on the car radio. LaFrance, whose chosen sites are often part of the form as well as the aesthetic of the dance, hopes that the "raw, urban, inhuman, cold" feel of the parking garage creates a foreboding aura in line with tone of such noir films as Mildred Pierce and The Big Sleep.
May 5 – May 22, Wed-Sat, 7:30 and 9:30 pm
The Delancy and Essex Municipal Parking Garage, 105 Essex Street on the Lower East Side, subway F, J/M/Z to Delancey/Essex Street
Tickets: Front Seat $30, Back Seat $20, Members $25, Students and Seniors $15, B.Y.O.Car $100
Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar’s Big Dance Theater in Antigone: As Played and Danced by the Three Fates on Their Way to Becoming the Three Graces
Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar formed Big Dance Theater in 1991, forging an interdisciplinary form of performance, one that drew on both dance and theater and broke down traditional boundaries between the two sister disciplines. Often working on pieces that are dance-theater adaptations of literary works, Big Dance Theater, in collaboration with playwright Mac Wellman and composer Cynthia Hopkins, now takes on the Greeks in its rendition of Antigone, imagined, as the press release explains, before "Sophocles, Doric columns, and democracy." The work is a fragmented pastiche of dance, song, and theater and focuses on three Fates who eventually become the Three Graces.
The Subway Series
Mets and Yankees fans are not the only ones who can relish in the excitement of a subway series. Along with the Puffin Foundation, Dancespace Project hosts a subway series of its own, and offers dance fans a chance to see works by urban youth from four boroughs—Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Manhattan. Organized by Nancy Duncan and Ivan Sygoda, the Subway Series includes works developed by inner-city youth, exploring issues that these kids face in their daily lives. This year’s Subway Series features students from the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD), Brooklyn’s Packer Collegiate, Harlem’s Groove With Me, a "safe space" for teenage girls, and Queen’s Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
May 7 and 8, 8:30 pm, $10, Danspace Project St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 East 10th Street, www.danspaceproject.org
Dancemopolitan series at Joe’s Pub
Choreographer Doug Elkins hosts the May performances of Dancenow/NYC’s new Dancemopolitan series at Joe’s Pub. Among the several choreographers to present works are some of Brooklyn’s own, including Nicholas Leichter and Heidi Latsky. Also on the program are Ellis Wood Dance, Dixie Fun Lee Dance Theater, Clare Byrne, The Comedy Trio Happy Hour, Subtle Changes/Roger C. Jeffrey, Laura Peterson and Dancers and special guests. Series such as this provide a fun venue for choreographers to present their works and for audiences to take in some experimental dance, drink in hand.
Douglas Dunn’s The Higgs field
You know it’s truly spring in New York when you see the modern dancers in the parks. And Douglas Dunn, a longtime innovator on the downtown dance scene who has been choreographing and performing since the 70s, takes his work to Central Park. His new work The Higgs field draws on the scientific theories of Mr. Higgs. Here Dunn explores rest, symmetry, matter, weight, temperature, and force. No stranger to collaboration, Dunn has worked to meld dance with poetry, film, and visual art and his foray into physics will likely take its place among his other successful collaborations. The Higgs field will run for four weekends in May and June.
May 15-16, 29-30 and June 5-6, 19-20, Sat-Sun Noon-1pm, FREE, Central Park, The Pinetum, West Side of Central Park at 85th Street
Yanira Castro’s Verano and more…
In an eclectic mix of dance—breakdance, a piece featuring chocolate, an all female quartet and more—BRIC Studio hosts an Out of Space series, sponsored by Danspace Project. Featuring several Brooklyn-based choreographers, the evening will include Yanira Castro’s Verano, a beautiful duet from her larger work Cartography. Shani Collins of the Ron Brown/ Evidence company will premiere a quartet for women and Sarah Van’t Hul will explore the choreographic limits of dancing with a stool. Nilaja "Diva" Richardson offers her break dancing and Zoe Klein dances with chocolate in what will likely make for a messy, but fun night.
May 14 and 15, 8pm, $10, students, $8
BRIC Studio, 647 Fulton Street, 718-855-7882, x53, www.briconline.org/bricstudio
Symphony Space’s Dance Sampler
Symphony Space has been presenting their Dance Sampler series for a couple of years now. Several of the choreographers and performers in this year’s Sampler hail from Brooklyn."I suggest you go see these fellow Brooklynites (and Manhattanites): Chris Elam’s Misnomer Dance, David Gordon/Pick Up Performance Company, Deborah Zall, Dixie Fun Dance Theatre, Dwight Rhoden/Complexions, Guta Hedewig, Hannah Spongberg, Ivy Baldwin, Jody Oberfelder Dance Projects, Keely Garfield, Mary Seidman and Dancers, Neil Greenberg, Nicholas Leichter Dance, Regina Nejman, and Richard Daniels. Until Brooklyn gets a small to mid-size dance venue of its own, it will be worth the commute even it means going over the bridges and then some.
May 15, 7pm, Symphony Space, Broadway and 95th Street, 212-864-5400, www.symphonyspace.org
Roxane Butterfly’s IMPROVIZIONs at Joe’s Pub
Ginger Rogers could do everything Fred Astaire could do but "backwards and in heels," as the famous adage goes. Yet the world of tap dance has long been the domain of the male dancer—think Astaire, Gene Kelly, the Nicholas Brothers, the late and very missed Gregory Hines and the virtuosic Savion Glover, to name only a few. Until quite recently, women tappers have largely been relegated to the side of the spotlight. But now, female hoofers have been carving out their own well-deserved place amongst these male tap greats and are proving that they can tap circles around Ginger Rogers’ polite t-straps-brand of tapping. One such female performer is Roxane Butterfly, who is the only female tap dancer to win a Bessie (2002). For just one evening, Butterfly will perform her new work Improvizions along with musician Graham Haynes on the cornet at Joe’s Pub in late May.
Eiko & Koma’s Tree Song
There are dynamic duos for nearly every performance genre and perhaps it is the team of Eiko and Koma that win out in the dance installation, movement theater category. Eiko and Koma’s new work, Tree Song, is a site-specific piece set in the graveyard of St. Mark’s church in the East Village. Known for their mythical, dreamy works in unconventional locales, this duo’s dancing can be characterized as choreographic haikus—sublime, simple, yet powerfully moving and insightful. Tree Song explores the body’s relationship to the natural landscape and launches Danspace Project’s summer outdoor "graveyard" dance series.
May 27-30, Thurs.-Sun., 8:30 pm, FREE (Following both performances, there will be a reception in the Parish Hall where audience members can also view Koma’s artwork.)
Danspace Project St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 East 10th Street
VANESSA MANKO was the former Dance Editor for the Brooklyn Rail.