Dancing on the Railby Vanessa Manko
The New York dance world is changing. Anna Kisselgoff, chief dance critic for The New York Times, steps down after 36 years (count ’em, 36!). John Rockwell, former chief rock critic for the Times, will now assume this position of power. The Williamsburg Art neXus (WAX) closes its doors with hopes for a new space in their WAX: Phase II project. The Joyce Theater International Dance Center moves one step closer to being realized with the announcement that architect Frank Gehry will be designing the new performing arts complex on the former site of the World Trade Center. Such seismic shifts in the small world that is dance mean a great deal. What kind of dance criticism can we expect from the purported paper of record? What place will dance ultimately have in the efforts to rebuild the cultural heart of downtown? And where will younger choreographers get a chance to present work in the polished way WAX made available for so many aspiring artists? While the answers to these questions loom in the future, November brings more immediate answers to occupy sights and minds.
A mound of red flowers, a stage covered in soil the color of espresso, water, more water, and even the occasional, well, yes, hippopotamus, are just some of the props that have graced the works of dance theater’s reigning queen, Pina Bausch. The German neo-expressionist choreographer and her Tanztheater Wuppertal brings Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen (For the Children of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow) to BAM this month, marking the 20th anniversary of Bausch’s BAM debut.
From the wrenching Café Müller to the haunting, primal Rite of Spring, Bausch’s works are melancholic, obsessively repetitious, and profoundly beautiful; they are works that make grand, sweeping statements about inescapable universal themes—love, death, fear, hope—and present to us a grim picture of our individual places in the human comedy. Often presenting individuals in the grip of society’s conventions, her work is subversive, with a dark, sly humor that is always disturbing. The choreographer’s last two performances at BAM, however, marked a decidedly different turn in her work overall. As several critics noted, both Danzon and Masurca Foga were more lighthearted than her usual stark fare, so much so that they declared the great dance-theater pessimist had “mellowed.”
Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen, which premiered in 2002, seems to follow this recent trend in Bausch’s work. It takes its cue from the Native American tale “How a Bat Came to Be,” with a moral that “goodness is rewarded even if a terrible sacrifice is demanded.” Like all Bausch’s works, the piece features her trademark vignettes of dance, text and theater, one of which features women dressed in festive black attire, wielding large brooms to comb their hair. Für die Kinder also celebrates childhood and the different stages of a dancer’s career.
November 16, 18–20, 7:30 p.m.; November 21, 3:00 p.m. BAM, Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue. Tickets: $25, 50, 75. 718.636.4100, www.bam.org.
Risa Jaroslow & Dancers:
In Risa Jaroslow’s new work, Whole Sky, the choreographer questions what makes one feel whole while also exploring what makes communities complete. Through mixed media, with videos by Barbara Bickart projected onto the dancers’ bodies, Jaroslow presents various individual members of communities—senior citizens, gays and lesbians, domestic violence survivors—grappling with this question of wholeness.
November 10–13, 7:30 p.m., Dance Theater Workshop, 219 West 19th Street, 212.924.0077, www.dtw.org.
Dance From Mexico
Several contemporary Mexican choreographers and dancers will be showing their works as part of Mexico Now, a citywide arts festival focusing on contemporary Mexican artists. In addition to an exhibition at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, featuring photographs of various Mexican dance companies, two promising dance performances will take place this month as part of the festival’s offerings. First, at the Joyce Theater, the Delfos Danza Contemporánea, based in Mazatlan, will perform Brief Moments, six short works exploring love, faith, and mystery. Second, and more experimental, is Dzul Dance’s Archeology of Memory and Desire, a multidisciplinary work combining dance, aerial work, and photography that deals with the individual and society.
Delfos Danza Contemporánea, November 9–14, Tuesday–Friday, 8:00 p.m., Saturday 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday 2 and 7:30 p.m. The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street, Tickets: $34, 212.242.0800, www.joyce.org.
Dzul Dance’s Archaeology of Memory and Desire, November 16 and 17, 8:00 p.m., Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street, Tickets: $20, $15 students. 212.220.1460, www.tribecapac.org.
VANESSA MANKO was the former Dance Editor for the Brooklyn Rail.