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Vanessa Manko

VANESSA MANKO was the former Dance Editor for the Brooklyn Rail.

Inspire Me, Baby

The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired by Francine Prose, HarperCollins (2002)

Dancing on the Rail

Dance and politics may seem like disparate fields, but choreographers have long been delving into the world of politics with dances of protest and dissent.

Dancing on the Rail

May and dance are a perfect match. Warmer weather. Greener grasses.

In Conversation

Dancing on the Rail

As the first male dancer in Trisha Brown’s company, Stephen Petronio danced in such seminal Brown pieces as Lateral Pass, Opal Loop, and Set and Reset from 1979-1986. He continued on to found his own company in 1984

De Keersmaeker’s Dancing in the Rain

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s 70-minute long Rain, which had its New York premier at BAM in mid-November, is nothing short of a tour de force. Loosely based on a novel by Kirsty Gunn in which a young boy drowns, the Belgian choreographer experiments with ideas surrounding the act of breathing, artificial respiration, and the ebb and flow of water.

Cunningham Chances It

Merce Cunningham has been leading dance audiences into uncharted territory for the last fifty years, and the October performances at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) were no different. When Cunningham broke away from Martha Graham and began choreographing his own works, eventually forming a company in the 1950s, he created a more sparse movement vocabulary in which dancers seemed wholly unaware of each other; remote and self-contained.

O’Connor’s Earthbound

Tere O’Connor has longed worked in the realm of dance and text, exploring ways that movement and words might form a symbiotic relationship and thus a coherent unified work of art or dance play as he defines it. But in more recent works, the choreographer has chosen to move away from the text-based and toward pure dance. Last year’s premiere of Winter Belly and Choke at Danspace Project, for instance, marked O’Connor’s change in direction.

Walk, Run, Amble, Saunter— Everyday Movement is not so Everyday

Six figures, placed equidistant apart, walk in unison down a street. Another figure emerges from behind to cut a diagonal across the formation. More "bodies" enter this streetscape, joining the flow of motion. Others pause, standing still to check the time, before moving on again.

D.U.M.B.O.’s Dancing

Modern dance and ballet stalwarts are visiting Brooklyn this fall, but if tickets to William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt (BAM, Sept. 30, Oct 2.–Oct. 5), Merce Cunningham’s 50th Anniversary Season (BAM, Oct.16-18), and the acclaimed Suzanne Farrell Ballet (Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, Oct. 12) are out of your price range, then you might opt for the Third Annual D.U.M.B.O. Dance Festival.

A Choreographer in Search of A Style

When one is offered too many choices, making a decision can be near impossible. When it comes to dance, any young choreographer working today has much to draw upon in terms of choosing a style, tone, or technique with which to work.

Waltz Toward the Apocalypse

Sasha Waltz, an increasingly renowned German choreographer often compared to Pina Bausch—the reining doyenne of danztheater—premiered her latest work Körper (Bodies) at BAM’s Next Wave Festival in November. Körper is a series of oftentimes witty and sometimes disturbing interconnecting vignettes. Each reveals the choreographer’s ingenuous and inventive ways of grappling with the conundrum that is the human body.

Making a Splash

"Hell is other people." So goes the iconic existential adage proclaimed by Garcin in Jean Paul Sartre’s No Exit. Yet for choreographers Katie Workum and Leigh Garrett, hell is not only other people, but other people in a Miami condominium complex. Such is the premise of "The Miami Project," a new collaborative experimental dance and performance piece presented in February at the Williamsburg Art Nexus (WAX). Bronzed sun-bathers, terry-clothed go-go dancers, a hip-swiveling tennis player, and a Romeo from Brooklyn named Jerry Debruglio-uglio (my best stab at the spelling) are just some of the characters to be seen in this hilarious, absurd, but very smart work loosely adapted from Sartre’s famed existential play. Think, Sartre meets Esther Williams at the Copacabana.


A police horse stable may not immediately make one think of hybrid-performance bridging dance, installation art, costume design, and architecture, but for Julia Mandle it did. The result is Feast, a site-specific work that takes place in a former stable on the waterfront in DUMBO using Plato’s Symposium as its basis for exploring human desire or eros.

In Conversation

MARK MORRIS with Vanessa Manko

Mark Morris would rather write about his work “than have other people do it.”

Dancing on the Rail: Let the Festivals Begin

For me the approach of fall is signaled by the glut of press releases that I begin to receive in the last few weeks of August. Each envelope is thick with pages devoted to dance venues’ fall seasons, companies’ national and/or international tours, a choreographer’s most recent premier, or, as is the case in September, the fall festival line-ups of which there are now two.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Bare-chested men, wrapped in long white towels traipse on stage. Women blow air into sacks filled with water and soap. Bubbles form. Lots and lots of bubbles.

In Conversation

Noémie Lafrance

With its light blue, peeling paint, remnants of broken glass bottles, cracked basin floor and graffiti, the abandoned, 50,000 sq. ft. McCarren Pool is an unlikely space for dance. But Williamsburg-based site-specific choreographer Noémie Lafrance has chosen just this site for her latest work, Agora.

Dancing on the Rail: May Brooklyn-based and Beyond

May offers a chance to see both works honed in Brooklyn neighborhoods and other works by choreographers far outside of New York—Australia to be exact.

Gabri Christa’s Dominata at Dance Theater Workshop

The game of dominoes is a cultural pastime in several of the cities that choreographer and dancer Gabri Christa has lived—Puerto Rico, Cuba, Curaçao, and New York.

Dancenow at the Joyce

Each September, New York City’s fall dance season commences with the eclectic and ambitious Dancenow/NYC festival. Featuring a plethora of dance works, the festival is a testament to the vitality and breadth of New York’s dance community. No one facet of Dancenow epitomizes its essence better than the Basecamp Series at the Joyce Soho.

Dancing on the Rail

German-born, Berlin-based choreographer Sasha Waltz is often compared to the reigning queen of dance theater, Pina Bausch. But Waltz would rather critics align her with New York’s downtown dance scene. I’ll do both.

In Conversation

Trisha Brown with Vanessa Manko

The Trisha Brown Dance Company, formed in 1970, celebrated its 35th anniversary season in April with two programs at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater.

Taylor Turns 50

A splendid romp with dancers sprinting diagonals across the stage, arms pumping, Esplanade, in all its gleeful abandon and racing-hearts-of-first-love ebullience, manages to make the simplest of movements – running, skipping, walking, jumping – virtuosic modern dance, seminal in its declaration that yes, all this too can be dance.

Dancing on the Rail

The Radio City Rockettes have come out of their 11-month hibernation, and so, too, has the perennial classic The Nutcracker. Beyond their shared month in the spotlight, it would seem that these dance performances have little else in common.

Dancing on the Rail

Argentine tango, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, more Morris—if you hadn’t had enough—and lower Manhattan transformed into a danscape are just some of the performances to see throughout July and August.

Dancing on the Rail

One could shell out $20 or more to see some of the larger dance names that will be performing in New York City this month.

Kylián: Past, Present, and Future

Though Jirí Kylián stepped down as artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater last year, the company’s first New York performance since the change in artistic guard—to Anders Hellström—still bears the fine, astute and graceful imprint of Kylián’s stewardship. In fact, the two programs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in mid-March were comprised of all Kylián works, with one exception—a new work by choreographer and artistic director of Sweden’s Culberg Ballet, Johan Inger.

Dancing on the Rail

Some may find the enigmatic, sometimes academic, and wholly indecipherable titles of downtown dance works annoying.

Of Buds, Blooms and Battments: Stephen Petronio at The Joyce

“Why am I always on a fast train or an airplane?” composer and songwriter Rufus Wainwright muses in his melancholy “Oh What a World,” set to the rhythms of Ravel’s Bolero.

Dancing on the Rail: Body Politics

Bill T. Jones, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Donna Uchizono, Eiko & Koma.

Dancing on the Rail: April’s Lesson in Dance History

Titans of American modern dance rain down over the city this April. Martha Graham, Mark Morris, and Trisha Brown together offer a veritable trip through the pages of dance history.

Dancing on the Rail

Anniversaries are in the air this October. Urban Bush Women, the Brooklyn-based company that presents dance theater based on black women’s experiences, celebrates its 20th anniversary at Danspace Project St. Mark’s (October 8–10, 8:00 pm).

Dancing on the Rail

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.

Dancing on the Rail

Choreographers are in the business of experimentation, endlessly searching for new movement vocabularies, fine-tuning and developing a style or merging disciplines in the spirit of collaboration and the blurring of artistic boundaries.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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