Category Archives: Dance

Reject Dance Theatre presents The Territory Suites

My dream of becoming a professional dancer has finally come true with the opportunity to collaborate with Reject Dance Theatre. My dear friend, Rebecca Hite Teicheira (here’s a post from her MFA Thesis), invited me to be a part of RDT’s first evening length piece, The Territory Suites presented at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn, NY.

Reject Dance Theatre Rebecca Hite Teicheira Maria KucinskiAlong with the directors, Rebecca Hite Teicheira, Stephen Ursprung and Stephanie Simpson, I worked with Bridget Cronin, Jermaine Ellis, Cara Hoover, Rachel Pritzlaff, and Larissa Ursprung to explore the idea of territory through three distinct perspectives.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesIt was amazing to get back to work in the studio – conditioning my body, learning unique choreography and creating new movement. I forgot just how much I enjoyed dancing and the process of creating dance.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesWorking through the many details – from the concrete ones like choreography, spacing, timing, costuming, hair, makeup, and lighting, to the more intangible ones such as presence, interaction, and intention – re-energized me artistically. My favorite part of the process was examining the intention of every step, every movement in the piece, ensuring that there was a reason behind every action.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesThrough those intentions, we explored the notion of “territory,” investigating themes of gender identity, human relationships, and animal interactions through choreographic means of collaboration, partnering, and synchronization. The artistic vision of the three choreographers was distinct but centralized along this universal theme.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesIt was truly an honor to be a part of something very special for Reject Dance Theatre and its collaborators. I found that I forgot how much I enjoyed performing and am grateful for the opportunity to be on stage once again.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory Suites Rachel Pritzlaff Rebecca Hite TeicheiraAll in all, it was an inspiring experience to work with so many talented artists.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory Suites Rachel Pritzlaff

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Come, and Back Again by David Dorfman Dance at BAM

David Dorfman Dance’s Come, and Back Again is a beautiful showcase of reflection through dance and multimedia.

A wall of stuff, fossilized in white frames the stage. A band, also in white, sits upstage, playing songs of “poetic rock and roll.” Four dancers and David energize the space with the weighted – but not heavy – and entangling choreography. Real-time projection, text, and the presence of David’s wife and son convey the powerful symbols of clutter, preservation, and what we leave behind.

All in all, the high intensity piece was a touching reminder that there are those moments in life, those emotions that are worth experiencing, worth feeling. But what I enjoyed the most about the piece was David’s ability to tell his story, so beautifully, so poignantly, so joyfully.

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Meryl Tankard: The Oracle at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

Meryl Tankard’s The Oracle starring Paul White is a mastery in the limits of the human form and its relation to the mind.

With its point of departure as Vaslav Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring with the score by Igor Stravinsky, Australian native, Meryl Tankard presents a multimedia and solo performance that is wildly expressive yet contained. The star, Paul White, is in control of his every movement even as he expresses desire, excitement, confusion, and despair.

The opening reveals a kaleidoscopic view at our protagonist, each angle of the body morphing into another, creating abstract forms and recognizable shapes. Then we find White center stage, repeating the undulating choreography of Nijinsky in only white briefs. He continues through many phases of choreography, with his costuming changing, with interaction to the projection behind him, with interplay with light, and finally in the nude with a white powder trailing him.

White’s body is incredible. Unlike any other male dancer I have seen before. But more than that, he has the ability to flow seamlessly through the choreography, hitting the deepest poses and maneuvering to the next with fluidity. One does not realize how challenging the movement is.

And this must be attributed to Tankard, the former ballerina and Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal dancer. Her choreography and artistic vision weave through time periods, physical limitations, and man’s need to satisfy desire.

All in all, I found myself in admiration of this piece for honoring an historic piece of dance and advancing the the medium through presentation, choreography and dancing.

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Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Walkaround TimeA day trip to Philadelphia to see Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp was filled with subversions, underminings, deconstructions, and sincerity.

The exhibition brings together masterworks, collaborations, and homages by these important and influential artists who wanted to challenge the notion of art. They experimented with what is defined as art, how art is created, and how it is experienced.

Throughout the exhibition of over 100 pieces, it is evident the star is Marcel Duchamp. He is the genius who wished to debunk “preexisting ideas about art, which he believed should appeal to the intellect rather than the senses.” He turned the art world on its head with his notion of “readymades” – objects that he found to be art, the most famous being Fountain, 1917. These pieces, as well as other work including drawings, paintings, photographs, scores, and installations tested originality, concept, and taste.

Marcel Duchamp Door 11. Rue Larrey, 1927

Marcel Duchamp, Door 11. Rue Larrey, 1927

The remaining four artists were very much influenced by Duchamp, but also – not knowing all of his entire oeuvre – their thought process in making art in ran parallel in some regards.

In one example, John Cage and Merce Cunningham did not realize that Duchamp had used the idea of “chance” in his artwork. The concept of “chance,” made famous by Cage and Cunningham explored how the outcome of the an artwork was dictated by the unknown. Certain parameters were put in place and the rest was up to chance – whether it was musical notes or silence, or movement or stillness and so on. And so, when Cage found out about Duchamp’s use of chance, realizing that it occurred in the year of his birth – he did not find that to be a coincidence.

In another example, Duchamp’s concept as key, exploring the distinctions between original and replica, object and idea is examined by Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Rauschenberg created “combines” – sculptures made from nontraditional materials while Johns made paintings that explored what you were looking at as a physical representation.

One of the most interesting aspects of this exhibition is the interplay between the artists. They all influenced or collaborated or co-opted certain aspects of each other’s work. The portraits by Rauschenberg were so interesting and so spot-on in my opinion. I also enjoyed how Johns used the mold from Duchamp’s Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau / 2° le gaz d’éclairage in his paintings.

And maybe the most meaningful thing I took away from the exhibition is how sincere these artists were about art. They were dedicated to exploring, experimenting, and pushing the bounds. They did not hold back, they learned from each other and challenged each other. I believe that because of that, their influence is pervasive today.

All in all, I thought the exhibition was a unique opportunity to see spectacular works – shown in conversation with each other – by Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and of course, Duchamp.

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Russell Maliphant: The Rodin Project at the Joyce Theater

Rusell Maliphant Rodin ProjectMuch like the original production of Sunday in the Park with George or that amazing flamenco interpretation of John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo, I was very excited to see Russell Maliphant’s physical exploration of the work of the artist Auguste Rodin. Unfortunately, I felt his interpretation lacked direction and cohesion.

The opening scene revealed a large Pina Bausch-esque set of various elevations draped in white as well as four white drapes hanging vertically downstage. The six dancers (three male, three female), were also draped in white as they let the warm lighting pour over them through their sculpture-esque poses. Each bone, muscle, and piece of flesh was revealed as they elegantly maneuvered to the dissonant score by Alexander Zekke.

My favorite part of the entire evening occurred in the first scene as the women wrapped themselves in the drapes, acting as the muses and counter balance to the men. Unfortunately, the women’s role throughout the rest of the piece was held in the background and occasionally in the nude.Russell Maliphant Rodin Project

That is due to the fact that the men were the powerhouses with the parkour meets capoiera choreography that dominated the rest of the evening. It was beautiful and exciting but it just didn’t work as an evening length piece.

Act I had all the draping and fluidity that worked within the group dancing, trios, duos, and solos while Act II revealed a bare set, casual costumes, and disjointed choreography. A fine change, but the connection to Rodin was lost – even with the allusions to his studio practice. How does it connect to this contemporary choreography? And how can it be executed without feeling like “Voguing?” I understand the sense of exploration of movement in the vein of Rodin but what is the goal of the “Project?”

Russell Maliphant Rodin ProjectYes, the dancers have an otherwordly quality with their strength, flexibility, and speed, and the choreography pushes the boundary of contemporary hip hop, but I missed the larger meaning of the piece. Why is Rodin so important to contemporary art?

All in all, the concept is amazing but the piece falls flat.

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Why ‘Dancing with the Stars’ is my guilty pleasure

Dancing with the Stars

Three simple words sum up why Dancing with the Stars is my guilty pleasure: Pure Entertainment Factor.

From start to finish the seasonal ballroom dancing television show places celebrities (of whatever list) with a professional partner to compete for the coveted “Mirror Ball Trophy.” 10 weeks of competition, multiple styles of dance and dozens of stories of hardship and heartbreak make for the most entertaining show on television.

Where else can you find Superbowl champions cha-cha-ing against 1980’s television stars? Nowhere. And to do it with such finesse and fun makes it totally worth watching. Every week is a new surprise. Jennifer Grey relives her time in Dirty Dancing. Kirstie Alley loses a shoe! Bristol Palin wears a monkey suit. The perfect meets the comical meets the absurd – and all live.

A true Hollywood production that harkens back to the golden days yet folds in reality television. A genius show. For the following reasons:

  1. Live – It is unpredictable what happens when the cameras roll.
  2. Lowbrow – This show is made for all Americans to enjoy. (Trust me, I watched Mira Quien Baila cuando vivía en España y el talento no es el mismo.)
  3. Glitz – The makeup, hair, spray tans, abs, costumes, sets, and live music create a heightened environment for the dancers to exceed expectations.
  4. Sportsmanship – At the end of the day, it is a competition and whether they are Olympic athletes or “reality tv” stars, these celebrities and professional dancers want to compete, want to grow their audience, and want to impress their agents with their versatility – all making for good sport.
  5. Proper judging – This ain’t America’s Best Dance Crew where Lil Mama is saying, “You danced. You danced!” as if she were merely stating a fact. This is educated professionals judging the performers on technique, choreography, and performance. Their thoughts are [for the most part] fleshed out and in keeping with their onscreen personas.
  6. Creativity – Every week there is a new surprise for the dancers and it is up to the professionals to bring something new to the audience who may or may have not been watching for the past 13 seasons. I know that Derek Hough, Cheryl Burke, and Mark Ballas Jr. always bring out new and exciting choreography as well as the best in their partners.
  7. Tom Bergeron – cracks me up. He is the king of ad-lib. Plus Brooke Burke-Charvet always looks glamorous and asks the hard-hitting questions.
  8. And last but certainly not least – Kirstie Alley – who can put on a show like no one else.

Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Honorable mentions for the All-Star Season go to that clusterf*ck of a group dance known as Gangnam Style and to Carrie Ann Inaba for FALLING OFF HER CHAIR.

All in all, I appreciate Dancing with the Stars for continuing to entertain and being a classier and more fun version of Celebrity Rehab. Just kidding.

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Morphoses: WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) at the Joyce

Morphoses: WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) by Pontus Lidberg is a dramatic dance-narrative that tells the story of interconnected lovers with film segments that intertwine with live dance to create a piece that is pure sex.

With composer David Lang, cinematographer Martin Nisser, and costume designer Karen Young, Lidberg expresses heightened emotions through high-contact partnering that is elegant yet deeply weighted. This emotional tension is carried throughout the interplay between the film and the live dancers as they mirror and respond to each other.

The set design, styling, and lighting in the film were perfection- subtle yet striking. It was as if Eve Sussman and Wim Wenders had come together to make a dance film. I loved the unerring continuity and the attention to detail throughout (including the coat racks in each scene). New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan is exquisite with the contemporary choreography and acting. Plus, Morphoses probably has the best looking male dancers I have ever seen.

All in all, I enjoyed this piece with its use of film integration, technical execution, and intense emotion.

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Apollo, Moves, and Symphony in C by NYCB

A night of history at New York City Ballet with George Balanchine’s Apollo, Jerome Robbins’ Moves: A Ballet in Silence, and George Balanchine’s Symphony in C.

Apollo Andre Eglevsky with Diana Adams, Maria Tallchief and Tanaquil LeClercq. Photo by George Platt Lynes. Copyright Estate of George Platt Lynes.

Apollo at New York City Ballet with Andre Eglevsky with Diana Adams, Maria Tallchief and Tanaquil LeClercq. Photo by George Platt Lynes. Copyright Estate of George Platt Lynes.

I must admit that I am only up to the Russian/Parisian diaspora in Jennifer Homans’ Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet so I have not yet gotten to the George Balanchine part. That said, I knew that given the opportunity, I needed to see Apollo.

The ballet was created in 1928 by Balanchine for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes with music by Igor Stravinsky. Sebastien Marcovici played the part of Apollo, with the muses Terpischore (Sterling Hyltin), Polyhymnia (Tiler Peck), and Calliope (Ana Sophia Scheller) who dance for his attention. Although this ballet is from 1928 it still felt very relevant in its choreography with its abstract shapes depicting the planets circling the sun and emulating the triangular form familiar to Apollo.

Jerome Robbins Moves 1959.

Merce Cunningham meets Debbie Allen in Jerome Robbins’ Moves, 1959. Although my friends seem to disagree with me, I felt this piece was extremely dated (with an NYCB premiere of 1984) even though it was the most modern piece of the evening. With the A Chorus Line costumes, silence (meaning no music), askew spacing and somewhat chance choreography, the piece felt like the “uptown” version of post-modern dance. With the attention really focused on the “moves” I felt unmoved except for the part when the ballerina lies on her stomach and arches her back almost perpendicularly to the floor. Brava.

Sara Mearns George Balanchine Symphony in C Costumes

Balachine’s Symphony in C, 1947 with music by Georges Bizet and sparkles by Swarovski. Whoah. Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins calls it the most challenging ballet for the company and I couldn’t agree more. The speed, precision, athleticism, and volume of the piece is incredible. The innumerous turns, jumps, arabesques, and holds executed at a ridiculous pace is jaw-dropping. I sat in amazement as I watched the ballerinas – from the impeccable principals to the precise corps – keep up the pace in all their glittery splendor.

All in all, I had a lovely evening at the ballet and cannot wait till I finish Apollo’s Angels…

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Megan Mazarick and Mason Rosenthal: Mining the Mine of the Mind for Minderals

Last night I attended the Triskelion Arts 4th Annual Collaborations in Dance Festival in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to see Rebecca Hite’s, The Tale. In addition to that piece, I was taken aback by Megan Mazarick and Mason Rosenthal’s Mining the Mine of the Mind for Minderals.

I must admit that I was at first skeptical when I read in the program that when Megan and Mason met, they felt it was a “match made in heaven when, at their first rehearsal, they spent 3 hours pretending they were Gremlins giving a mansion tour.” I was also a bit skeptical that they were using TED talks as their source material – not the most inventive idea as they are performances unto themselves.

But from start to finish, this piece was entertaining and thought-provoking.

And I don’t mean to use thought-provoking to be funny as the work discussed – through dance and speech – the theories of how the mind works. The performance took the viewer on a ride through shifting physical and mental states using play-on-words (bear, bare, barely, Barry White, etc.) and didactic exercises explaining dualism vs. monism. Who can go wrong exploring metaphysics? Especially with such enthusiasm and candor.

Mazarick’s movements were exact and finely finessed and Rosenthal’s acting was subtle and enthralling. It made for a perfect blend of dance and theater.

All in all, I enjoyed the dynamic tour of the mind led by Mazarick and Rosenthal.

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DGV: Danse a Grande Vitesse by Christopher Wheeldon

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

DGV: Danse a Grande Vitesse by Christopher Wheeldon, performed by New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center, was a wonderful exercise in extension and the juxtaposition of fluidity and rigidity. With the pacing and excitement of Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, Wheeldon creates shapes with his duets and corps that I have never seen. The combination of the costumes and lighting adds to the geometric feel to the choreography. Plus, the addition of the deconstructed stage designed by Jean-Marc Puissant (reminding me of work by a good friend of mine) acts as a metaphor for the transitory nature of the stage.

Here are some amazing pictures that I’ve compiled…

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

Christopher Wheeldon DGV

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