Dance

​Thorns of the Crown, Choreographed and Staged by Ramon Oller

Ramon Oller's Thorns of the Crown, after Shakespeare

The phrase “less is more,” attributed to many sources, is very appropriate for Thorns of the Crown. The dance is vaguely about royal power—wanting it, getting it, losing it. This is a strong theme but the piece is a potpourri of steps, sounds, ideas, music and musical styles and would be stronger had it focused on fewer. Sounds include clashing swords and whinnying horses with snatches of spoken Shakespeare including Macbeth and Hamlet, with “To Be or Not to Be” voiced by Kenneth Branagh. Music runs the gamut from quasi- (or perhaps genuine) ecclesiastical to medieval selections to pipes and flutes to a blend of original compositions by composers Thomas Lentakis and Bruno Axel with too-abrupt shifts that are jolting.

Mozart Dances by the Mark Morris Dance Group at Mostly Mozart, Lincoln Center, August 26, 2016

Many choreographers go out of their way to avoid the music of Mozart fearing their work won’t (or can’t) approach the same level of artistry. Happily, Mark Morris is not among them. His Mozart Dances, originally commissioned by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna and London’s Barbican Centre ten years ago, has dancers swirling and bouncing through a piano sonata and two piano concertos, almost all with the inspired touch of two masters.

Ariel Rivka Dance 9th Season Festival—A Mixed Bag of Modern Dance: Works by Ariel Grossman, Pascal Rioult, Heidi Latsky and Elisa King

Ariel Rivka Dance. Photo David Gonsier.

Strong women are the hallmark of this modern dance program featuring works by Ariel Grossman, Pascal Rioult, Heidi Latsky and Elisa King. Male dancers also take the stage, notably in Grossman’s Variations on a Box, the final piece, and one of the most powerfully engaging, as the dancers push and shove one another, abruptly fall to the ground, rise and move as a group with small, shuffling steps.

Hagoromo – a Dance/Opera Premiered at BAM, November 3, 2015

Wendy Whelan as the tennis and Jack Soto as Hakuryo the Fisherman in Hagoromo. Photo Mark Stephen Kornbluth.

BAM’s New Wave Festival, from the effervescent anticipation in the lobby to the usually outstanding, rarely boring activities on its stages, must surely be one of the most upbeat environments one can find in New York. One event among those I attended stood out, because of the particular excitement of the capacity audience: the world premiere of Hagoromo, a  multi-media work combining dance, puppetry, singing, and instrumental performance—all so artfully combined that the rest of the theatrical ensemble, sets, lighting, and costume, sprang into life in a rare way. The performance made itself felt in the audience before it even began. It was a diverse crowd, a bit different from what one routinely observes at BAM, certainly better dressed than usual. It seemed that this performance exerted an equally powerful attraction on fans of dance, contemporary music, and even fashion, lured by the costumes of the designer, Dries van Noten.

The Nutcracker, from Company XIV: Red, Hot and (Pretty) Blue

Nutcracker Rouge

Take The Nutcracker standard and blend with a dash of Sally Bowles, a soupçon of Marie Antoinette, a pinch of dominatrix and a lot of spangles and you have the basis of the 2015 iteration of Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge. Everyone wears heels; in many instances, no one wears a lot else if you discount the G-strings, glittering codpieces and pasties. It’s a lot of fun watching the company prance through bits of this naughty-with-a-wink version of the classic Nutcracker with other fairy tales thrown in. There is some actual dancing including the opening, a vaguely Coppelia-ish number with one dancer in pointe shoes clad, as is her partner in Harlequin-like costumes.