Viktor Plotnikov’s “Coma” – Dance Magazine’s perspective

JuxtaPOSE is right around the corner. And as we look forward to what is sure to be an extraordinary evening of dance, we get to take a stroll down memory lane with Coma, one of the best-loved ballets in the FBP repertory. Below, Dance Magazine writer Theodore Bale’s perspective on Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma from April, 2007.

Skepticism loomed when I heard that choreographer Viktor Plotnikov made a new ballet inspired by Michael Crichton’s 1978 film Coma. That is, until the curtain opened, and then I gasped along with the rest of the audience. From its first startling scene where suspended bodies float and sway horizontally to the simple tolling of bells, it’s evident that Plotnikov’s Coma is not merely a danced sci-fi thriller but rather an emphatic and deeply personal effort, realized with singularity and intelligence.

Experienced viewers could see both the classical legacy and a unique contemporary sensibility in Plotnikov’s latest dance. Those new to the ballet experience appeared to be won over as well, evidenced by the standing ovation at the conclusion of the premiere by Festival Ballet Providence.

We need more choreographers like Plotnikov, who revere tradition while forging a new language, and still command the attention of an everyday family audience. Well-organized into three movements (titled Our Dreams, Reality, and Their Dreams) and set to an assortment of passionate music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, Coma has no obvious narrative. It deals in polarities: horizontal against vertical, those traveling and those caught motionless, the praying and the ones being prayed for. The absence of plot keeps this ballet dreamy and imaginative, like the middle section of Fokine’s Spectre de la Rose. And as Coma progresses, it becomes apparent that polarity is embedded into the movement itself. A woman crosses the stage in a series of vigorous deboulé turns, but her elbows are at sharp 45-degree angles, pointed down, instead of the traditional soft oval. A quick set of petit jetés seems at odds with static, robotic gestures in an upper body. But it’s these sorts of contradictions that make Plotnikov’s work so compelling. When the dancers are traveling, they usually began with a vicious thrust of the arm to send them on their way. There is also daring floor work juxtaposed against the still bodies floating in the middle of the proscenium space. Ensemble passages for the nine dancers came in the form of interlaced duets performed in canon, or staggered unisons, organized in a seamless fashion that kept one’s eye moving from event to event without noticing entrances and exits.

What makes this work so exciting is Plotnikov’s skillful blend of cryptic, non-ballet movement and gesture with good old-fashioned ballet showmanship. In the second movement there is an unexpected lift – a ballerina stands triumphantly on a man’s shoulders as if she’s about to ascend into the realm of the comatose -but he isn’t yet ready to let her go. After a long stint with Boston Ballet as a principal dancer and now-and-then fledgling choreographer in Boston Ballet’s Raw Dance series, with Coma Plotnikov proves himself to be deeply accomplished.

Coma will be presented as part of JuxtaPOSE at The Vets, March 13 and 14. More information and tickets: http://www.thevetsri.com/events/detail/festival-ballet-providence-presents-juxtapose.

Lauren Kennedy and Henry Montilla in Viktor Plotnikov's Coma. Photo by Thomas Nola-Rion.
Lauren Kennedy and Henry Montilla in Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma. Photo by Thomas Nola-Rion.
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SHE MOVES – Rescheduled and expanded!

Shura Baryshnikov
Shura Baryshnikov

Heading into last weekend, we were thrilled that She Movesour benefit concert scheduled for 2/15, was sold out! Then, of course, the third blizzard in as many weeks, shut the whole thing down.

But, not to be outdone, the She Moves choreographers came together and decided not only would we reschedule, we would add an additional performance to make this benefit bigger and better than before. Now, this weekend we have two performances: Feb. 21 at 6:00pm (the added performance), and Feb. 22 at 6:00pm (the official rescheduled performance).

So, with a brand-new wide-open performance just ahead of us, we thought it would be a great chance to open She Moves up to students in the area by discounting tickets for the 2/21 performance for students, making this event more accessible and affordable for some of our biggest fans. See the image below for details or visit our website.

SHE MOVES STUDENT PRICING-01

I am honored to be in the company of such talented and inspiring women, all of whom have worked tirelessly to make this event a success both on stage and at the box office, where all proceeds will go directly to the Women’s Center of Rhode Island.

Shura Baryshnikov
Shura Baryshnikov
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Announcing Guest Teacher for SDI 2015

Choreographer,  Performing & Teaching Artist:

Kurt A. Douglas

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Kurt A. Douglas graduated from New York’s famed high school of music art & performing arts. Originally from Guyana, South America, Kurt earned his Masters of Fine Arts degree in Dance from Hollins University in association with The American Dance Festival, Frankfurt Conservatory of Performing Arts and The Forsythe Company in Frankfurt, Germany. He attended and earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the Boston Conservatory. There he was the recipient of the Ruth Solomon Ambrose Scholarship Award and The Jan Veen Dance Award.  He Performed with the Boston Dance Theatre and The Boston Conservatory Dance Theatre in works by Jose Limon, Sean Curran, Paul Taylor, Martha Graham, Lar Lubovitch, and Murray Louis. After graduating from the Conservatory in 2001, he joined the Limon Company where he performed in many of Limon’s most influential works. During his second season with Limon, Kurt received a 2002 Princess Grace Award and was honored by an invitation to perform for His Serene Highness Crown Prince Albert of Monaco and The Royal Family. While a soloist with the Limon Company Kurt performed in works by Jiri Killian, Donald Mckayle, and Billy Singenfied. In 2007 Kurt became the first African American to portray “Iago” in “The Moor’s Pavane”, José Limón’s most famous work. Kurt was named one of Dance Magazine’s “TOP 25 TO WATCH” in the January 2006 issue. He danced from 2005-2010 in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the world famous Rockettes. In 2009 he joined the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company for its 40th anniversary season touring throughout the United States and Asia.  In 2011, he joined the Graham based Buglisi Dance Theater, and began touring with the Tony award winning musical “A Chorus Line” throughout United States, Japan, and Australian. He has been a Guest Artist with the Thang Dao Dance Company, Dzul Dance Theatre, Ballet Hispanico, and the Sean Curran Dance Company. Kurt has been guest faculty and conducted LimonDance workshops in Boston, South Dakota, NewYork, Oregon, Dallas, Porte Au Prince, Haiti, Guadeloupe, France, Bristol, England, Sydney, Australia, Harvard University, the Juilliard School, SUNY Purchase, and the Boston Conservatory. Kurt is now on faculty with the “Limon for Kids” Program and has re-staged “The Winged” for the Limon Company’s 2014 Gala in New York City. Kurt will re-join the Limon Dance Company in 2015 at Lincoln Center and tour with them to New Orleans, LA for a special Missa Brevis project.

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SHE MOVES: Heidi Henderson

Heidi Henderson
Heidi Henderson

The lost solo that I am performing will be made into a section of a dance called, Leslie, for four dancers which will be performed in Movement Research at the Judson in March.

When I make a dance, the movement always comes first. In Leslie, so far, the movement is about continually processing particular delicate actions. The actions are non-hierarchical; each movement feels as important as the next. There is a precision in the placement of each hand, each pause, in the tone of the body. The work is exact without being virtuosic. The work is quiet. The work is reductive. There is no grandness. There is no message.

Leslie feels just begun even though I have been working on her for two years. I like to take time to make a dance. I like to carve out each movement idea carefully, in sequence. I like to take time inside the work by placing pauses. The pauses are not marked or held tightly; the pauses are places of quiet where even less is happening. I wonder: where is the soft edge between engagement and boredom? When I work quietly, am I drawing folks in or losing them? When we apply a steady kind of performative attention do we hold the attention of someone watching?

The people in this dance are themselves but cautiously so. They are contained. Everything is predetermined and carefully placed, selected. The work is human, normal. As dancers, we are paying a kind of attention to the particular nature of the movements without any push of effort towards an overt presentation. The task is abstract but the attention to the task feels personal and tactile. We care.

Heidi Henderson
Heidi Henderson

She Moves: A dance concert to benefit the Women’s Center of Rhode Island is a collaborative effort bringing together eleven of the strongest female voices in the Rhode Island contemporary dance community. Feb. 15, 6:00pm.

Learn more and purchase tickets on our website.

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SHE MOVES: Betsy Miller

Betsy Miller
Betsy Miller

Just Me, Circe was first premiered at the Provincetown Dance Festival in 2011. It is a short solo set to a harmonica and piano score by Michael Wall. It’s about sex, power, and magic. It’s about being a woman.

I have always been interested in Greek mythology, particularly how the myths treat female characters. The Greek myths are told from a male perspective, and so many of them are riddled with misogyny: Pandora’s curiosity unleashes evil into the world, sirens tempt sailors to their watery deaths, the Trojan War stems from the quarreling of three goddesses and the irresistible beauty of one gal named Helen.

And then there’s Circe…..

Circe is a witch. Some say she’s a goddess. She’s known for her arts of seduction and enchantment, and she’s particularly famous for turning men into pigs. She’s knowledgeable, and so she is feared.

But who is Circe, really? What is she like? How does she feel when that shipload of dudes shows up on her doorstep demanding her hospitality? Or when Odysseus threatens to kill her? Or when after sleeping with her for a year, he just decides to sail off into the distance?

Am I like Circe? Could I be like her?

www.betsymillerdanceprojects.wordpress.com

Betsy Miller
Betsy Miller
Betsy Miller
Betsy Miller

She Moves: A dance concert to benefit the Women’s Center of Rhode Island is a collaborative effort bringing together eleven of the strongest female voices in the Rhode Island contemporary dance community. Feb. 15, 6:00pm.

Learn more and purchase tickets on our website.

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SHE MOVES: Ali Kenner Brodsky

Ali Kenner Brodsky
Ali Kenner Brodsky

paRt II is a solo…or is it? I am currently working on an evening length work and this solo is an excerpt of the larger PART. paRt II is a conversation between a woman and herself, a woman and another or perhaps it is all a figment of the imagination. The audience can decide. There is no right or wrong answer. When I develop a piece it unfolds without much conscious thought. It is often not until much later that I know what it is “about”. So I welcome you, the audience, to prescribe your own meaning to the piece.

paRt II, as with pArt I, is a slight departure for me as I have incorporated some text into the piece. I have always seen my work as mini dance theater pieces and I am excited to bring the “theater” to the forefront in this work.

The music for paRt II was composed by the amazing MorganEve Swain aka The Huntress (Brown Bird). She has incorporated the poem “Empty Branch in the Orchard” by Mary Oliver into the score.

VIDEO: Watch an excerpt from paRt II here.

Visit Ali Kenner Brodsky’s website.

Ali Kenner Brodsky

She Moves: A dance concert to benefit the Women’s Center of Rhode Island is a collaborative effort bringing together eleven of the strongest female voices in the Rhode Island contemporary dance community. Feb. 15, 6:00pm.

Learn more and purchase tickets on our website.

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Johnette Rodriguez previews Soledad and Scheherazade

Freelance writer and dance critic Johnette Rodriguez went back through her archives and notes to give us a preview of Scheherazade and Soledad, part of Up Close on Hope, Program 2, running Feb. 6-14.

Mihailo Djuric’s Soledad (1996) is set to the expressive tango music of Astor Piazzola, and it tells the story of a widow trying to come to terms with her grief as the world goes on around her (four other couples). The principal ballerina – Vilia Putrius – partners admirably with a straight-backed chair (the four other couples also utilize chairs) until a mysterious man in black (the memory of her dead partner), danced by Mindaugas Bauzys, appears. Their pas de deux is brilliant, as she swerves to the ground in a half-dozen variations and each time is drawn back up by him. The couple’s dancing has always been packed with emotional fervor but never more so than in this piece.

(Note: Ms. Rodriguez’s interpretation of Soledad is a common one, no more and no less valid than the perceptions of others who may believe Mr. Bauzys’ character is not necessarily dead, though he has no doubt departed Ms. Putrius in at least some sense.)

The second ballet is even more intense, though it is also somber — in this case a stolen love — but in Scheherazade (2005), choreographer Gianni di Marco drenches every movement in sensuality. The story involves a sultan and his harem and the sultan’s brother (Zeman), who informs him of an affair between his favorite wife Zobeida (danced by Jennifer Ricci) and one of the slaves (danced by Alan Alberto). A trap is set, the lovers are caught and the consequences are not pretty.

But the ballet itself is beautiful, in the sinuous arcs of the harem girls’ arms, in the high leaps by Zeman, in the dramatic gestures of the Eunuch and in the lovely and tender 10-minute pas de deux between Zobeida and her “Golden Slave.”

Former Boston Ballet soloist Gianni Di Marco spoke during a rehearsal break about his interpretation of what had been a standard piece in the repertory of the Ballet Russes. He mentioned clarifying the characters’ motivations, for example, making Zeman a bit in love with Zobeida and making the Eunuch more of a storyteller and jester. Di Marco also wanted to bring his own vocabulary of steps, so different from the original production, into this new Scheherazade.

“I made the duet with Zobeida and the Golden Slave more intimate, a little sexually avant-garde,” he noted, “because we live in a different age now. People see reality shows and want to be part of it. I wanted this to be as if the audience saw themselves involved in this relationship, for them to relate to it more.”

Thus, when that enchanting in-the-garden motif begins in Rimsky-Korsakov’s music, Zobeida walks toward the Golden Slave and he lifts her onto his thighs, holding her as she faces front, running his hands along the side of her face and down her shoulders. He bends her back across one knee and she touches her hair, then her heart and moves away. He undulates toward her, caresses her, lifts her, and twirls her when the music flutters. She revels in her own sexuality as she swipes the front of her foot across the back of his knee. And finally, the two of them are on the floor as she rolls over him and then he over her.

Jennifer Ricci and Alexander Akoulov in Scheherazade. Photo by Thomas Nola-Rion
Jennifer Ricci and Alexander Akoulov in Scheherazade. Photo by Thomas Nola-Rion

“In trying to bring emotional feeling into movement, you have to make the dancers understand what it is about,” Di Marco emphasized. “A rainbow has to have different colors. This time you have to feel sad; this time you have to feel happy. I want to create dancers who are well-rounded and true to the art form.”

And if everything is not tied up in neat bows at the end of a ballet such as Scheherazade, that’s part of Di Marco’s intent: “It’s important to go home thinking about it. We live in a society where everything has to be instant coffee. It’s nice to live with a question, because we don’t usually want to try to figure it out.”

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