Home by Steven Woodruff Seeing Dance in L.A. A Look Back at 2015

Seeing Dance in L.A. A Look Back at 2015

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The headlines today were filled with the news of David Bowie’s death. In putting together this look back at the year in dance I was reminded of Bowie’s music for performances by the Michael Clark Company at Irvine Barclay Theatre earlier this year. It was one of four performances featuring choreographers and companies that had strong profiles during the 80’s and who were celebrating legacy tours. Of the four, which included Twyla Tharp, Lucinda Childs, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Clark had ties closest to Bowie and the pop glam-rock scene in the UK. That performance along with Child’s remake “Available Light” at Disney Hall were far and away the two best of those retrospective concerts with “Available Light” having improved immeasurably with more accomplished dancing, better sets, and new costuming. The least of the four was De Keersmaeker’s dismembered “Verklärte Nacht” on the UCLA performance series which turned a piece that had once looked beautiful on the Paris Opera stage into a gloomy shadow of itself. It was the sole work for the evening, and at barely 30 minutes set a new low for taking the audience for granted.

The Year began and finished with a flurry of writing about “Nutcracker” productions, old and new. It began at the War Memorial Opera House with San Francisco Ballet marking a decade of “Nutcracker” performances with its cheerful and honest production choreographed by Helgi Tomasson. It has American appeal, exceptional sets, and a beautiful, blizzardy “Snow”. With the famed Joffrey version retiring after this season it will be the only American flagship ballet company hosting a production with true American roots. The year finished with the newish Ratmansky version for ABT which will now be permanent at Segerstrom Hall in Orange County. It represented an unexpected, new look at the ballet with wholly remade dance that moves it beyond both classical and neo classic genres.  Two other articles , one on four of America’s oldest legacy productions of the ballet, and another on conductor Brian Asher Aladheff and his remarkable efforts to bring live music to “Nutcracker” productions for San Luis Obispo Civic Ballet and State Street Ballet rounded out the writing on the American holiday classic.

I have written often about live music (and sometimes the lack of it) for touring companies. This year, there were some terrific moments for live music. High on the list were performances of “Raymonda” and “Cinderella” by the Mariinsky Ballet Orchestra which breathed a sense of wonder into both productions. Also exceptional was Mark Morris conducting the period music ensemble Musica Angelica for his “Dido and Aeneas” at Irvine Barclay Cheng Hall. Rarified music and Morris’ brand of modern dance were syncretized here in truly memorable performances by both ensembles. Strangest of the live music events was Diavolo Dance Theatre’s “Architecture in Motion” performances at Northridge Performing Arts Center which fielded a live orchestra, but one inexplicably swamped and altered for the worse by amplified support. The concert featured exceptional compositions by John Adams and Philip Glass.

An American in Paris
“An American in Paris” Wheeldon’s dance inspired adaptation

In March I reviewed four shows in New York. The highlights were the two performances at Lincoln Center for Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance. It was my first time seeing that company in New York. Both programs presented classics such as “Esplanade” and “Cloven Kingdom” as well as a new work, “Sea Lark”.  Chris Wheeldon’s ballet inspired “An American in Paris” was the first Broadway show ever reviewed by SeeDance, and to accompany it I took in the uber-kitschy “Rockettes Spring Spectacular” at Radio city Music Hall which was indeed spectacular but not much else. More New York City infomercial than theater, the program had one excellent, complex section of dance for the Rockettes choreographed by Mia Michaels. The story I wrote on the Wheeldon work was part review, part social and political analysis. It was, I think, my favorite piece of 2015.

Joining “An American in Paris” for political fare was the film review for “Desert Dancer”, a dance oriented thriller set in Iran, a piece on the fallout surrounding the ABT “Othello”, and a lengthy article on Misty Copeland and her rise to principal dancer at ABT. The other piece that touched on the politics of dance was my review of the documentary “Bolshoi Babylon”. Those who followed the lurid acid attack story on former Artistic director Sergei Filin had a good idea just how dysfunctional the Bolshoi had become during a decade long slide into misrule. The funereal atmosphere at Bolshoi during the two World Ballet Day segments in 2014 and 2015 showed just how bleak a dance workplace the company has become.

Cornejo and Ferri dance in Clark's "Cheri" at Signature Theater
Cornejo and Ferri dance in “Cheri” at Signature Theater

I included one interview with Herman Cornejo which I had done in New York over a year ago. I spoke with him during previews of “Cheri”, Marth Clarke’s dance adaptation for Signature Theater of the Colette novellas. I reviewed him and his gala ballet program as part of “BalletNow” at the Music Center dancer series last summer. He appeared in a mixed program with Roberto Bolle and friends, and a roster of European and Latin American ballet stars. And in the one off category, let me mention Tango Buenos Aires and their production “Eva Perón at Segerstrom. Tango shows seem perennially stuck delivering programs wrapped up as history lessons. None has moved into the territory that Ana Maria Stekelman has mapped out with her unique company “Tango Kinesis”, but the shows are extremely popular and always come packaged with first rate live bands. They have been among the most often read reviews on the SeeDance website.

There were many other performances of local companies and touring programs, some of which were covered on other websites and on my WordPress blog. I would like to finish by thanking our readers including a few top commenters (you know who you are) and one in the UK who had been an extra in the ‘Desert Dancer’ cast. She had commented at length on the choreographer Akram Khan who had done such exceptional work on the film’s dance sequences.

If you are interested in catching up on the performances mentioned, please click on the News tab and use the search function to locate the stories.

Thanks for reading.

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