Dancey Things that Happened During Midterms

So what’s going on in my life? Well last week was my main midterms week, so between three take-home exams and a paper, I churned out about 25 pages of words (some of which meant something, I hope). But when I wasn’t staring at my laptop screen, imbibing caffeine, and trying to will essays into existence, I also attended some really awesome dance-related events.

Sometimes, I feel like being a dance student in NYC is like being a kid in a candy shop–in which the pieces of candy are ABT and Stephen Petronio. 

Last weekend I went with my dance history class to see American Ballet Theater performing Taylor’s Company B, Ashton’s Monotones, and Jooss’ The Green Table.

I found The Green Table especially fascinating, even though it struck me as dated. Actually, I found it fascinating partially because it seemed dated. I don’t mean that in a bad way–like it’s no longer relevant–just that I can’t imagine anyone being so literal and theatrical with a political piece today. I think that literal can actually be really powerful, even if it doesn’t quite mesh with modern sensibilities.

I also wonder whether the expectation that great choreography should be “timeless” is overrated. I enjoy seeing art that really embodies the feel of a particular time: both the choreography and the war imagery here seem characteristically post-WWI, and that’s an important moment to capture.

On Monday, I attended a panel surrounding Arthur Mitchell’s (the founder of Dance Theater of Harlem) archives being brought to Columbia. The conversation between Mitchell and the other panelists (Carmen de Lavallade, Kay Mazzo, and Allegra Kent) was pretty mind-blowing and went in several directions. Some that I found particularly interesting:

  • How the recent Misty Copeland hype ignores/erases the many black dancers who broke barriers before her
  • “Race-blind” meritocracy in casting versus using using race as a deliberate choreographic statement (Mitchell insists that Balanchine’s Apollo is not the same piece without a black man and a white woman)
  • How choreography is performed differently over time (and how the availability or lack of original footage effects this)
  • The experience of performing in Russia during the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Developing a better relationship between Columbia and Harlem

Agon, 1957

Yesterday, went to an open improv event with the Stephen Petronio Company which involved dancing with company members, my friends, strangers, and a dog around a sculptural installation in Madison Square Park. You know that quote about how music writing is like dancing about architecture? Well I’ve been doing a lot of dancing about architecture lately. And it’s pretty awesome.