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‘Dance on the Lawn’ – Community Dance Festival Sets Standard

11 Sep
Randy James' "Ten Hairy Legs." Photo: Tony Turner

Randy James’ “Ten Hairy Legs.” Photo: Tony Turner

I had the privilege recently to attend a dance festival a bit different from the norm — not one produced by an established organization, or part of a regional effort, or one of the well known dance festivals found in nearby New York City. This dance festival, billed as “community-based,” took place the first weekend of September in the New York City suburb of Montclair, New Jersey. This “first annual Dance on the Lawn” outdoor dance concert was held in a simple yet perfect setting, the front lawn of the local Episcopal Church.

The key components of the performance space — a festival banner, a marley covered platform stage and a great sound system – were complemented by a backdrop of trees, grass and the beautiful stone church to the rear. Add a warm, sunny day to the mix and the stage was set for a multi-faceted dance program for whomever dropped by to watch, lawn chairs and blankets in tow.

Alvin Ailey scholarship student Christopher Taylor - Photo: Tony Turner

Alvin Ailey scholarship student Christopher Taylor – Photo: Tony Turner

Teachers, students, artists and choreographers participating all generously donated their time, and the program was offered to its audience free of charge, something rare these days. Designed to help support dance and culture and “celebrate the arts in our own communities,” Dance on the Lawn hopes to become an annual event.

A diverse group of artists from New York, statewide from New Jersey, and some of Montclair’s own were among those who performed, including New York’s Seán Curran Company & Brice Mousset’s Oui Danse, and New Jersey’s Maurice Chestnut, Donna Scro’s Freespace Dance, Randy James’ 10 Hairy Legs, Nancy Turano’s New Jersey Dance Theater Ensemble, Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts’ Performance Workshop Ensemble, and Kathy Costa’s DanceWorks & Company. Contemporary dance, contemporary ballet, tap dance and modern dance were represented.

Seán Curran Company. Photo: Adria Rolnik

Seán Curran Company. Photo: Adria Rolnik

I was touched by the sight of a group of children, jumping and dancing, attempting to copy what they saw on stage. Job well done… isn’t that what it’s all about, inspiring and exposing the next generation to dance?

Directed and curated by former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater faculty member, dance performer and historian Charmaine Warren, and hosted by Nasha Thomas-Schmitt, former Ailey principal dancer and now head of national outreach for Ailey’s Arts in Education & Community Programs, Dance on the Lawn has been a heartfelt project long in the making.

I sat down with Charmaine to better understand what it takes to produce a community-based dance festival, and how her model can inspire other towns to do the same.

Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

(L-R) Charmaine Warren and Nasha Thomas-Schmitt. Photo: Tony Turner

(L-R) Charmaine Warren and Nasha Thomas-Schmitt. Photo: Tony Turner

What made you decide to produce Dance on the Lawn?

For more than two years I’ve wanted to share my love of dance with fellow Montclair residents so I began planning this event. There are other arts festivals in Montclair, so it just made sense to bring dance home and offer a dance festival too!

What are some of the difficulties faced in curating this project?

Because I’ve performed with some of the artists (I’m a curator and because no matter what, dance is part of my world), curating was not as difficult as it could have been. That said, I reached out some fabulous artists and asked them to perform without pay, and they said yes! The difficulty came when I, as an artist, knew how difficult it was for them to donate their time, so I set out to get financial assistance.

How did you find sponsors?

I am a Montclair resident, so I simply asked some wonderful people I know in the community for assistance. They signed on and donated their services (Toni’s Kitchen, Studio042, Tony Turner Photography and IMANI, a community-based non-profit that offers educational support programs to promote high achievement for all students in the Montclair Public Schools). One company led me to another, and so on. For example, Donna Scro’s Freespace Dance was an original company member of Seán Curran Company.

How can Dance on the Lawn serve as a role model for dance festivals in other communities?

I’ve been a curator for quite some time now – Harlem Stage‘s Dance Series, EMoves and The Wassaic Project Festival – so the curatorial part for me is not new. Being the producer/artistic director, though, is very new. The challenge was bringing all the pieces together and for the most part I was a one-woman-band. I don’t recommend that route, but I will say that having good friends and supporters is a must. Stick with those in the community that know you and trust you. Talk to friends and supporters who you know will be there for you, no matter what!

Brice Mousset's "Oui Danse"

Brice Mousset’s “Oui Danse”

This story first appeared on the Arts & Culture/Dance page of The Huffington Post, on September 10, 2014.

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“BAD BOYS OF BALLET” RETURN AUGUST 26 TO AMERICA’S GOT TALENT

22 Aug

“Bad Boys of Ballet” on America’s Got Talent – August 19, 2014

America’s Got Talent judge Mel B. used her Wild Card to bring back the Baltimore-based “Bad Boys of Ballet,” after they were eliminated from AGT results show on Wednesday, August 20.

“Bad Boys of Ballet” will now return to the semi-final round of America’s Got Talent on Tuesday, August 26, LIVE from Radio City Music Hall, with a second chance at winning the $1 million prize. Adriaballetbeat touched base with Adrienne Canterna, choreographer and lead dancer of “Bad Boys,” to find out more about the troupe.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

Where did you study ballet? Tell me about your professional training.

My professional training is from the Kirov Academy of Ballet. I was a full scholarship student at this boarding school in Washington DC. It is a pure Russian-Vaganova school.

AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- (l-r) Nick Cannon, Bad Boys of Ballet -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — (l-r) Nick Cannon, Bad Boys of Ballet — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Have the dancers ever been members of a ballet or dance company, other than “Bad Boys”?

Some have been in Broadway and off-Broadway shows, some we got directly out of high school or college and others have danced with national or international tours and done commercial/TV/film work. I myself have danced with ballet and contemporary ballet companies and won the Gold medal at the 1998 USA International Ballet Competition.

What made you decide to choreograph this very different spin on contemporary ballet?

My training growing up was very diverse so I always had to desire to marry my favorite styles of dance together. Ballet is the cornerstone and I build upon that.

Why did you name yourself “Bad Boys?” And why does “Bad Boys” include a female dancer?

AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- Bad Boys of Ballet -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — Bad Boys of Ballet — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

We’re BAD because we break the rules sometimes! We push the boundaries and attempt the extraordinary in the ballet world. We want to bring ballet into the 21st century. There’s a girl because I’m the boss and I put myself in the group! These boys make me better, stronger and push me to my full potential as a dancer and choreographer.

Do you see the future of ballet in this more modern interpretation, or do you think there is still a place for the classics (i.e. Swan Lake, Coppélia, The Sleeping Beauty) looking forward?

I hope the classics never die! I absolutely adore and am forever inspired by pure classicism! I just hope there’s a place for us too – something fresh, exciting, masculine, sexy, dynamic and athletic! Ballet is the most beautiful art form and I want more Americans to appreciate it!

American Dance Guild Festival 2013: Modern Dance “Cross-Pollination,” Nov. 8-10

10 Oct

Yung-Li Chen. Photo: Alexandra Vainshtein

Yung-Li Chen. Photo: Alexandra Vainshtein

Contemporary dance fans are in for a treat this November, when the American Dance Guild returns for its annual performance festival in New York City, this year at the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center.

Thirty-three artists/choreographers, from emerging to mid-career, will present their work, reflecting the American Dance Guild’s unique position as both a promoter of the new and preserver of the living history of modern dance as an art form.With four performances over three days, plus videos and archival presentations, ADG Festival ’13 will showcase emerging talent and honor dance history. This year’s Festival will take place Friday November 8 through Sunday, November 10.

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat about the upcoming Festival with Gloria McLean, President of the American Dance Guild. She is excited about the new production, and wants to fill us in. Here are some excerpts from our recent conversation:

The ADG Festival has become a fixture on NYC’s fall dance scene. How did it originate?

The Guild’s been around since 1956, started by dance educators dedicated to the furthering of modern dance in all ways. They would always have an annual conference, usually around timely themes such as “Dance and Social Values” or “Women in Dance” or “Dance and Technology,” with lectures, classes, and one big performance.

Over the years, the Guild adjusted and expanded according to the desires and interests of its members.  In the last five or six years, we’ve morphed into an artist-run organization, recognizing that choreographers are always looking for more opportunities to show their work. So, the performance aspect has expanded to become an annual three to four day Festival.

 You have named this year’s program, “Cross-Pollination.” Can you explain the title, and your relationship with the 92Y?

The 92nd Street Y dance programs, and the Guild, have been intertwined from the beginning. The 92Y Kaufman Hall in the 50’s was one of THE places for modern dance, and all the major artists performed there.  Lucile Brahms Nathanson was head of the 92nd Street Y’s teaching program at the time, and she started having conferences around the teaching of modern dance to children, and from these conferences the Dance Teachers Guild was born.

Jeanne Bresciani in Doris Humphrey's Water Study.  Photo: Lois Greenfield

Jeanne Bresciani in Doris Humphrey’s Water Study. Photo: Lois Greenfield

After a few years, the focus expanded to include professionals in all aspects of the field. There’s always been a connection between the teaching of dance, choreography and performance.  The 92Y gave support to so many artists and teachers –Graham, Humphrey, Limon, Hawkins, Sokolow, their descendants and beyond. “Cross-Pollination” is an image for what we have today – we are all hybrids in some way – pollinated by the ideas of these great artists, whether by acceptance or resistance, through direct contact or a few times removed – and by new ideas as well. So, it’s a way to call attention to the shared legacy of the Guild and the 92Y.

This year the Festival is honoring dance luminaries Lar Lubovitch, Marilyn Wood and the late Remy Charlip. Why did you decide to feature their work in this year’s program?

We try to bring people’s attention to some of the amazing work that has been created by mature, modern dance artists.

Lar Lubovitch is currently celebrating 45 years of his dance company, just finishing a two week run at New York’s Joyce Theater. We felt it was a great time to honor his body of work and lifetime of commitment to making beautiful, humanistic, deeply “dancerly” dances.  He’s a master, yet totally unassuming.  The work he has chosen to present – the male duet from Concerto Six Twenty-Two – could not be timelier.

Remy Charlip died in 2012 at 83, loved by everyone who knew him. He was an utterly creative spirit and made art out of every aspect of

Lar Lubovitch. Photo: Rose Eichenbaum from Masters of Movement; courtesy Lar Lubovich Dance Company.

Lar Lubovitch. Photo: Rose Eichenbaum from Masters of Movement; courtesy Lar Lubovich Dance Company.

life, such as dancing in bed (as Arthur Aviles will show us); David Vaughn will perform his Ten Imaginary Dances; two wonderful dancers from HT Chen’s company will perform Twelve Contra Dances.  Remy also made Airmail Dances, not to mention his totally charming children’s books…

Marilyn Wood took dance into a wider world of connections as she created the category of “Celebration Art” back in 1969. She was an innovator in areas now taken for granted, like taking on an urban center as her “stage.” Her first break-through piece was a City Celebration of the Seagram Building on Park Avenue, with dancers in the windows, on the escalators, dancing with businessmen, totally re-framing our ordinary perceptions of that kind of space.  Her work is always collaborative and interdisciplinary, bringing together all forms of art – lasers projected on the buildings, fire sculptures, dancing in water fountains, rock climbers repelling down buildings, performance art – all by way of her concept of re-inventing the ancient art of “festival” in new contemporary contexts. At 80, she deserves recognition.

What other artists are participating?

Margaret Beals is making a rare appearance – now in her 70’s, Margy is an early exponent of improvisatory performance with an inspired style of her own; Maya Dance Theatre from Singapore will do a fusion of Indian classical and contemporary dance;  there are several reconstructions this year, including Deborah Zall dancing Anna Sokolow’s famous solo Kaddish, Catherine Gallant and Jeanne Bresciani  interpreting Isadora Duncan; Kim Jones will offer Martha Graham’s Imperial Gesture; Nai-Ni Chen’s company of eight terrific dancers will present a rhythmically exhilarating piece; Adriane Fang, Tina Croll and Yung Li Chen, a young and interesting performer, will also join us…

Open Window Dance-Seagram Building. Celebration NYC 1972; Photo courtesy: Marilyn Wood.

Open Window Dance – Seagram Building. Celebration NYC 1972; Photo courtesy: Marilyn Wood.

Can you fill us in on the Guild’s mission?

Our mission continues to be to support and further the understanding of modern dance as an art form with all its hybrid extensions, to honor its legacy, and to continue the creative “cross-pollination” of ideas and activity that has guided us from the beginning.

Adria Rolnik is helping to promote ADG Performance Festival 2013, Nov. 8-10 at the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center, 1395 Lexington Avenue, NYC. Performances are at 8pm Friday and Saturday, and Sunday at 3pm and 7:30pm. Visit 92nd Street Y for tickets.

This blog first appeared on the Huffington Post Dance Page, October 9, 2013.

TUDOR BALLET “DARK ELEGIES” HAS FINGER ON THE PULSE

20 Apr

I saw Antony Tudor’s Dark Elegies performed last night at New York Theatre Ballet’s “Legends and Visionaries” program at Florence Gould Hall, NYC.

Though created by Mr. Tudor in 1937, the ballet couldn’t have been more current. Tudor described this work as his favorite ballet, and many consider it to be his greatest. “From bursts of rage to tender moments of quiet devastation, Tudor’s ‘ballet requiem’ expresses the raw emotion of a tight-knit community faced with the inexplicable loss of their beloved children,” explains the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust.

"Dark Elegies" - ABT - Fall, 2005. Julie Kent and Grant Delong. Photo courtesy of Sally Brayley Bliss

“Dark Elegies” – ABT – Fall, 2005. Julie Kent and Grant Delong.
Photo courtesy of Sally Brayley Bliss

Newtown, Connecticut grieves for 20 children and six adults gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. Boston grieves in the wake of Monday’s marathon bombings, with three dead and more than 260 injured. Together, we grieve as a nation.

It has been 76 years since Tudor choreographed Dark Elegies. Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed. The ballet’s subject matter and emotional content feel raw. Dark Elegies has its finger on the pulse. Perhaps it always will.

Dark Elegies is danced to the Song Cycle Kindertotenlieder (“Songs on the Death of Children”) by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). The work consists of five songs to lyrics by Friedrich Rückert. It was first performed in London by Ballet Rambert on Feb. 19, 1937. First cast included Peggy van Praagh, Maude Lloyd, and Agnes de Mille. First US Performance was by American Ballet Theater (Ballet Theatre) at New York’s City Center, January 24, 1940.

NY Theatre Ballet performs chamber ballet masterpieces and new works by emerging choreographers, and innovative one hour ballets for children. By pairing the ballets of legendary creators with those of new visionaries, NYTB helps audiences to rediscover the old and be thrilled by the new.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: “SUMMER DANCE”

2 Mar

Imagine – a sleep away camp where you dance, morning, noon and night. Where you stage performances, learn from the masters, excerpt the great ballets and learn folk and modern dance too. Ah, to live in the mountains during the hot summer months, on a lake with an outdoor stage, with piles of pointe shoes, costumes, and new friends and cool mountain air. What I wouldn’t have given to go to a dance camp like the one in Summer Dance. The pre-teen novel struck a chord.

"Summer Dance" by Lynn Swanson

“Summer Dance” by Lynn Swanson

All at dance camp was not perfect for 13-year old Sara – finances were tight at home and a scholarship was needed to come back next year.  Dance was Sara’s passion, and her dream was to dance professionally some day. Could the training at “Lakewood Dance Camp” hold the key?

“Young dancers should be easily drawn into the passions and frustrations of Sara and her friends and the nicely evoked upper Michigan setting,” says Publishers Weekly.  I agree.

If you have a daughter who loves to dance, Summer Dance is a perfect choice for the young reader.  The challenges of learning and perfecting your craft, the motivation for scholarship, and changing relationships with friends over a memorable summer in the northern Michigan woods create a passionate story filled with surprises.

Lynn Swanson, author of Summer Dance, is a dance educator and member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She holds a BFA in dance from the University of Michigan and an MA in Creative Writing from Michigan State University.  Here are some excerpts from a recent conversation:

Author Lynn Swanson

Author Lynn Swanson

They always say, “Write what you know” – why do I have a feeling you spent summers at dance camp?

Yes, it’s true! Two summers in Michigan at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp as a student, and two summers there assisting in the prestigious ballet department.

Summer intensives are commonplace for dance students on the professional track. Do you think a dance camp is an effective alternative?

It depends on what the dancer’s technical and emotional needs are at the time.  A camp environment is ideal as long as the instructors are top-notch.  No sense wasting a summer or developing bad dance habits if you are a serious dancer.

I love that you introduce the reader to some of the great classical ballets – Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Romeo & Juliet… what made you choose those ballets for the story?

I danced in Les Sylphides and in Les Patineurs, which is also in the book, so I knew the choreography in detail and the artistic expression required to dance them. I love the music from both ballets.  I chose Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet for their romantic appeal.

How does a young girl become passionate about dance? Do you think it’s learned or innate?

Lynn Swanson presenting Summer Dance to students last summer at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan.

Author Lynn Swanson presenting “Summer Dance” to students last summer at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan.

I think all little girls are passionate about some form of movement and do it very naturally if you watch them. Not all sustain the commitment needed to move through every stage of training to become a professional dancer.  It’s the passion that fuels a dancer to keep going.

A scholarship is necessary for Sara to continue her studies. Financing for arts education is always a struggle. Can you tell me something about the importance of scholarship for young dancers with potential, like Sara?

It is highly important that we financially support our dancers through scholarships, especially in this country where there are no government supported boarding schools for dance. It is sometimes up to individual dance teachers at private studios or at the local community center or YMCA to not only identify gifted and passionate dancers, but to help them find a way to get the financial support they need to pursue their dance training. I honor and praise all those who continue to find ways to keep talented dancers moving!

Find Summer Dance on Amazon.com.

TAP DANCE, REVISITED

15 Feb

I haven’t tap danced in 47 years. But I remember when I first took ballet and tap, as a kid back in Brooklyn. “Miss Lorraine’s Dance Studio” certainly offered tap, and lots of it. Ballet class wasn’t the only dance form on my agenda!

I always liked tap and still remember a step or two, but who’d ever think I’d wind up working on a project with the American Tap Dance Foundation? Well, there you go. Again and again, things come full circle.

Maybe this blog is “AdriaBALLETbeat,” but ballet and tap, together, is where it all began for me. I recently published a story in the Huffington Post Arts/Culture page called, Tap Dance Preserved, which included an interview with Tony Waag, Artistic/Executive Director of the American Tap Dance Foundation. Please have a look:

“Tap is jazz, tap is Broadway, tap is culture blending at its best — the history of tap is rich, the dancing electric. We should pay attention.

For more than a century, tap has fought for its place on the legitimate stage. Appropriate venues where tap dancers, both aspiring and professional, can perfect their craft are limited. The American Tap Dance Foundation (ATDF) is one of only a handful of dance companies committed to ensuring that tap and its family of performers receives recognition alongside the masters of ballet, modern and jazz.

The Tap City Youth Ensemble -- Photo: Carolina Kroon

The Tap City Youth Ensemble — Photo: Carolina Kroon

ATDF has recently embarked on a new collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center, bringing talented young musicians and dancers together to share their musical and rhythmic ideas and explore jazz culture. ATDF has spearheaded the development of The Gregory Hines Collection of American Tap Dance Archives at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Education and preservation go hand in hand and are the cornerstones of the Foundation’s mission.

Two new productions, blending the history of tap as well as new, contemporary work will open March 19 in New York City. Top tappers Brenda Bufalino, Michelle Dorrance, Derick K. Grant and Savion Glover‘s protégé, Cartier Williams are participating. There is a lot going on.

In a sit-down with Tony Waag, artistic and executive director, we learned more about the American Tap Dance Foundation mission and how they continue to stretch the boundaries of the form:

Tell us about the beginnings of tap. How did it become part of the American culture?

Well, it actually was born and became what we know as Tap Dance right here in NYC. In fact, it was primarily developed and identified as tap dance in what was called the “5 Points District” in lower Manhattan. Freed African slaves and Irish immigrants lived there together, and danced publicly and socially, often in competition.

Why is preservation so important to ATDF?

Tony Waag -- American Tap Dance Foundation. Photo: Lois Greenfield

Tony Waag — American Tap Dance Foundation. Photo: Lois Greenfield

Because so much of its history has already been lost. Only so much could be handed down through stories. The general public knows very little about it, and how amazing that history is! Tap parallels American history, and had to overcome the same prejudices and social issues we’ve all had to acknowledge.

Tap is ultimately a performance art. How do you integrate performance and preservation?

There are several ways. We showcase vintage video footage, such as in Rhythm is Our Business, one of our upcoming shows in March. Then, of course, we also videotape the shows. We also add “Meet the Artists” discussions before our shows, so we can put everything in context.

How will the upcoming performances showcase past and present?

Rhythm is Our Business is using swing as the theme of the evening. The band, the vocals, the choreography, the dancing, the costumes are all in the swing style. Rhythm in Motion is using contemporary music and much of the choreography is hot off the presses. Each piece has a different point of view and has been created and/or inspired by contemporary issues.

What is the future of tap? What can we look forward to in the long term?

I think we will see much more mixed media in productions, experimental use of site-specific venues and new surfaces to tap on. We will also see much more from the international community, with different musical influences from other cultures… everything is cyclical, you know. Personally, I’m going back to basics and experimenting with Busby Berkeley motifs like in Tap It Out, a piece I did this summer at NYC’s World Financial Center. We had 151 dancers do a modern take on orchestral unison percussion and movement, out of doors, right next to the Hudson River!”

Rhythm Is Our Business
The Theater at the 14th St Y, NYC
Tues., 3/19-Thurs., 3/21 – 7pm and 9:30pm
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/327158

Rhythm in Motion
The Theater at the 14th St Y, NYC
Fri., 3/22-Sat., 3/23 at 7pm and 9:30pm
Sun., 3/24 at 3pm
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/327849

Adria Rolnik is helping promote the American Tap Dance Foundation.

A portion of this blog first appeared in the Huffington Post Arts/Culture Page, February 7, 2013.

MY FAVORITE “MEN DANCERS” IN NYC – JAN 2013

30 Dec

An outstanding cast of dancers, choreographers, directors and scholars will appear together this January in NYC, in a special production of “The Men Dancers: From the Horse’s Mouth.”  Spanning all ages and traditions, this diverse group of performers will join together to dance and share personal stories with the audience, with big names in the dance world participating.

Lar Lubovitch in The Men Dancers, Jacob's Pillow, July 2012. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Lar Lubovitch in The Men Dancers, Jacob’s Pillow, July 2012. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Former NYC Ballet principal dancer Charles Askegard, master choreographer Lar Lubovitch, former NYC Ballet principal Jock Soto,  acclaimed dance figure Gus Solomons Jr.  and Trent Kowalik (one of the original “Billy” performers from the musical Billy Elliot) will be among the cast of 30 — Bessie and TONY Award winners, Ernie Award recipients and dance legends will share the stage in this four-day event.

Last summer, a special all-male version of From the Horse’s Mouth premiered at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in honor of Ted Shawn, the festival’s founder. Inspired by the success of that production (part of the Pillow’s 80th anniversary season), The Men Dancers: From the Horse’s Mouth is back!

Following is a conversation with Jamie Cunningham, founder of From the Horse’s Mouth, about this extraordinary production:

Jamie Cunningham in The Men Dancers, Jacob's Pillow, July 2012. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Jamie Cunningham in The Men Dancers, Jacob’s Pillow, July 2012. Photo: Christopher Duggan

How did you come up with the idea for Horse’s Mouth?

I have known Tina Croll, co-founder of From the Horse’s Mouth, since 1966, when we were young dancers and choreographers at Dance Theater Workshop in New York City. Fourteen years ago, I attended an Al-Anon meeting where each person spoke for three minutes about a problem they were having and how they were working to resolve it. I kept thinking how this process was “real theater.” Upon leaving the meeting, I happened onto a sign in front of Yoga Institute, reading, “one truth, many paths.” And that’s when then idea for From the Horse’s Mouth came together… to create a piece featuring many dancers and choreographers doing many different things. I immediately phoned Tina and told her it would be interesting to put together a piece where dancers could talk about their lives and their work — whether serious or funny — exploring their own style of dance as well as interacting with other people working in quite different styles, ie. an Indian classical dancer interacting with a Spanish flamenco dancer; a ballet dancer interacting with hip hop.

Do you see a historical value to this personal story telling?

Yes, indeed. When we introduced the production 14 years ago, our friend Sharon Kinney,  a former dancer with Paul Taylor, asked to do a documentary of the piece. Lincoln Center’s Library for the Performing Arts  also shot 10-minute interviews with each of our dancers from the original production, which is now part of the Library’s permanent collection.

Why are dancers, choreographers, directors and scholars drawn to perform in this piece?

What has made this piece so successful with dancers and the audience is its diversity and variety — we are all a part of this process of theater and dance… part of a larger, common humanity. It’s a common ground that we all have. From the Horse’s Mouth is like the UN — although it started out with our friends in the modern dance world, it has evolved over 14 years to include all races, sexes and cultures. It reminds the participants that they are not separate — they are all a part of the greater field of theater and dance.

How will the NYC production of The Men Dancers differ from the one presented at the Jacob’s Pillow 80th Anniversary season in July, 2012?

There will be some changes — for example, former NYC Ballet principal dancer Jock Soto will be joining us and dance critic Jack Anderson and his partner George Dorris, together for 46 years, will participate, talking of the changes they’ve seen in the role of male dancers over many years. We are delighted to see the return of former NYC Ballet principal Charles Askegard (now artistic director of Ballet Next) and master choreographer Lar Lubovitch to The Man Dancers for the NY run.

What’s in store for the future?

An all-tap version of Horse’s Mouth is planned by the American Tap Dance Foundation in NYC in April 2013. There will also be a production in Boston to celebrate the beloved teacher, choreographer and dancer Martha A. Gray.  Next fall, Horse’s Mouth will be in San Francisco honoring choreographer and dancer Margie Jenkins. Also on the fire is an all male — and all female — version of Horse’s Mouth for the 2014 World Pride Celebration in Toronto, Canada.

We are also planning a production in 2015 connecting the arts and sports, sponsored by the University of Toronto — we’ve been dying to do a piece with athletes!

About From the Horse’s Mouth

Adria Rolnik is helping promote The Men Dancers: From the Horse’s Mouth, Jan. 10-13 at the newly renovated Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th St (between 1st and 2nd Avenues), New York, NY 10003. Gala celebration and performance on Jan.10 at 8 p.m, with performances continuing on Jan 11/12 at 8pm and on Jan 13 at 3pm. Visit http://themendancers.brownpapertickets.com/for tickets

This blog first appeared on the Huffington Post Dance Page, December 17, 2012.

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