February is the month we traditionally associate with love, the month when many people run out to buy cards, flowers and chocolate to give to their significant others. But not everyone has a partner and love comes in many other forms besides romantic love. I propose we reclaim February as a month celebrate love in its many forms–from friendships to family–and most importantly as a time to reflect on the things that we most love about life and discover new things to love. In that spirit I’m devoting this month’s blog pieces to discovering new things to love about dance. Here are 5 New Ballets to Love:
Cares You Know Not. This new piece choreographed by Robert Dekkers for Diablo Ballet premiered February 6th, 2015. Although the name of the piece comes from a children’s lullaby, Cares You Know Not explores a bit of the darker side of life, those things we don’t necessarily see (or want to see) lurking at the edges of our awareness. Dekkers worked with composer Samuel Adams (not to be confused with a beer brewer) to create the original score, which perfectly captures the edgier undertones Dekkers was aiming for. But there’s also science involved–watching the three dancers playing off one another, organically weaving in and out of shapes it’s easy to see how Dekkers drew inspiration from quantum physics for the piece. Says Dekkers, “Although scientists can predict the behavior of two particles, when a third is added three’s no telling what will happen.” This search for deeper philosophical meaning and a desire to create a more contemporary ballet language is what sets Dekkers apart from his peers and made him one of DANCE Magazine’s “25 To Watch.”
Heatscape. Justin Peck hit the streets to find new inspiration when he choreographed this new work for Miami City Ballet, premiering in March. He found what he was looking for in Miami’s vibrant Wynwood Walls. Heatscape is a celebration of colors: the dancers wear their own bright basics, the dance patterns mirror the mandalas woven into the murals (by Shepard Fairey and others). The murals have a deeper meaning of community-mindedness for Peck, who seeks to break down walls when it comes to ballet’s reputation as elitist and inaccessible.
Pixel. A piece with 11 dancers in a virtual and living visual environment, combining energy and poetry, technical achievement, hip hop and circus. Created by Adrien M / Claire B’s ( Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne) and Mourad Merzouki, Pixel premiered at Maison des Arts de Créteil on November 15th, 2014. This video is a cut of extracts from the actual show shot during the last day of creation on November 14th, 2014. The Adrien M / Claire B Company, is a research and creativity workshop based out of Presqu’île in Lyon, working with digital arts and performing arts since 2004.
Something Sampled. Beginning February 10th, the contemporary ballet troupe BalletNext welcomes flex dancer Jay Donn as a choreographer and featured dancer for its weeklong season at New York Live Arts. Flex is a form of extreme animation; dancers habitually describe trying to recreate special effects from movies like “The Matrix” with their bodies.The connection between the two is Chris Lancaster, an electroacoustic cellist who helped compose the score for 2013 documentary film “Flex Is Kings”. Lancaster wanted to give flex dancers opportunities to experiment outside the battle format, bringing them into projects in a realm he knows well– the world of concert dance. It was a challenge to marry the two forms, mostly due to communication issues. On his first day there, as Jay Donn put it, “I was trapped in a room with three girls and a cello.” He began choreographing, using mouthed sound effects to direct the dancers because he knew almost no ballet terms. Donn says he has tried to break the ballet dancers out of being stiff, to “help them be themselves and be free,” but their art has affected him, too. “It flows through me,” he said. “I wake up in the morning thinking about ballet.” The piece ends with a face off in a duel between Donn and Michele Wiles (a former principal dancer for American Ballet Theater and founder of BalletNext) where flex comes up against ballet. Who will be the victor?
World’s Largest Treadmill Dance Video. While it’s definitely a stretch to call this a ballet, I share this one for pure comic relief. Anyone who’s spent time on the treadmill will appreciate the transformation from hamster-wheel-like torture device to genius choreographic prop. Who knew that a treadmill could take dance to another level? In honor of all the workout-related resolutions we tend to make in January, NordicTrack released this video. They claim it’s the “world’s largest”—and with 40 treadmills involved, they’re probably right. –