Make 'Em Laugh
Modern dance is notoriously solemn, even grim. The stereotypically intense "modern face" doesn't crack easily into a smile. That's why it was refreshing to see, this weekend, two modern choreographers so at ease--and so successful--with humor.
Israeli dancemaker Ohad Naharin can do serious; there were many haunting moments in his Max, performed by Batsheva Dance Company on Friday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Yet he also knows how to use silliness to his advantage. Max's score is composed entirely of recordings of Naharin's own voice, and at one point he makes a low, pulsating noise that sounds strikingly like the wah-wah of a hard rock bass guitar. Although the dancers have just completed a series of intensely dance-y steps, it seems totally natural for them to pause, extend the the thumbs and pinkies of their left hands, and headbang along with the beat. The audience giggled, and I imagine that Naharin was laughing right along with us.
In sinister works like Last Look and Cloven Kingdom, Paul Taylor seems to thoroughly enjoy exploring the darker side of the human mind. Taylor's newest work, Beloved Renegade, which I saw this Saturday at New York City Center, was slightly gentler than those pieces--wistfully melancholy rather than perverse and bleak. Inspired by the poems of Walt Whitman, Beloved Renegade tells the story of a man (Whitman himself?) who journies through war towards death. One of the things that keeps that journey from devolving into hopelessness is a sweetly funny episode in which the dancers behave like children at recess--playing leapfrog, plugging their noses ("You stink!"), giving each other noogies. The scene not only demonstrates Taylor's incredible range as a dramatic artist, but also lets the audience relax for a moment. It's OK to laugh a little bit, Taylor seems to be saying, even though you'll be crying by the time the curtain falls. (On Saturday, we did laugh--and many of us cried, too.)
Dancer Yesenia Ayala first caught our eye in the off-Broadway production of Sweet Charity with Sutton Foster earlier this year. So, we were super excited when we found out she was making her Broadway debut in this spring's sweetest new show Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Both productions were choreographed by Joshua Bergasse.)
Since the NYC premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream at American Ballet Theatre's spring gala Monday night, the DS editors haven't stopped talking about its creepy-cute sets and costumes, created by artist Mark Ryden. Well, the obsession is about to get even crazier, because we just heard that Ryden's artwork for the ballet is now on display in not one, but TWO locations in NYC.
Yes, yes, we know: Dancers are athletes as well as artists. But we haven't seen anything hammer home just HOW athletic dancers are quite as well as this video from Self magazine, which features American Ballet Theatre principal/fairy princess Isabella Boylston trying to teach top-level CrossFit enthusiasts ballet.
There's a reason Mia Michaels' nickname is "Mama Mia." The legendary choreographer invests deeply in her dancers, whether they're competitors on "So You Think You Can Dance," members of the Radio City Rockettes, or part of her own elite assistant squad. And now, Michaels is launching a project that aims to give more dancers access to her gifts as a teacher and mentor.
And that's a wrap on "Dancing with the Stars" Season 24, ladies and gents! It's certainly been one for the books. From injuries to shocking eliminations, let's just say Season 24 has had its emotional ups and downs. But despite all that, the season made for some seriously phenom dancing and some killer performances. And as usual, we've loved watching every second of those cha chas, foxtrots, and waltzes.
Let's get right to the exciting stuff, though: Last night's winning couple of "Dancing with the Stars" is...
Nearly 80,000 dance-loving Instagram followers can't be wrong: Quinn Starner is one to watch. And what's just as impressive as the 15-year-old's rabid online following is her ever-growing list of competition accolades. Quinn, who trains at Indiana Ballet Conservatory and Stars Dance Company, been named first runner-up at The Dance Awards for two years in a row (as a junior and a teen); was the 2016 West Coast Dance Explosion Teen National Champion; earned first place in contemporary and third place in the classical division at Youth America Grand Prix Regionals in Pittsburgh last year; has won the Grand Prix Award at ADC|IBC; and was a gold medalist at World Ballet Art Competition Grand Prix. Plus, she made it to the Academy round on last year's "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation," and has performed as Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Here's what Quinn has to say about her favorite songs, teachers, and career highlights.