Peridance Contemporary Dance Company members (photo by Karli Cadel)
Being the savvy dancers that you all are, you already know it’s a good idea to scope out hot, interesting choreographers, to discover who and what you really like—and what you like…less. Being informed about what’s happening in the dance world will help you choose which auditions to go to and who to take classes from once you’re on your own as a professional.
One of the best ways to see several different companies at once is to attend a showcase. This weekend, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company is sharing a program with three other NYC dance companies: SynthesisDANCE, Mettin Movement and :pushing progress. These companies are small but mighty—they regularly perform world premieres in some of NYC's coolest venues.
PCDC company member Eoghan Dillon (photo by Dekel Hamatian)
“Our group of dancers are all stand-outs, but during rehearsal we were pushed to our limits—both artistically and physically,” says full-time Peridance company member Eoghan Dillon. “I feel really connected to this work, and I’m itching to get out and perform it.”
If you're itching to see it, click here to buy tickets.
Nederlands Dans Theater. Batsheva Dance Company. RUBBERBANDance Group. These companies top the dream-job list of many contemporary dancers, thanks to their amazingly inventive choreography and culturally specific approach to dance. They’re part of the wider world of contemporary and all its innovations—a world that extends far beyond the U.S. We rounded up boundary-pushing troupes from different continents so you can sample what contemporary dance looks like the world over.
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre in Re-Quickening, a collaborative work by multiple female artists (photo by Nyberg Productions, courtesy Kaha:wi Dance Theatre)
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre blends indigenous and contemporary styles to create something unique. “My approach is from a ‘Konkwehon:we,’ or ‘real woman,’ perspective, where dance is sacred, transformative and medicine for the people,” says artistic director Tekaronhiáhkhwa Santee Smith (Kahnyen’kehàka Nation). “The company’s process is interdisciplinary, intergenerational and intercultural. By holding the past, present and future together, we aim to overcome a traditional versus contemporary binary.”
Malpaso Dance Company in Osnet Delgado's Despedida (photo by David Garten, courtesy Sunny Artist Management)
Malpaso Dance Company
Though it’s only been around since 2012, Malpaso Dance Company has earned international recognition through performances at Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts and The Joyce Theater in NYC, among other venues. With a technique that merges American modern dance, Cuba’s African and Spanish influences and a more fluid European style, Malpaso and fellow Cuban companies—like Danza Contemporánea de Cuba and Carlos Acosta’s new group Acosta Danza—are set to supercharge the Cuban dance scene. “Cuban contemporary dance can be explored in many directions. There’s the influence of distinct religions and cultures, along with the technical element of modern dance,” says Malpaso founder Fernando Sáez Carvajal. “Cuba might seem like an isolated island, but it’s also
a place of exchange.”
Gauthier Dance in Garrett Moulton's Infinite Sixes (photo by Regina Brooke, courtesy Gauthier Dance)
Gauthier Dance is relatively new to the venerated European contemporary dance scene. Though it’s fewer than 10 years old, it has toured internationally, acquired an impressive repertory (including work by Alejandro Cerrudo, William Forsythe and Jirˇí Kylián) and established an annual fundraiser for Alzheimer’s research. “What I find mind-blowing is that in Germany, the audience is so knowledgeable and appreciative,” artistic director Eric Gauthier says. “They go the extra mile to show their enthusiasm.”
Dada Masilo/The Dance Factory
Location: South Africa
Choreographer Dada Masilo is known for her reimagined classics: Rather than featuring an ethereal flock of white swans, her Swan Lake tackles heavy issues like sexual orientation in a culture of violence. She mixes African dance with ballet to create a movement vocabulary that includes both pointe shoes and bare feet.
Vertigo Dance Company
Much like Germany and the Netherlands, Israel has become a contemporary dance destination, with multiple groups (Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company and L-E-V, to name a few) drawing dancers from all over the world. Vertigo Dance Company was founded in 1992 by Noa Wertheim and Adi Sha’al and includes a main company and an extensive dance education program. “Dance is not an obvious part of Jewish tradition,” Sha’al says, “yet a sense of freedom has motivated many Israelis to create in this field.” Wertheim adds: “My recent works further develop our company’s concept of reaching out, bridging over and connecting different worlds.”
Cullberg Ballet's Samuel Draper in Cristian Duarte's Against the Current, Glow (photo by Urban Jörén, courtesy Cullberg Ballet)
Cullberg Ballet, founded in 1967, has long been at the forefront of the contemporary dance world, thanks to the company’s relationship with choreographer Mats Ek. “A sense of humor, and sometimes irony, is characteristic of work by Mats Ek, Birgit Cullberg and Alexander Ekman,” says Cullberg Ballet artistic director Gabriel Smeets. “And many young Swedish choreographers engage with subjects like the environment and how we take care of the planet.”
Korean National Contemporary Dance Company
Location: South Korea
Korean National Contemporary Dance Company takes a critical look at the impact of Western culture on Korea. “The ‘modernization’ of Asia happened in such a compressed period of time,” says artistic director Aesoon Ahn. “Now we have the ability to mix premodern, or traditional, ideas with the influence of Western contemporary dance. There’s a sense of rapid cultural absorption, but we feature tradition within that. We find meaning in premodern times.”
Bangarra Dance Theatre
Bangarra Dance Theatre is deeply committed to the ancestral heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Australia. The company fuses ancient storytelling with contemporary movement and makes a point of touring regionally, so that people in Australia’s far-flung towns can see performances.
T.H.E Dance Company in Kuik Swee Boon's As It Fades (photo by Bernie NG, courtesy T.H.E Dance Company)
T.H.E Dance Company
The Human Expression (T.H.E) Dance Company was founded by Kuik Swee Boon in 2008 and focuses on inclusivity and the diverse voices of the Singapore community. “We remind ourselves to keep our hearts open to tolerance and progressive thought,” Boon says. “T.H.E often focuses on our cultural heritage or concerns about the environment—what makes us a collective and what makes us individuals.”
From August 4–7, Broadway Dance Center in NYC will host a contemporary intensive for dancers 16 and up. Tracie Stanfield, the highly sought-after teacher and artistic director of Synthesis Dance Project, will head the intensive, with guest artists like former Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet dancer Billy Bell and director/choreographer Wes Veldink. In addition to daily barre classes and technique and rehearsal with Stanfield, Bell and Veldink, the four-day workshop will include a series of master classes, a concert dance Q&A panel, an in-studio presentation and video shoot and three drop-in classes.
To apply, fill out the online form, submit the application fee of $25 and email your dance resumé, headshot and a video of you in a contemporary class or performance to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer, you can audition in person during one of Stanfield's classes at BDC. Email info@SynthesisDance.org to set up a time. To access the online applicatio, click here. Good luck!
One of the workshop's master classes will be with Stanfield's Synthesis Dance Project. (Photo by John David Pittman)
Raise your hand if you've ever had a clueless (but well-meaning) friend ask you to explain contemporary dance. Raise your hand if you've ever had a friend avoid your performances because she was afraid she wouldn't "get" it. Good, so...everyone?
As you know, your DS editors are diehard dance nerds, and we never miss out on an opportunity to get more people excited about dance. Defining and explaining dance styles is one of the ways we define and explain ourselves as artists, but it can feel completely futile when you're talking to someone who doesn't know a tendu from a tilt.
Cue London's The Place and their GENIUS new series of animated shorts that help dance n00bs understand what contemporary dancers are trying to say when they do freaky things like roll on the ground or pull their leg behind their head. We love it when dance and animation go together, and this is even more spectacular because it's beautiful and educational.
The first video introduces an unfamiliar visitor to "Planet Dance," where there are two hemispheres: Social Dance and Performance Dance. Contemporary dance is located in the Performance Dance hemisphere, along with its neighbors ballet, street dance, etc.
The following three videos cover what The Place calls Body Talk—that is, how to communicate with a dancer when she doesn't use words. Think of it as your go-to cheat sheet for the next time a friend tries to dodge your shows. Remind her that she already has a lot of tools to appreciate performance, and then sit her down in front of one of these (GENIUS) videos.
Let's talk about dream companies. It's safe to say that for many of you, Still Motion Dance Company, Shaping Sound Dance Co. and Cedar Lake Contemporary Dance Company are at the top of your lists. They're all fantastic—but there's one thing they don't offer: a second company. And you know how much we love second companies.
So here's a quick question: Have you ever considered Nederlands Dans Theater 2? If you're like me (#obsessed), then you probably YouTube-stalk them on the daily. I mean, is it really too much to ask the mind-blowing contemporary dance troupe to put up new videos every week? But I digress...
Katarina Van Den Wouwer and Gregory Lau in POSTSCRIPT (photo by Rahi Rezvani)
Nederlands Dans Theater is one of the top contemporary companies in the world, and there's no better way in than through the ranks of its little sister company, NDT2. These kids are good. And I'm not just saying that because basically all of the Americans in the company are Julliard alums and YoungArts or Princess Grace nominees (or awardees). I'm saying that because I saw them perform at the Joyce Theater on Tuesday night—and I had to scrape my jaw off the ground.
Dancers of NDT2 in Sara (photo by Rahi Rezvani)
The company performed four pieces, my favorite of which was the creepy, uncomfortable, amazing Sara, by Israeli choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar. Want to get in on the magic? NDT's summer program registration is now open.
Ever since Carrie Underwood played Maria Von Trapp in NBC's "The Sound of Music Live!," the country singer has had a special place in our hearts. But last night, when she revealed her new video for "Something in the Water" on Twitter, we fell even deeper in love. Why? Because it features none other than our favorite favorites: the gorgeous dancers of Shaping Sound.
Is that my heart singing—or yours?
Just wait 'til you see these dancers ankle deep in water. Their splish-splashy moves were created by Travis Wall, and they pair perfectly with Carrie's soulful voice. And when you think it can't get any better, minute 2:50 hits: The backup choir starts in with undertones of "Amazing Grace" and Shaping Sound busts out a huge, sweeping finale in unison. Chills. Just chills.
Take a look below (and be sure to enlarge it—Twitter isn't big enough to capture all its gloriousness!):
Here is the new music video for #SomethingInTheWater! #CmaAwards! https://t.co/zzeIeAcX2Q
— Carrie Underwood (@carrieunderwood) November 6, 2014
Shopaholics, consider yourselves warned. What we're about to show you may be too much for you to handle.
Just last week, NOWNESS (an online platform that posts daily content about some aspect of luxury lifestyle—art, fashion, travel, food, design, etc.) posted a video short entitled Mine All Mine, with choreography by Italian Paolo Mangiola. The video features five stunning contemporary dancers from Sadler's Wells Theatre in London, England, modeling pieces by top fashion designers like Louis Vuitton, La Perla, Kenzo, Bottega Veneta, Haider Ackermann, Rick Owens and Maison Martin Margiela. In the video, the dancers move in and out of the clothing, seamlessly swapping items as they dance throughout the space.
But here's the dangerous part: This video is an interactive, "shoppable" video. Basically, this means that you can click on the clothes you like as the dancers move in them. Then, when you're done watching the video, you can go back and review the items you selected. AND BUY THEM.
If you dare to watch the interactive version of the video, click here. But if you don't trust yourself, here's a "safe" version of the video, where you can just enjoy the stunning visuals of dance and high fashion without the shopping temptation:
Josie Moseley's "When I Close My Eyes" (by Blaine Covert)
As the curtain rises on Josie Moseley’s “When I Close My Eyes,” a dancer in black moves with desperation, her gestures and face conveying that she has just experienced horrible loss. Choreographed on students at The Portland Ballet, the contemporary piece depicts the stories of Holocaust survivors.
Teenagers dancing about genocide? It sounds like a stretch, but it’s become common to see contemporary dances that address social concerns like discrimination, abuse, disease or addiction. Frequently made for competitions, they offer dancers a chance to stretch artistically and stand out to judges. But mistakes like over-emoting can trivialize a serious issue and make a performance fall flat. Here’s how you can approach a “heavy” piece in a way that’s resonant, illuminating and gratifying.
PREPARATION: What Am I Dancing About?
Bree Hafen’s “Terminal Soul” (second runner-up at the 2012 Capezio A.C.E. Awards) tells the true story of a young girl suffering from a terminal illness and her family’s daily struggle with that reality. From the start, Hafen made sure her dancers understood the “why?” of the dance by having them meet the girl they would be dancing about. “It’s very important that they’re aware of how deep and sensitive the story is,” she says. “Although I’d told them why we were doing this piece, taking it a step further to let them meet her and hear from her mom about her struggles helped them understand that this isn’t ‘just a dance’—this is something that happens to people every day.”
Your teacher may not give you a back story, so try to create one for yourself—something you connect to personally. And if the piece is about a specific event, your dancing will be better if you know what you’re dancing about. Even a little online research can go a long way. “The more dancers explore and know about what they’re performing, the better,” says choreographer Stacey Tookey. “Some of my best work was taken to another level simply because dancers researched what the piece was about and felt more connected to it.”
REHEARSALS: Digging Deeper
To get comfortable with heavy subject matter during rehearsals, it helps to let go of your technique (it’s not going anywhere) and focus on the reason for the movement. “It’s important for dancers to take a healthy amount of time to explore, and find the layers, message or question within the piece,” says Moseley, who sometimes asks her dancers to contribute gestures or words so they feel empathy for the subject. Hafen helps dancers move beyond merely executing choreography by specifically explaining every gesture: “Make sure each movement is really defined in your mind, so you’re always thinking, ‘What am I trying to say right here? Why are we pulling her this way, or touching her this way?’ ” If you’re not sure about the intention behind a specific movement, ask. Chances are there’s a reason the choreographer chose it. Then, think of that description every time you dance it.
PERFORMANCE: True Emotion
When judging competitions, Hafen can sense when a piece is trying too hard to tug at her heartstrings to win points. “In my opinion, the most important thing is to depict a serious issue for the right reasons—to share a story to promote awareness or healing, not to win a trophy.” Onstage, the best dancers go from finding basic facial expressions, to feeling an emotion, to performing so sincerely that the audience feels that emotion themselves. If you’re having trouble feeling something authentic, Tookey advises surrendering to the moment: “Stop thinking about performing it. Forget there’s an audience at all. Simply be the character.” Nathan Makolandra, whose piece “It Gets Better” addresses discrimination, agrees: “Remain conscious of the message, but remember that the most important thing is the absolute presence of the artist.”
Bree Hafen's "Terminal Soul" (by Propix)
The opportunity to share an important message through dance is powerful, and valuable. Jillyn Bryant, who danced the role of the terminally ill child in “Terminal Soul,” says the experience gave her new appreciation for the beauty and fragility of life. Makolandra describes dancing a piece about death as therapeutic, since his own father passed away from cancer. “That’s what art does: It allows you to be changed by something because you feel it,” Moseley says. “It attaches to you in a physical way.”