When the Audience is Part of the Show
Live dance performance, with all its unpredictability, seems risky enough in itself. When dance artists choose to bring an audience member onstage, they take an even bigger gamble. How will this unknown person respond to their prompts? Will she be cooperative, or will she ruin the moment by being overly self-conscious or awkward? (Or is her self-consciousness/awkwardness at being onstage the point?)
Dean Moss and Yoon Jin Kim's "Kisaeng becomes you" hinges on moments of audience participation, and when I saw the show at Dance Theater Workshop this Friday, that gamble paid off. Intended to demonstrate the similarities between the Korean "kisaeng" (courtesans) and today's artists, "Kisaeng becomes you" is a patchwork of dance-theater sketches, two of which involve audience members. During the most striking segment, the dancers dressed an older volunteer in a geisha-like wig and white gown, and went through an elaborate "rehearsal" with her--she was told to walk in circle, to bow, to cover her eyes, and to recite lines of poetry ("Everything you do...everything you say...deceives"). The woman's initial discomfort disappeared slowly as, after running through the sequence several times, she became familiar with her part. Then she "performed" the little routine--for us, and for the video camera held by one of the dancers. There was a sort of electricity in the air as she moved and spoke gently; we were all holding our breath for her, knowing that it could have been one of us up there, in the lights, under pressure. It was a beautiful moment.
The French dance film that made waves at last year's Venice Film Festival is heading stateside: Polina opens in theaters on July 21. The story follows a young Russian ballerina-in-the-making, played by dancer Anastasia Shevtsova, who's performed with the Mariinsky Ballet.
The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.
There are dancers and then there are DANCERS! Whitney Jensen, soloist at Norwegian National Ballet, is the latter. The former Boston Ballet principal can do it all. From contemporary to the classics this prima has the technical talent most bunheads dream about. Need proof? Look no further.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's dance inducing hit, "Despacito," is so catchy it should probably come with a disclaimer that warns people of an uncontrollable itch to tap your feet or bob your head. Some might even feel inclined to go all out and break it down. Niana Guerrero is a prime example of "Despacito's" uncanny ability to unleash the red dressed emoji dancer within. 💃🏽 💃🏽
Guys, we all knew this was coming—"World of Dance" was eventually going to eliminate someone. But man, is it brutal to watch these talented dancers give their all, only to be sent home. It's the name of the game, though, and after last night's episode, only two dancers per division remain. (At least Misty Copeland guest-judging was a silver lining!) Here's what went down last night:
They've impressed the judges, now it's time for the Top 100 dancers to enroll at The Academy—and to impress the All-Stars. Welcome to So You Think You Can Dance Academy!
The 100 dancers who made it through auditions in NYC or L.A. are now at The Academy, which is basically a beautiful building with floor-to-ceiling windows. The show opens with that Mandy Moore-choreographed Academy routine which, even after watching it 12 times and trying to learn all the choreography at home, is still delightful.
This Nationals season, Dance Spirit followed four talented dancers from The Dance Awards, NYCDA, Showstopper, and Starpower for an inside look at everything that goes into the biggest competitions of the year. First up: Isabella Torres from Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts in Baltimore, MD, who competed at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals for the first time this year. (All photos courtesy Shannon Torres.)