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Shakespeare’s Legacy by Barbara Newman

Ashton retold A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 70 minutes. Balanchine slipped the narrative into one act and filled the second with pure dancing. John Neumeier dressed the lovers in sleek silvery unitards and the mechanicals as circus clowns. The greatest artworks open themselves to infinite interpretations, which is why choreographers keep reinventing Shakespeare’s plays. No […]

Protest and Provocation by Barbara Newman

Take off most of your clothes, paint your body white, and move as if you’re drugged or hypnotised or a ghost or a dream. The art of butoh often involves all these things, along with extremely slow and highly controlled movement, playful and despairing moods, hands cramped into claws and grotesque positions. This indefinable dance-theatre […]

Music Notes by Barbara Newman

Pictured: les ballets C de la B in nicht schlafen. Photographs: Chris Van der Burght. 1. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker/Rosas in Rain at Sadler’s Wells In Lucinda Childs’ Melody Excerpt, created in 1977 and seldom if ever revived now, the dancers’ feet in trainers supplied the only music. Grouped in varying combinations, the five performers […]

Something Old, Something New

A distinguished dance critic once declared she never wanted to see Swan Lake again. If the statement strikes you as extreme, don’t forget there are lots of fish in the sea, and it’s often more fun to reel in a fresh one than to catch what you expect. The spring season landed new winners, new […]

Barbara Newman on cultural identity

Suddenly, the most engaging dances around deal with cultural identity and immigration, the same topics that fill newspaper headlines. In 2015, Shobana Jeyasingh conceived Material Men to display two performers and their specialised talents – Shailesh Bahoran’s for hip hop, Sooraj Subramaniam’s for Bharata Natyam. Enlarging the original piece to absorb a slice of history, […]

Taking a risk

Last month, I watched Patricia McBride coach two New York City Ballet dancers, Lauren Lovette and Daniel Ulbricht, in the pas de deux and short solo passages from George Balanchine’s Rubies. McBride had created the woman’s role in 1967, and the Balanchine Foundation’s Interpreters Archive had organised the coaching session as part of its ongoing […]

Barbara Newman on “Snapchat” choreography

  The so-called “interactive generation” is currently addicted to Snapchat, the messaging app that allows you to post anything you like in the knowledge that every post vanishes automatically after it’s viewed. One sociologist has called it “a way to connect without judgment,” a phrase you could now apply, surprisingly, to dance and its public. […]

Barbara Newman on music and dance

Mark Morris’ Behemoth has no music and lasts for 38 minutes. When his company brought it to the Edinburgh International Festival years ago, he told me “It’s a big task for an audience to watch that piece… And not one person walked out of the theatre.” Wishful thinking. At the performance I saw, you could […]

Barbara Newman sees dance by Boris Eifman and Shobana Jeyasingh

The second definition of “translate” in my dictionary is “to turn into one’s own or another language.” Choreographers do this all the time, turning ideas, words, music or images into movement, hoping their translations will measure up emotionally and intellectually to the original material. George Balanchine said, “There are no mother-in-laws in ballet,” convinced that […]

Going further

Many people consider Wayne McGregor’s choreography the latest development in classical ballet, the next step after William Forsythe. Unlike Forsythe, however, he was not trained in ballet, yet he tinkers with its vocabulary obsessively, manipulating human bodies to their physical limits, distorting their alignment, disturbing their balance, and twisting joints to the extreme of their […]

La Fille mal gardée

What has happened to La Fille mal gardée? When did a generic pantomime dame replace Widow Simone’s individual character? Why doesn’t Alain offer the spurned engagement ring to the entire audience? Why do the lights dim for the final joyous pas de deux? Why are the sheaves now bound in actual raffia, which makes them […]

Can they dance like nobody else?

Alvin Ailey’s first company, established in 1958, consisted of seven black dancers and the intention of showcasing black culture. Over the years, as the troupe’s size and reputation continued to grow, it had an unmatched impact on dance in the US. Though predominantly African-American, the roster was integrated in 1964 and has included white and […]

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