On a recent trip to Richmond for Pilates Certification training, I visited Maymont Mansion during some free time. As a child, my family traveled there once or twice a year, visiting my two great aunts. They have both since passed away, quickly dwindling my trips there.

v6QZKwvgQc2KBhiDIoAVCQI needed an adventure break during training weekend. Saturday was a beautifully sunny day. I always try take in cultural experiences while traveling. I needed a little exercise, too, so Maymont Mansion seemed like a great match. Clearly a community favorite, families and joggers enjoyed the grounds with me. I laughed (to myself) overhearing a dad try to explain to his little girl that this was indeed, a park. She expected swings and slides, not manicured lawns. She kept repeating, “Where is it? I don’t see no park.” I walked most of the grounds before realizing that below a hill lay another garden. I bounded down the winding stone path into a Japanese horticulture homage. It felt like entering a secret garden tucked beneath the great hill.

One water feature included large stepping stones to access a small island. A dad and his son crossed ahead of me, so I paused to watch the little boy’s pleasure at hopping across the stones. His mother and sibling waited on the other side, waving happily. Somewhat frantically, the little boy yelled, “How am I going to get over there?! Am I stuck here?” His young mind hadn’t quite calculated that the whole path formed a loop, or that he could return the way he came. His dad calmly said, “Lookthere is a bridge on this side of the island we can take.” Crisis averted! The little boy darted across the bridge eagerly, ready to be relieved of his brief marooning.

His cry and posture reminded me of Gao Xingjian’s The Other Shore. As a senior in college, I acted as house manager for the show. I made the mistake of not fully observing the play prior to managing the late seating policy. I tried to squeeze two patrons into aisle seats just as several cast members came darting up the aisle “on their way to the other shore.” The play reminded me of dynamics on the show Lost, wherein the stress and adrenaline of trying to figure out one’s relationship to the universe made one question every aspect of reality.

I understood exactly how that little boy felt trying to get to the other side. It is easy to bound forward in excitement, target in view. You realize there is something unexpected or impassable between you and your final goal – it might be small, like two feet of water. The focus and commitment to the goal makes looking elsewhere feel like betrayal or a waste of time. But, by taking a moment to look around, the way out might become clear. Or, the voice of a friend with wise advice can be heard. This quick interchange gave me a picture of God, the good Shepherd, walking alongside his beloved. He isn’t in a rush and he isn’t going to join the freakout party. He isn’t going to laugh at our short-sightedness or get frustrated at our zero to sixty desperation. He keeps walking with us, letting us charge forward, guiding our steps.




photo by Ted Kivitt
photo by Ted Kivitt

Alarm Will Sound and Dance Heginbotham turned movement and the music of Aphex Twin, Tyondai Braxton and Edgard Varèse upside down in their collaboration at The Met on Thursday, February 20th for Twinned, the third performance of Alarm Will Sound’s work as Artist in Residence.  The orchestra appeared to fall away into the reflecting pool in the Charles Engelhard Court.  The grand facade loomed above former Mark Morris and Pilobolus dancer John Heginbotham’s three ring circus.  In post-performance conversation, Heginbotham explained that choreographer Mark Morris identified the potential for partnership and made the introduction.  Asked about how the joint performance was built, Heginbotham explained, “this is what they (Alarm Will Sound) do.  They’re not just musicians, they’re performers.”

The audience sat on three sides, and some stood above in the balconies.  Members of the musical troupe scattered themselves among the crowd.  Although green, red, and yellow floor lighting delineated a stage, the performance expanded beyond.  To begin, several musicians posed with their instruments on the floor.  Soon other musicians joined in, near and far – one in the highest balcony.  Sporting white sneakers, Heginbotham’s dancers Lindsey Jones and Courtney Lopes high kicked their way into the arena, their leotards printed in black and white geometric shapes.  Twirling around the statues, Jones and Lopes’ opening act resonated with the prancing kicks and bouncing twirls of baton girls, cheerleaders, and drill team.  Their feet flicked and kicked to open into flat-footed fouettes before descending to the floor in taught winding twists.  Bodies rocked back and forth as their legs swept the floor and cut the air in rond de jambes.  Bent knees, elbows, and dangling wrists accented sharp box steps.  Stepping fast and furious, Weaver Rhodes and Sarah Stanley joined the action.

photo by Amber Star Merkens

Also in black in white, Rhodes and Stanley unified the group for the arrival of John Eirich.  In flowing white, Eirich moved in and out of the group’s running loop.  Eirich engaged with the other four at times, bouncing up and down in tandem.  Alarm Will Sound Conductor Alan Pierson moved his musicians into the ring, masterfully managing the flow of drums, gongs, and bells rotating through the space.

The musicians danced and the dancers made music.  This collaboration drew the dancers into the orchestra with their own percussive duties.  Musicians with trombones and flutes frequently accompanied the dancers in running circles around the statue of Diana.  Heginbotham used a soft bounce that like the crescendo of the musician’s cymbals sent his dancers arms and legs cartwheeling around their own bodies.

All performers found their way to the floor for a meditative pause.  Musicians clutched their instruments to their chests.  For the final act, the dancers assumed jockey outfits.  Former Cunningham dancer Andrea Weber also entered the ring.*  Horseless, they rode themselves into the vortex of numbers (zeros and ones) projected on every surface of the court.  Eyes burst wide open, tongues swiped side to side, faint calls emitted from the dancers mouths and yet they remained aloof, distant.

Twinned seemed to be an other world.  Neither heaven, hell, nor purgatory, but a place where the spirits resided among, rather than within the bodies.  The energetic, pulsating bodies periodically broke into loose, evocative reaches but eventually rebounded into their circus characterized routines.  Were the spirits escaping the body only to be recaptured?  Perhaps, the spirit and body worked together, deliberately continuing to split apart as nuclear fission.  Whether as reaction or decay, unknown, but unnecessary.  The kinetic form combined as greater than the sum of its parts.

The peculiar energy of the night at the museum included Mark Morris, Baryshnikov, Jacob’s Pillow Executive Director Ella Baff, choreographers Catherine Gallant and Brian Brooks, and Peace, former performer with Eiko and Koma, among others in the audience.

*Winston Dynamite Brown is credited as a dancer and appeared for the bows, however, perhaps to the complexity of the space, it was unclear to the observer his role in the evening.

Exhibitions to check out:

Flamenco: 100 Years of Flamenco in New York
NYPL hosts this small, but jam-packed exhibit filled with photos, video, and memorabilia weaving together the storied history of flamenco.  Free!

NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star
Haven’t made it to this yet, but dying to go!!  Free on Thursday nights!

Cambodian Rattan: The Sculptures of Sopheap Pich
Pich’s sculptures come alive through their winding curves and their poignant references to the struggle to overcome.

For Black Friday, quite a few museums offered free admission which allowed my friend and former fellow performer with the Flying High Circus to tour “Circus and the City: New York, 1793-2010” at Bard Graduate Center.

This was the perfect exhibit for us – tracing our family tree in a way.  Apparently it attracted other “circus freaks” as we were informed by the very friendly admissions attendant who graciously asked us about our acts (Roman Rings, Triple Trapeze, Spanish Web for my friend & tightwire for me).

The thoughtfully curated exhibit (Curated by Matthew Wittmann, a curatorial fellow at the BGC, the exhibition features more than two hundred objects and images selected from both local and national collections, including the New-York Historical Society, the International Center of Photography, the Somers Historical Society, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the New York State Museum, the Circus World Museum, the Barnum Museum, the Library of Congress, the Witte Museum, and the Shelburne Museum, per the website) covers three floors and managed to hold balance between photos, costumes, posters, props, and video.  The circus can be a difficult subject to navigate due to the nature of creating spectacle of people and animals.  In this exhibit, I was able to celebrate some of the amazing feats nameless performers contributed to circus arts while remaining soberly aware of the social and ethical issues present.

There were moments of humor, shock and awe, and sadness – a touching blend of the nature of the circus.  This exhibit gives identity and acknowledgement of the many artists who remain anonymous because their history is ephemeral and undocumented.  Did you know a dozen or so elephants once walked up Broadway?

The Bard Graduate Center Gallery is located in New York City at 18 West 86th Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  The admission fee is $7 general, $5 senior and students (valid ID); admission is free Thursday evenings after 5 p.m. For more information about the Bard Graduate Center and upcoming exhibitions, please visit bgc.bard.edu.

For more press information, please e-mail press@bgc.bard.edu or call 212-501-3074.



So excited to have found this; especially in light of the intense dialogue of Saturday’s Conversations Without Walls at Danspace re: Deborah Hay and her recent presentation Blues at MOMA, Kathy Wasik, niv Acosta, race, class, hierarchy, and fairness.

I will not attempt to reiterate the fast-flowing, contentious conversation but I will say I think it is an important conversation to have and continue to have.  Thank you to Danspace Project for providing this avenue and entrypoint – it is important for the field of dance and for us as human beings and citizens of the world.

What are in you dialogue about re: the above issues; why; and what are you uncovering?

I’ve been in a bit of slump.  I drag myself to work, then the gym, then home where I watch the Real Housewives.  My roommates come and go while I cuddle with the couch in front of the AC.

The heat wave is killing me.  I take cold showers, I sleep on top of the covers with two oscillating fans…the Dog Days of Summer are taking over.

One of my favorite apps, Pulsd, informed me that it was Free Museum weekend for Bank of America and/or Merrill Lynch account holders.  I’ve been dying to go the Met rooftop, so I inquired as to my roommate’s banking services and we made a Saturday date.

I began my day with a Groupon treasure: massage, facial and pedicure at Queen Jane Day Spa.  I cannot get enough of that place.

I meandered over to the Met: ROOFTOP GARDEN CLOSED DUE TO HEAT.  Sigh.

My roomie and I split up, agreeing to meet in a couple hours at the Balcony Bar.  Museums give me such high anxiety and I finally realized why: there is stuff everywhere.  Sensory overload!  The ancient artifact areas really drive me nuts because it feels cluttered (no disrespect to Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations).  I’m an anti-clutter person.  The only thing(s) that should be on the counter-top is a coffee pot and/or toaster.  The only things on my desk are my computer, lamp, pencil and to-do list (I’m with Monica on the phone-pen business), and a glass of water.

I ended up in the modern/contemporary art exhibits with primarily paintings, photographs, and prints – a much more manageable area for me.  I loved Georgia O’Keefe’s Orchid, I know she’s a bit of a hot-button topic, so I will just say that I had a very real “moment” while looking at it.  I took a little detour through “Spain” before meeting my roommate in the Prada/Schiaparelli exhibit.  The exhibit features videos of the two designers in conversation and places designs of similar structure side-by-side for a little comparison/contrast.  The wall of shoes and headpieces killed me.  I realized that the only clothing I really love or care about are shoes.  I could be naked as long as I have fabulous shoes – don’t worry, I won’t be streaking any time soon.

Around 5 pm, the Balcony Bar overlooking the Great Hall hosts live music.  We wandered up, grabbed a table for two, and discussed the day’s art encounters.  FYI, the bar is a little over-priced and I inadvertently ordered a bottle of water from a rainforest so our two drinks + water came to $40.  We were enjoying free admission to the museum, so we just shrugged.

The finale to our museum date: riding the bus.  For whatever reason, NYC buses intimidate me.  When I lived in Boston, I rode the bus all the time, everywhere – #66/89/77 buses, holler!  Prior to this weekend, I rode a bus in Harlem for 10 minutes while I tried to figure out where I was.  However, the bus pulled up right in front of the Met and our feet were tired, so we hopped on.  We gossiped about Katie Holmes having moved into our neighborhood and a passenger informed us of her exact block.  Traffic picked up, so it was slow-going.  But, we got a nice tour the city and pretty much got off at our front door.  NYC cultural experience, check!

LINES Ballet’s recent season at The Joyce Theater presented two works, Scheherazade and Resin.  In creating works, Mr. King delves into his concept entirely by exploring the history, cultural heritage, and ethnomusicology to build rich yet abstract works.  Scheherazade, with its exploration of 1,001 Arabian Nights, underscored a topic I explored previously in dance history studies: Arabic influence in ballet.

The explosion of modern dancers and choreographers in the late 19th to the early 20th centuries introduced American audiences to dramatic, ambiguously “eastern” or “oriental” dances.  Generically set in varying countries, continents, and cultures by choreographers such as Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, and Maud Allan, these works created sensational, idealized fantasies about unknown people and places.  However, exoticism in dance choreography existed before St. Denis and “Salomania” in classical ballet’s arabesque.  Originating in visual art (predominantly painting and sculpture) beginning with Saracenic carvings focused on a serpentine linear structure that eventually developed into the Arab-esque motif used to direct the eye’s gaze when viewing works of art, create optical illusions, and display an exotic twist.  The work of Carlo Blasis to fully develop the movement and meaning of the arabesque leads one to consider a potential double-entendre: the Arab-esque nature of the arabesque.  For dancers, choreographers, gymnasts – anyone performing an arabesque – this history of an Arabic influence and its contribution to today’s classical arabesque removes the idea of a simple arabesque, replacing it with a heavily layered and evolved phenomenon spanning religion, culture, art, and science.

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