Archive for November, 2010

From Ink-Stained Wretch in Brooklyn, more commentary on Jennifer Homans’ APOLLO’S ANGELS

November 30, 2010

Yet another aspect of ballet that is no longer actively cultivated is that of innocence transcendent, a quality more or less equivalent to the sacred and requiring a certain kind of emotional reserve, even coldness, to bring into being as art. (For the most part, the kinds of early life experiences that nurture this coldness are not to be wished on any child; but the children who do survive those experiences no longer seem to go into ballet.) And yet another aspect–perhaps the most important–we no longer see in new work is the direct relationship between what the dancers learn in class and what they are asked to dance on stage; the inherited technique has been largely severed from theatrical exploration. Furthermore, it’s not only that the choreographic masters all chose to die within a decade of one another; the few composers who provided scores that are both engaging to hear and to dance to–scores that are suitable for a repertory theater, where they have to weather many performances–are also gone. Jennifer Homans was onto something in her last chapter; one wishes, though, that instead of simply lamenting what has vanished she believed in her point and took the time to explain it fully. Dance is eternal. Ballet in general still has audiences, teachers, students, and companies; it’s still an industry and, to some extent, an art. Yet the specific type of ballet that Homans chronicles and longs for, the ballet of layered metaphors and reflectiveness, aristocratic in its manners and dependent on the unfettered wealth of patrons and governments, is a historical phenomenon, like linotyping, and, like linotyping, can lose its usefulness, its context, and its prestige when the culture that gave rise to it and maintained it undergoes, as ours has, an irremediable sea change. It’s quite possible that another kind of ballet will evolve, given current circumstances, but, if it does, it’s not likely to resemble “Serenade,” “Soir de Fete,” “Lilac Garden,” or “Enigma Variations,” much less “Giselle.” Homans recognized the presence of a fault line in the tradition; she just didn’t do much with that


de la Nut: The Nutcracker Jazzed Up

November 30, 2010

Yes, you can have it all!

Dance, plus the wonderful Tchaikovsky “Nutcracker” music AND Duke Ellington’s excellent version. Yes! it’s this weekend. I hear that Meridith Benson, a wonderful dancer, will perform the Sugarplum Fairy solo.

More to the point, here’s the latest on the Nut scene from Cincinnati’s Contemporary Dance Theater.

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Contemporary Dance Theater invites you to a production by one of our local partners in dance
de la Dance Company’s
The Nutcracker Jazzed Up
THIS WEEKEND! Friday, November 26th 8:00pm and Saturday, November 27th   2:00pm & 8:00pm
Aronoff Center for the Performing Arts Jarson-Kaplan Theater

Child (12 and under):            $14.50
Senior (65 and over):            $14.50
Student (With I.D.):               $14.50
Adult Balcony:                       $20.50
Orchestra:                             $27.50

Tickets at (513) 621-ARTS [2787] or
For additional information, call (513) 871-0914

Artistic Directors, Meridith Benson and Mario de la Nuez, former dancers of The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and The Cincinnati Ballet, present  de la Dance Company’s 4th annual production of The Nutcracker JAZZED UP! de la Dance Company is proud to be only the second dance company to perform The Nutcracker at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.
This full length performance puts a Duke Ellington twist on the Tchaikovsky classic. As the ballet opens you’ll be invited to a party set in the 1940’s New York City home of the Stalhbaum family with dancers swinging and bopping through the Ellington  jazz rendition of the original Tchaikovsky score. In the second act, the stage is transformed into a magical Kingdom of sweets and fantasy in which the full cast of  ballet dancers will enchant the audience with a seasonal tradition unlike anything you’ve seen before yet, still full of all the traditional elements you are familiar with; Tchaikovsky’s original score, Clara, Fritz, The Sugar Plum Fairy and, her Cavalier. Come to the party!


CONTEMPORARY DANCE THEATER moving bodies, moving souls  |  |  (513) 591-2557  |
Contemporary Dance Theater
1805 Larch Avenue | Cincinnati, OH 45224
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November 27, 2010

A few days ago I read a review of Jennifer Homans’ new book “Apollo’s Angels,” “This Ballerina Found History In Her Footsteps,” at

A former professional ballet dancer turned historian and critic, Homans has produced, according to reviewer Jennifer B. McDonald, an “enormous history of classical ballet.”

McDonald points out that Homans is not the typical academic who studies the political and cultural history of nations. Homans has actually tried to “locate those histories within her body.”

Two things got my attention immediately: I knew that Homans was the wife of Tony Judt, who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in August. I was deeply moved by Judt’s series of memorable essays in “The New York Review of Books,” (I blogged about it) at the time.

Now knowing that she was “deep in the writing” of her book even as her husband was losing the ability to “walk, to breathe on his own,” that her own parents died last year, was very moving to me.

Ms. McDonald quotes her: “Tony always had a kind of moral core to the way he approached history . . . . He believed in truth, and I do too. Not that there is an absolute truth that you can hold on to, but you have to at least strive for a coherent story that’s going to make sense of everything in ways that are honest.”

McDonald also quotes Catherine Oppenheimer, a former NYCB dancer. “She completed this book through a tortuous time. A lot of people would have dropped it, but I thionk that was the dancer’s discipline coming back.”

Second, I also noticed that there were an inordinate amount of comments appended to the review – according to McDonald, what’s ignited the ire (in her slightly precious words, “ruffled swan feathers”)of ballet fans is Homans’ contention, after having tried to convince herself otherwise, that she feels sure “ballet is dying.”   

However, Homans does moderate her doom-saying. “To the extent that the epilogue of my book addresses choreographers and artistic directors, it is to say: ‘Look at the history. Ballet is in decline. Something needs to change.'”

I had also been thinking about my recent review of Cincinnati Ballet’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” which was beautifully danced and very satisfying to me.

I wanted to write more about the individual performances and patterns of the work, but decided to do a little more research to try to figure out what exactly the restaging of this ballet meant.

Why do we still (if “we” do) respond to ballets like this from another era? Surely things today are so much more modern. What does it mean to brag that a ballet is “historically correct” when we seem to share so few of the values of Petipa’s time today?

Just as I was pondering this, it was announced that Prince William had proposed to Kate Middleton (of course she accepted).  Well, wake up and smell the coffee! This was the biggest story in the media for a few days, and the intense interest in all things royal seems only to have intensified.

So I began to think maybe we are not that all that different in our interest in the passing down of tradition as exemplified in so many classical ballets.

Before my husband grabbed the (well, to be perfectly accurate, his) ipad to read before bedtime, I did have time to scroll through a few pages and notice that yes, this is a deliciously fat read, one I look forward to when he responds to the sleeping pill I slipped into his Diet Mountain Dew (hehheh just kidding sweetie) and I can snatch the reading device from his bedside table.

I did have the briefest moment, however, to speed read through Homans’ epilogue.

Interestingly enough, she addresses the same issues.  “If today’s ballets are mere shells, the reason may be that we no longer fully believe in them. We linger and hark back, shrouding ourselves in tradition and the past for a good reason. We are in mourning.”

Yes, very interesting stuff.

Back at you later.


November 20, 2010


November 16, 2010


November 15, 2010

Advanced – Professional Modern Class, 4:30-6:00pm, Thursdays-Session II
November 18-January 13*
at De la Arts Place**
Directors: Mario de la Nuez/Meridith Benson
5041 Oaklawn
(between Duck Creek and Madison Road in Madisonville, near Kennedy Heights)

Info: 871-0914; (513) 731-8847
($15/single class)
Description: Advanced Technique for Professional and Pre-Professional Dancers:
This class is specifically designed to complement the disciplines of classical technique with a strong modern technique, and provides dancers with necessary good form, range of motion and the flexibility, agility and strength necessary to execute today’s contemporary work. To achieve these goals, the class regularly incorporates the principles of a classical barre’ with Germaine’s contemporary dance technique; it emphasizes correct physical alignment, strong and liquid control of the plie’, fluid port d’ bras and gestural movements, continuance and control of complex phrases, nimble weight transference and changes of direction, swift falls and recovery from the floor as well as correct execution of kneework, use of multiple dynamics and complex rhythms, and effective use of both subtle and large movements in and through space. Phrases taught may come from Germaine’s extensive choreographic repertory or from new work currently being developed for performance.

In addition to the technical aspects, Ms. Germaine’s rich performing, choreographic, and directorial background gives the class an added mentor’s atmosphere; Ms. Germaine shares tips, anecdotes, and examples within the structure of the class providing multiple layers that enrich the experience.

*(11/18; 12/2, 9, 16; 1/6, 1/13)
**I71N or S to Ridge Ave exit, 75N or S to 562 Norwood Lateral heading West to Ridge Road exit. Duck Creek to Oaklawn and TR. De La Arts is on the right in the middle of the block. (Or go to Mapquest for directions)


November 12, 2010


Treat yourself to an eclectic evening of short new works guaranteed to “entertain and tweak the brain” November 12 & 13, 2010

WHAT: Performance and Time Arts, Cincinnati’s longest-running performing arts series
Roy W. Jones (spoken word)
Chad Rasmussen (visual art & dance)
Rebecca Danard with Dr. Mara Helmuth (music)
MamLuft&Co. Dance
Dakarai Tribaret (belly dance)
Cincinnati Drum Circle and Tribal Dance)
InkTank (written and spoken word)
Bill Donnelly (performance art)
WHEN: Friday & Saturday, November 12 & 13 at 8pm
$15 General Admission at the door, $12 Seniors & Students with ID at the door.
$12 General Admission advanced, $8 Students & Seniors advanced
WHERE: Contemporary Dance Theater College Hill Town Hall, 1805 Larch Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45224
CONTACT: (513) 591-2557 or
SEE: and

In an effort to foster exchange among area artists and to bring audiences a diverse and intriguing selection of works, producer Kori Martodam has brought together eight of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s most unique and passionate performers

This amazing collection of artists, work, and experiments are comprised of Full Arts Spectrum’s Roy W. Jones, who will offer a spoken word jam; Rebecca Danard and Dr. Mara Helmuth presenting a computer-sculpted clarinet performance; MamLuft&Co. Dance performing the work of modern dance choroegrapher Amy Querin of Fresno Dance Collective; Dakari Tribaret presenting a fusion of tribal and bellydance; Cincinnati Drum Circle and Tribal Dance offering a percussive interaction with the audience; InkTank with a reading of modern literary works; and Bill Donnelly in a movement-storytelling piece.

Experiment with Performance and Time Arts in the laboratory of new work of all genres.


November 9, 2010


November 7, 2010

Poems by Vijay Seshadri, Louise Gluck, W.S. Merwin, Derek Walcott, James Tate and Mary Oliver


November 6, 2010

 . . .  “contact improv” begins when two bodies come together and create a point of contact, give weight equally to each other, and then create a movement dialogue.Typically, dancers support and use each other’s body weight while in motion, using skills like falling, rolling, counterbalance, and lifting each other with minimal effort. They are aware of breathing techniques and remain centered, with a moment by moment responsiveness to their partners and surroundings. . . .

Once again, I want to write a little more about details later this weekend,  but for starters, last night’s performance of Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Dancers at Cincinnati’s Jarson Kaplan Theater was a refreshing opening to Contemporary Dance Theaters 2010-11 season. Eight (if I counted correctly) wonderful dancers filled the stage in a variety of imaginative configurations and situations of mostly contact improv styles. They were variously funny, offbeat, abstract, intense, low key and sneakily virtuosic.

There was no overriding narrative in the three separate pieces, or at least not one I could discern. But there were currents of emotion and interaction that were very human, if veering towards the abstract, in their expression.

Sometimes the performers dangled from body harnesses and explored the space around them. They jumped over, on and around each other. They twirled and rolled and kicked. One might sulk and the others might laugh at him. A man and a woman had a hysterically funny movement duo which incorporated a conversation where they seemingly talked right through each other, yet somehow ended up in agreement.

At a certain point, most of them took turns running into and mostly rebounding from a cinder brick wall at the back of the stage. For a while, a comically desperate man pursued a woman to the song “Can’t Live Without You,” despite her increasingly violent rejections. An especially clever suspension featured two men strung rather like marionettes with connecting pulleys, so that when one lowered his arm, his partner’s was raised.

The performers were also notable for their control. However violent the flinging movements they went through alone or with each other, they maintained an impressive centering of their weight. When they did slower motion moves—which probably were more difficult to control—they exhibited the same mastery. They were also able to toggle between quick and slow movements impressively.

This is definitely a show to catch. The movers were top-notch. The ideas were inventive. It was well-paced. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it left me feeling satisfied and happy.