Armitage Gone! Dance at American Museum of Natural History Tackles Climate Change in Premiere for Over 30 Dancers
Armitage Gone! Dance
ARMITAGE GONE! DANCE PRESENTS WORLD PREMIERE OF KAROLE ARMITAGE’S ON THE NATURE OF THINGS, MARCH 25–27 AT AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
Site-Specific Work On 3 Stages With Over 30 Dancers Includes Original Text And Narration By Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich, MacArthur Fellow And Famed Biologist
Rare Dance Performance Inside Milstein Hall of Ocean Life
On The Nature of Things
Karole Armitage/Armitage Gone! Dance
American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th Street)
March 25–27 at 8pm
$35, $25; amnh.org; 212-769-5200
In a career spanning more than four decades, the contemporary American choreographer Karole Armitage has been celebrated for blurring the boundaries between dance, music and art. Inspired by disparate, non-narrative sources—from 20th century physics, to 16th century Florentine fashion, to pop culture and new media—the classical dance vocabulary, in her hands, is given a needed shock to its system with speed and fractured lines, abstractions and symmetry countermanded by asymmetry.
Coursing throughout all of Armitage’s work is an unwavering respect for Nature along with a deep questioning of modern society, best exemplified by her personal motto: “Men argue; Nature acts.” (Voltaire, 1769). Raised in Lawrence, Kansas, Armitage spent summers living in the Colorado wilderness near Crested Butte where her father, a biologist, pursued research at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. In addition to hiking the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area between Crested Butte and Aspen, Armitage attended weekly lectures at the lab by notable scientists including John Holden, currently President Obama’s Science Advisor. Nearly every summer, Armitage returns to her home in Colorado to hike in the wilderness while attending lectures at the lab.
It is therefore fitting that her latest work, On The Nature of Things, will take place at the American Museum of Natural History in a rare dance performance inside the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. Just as researchers turn to the Museum’s world-class collections, which form an irreplaceable record of life on Earth, to answer and spark scientific questions, artists find inspiration in the Museum’s halls and holdings. Armitage’s On the Nature of Things explores climate change, one of the most urgent scientific topics of our time, and was shaped by the dioramas and exhibits in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life as well as by conversations with Rob DeSalle, a curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology. The work was inspired by Dr. Ehrlich’s essay about the “culture gap”—the notion that 21st-century science has become so specialized that as individuals we no longer have a visceral understanding of the issues at stake.
Taking place on three stages spaced throughout the two-story hall, the audience will follow over 30 dancers on a voyage that turns perilous as the world goes out of whack.
The movement of On The Nature of Things continues Armitage’s unique mix of pointe and non-pointe work along with her hallmark use of intricate partnering and sensuality – with equal emphasis placed on sheer excitement and poetic metaphors, which bring emotion to the forefront. Having dances occur simultaneously on three stages will immediately require multiple perspectives on the timely themes of the work.
On The Nature of Things features performances by the Armitage Gone! Dance company—Ahmaud Culver, Megumi Eda, Cristian Laverde-Koenig, Abbey Roesner, Randall Smith, Izabela Szylinska, and Emily Wagner, who are joined by guest dancers from the local dance community and young dancers from Manhattan Youth Ballet. The work is performed to a section of music by John Luther Adams, Philip Glass, Michael Gordon, Henryk Gorecki and Arvo Pärt. Lighting is by long-time Armitage collaborator Clifton Taylor.
Performances of On The Nature of Things will take place March 25–27 at 8pm at the American Museum of Natural History, Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. The running time is approximately one hour with no intermission. American Museum of Natural History is located at Central Park West at 79th Street in Manhattan. Tickets, which are $35 (downstairs audience, choice of seated or promenade experience) and $25 (front row balcony standing), are available at amnh.org and 212-769-5200.
About Karole Armitage
Karole Armitage is the Artistic Director of the New York based contemporary ballet company Armitage Gone! Dance. She was rigorously trained in classical ballet and began her professional career in 1973 as a member of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Switzerland, a company devoted exclusively to the repertory of George Balanchine. In 1976, she was invited to join Merce Cunningham’s company, where she remained for five years, performing leading roles in Cunningham’s landmark works. Through her unique and acute knowledge of the aesthetic values of Balanchine and Cunningham, Armitage has created her own “voice” in the dichotomy of classical and modern, and is seen is by some critics as a true choreographic heir to the two masters of twentieth-century American dance.
Known as the “punk ballerina,” Armitage created her first piece in 1978, followed by the iconic Drastic-Classicism in 1981. Throughout the ‘80s she led her own New York-based dance company, Armitage Ballet. After the premiere of The Watteau Duets at Dance Theater Workshop, Mikhail Baryshnikov invited her to create a work for American Ballet Theatre, and Rudolph Nureyev commissioned several works for the Paris Opera Ballet. Subsequently, she continued to work both in Europe and the U.S. until 1996, when she was appointed Director of MaggioDanza in Florence, Italy. From 1999 to 2004, she was the resident choreographer of the Ballet de Lorraine in France, and in 2005 she served as the Director of the Venice Biennale Festival of Contemporary Dance. Her work continues to tour throughout the continent, performed by several European companies.
In 2004, her new company, Armitage Gone! Dance, made its debut at the Joyce Theater. Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times wrote, “Karole Armitage’s Time is the echo of an axe within a wood… is one of the most beautiful dances to be seen in New York in a very long time.” After this successful season at the Joyce, Armitage’s focus shifted more to her New York-based company.
Armitage is renowned for pushing the boundaries to create contemporary works that blend dance, music and art. Inspired by disparate, non-narrative sources—from twentieth-century physics, to sixteenth-century Florentine fashion, to pop culture and new media—the classical dance vocabulary, in her hands, is given a needed shock to its system with speed and fractured lines, abstractions, and symmetry countermanded by asymmetry. Music is her script, and she has collaborated with contemporary and experimental composers such as Rhys Chatham, Vijay Iyer, Lukas Ligeti and John Luther Adams. The scores can be marked by extreme lyricism as well as dissonance, noise, and polyrhythms. Leading figures in the contemporary art world, including Jeff Koons, David Salle, Philip Taaffe and Brice Marden, have designed sets and costumes for her works.
Armitage’s work is at once esoteric and popular. She has choreographed two Broadway productions (Passing Strange and Hair, which garnered her a TONY® nomination), collaborated with Madonna and Michael Jackson, and worked on several Merchant-Ivory films and Cirque du Soleil’s 2012 tent show, Amaluna. In 2009, she was awarded France’s most prestigious award, Commandeur dans l'orde des Arts et des Lettres. In 2013, she was an artist in residence at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, created by artist, Donald Judd and received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the University of Kansas, which are selected by a committee based on nominees' outstanding scholarship, research, creative activity, service to humanity and other achievements consistent with the academic endeavors of the university.
Among the companies she has set new works on are the Bolshoi Ballet, Moscow, American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet; White Oak Dance Project; the Deutsche Oper Berlin; the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich; Les Ballets de Monte Carlo; Lyon Opera Ballet; Ballet Nacional de Cuba; the Washington Ballet; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; The Kansas City Ballet; the Bern Ballet and the Rambert Dance Company. She has directed operas from the baroque and contemporary repertoire for many of the prestigious houses of Europe including Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Lyric Opera in Athens and Het Muzik Theater in Amsterdam as well as for New York’s Gotham Chamber Opera. She choreographed The Cunning Little Vixen, and A Dancer’s Dream for The New York Philharmonic and choreographed for actors at The American Repertory Theater at Harvard and the Yale Repertory Theater.
The 2015-2015 Season is one of celebration for the company. Central to the celebration is the three month long exhibition, Making Art Dance, featuring Armitage collaborations with artists and fashion designers from 1978 to the present. Over 500 costumes by designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix and Peter Sepliopoulos are displayed beside backdrops and sets by David Salle, Jeff Koons, Philip Taaffe and others in the 60,000 square foot Glass Pavilion at Mana Contemporary. The season began with the acclaimed Thomas Adès evening, See the Music, Hear the Dance at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theater with Adès himself playing piano for AGD. This was followed by the world premiere of Four Seasons- A Spinning Planet at NY City Center with a 50-piece orchestra. Other highlights of the year include the third revival of Armitage’s direction for Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice at the historic Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Italy. Armitage is also directing Dido and Aeneas for Opera Saratoga featuring her company outdoors in front of the National Museum of Dance in July 2015. Armitage was recently awarded a Simons Fellowship at the University of Kansas and a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University.
About Armitage Gone! Dance
Armitage launched Armitage Gone! Dance in New York in 2004 upon her return to the city after 15 years in Europe. Dedicated to redefining the boundaries and perceptions of contemporary dance, the company extends the mandate of innovation that characterized both her earlier Armitage Ballet, founded in 1985, and her first full-time company, Armitage Gone!, founded in 1979.
Armitage distinguishes her company from its contemporaries through her extreme versatility and originality. She builds upon classical and modern idioms from the Balanchine and Cunningham traditions, and infuses experimental thinking into the geometric balance, speed, rhythm and beauty of dance steps. She derives inspiration from such wide-ranging sources as physics, Japanese aesthetics, fashion, pop culture and new media, and from her eight dancers, who come from diverse cultural and dance backgrounds.
Armitage Gone! Dance is well known for its collaborations with innovators in music, science and the visual arts, including artists David Salle and Jeff Koons and string-theory physicist Brian Greene. The company regularly performs to live music and has commissioned many scores since its 2005 debut. Its wide-ranging projects include poetic ballets set to 20th and 21st-century scores, work with the African pop band Burkina Electric (Itutu, 2009), opera (notably, the 2009 collaboration with Gotham Opera on Ariadne Unhinged), Made in Naples (a comedy centered on Pulcinella) and Armitage “punk ballet” classics danced to loud, live music.
Since its launch at the Duke on 42nd Street Theatre, Armitage Gone! Dance has presented New York seasons each year at venues that include Brooklyn Academy of Music, Joyce Theater, The Kitchen, Miller Theatre, New York City Center, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Lincoln Center. The company offers ongoing educational (K-12) programs at the Abrons Art Center/Henry Street Settlement. The company also regularly performs at prestigious festivals and venues throughout the United States, Europe and Central America, from Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival to the Venice Biennale Festival of Contemporary Dance, which Armitage directed in 2005.
The company is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, as well as corporate, foundation and individual patrons. David Salle chairs the company’s Board of Directors.
About American Museum of Natural History (amnh.org)
The American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls, including the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State’s official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation’s 26th president, and a tribute to Roosevelt’s enduring legacy of conservation. The Museum’s five active research divisions and three cross-disciplinary centers support approximately 200 scientists, whose work draws on a world-class permanent collection of more than 33 million specimens and artifacts, as well as specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, and one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, it is the only American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree. In 2012, the Museum began offering a pilot Master of Arts in Teaching program with a specialization in Earth science, which is the only non-university affiliated such program in the United States. Annual attendance has grown to approximately 5 million, and the Museum’s exhibitions and Space Shows can be seen in venues on five continents. The Museum’s website and collection of apps for mobile devices extend its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to millions more beyond its walls. Visit amnh.org for more information.