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A Day in the Life of Dance Heginbotham

A Day in the Life of Dance Heginbotham
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
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Published on February 17, 2014
Photo by : Rebecca Greenfield

John Heginbotham Goes to The Museum


Dance Heginbotham: Choreographer:John Heginbotham

Dancers: Winston Dynamite, John Eirich,Lindsey Jones,Courtney Lopes,Weaver Rhodes,and Sarah Stanley

Costumes: Maile Okamura

and Alarm Will Sound: Director, Alan Pierson

Thursday, February 20, 2014, 7:00pmAAA€

The Charles Engelhard Court (gallery 700) in the American Wing

The Metropolitan Museum of Art


For Tickets: go to The Met’s Website

$1 tickets for kids (ages 7–16) are available for this concert. Children must be accompanied by an adult purchasing a full-price ticket (maximum three children's tickets per paying adult).

It’s freezing in Polar Vortex-ville (a.k.a New York City) as I mush through mountains of snow to get to a rehearsal of Dance Heginbotham. Once seated inside the toasty City Center studios with the company -mostly rehearsing in shorts- the only hint of winter  (besides some leftover ice on my boots) is in the groups’ lingo.

Reminiscent of the “spoiced” and “gnarly” snowboarders at the Sochi Winter Olympics, Dance Heginbotham works on “twisties,” with high-low variations and “free-flow,” on the floor and off. There are also moments when the cast diligently attempts to place the “genie back in the bottle.”

If I was only listening, it might be difficult to figure out that this is a dance rehearsal, much less to believe that these people will be performing in the elegant Charles Engelhard Court of the Metropolitan Museum this Thursday evening. But I am not only listening. My eyes are riveted to the movement of the company’s new work Fly By Wire.

Dance Heginbotham:Lindsey Jones, John Eirich, Sarah Stanley and Courtney Lopes (seated) in The Charles Engelhard Gallery;
Photo by Rebecca Greenfield

Danced to the music created by American composer, Tyondai Braxton, Fly By Wire's premiere is one part of a collaborative performance with the renowned 20- piece band of music adventureres, Alarm Will Sound. The steps before me combine delicate gestures and flight into outer space with a day at the horse races. What, that doesn't make any sense? Think cartoons.

There is an unusual magic to John Heginbotham’s imagination that allows him to unite ballet and contemporary dance vocabulary with the unlikliest of subjects --even throwing in a few references to Terminator 2-- to breathtaking effect. Heginbotham’s flights of fancy are supported by his love of new music - in particular electronica. He is a regular listener of WNYC’s programs Spinning On Air and New Sounds. In fact, it was while listening to the radio that he was first hooked by Tyondai Braxton’s music. The piece was Central Market (2009), inspired in part by Stravinsky’s ballet Petroushka (the opening scene being a bustling market place) and the failing of financial markets around the world. “I immediately liked it. I didn’t need to listen to it twice,” remembers Heginbotham.

Lindsey Jones, John Eirich, and Courtney Lopes: Photy by Rebecca Greenfield

In 2010, Heginbotham was invited by Mikhail Baryshnikov to participate in a residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center funded by the Jerome Robbins Foundation’s New Essential Works (NEW) Fellowship Grant. For the choreographer, who had “always had a small dance project” in the works since graduating from Juilliard in 1993, this was “the big break.”

Heginbotham was asked to create a 30-minute work to present at New York City’s annual gathering of arts presenters from around the globe, APAP.  He knew he wanted great music for the project and remembering Central Market, swiftly proceeded to obtain the rights for the piece.  Fortunately, and unusually, the rights were held by Braxton and not his record label, so John had to speak directly to Tyondai. Business negotiations resulted in the two artists becoming close friends. Closing Bell premiered on August 26th, 2011 at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. The Boston Globe said, “...the choreography deliciously captures every nuance and accent of Tyondai Braxton’s composition.”

Sarah Stanley (foreground) Courtney Lopes and John Eirich (background); Photo by Rebecca Greenfield

In 2012, Heginbotham was again invited to participate in another Jerome Robbins NEW Fellowship Grant / BAC residency. This time the emphasis was on building up repertory. Heginbotham presented Closing Bell, now repertory, alongside a new work, Twin, created to electronic music by Aphex Twin.

In the meantime, Mark Morris, with whom Heginbotham danced with from 1998-2012, introduced the young choreographer to Alan Pierson, the director of Alarm Will Sound. Pierson left Heginbotham’s 2012 BAC show not only excited by the choreography, but by the music. He had not heard Braxton before.

Courtney Lopes, Sarah Stanley, John Eirich, and Lindsey Jones ; Photo by Rebecca Greenfield

It is our good fortune that these fortuitous artistic meetings and introductions took place. As a result, Fly By Wire composed by Tyondai Braxton, was commissioned in 2013 by Carnegie Hall for Pierson’s energetic and innovative Alarm Will Sound.  Now in 2014, as intended from the onset, the music will be danced with the combination of off-kilter humor and formal movement for which Dance Heginbotham is known.  Alarm Will Sound and Dance Heginbotham will further pair movement to the music of Aphex Twin and Edgard Varèse for their gallery performance, where I understand the dancers won’t be the only ones moving.

Heginbotham’s eyes widen when describing the Charles Englehard Gallery at night. “Have you ever been at night?” he almost whispers. He speaks of the beauty of the marble gallery and its magnificent statues mixed with the oddity of the shadows cast into the room by the night sky. It seems like a perfect place for an imaginative artist to run wild.

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