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A Dancer Speaks: American Ballet Theatre at City Center - Tudor Centennial Celebration

A Dancer Speaks: American Ballet Theatre at City Center - Tudor Centennial Celebration

By Danielle Short

Published on November 3, 2008

October 31, 2008
By Danielle Short - Dance Enthusiast Member- © 2008

Danielle Short has worked with various companies and choreographers in New York City for the last 11 years, among which include Alan Good Dance, Beth Soll and Company, Elaine Shipman/SITU, Kristin McArdle Dance, the Nancy Meehan Dance Company, and as an understudy for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. She has also taught intensive ballet and modern dance workshops in Norway. In 2007 she completed INFERNO/XIX, her first dance for film at the Dragon's Egg, an artists' residency space near Mystic, CT. She recently participated in the MediaNet/Dance for the Camera 2008 workshop with Ellen Bromberg in Victoria, BC, creating her second short film, Inter Section.


“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how…we guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.“
- Agnes de Mille
When one is challenged with writing about a personal subject, such as one's passion, it is never easy to find the words. So I am, as Agnes de Mille aptly put it, taking "leap after leap in the dark".

For this dancer ABT's Tudor Centennial Celebration was special in many ways: the celebration of the life and works of an extraordinary choreographer, the joy of seeing dancers of this generation explore artistic dimensions and complexities required by each role in a Tudor ballet, the privilege to sit in the audience, to witness and receive this gift of dance, to know that dance still has the power to shake my being to the core.

The All-Tudor program celebrated highlights of Tudor's repertory with Continuo (1977), Jardin aux Lilas (1936), the duet from Romeo and Juliet (1977), Judgment of Paris (1938) and Pillar of Fire (1942). Interspersed between the ballets were historical and biographical films about Tudor's life and work, with interviews and performance clips with such notables like Nora Kaye, Sallie Wilson, Agnes de Mille and others.

There are many aspects of Tudor's choreography and personality that still draw public attention. He was highly technical, direct, artistically demanding, etc. Perhaps he was a real bastard. But upon reflection of this, how many choreographers today make pieces that demand this kind of artistic integrity from their dancers? How many dancers demand it of themselves? I digress to say the best example I've seen in a long time was Foofwa d’Imobilité's June performance of his solo work, Benjamin de Bouillis, something clearly researched and developed with an insight that few choreographers today achieve. It’s not enough to have technique or popularity; if one doesn't have the artistic smarts to hone dynamic details, the art is lost.

In Pillar of Fire, it was clear this kind of intelligence still exists. One can speak about Gillian Murphy's technical dominance in the New York dance scene, but today it's about her artistic achievement as Hagar. From the moment the curtain rose, Hagar’s psychological landscape was on somatic display, extending from the porch steps to the last balcony in City Center. She’s caught between worlds of prudish, gray spinsterhood, cheap, pink flirtations and erotic, red moments. Her Hagar embodies quotidian challenges that we all face: finding one’s place in the world, feeling valued, connecting with people, learning through suffering, becoming. She keeps us right there with her, along for the turbulent and passionate ride of a lifetime.

Brilliant and moving, this historical performance perhaps can provide a renewed commitment to show the way forward to a future where dance, and ballet in particular, is still regarded as a profound experience. I think this is a fitting way to honor Tudor and keep his incredible legacy alive.


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