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Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Robbins at 100

- By Mark Franko

Ballet, Gesture, and the Vernacular

Jerome Robbins is a legendary dance artist—not least because he succeeded as a choreographer in two quite antithetical domains: the Broadway musical and classical ballet. One might conclude that he was an innovator of dance theater (as opposed to theater dance), yet this would not do justice to the hybridity of his work. Like Agnes De Mille he revolutionized the American musical by tapping into the savoir-faire of the professional concert dancer and making dance do the work of story. Yet, starting in the 1940s, he also undertook to update ballet by introducing vernacular dance vocabulary into the classical lexicon. While these two are related projects, they are also distinctly different. Robbins’s career...


Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Excuse

- By Jonathan Berger

El Nora Alila, a twelfth-century acrostic piyut by Moshe ibn Ezra, is recited at the start of the powerfully evocative neila service which closes Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Neila (literally ‘the locking’ in Hebrew) affords the congregant and the congregation a final opportunity to own up to transgressions and seek repentance as the doors of heaven are closing and soon to be locked. In a vain attempt to resist the inevitable closing of the doors, the cantor begins the neila service, incanting:

Open the gates for us, as the gates are being closed.
The day is passing.
The day is setting.
The sun will descend and set.
Let us enter Your gates!

Hungry, thirsty, and weary from...


Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Marco Rosano's Stabat Mater

- By Len Berkman

I address this capsule memoir especially to those of you who take boisterous, passionate delight in retracing trajectories of your major life discoveries and convergences. Among my most profoundly haunting classical music discoveries of the past decade, Marco Rosano’s contemporary Stabat Mater has come to play a role in my life well beyond the treasured experience of listening to it, and seeing it performed, again and again.

The insistent, unmitigated artistic focus, across centuries, on the mother of crucified Jesus has long fascinated my wife and me: There the mother stands, as witness, as support through her very proximity, choosing not to shut her eyes or flee from the torture and murder of her son. A literally excruciating event, beyond the capacity of nearly...


Favorite Things

FAVORITE THINGS: When Men . . .

- By Joshua L. Ishmon

Scott Olson/Getty Images
 

The summer of 2016 was filled with the deepest sense of empathy I had ever experienced. Sadly, I had considered myself almost numb to the constant tragedies permeating my community and the communities of people dear to me, but in the cases of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile as well as the Pulse massacre, my spirit was heavy with grief and frustration. The dance studio afforded me the space to share and cope, to create work that—one hopes—will allow others to do the same.

I needed to respond to these tragedies devastating my community. What does equality look like? What is the meaning of freedom? How do we resist? In a world that tries to make us something other, not men. . .

...

Favorite Things

FAVORITE THINGS: Making a Story Sing

- By Harley Erdman

Daniel Kamalic as Newton Arvin and Paul LaRosa as Ned Stofford from the June 2015 workshop of The Scarlet Professor.

 

“My shame has escaped from that dark room.
What can I do but retreat once again
into the darkness corner of my heart,
into the coldest and remotest part
of the Dismal Chamber?”

So sings Newton Arvin in his opening aria in The Scarlet Professor. Publically outed as gay in small town New England in 1960, his secret life exposed, his face plastered across national newspapers—facing this disgrace and humiliation, he voluntarily commits himself to Northampton State Hospital to retreat from...


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