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Favorite Things

The Offending Classic

- By Joellen A. Meglin

Against Orthodoxies

Photo: Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow, Blue, and Black, 1921, oil on canvas, 59.5 cm x 59.5 cm.[1]

I discovered George Orwell’s post-Hiroshima, early Cold War essay “Politics and the English Language” as I prepared to enter a doctoral program in dance.[2] It taught me that original thinking was going to have to be hard won, independent—my own choreography rather than learned repertory. Throughout my teaching career, I have often recommended this essay to students as an antidote to scholarly writing steeped in what Orwell calls “ready-made phrases”—jargon, orthodoxy, phrases that...

Favorite Things

The Offending Classic

- By Juan Ignacio Vallejos

On the Intolerable in Dance

Photo: Marcha Ni una menos, Buenos Aires, 2018

I recently saw Angelin Preljocaj’s Rite of Spring (2001) on film. This was the latest of many ballets staged by the French choreographer from the repertoire of the Ballets Russes. Earlier Preljocaj had offered the world his Le Spectre de la Rose, L’Oiseau de Feu, and Les Noces. Though considered a choreographer of contemporary dance, most dance critics agree that Preljocaj’s works are indebted to the tradition of classical ballet and to neoclassical techniques. In his inventive version of Rite of Spring, the choreography is structured in particular around the idea of a primitive energy related to sex and violence.


Favorite Things

The Offending Classic

- By Deborah Jowitt

Sex and Death

Photo: Arthur Mitchell and Diana Adams in Agon (1957) by George Balanchine. Photo by Martha Swope ©The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Several nineteenth-century story ballets that have survived the passage of time have similar scenarios. In Giselle (1841), a nobleman groomed to marry a woman he doesn’t much care for falls in love with a peasant girl with a weak heart. When death transforms her into a Wili, he becomes in thrall to her. This frail spirit, against her wishes, has been commanded by the Queen of the Wilis to dance him to death. Instead, she saves him and returns to her grave; he is overcome with grief.

In La Bayadère (1877), Solor’s bride-to-be, Gamzatti, sees to it...

Favorite Things

The Offending Classic

- By Tanya Jayani Fernando

Introduction: The Classic and the Offending Classic

Cover Image: William Blake, Oberon, Titania, and Puck with Fairies Dancing. (circa 1786). Pencil and watercolor, 1’7” x 2’ 3” [From William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream

Last year, dance historian Mark Franko published an essay in the Massachusetts Review on Jerome Robbins’s Opus Jazz, where he argued that Robbins uses Black aesthetic forms to create an American classic. In a moment where our society is splintering along racial lines, Franko has reminded us that American art is hybrid and can point to another reality—one of unity. Within...

Favorite Things


- By Joshua L. Ishmon

Editor’s Note: In January, 2017, when dancer and choreographer Joshua L. Ishmon sent us the following reflections for our “Favorite Things” blog series, we were at once saddened, honored, and awed. Yesterday his stunning creation, When Men . . . was posted publicly once again, in honor of George Floyd, his family, and the protestors. Our gratitude also goes out to each of them, and, of course, to Joshua Ishmon, to Deeply Rooted Dance, and to MR performance editor Tanya Fernando.

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...

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