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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...

Favorite Things

Hard Way to Go

- By Jim Hicks

Photo: Prine in 1975. Tom Hill/WireImage

Like a lot of folks since the news came in, I’ve been listening again to John Prine. Among his fans, though, I suspect I was the only one to be reminded of a class in Paris with the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, a few days after Christian Metz—the film theorist—passed. I remember that day Deleuze addressed the matter simply and purely: “We should return to his work.” That’s all we can do, but we can at least do that.

John Prine’s death anytime would have broke the dams for most of us, but in today’s waters it’s hard not to hear—and feel—more than an undercurrent of outrage. After all, the guy beat cancer twice. And now this? Against the global drumbeat that now...

Favorite Things

Dancing Balanchine's Late Modernism

- By Mark Franko

Photo: Mira Nadon in George Balanchine’s Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Photographer: Erin Baiano. Courtesy of the New York City Ballet.

Amongst the diverse offerings of New York City Ballet this winter season, an intriguing cross-section of Balanchine/Stravinsky neoclassical ballets stretching from 1944 to 1972 were programmed. Provocative pairings and insightful performances increased our understanding of the Balanchine-Stravinsky collaboration. For the inspiring work of this season, credit goes to the dancers who rediscover, animate, and realize before our eyes this distinguished repertoire and its importance, doubtless a weighty responsibility. But credit must also go to coaches Suzanne Farrell and Rebecca Krohn, among others, whose collaboration with the...

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