“My beautiful city is set on rock between two flowing paths of water that run to the sea. My city is tall and jagged—with gold-slated towers… My city chokes on its breath, and sparkles with its false lights—and sleeps restlessly at night. My city is a lone man walking at night down an empty street watching his shadow grow longer as he passes the last lamp post, seeing no comfort in the blank, dark windows, and hearing his footsteps echo against the building and fade away.” — Jerome Robbins
Admired, disparaged, beloved, feared, JeromeRobbins (1918–1998) was one of the great choreographers of the twentieth century. ArthurLaurents told Robbins he was “a shit” for naming names as a “friendly witness” for HUAC. (Robbins feared being exposed as bisexual.) Yet Laurents continued to collaborate with him, most notably on West Side Story. (StephenSondheim, the show’s lyricist, said that Robbins was one of the only geniuses he’d ever worked with.)
Through his work with the American BalletTheatre and New York City Ballet, and on Broadway—On the Town, Gypsy, and Fiddler on the Roof, to name just three shows among dozens—Robbins was indelibly associated with his home base and muse: Manhattan.
A new exhibition curated by Julia Foulkes marks Robbins’ centenary and his lifelong celebration of the city, and includes dance films and videos, diaries, paintings, story scenarios, press clippings, and extensive photographic documentation.
From top: Sharks and Jets dance in West Side Story, on tour in Europe in the early 2000s; the original Fancy Free cast—MurielBentley, Janet Reed, Harold Lang, John Kriza, and Jerome Robbins—in Times Square in 1958, with photographer Gordon Parks leaning over his tripod, courtesy the Jerome Robbins DanceDivision/The New York Public Libraryfor thePerforming Arts; Mikhail Baryshnikov in the NewYork City Ballet production of The Four Seasons (1979), choreographed by Robbins; AntoinetteSibley rehearses Afternoon of a Faun with the choreographer, photograph by Michael Childers, courtesy Dance Magazine; Damian Woetzel and Tiler Peck dance Robbins at Kennedy Center, 2017; Carmen de Lavallade, Robbins, and Yves Saint Laurent—photograph by Whiteside—and Robbins in 1944, both courtesy Dance Magazine.
The ticking clock at the heart of CINDERELLA provided Matthew Bourne with an expedient opportunity to play with circular time when creating his 1997 theater/dance work, which is—along with Play without Words—his closest flirtation with existentialism.
The ghost of Noël Coward haunts the piece, now in revival at the AhmansonTheatre—specifically the 1940s David Lean-directed classics of bourgeois rectitude In Which We Serve and Brief Encounter. And if—twenty years on from his Los Angeles premiere with Swan Lake—Bourne’s mockery of middle-class British values now feels like a reflexive embrace, there are scenes in CINDERELLA where his embroidered patterns transcend their frankly ornamental thrust and affect a lurch (a signature Bourne move) toward magic.
CINDERELLA—which takes place during the London Blitz of 1940—comes alive in its middle section, with the ascent to the ceiling of a large mirrored ball. This forty-minute act—a flashback and its aftermath—is set inside the Caféde Paris, the West End club where Coward introduced many of his cabaret performances. Cinderella’s liberation on the dance floor releases all the principals from the drab, monochrome set of Act One, and the even darker milieu of spivs and streetwalkers in the Underground scene of Act Three. The capital endured over fifty consecutive days of Luftwaffe bombing, and a sense of fatalism walked among the ruins, on stage as in life. An ingenious five-soldiers-and-a-girl ballroom dance represents a beautiful escape from the horrors of war and a summation of its creator’s formula: defiance through energy and joy.
Our guide and guardian throughout the proceedings is The Angel, a conscience figure danced by Liam Mower on opening night. Harry the Pilot, a stand-in for the Prince, was performed by AndrewMonaghan, and Ashley Shaw—the star of Bourne’s The Red Shoes—is a radiant Cinderella.
From top: AshleyShaw in the title role and AndrewMonaghan as Harry the Pilot in Cinderella, directed and choreographed by MatthewBourne; LiamMower as The Angel; Shaw and Monaghan (2); the company in Cinderella; Monaghan and Shaw. All photographs by Johan Persson.
There are four more chances to catch THE RUNAWAY, the 30-minute dance Kyle Abraham choreographed for City Ballet’s fashion gala last year.
Set to music by Nico Muhly, Jay-Z, James Blake, and Kanye West, THE RUNAWAY is part of the company’s winter season New Combinations program, and will be preceded by William Forsythe ’s Herman Schmerman, and a new dance by Justin Peck, Principia (music by Sufjan Stevens).
Scheduled dancers for THE RUNAWAY are Ashley Bouder, Sara Mearns, Georgina Pazcoguin, Peter Walker, Roman Mejia, Spartak Hoxha, Christopher Grant, and—a particular standout—Taylor Stanley.
Investigating themes of detachment, pleasure, withdrawal, and aging, Kevin Williamson presents three performances of GNARLED, his collaborative duets with movement artists Barry Brannum, Mallory Fabian, Jasmine Jawato, CarolMcDowell and Sebastian Hernandez—whose Hypanthium recently brought down the house at Redcat.
From top: Gnarled; Kevin Williamson, images courtesy Kevin Williamson and Odyssey Theatre Ensemble; Fruit, 2009, Williamson’s first evening-length work, photograph by RyanPatterson, courtesy the photographer.