I have to admit that I don?t read dance reviews from New York in a timely fashion; it?s too painful for me not to be able to weigh my own observations against the reviewer?s. But Lincoln Center?s Ashton Celebration and the Royal Ballet’s visit (which opened in NY with an all-Ashton program) are too important to ignore for long, and I?m finally catching up on them. Fortunately the dance world has two keen dance writers to fill us in: Mindy Aloff and Tobi Tobias. That both have lost their print-media pulpits in recent years (Aloff once wrote regularly for The New Republic; Tobias held a long and influential tenure at New York Magazine) is a shame on the publishing industry and a boon to the legitimacy of online arts writing. You can now find Aloff at the DanceViewTimes, while Tobias has her own blog at Arts Journal. Together their reports overcame my regret of missing the festival by creating the illusion in my mind that I had in fact seen it.
Tobias, in her latest review, gets to the larger point of why we should care about Ashton:
?The Lincoln Center Festival?s Ashton Celebration has reintroduced the British choreographer to the American audience for dance, an audience for whom Balanchine has long reigned supreme. This renewed interest in Ashton may spark a fruitful exploration of what the 20th century?s two foremost geniuses of classical dance choreography have in common?and what makes each distinctive. One hopes, too, that it will inspire more first-class Ashton productions from our native companies (ABT, this means you!) and more visits from the likes of the two Royals. For the last twenty-five years, the dance audience has been complaining about the dearth of new classical choreographers. All the more reason, during these relatively barren times, to cultivate the old ones.?
And don?t miss her reassessment of the Joffrey. On the company?s production of ?A Wedding Bouquet,? she writes:
?I recall being enchanted, years back, by the Joffrey?s production. Now, with neither the dancing nor the characters fine-tuned, the piece is apt to appear incomprehensible or pointless to neophyte viewers and sadly coarsened to veteran fans.?
Aloff too is aware of the public-at-large?s reaction, though she never doubts her own opinions in the face of it, which is a large part of why I admire her:
? ?Enigma Variations,? a demi-caract?re epic of Edwardian sensibility, with classical underpinnings, about the interior life of an artist in his garden on an autumn afternoon, is among the greatest ballets in history. ?Monotones I,? for a trio of terrestrials whose reference point is a sun that, although invisible to the audience, clearly dwarfs them, is the product of a master craftsman who understands how what can be seen testifies to what can?t: frequently beautiful, often surprising, an enticement to the eye on multiple viewings. ?Rhapsody?, a chamber ballet for 14, in which a handsome interloper invades a court, overtakes it by dint of sheer bravura, and gets the queen, too, was made as a star vehicle for Mikhail Baryshnikov. While not top-drawer Ashton, it roused the audience on Tuesday more than his masterpieces. ?Enigma Variations? was politely applauded; the reception for ?Rhapsody? was tumultuous. It?s not the way I would want things to be, but one can?t legislate people?s responses in the theater, even when one?s heart is breaking over the crowd?s choice.?
Elsewhere she paints a vivid picture of Darcey Bussell?s arabesque allong?e.
If you can stand the jealousy of not witnessing it with your own eyes, I recommend a read.
Living and working in Seattle, I have the same odd combination of jealousy and gratitude when I’m reading this stuff!