Flash Flashback, 2-2: Not ‘Phase’ away — De Keersmaeker at MoMA or, The universe of dance on grains of sand

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2011, 2017 Paul Ben-Itzak

(Author’s Note: Re-reading many of my reviews of for the most part European Modern Dance concerts — in which rubrique I include William Forsythe — during this epoch, in which my frustration with the often-indulgent choreographers is evident in less than inspired, voir redundant, writing, I’ve wondered if the problem wasn’t me. If I’d simply grown up to become the mirror of that well-known jaded critic who once complained, reviewing an Elizabeth Streb concert in the late 1990s, “I’ve been going to Elizabeth Streb concerts since the 1970s and I still don’t like her,” prompting me to respond: Stop going. Re-reading the review below, though, where Denby-like inspiration if not Denby-level poetry is evident, it occurs to me that perhaps it was after all the dances that failed me and not the inverse.)

NEW YORK — Seeing Anne Terese De Keersmaeker reprise her seminal 1982 “Violin Phase” yesterday at the Museum of Modern Art — you can catch her at MOMA again today at 2 and 4 p.m. — made it clearer than ever to me that this piece, performed by this dancer, should be required viewing in every modern dance class around the world. Which is not to say that it is just a *modern* dance masterpiece (perfectly at home among the other modern masterpieces at MOMA, where these performances are being connected with the exhibition Online, Drawing Through the 20th Century), but that, craft aside — because there’s plenty of that too — De Keersmaeker does what fewer and fewer modern dancers and choreographers seem interested in doing these days, and that is reaching out to and engaging the audience.

To receive the rest of the article, first published January 23, 2011, subscribers can contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($99 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) and receive full access to our Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading critics of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2015. Just designate your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us at that address to learn how to pay by check or in Euros. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $129 (institutions) Purchase before February 14, 2017 and receive a second, free copy for the recipient of your choice. Contact Paul at paulbenitzak@gmail.com .

Flash Flashback, 1-11: Shock Treatment Vandekeybus in Alaska with all the angry young men and women

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Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus’s “nieuwZwart.” Photo © & courtesy Pieter-Jan De Pue.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2009, 2017 Paul Ben-Itzak

PARIS — At a certain point in Wim Vandekeybus’s “NieuwZwart,” seen in its French premiere Tuesday on Vandekeybus’s company Ultima Vez at the Theatre de la Ville – Sarah Bernhardt, I asked myself, to cop a line from my DI colleague Chris Dohse, “What are they so angry about?” A man violently throws another into the audience and laughs diabolically even as his victim grunts in evident pain. A woman straddles/strangles a man between her thighs. Another repeatedly knocks the white-suited narrator (Ultima Vez veteran Gavin Webber) on his side as he’s talking. Men or women repeatedly kick their colleagues when they’re down, usually adding contemptuous regards. And overall, the tenor of the physical contact between performers, particularly in the partner dancing, was of the genre regularly exhibited by European companies, in which the dancing seems more like dance-fighting, or if you prefer dance-wrestling, or at least dance-grappling.

I decided to just ask the choreographer, after the performance, “Where’s all the anger coming from?”

To get the rest of the article, first published on June 9, 2009, subscribers can contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($99 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) and receive full access to our Dance Insider Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading dance critics of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2015, as well as five years of the Jill Johnston Letter. To subscribe via PayPal, just designate your payment to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us at that address to learn how to pay by check, Euros, or British pounds. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $129 (institutions). Purchase before January 15 and receive a second, free copy for the recipient of your choice. Contact Paul at paulbenitzak@gmail.com .