Breaking Blind Item: Recessionomics Hits Dance Company

Which major New York City modern dance company is firing three of its highest paid dancers this spring, citing “artistic differences,” rather than the total economic meltdown that one of the dancers charges is the real reason for being forced out?

About calling a “musical” an “opera”…

kasparI wasn’t going to write about this, but, after seeing “Kaspar Hauser: A Foundling’s Opera,” the new MUSICAL now playing at The Flea, the subject of what exactly the difference is between “a musical” and “an opera” really began to bug me. (Get ready, there are going to be lots of “quotes” in this review…)

Obviously I am someone who has a vested interest in opera; in going to it; thinking about it; writing about it; making it; advocating for it.

I’ve also professed to be a fan of boundaries and definitions, so far as they are useful to understanding. I’m not a fan of defining something to death, since much art resists definition (a great example: no two Bach fugues are identical, and yet they are all recognizably “fugues”). But there are practical definitions that situate works within their traditions, and more importantly-and the point at which “Kaspar Hauser” decidedly falls into the bracket of “musical theater”-within their industry.

To be blunt: “Kaspar Hauser” looks like a musical, sounds like a musical, walks like a musical: It is a musical. Continue reading

Did Paul Taylor invent the Moonwalk?…

I don’t know that there’s any way to corroborate or prove this, but…

Last night, I had the luxury of attending the opening night of Paul Taylor’s season at City Center, and at one point in the first piece, Images (set to a score by Debussy), Robert Kleinendorst does a dance move that appears to be what we now know as The Moonwalk!

Was anybody else there? Does anybody know anything about this!?

I checked on Wikipedia for Moonwalk history, and it doesn’t give a date for the origin of the move. It credits the Moonwalk’s international fame to a Michael Jackson performance in 1983 at the Motown awards. But Taylor’s dance is from 1977!

Below, a clip of Jacko himself. Moonwalk happens at 3:40, although, the entire performance is pretty amazing, and there’s a priceless shot of the jammin audience around 3:20…

The Curious Case of Balanchine Button…and Hurricane Katrina. WTF?

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Umm…so…did anybody know that Cate Blanchette’s character, Daisy, in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a fucking ballet dancer? And her career arc, from entering the School of American Ballet to dancing with Balanchine to getting caught up in the new modern dance bohemia to soured old ballet teacher–is like a major plot element of the movie?

So weird that the Oscar-fishing behemoth hasn’t seemed to get any dance press.

If you’re on the edgier side of dance politics, you will want to kill this movie. Along with reinforcing the notion that a successful career in dance is inextricably tied to youth, the film also spins Daisy’s passion for dance into a mysterious power by which Bradd Pitt’s Benjamin is both seduced and bored.

However, some may find delight in the pathos David Fincher and Eric Roth wring from Daisy’s inspiring, if predictably tragic career.

But the conscription of dance into the service of the plot pales in comparison to the film’s greatest ethical breach: using Hurricane Katrina as a metaphor for life’s impermanence. It is a flawed, unnecessary and, frankly, unforgivable gimmick; one that trivializes the real issues at the heart of the Katrina tragedy (the disproportionate way natural disasters can affect people of low income, the inability of the local government to adequately protect its citizens from a widely known infrastructural problem, the federal government’s embarrassing response to the disaster) while glorifying the importance of the fictional story which, on its own, is often a compelling rumination on the passage of time and human possession.

Likewise, screenwriter Roth’s inability to prevent himself from writing “Forest Gump Part II” –Gump’s box of chocolates antecedent “…you never know what you’re gonna get” is morphed into Button’s “You never know what’s coming for you…”–becomes a minor and even charming flaw compared to “Button’s” last-ditch attempt to make itself relevant by conjuring the specter of the not-so-distant and all-too-real disaster of Hurricane Katrina.

It’s as if Roth has come along and shone us exactly how not to treat massive human catastrophe when constructing narrative: It is not a device; it is a subject.

Please, Mr. Roth, before sitting down to pen “Forest Gump III: Operation Iraqi Freedom,” try reading some Susan Sontag.

And also try trusting in your gifts as a writer to create meaning out of compelling fiction without needlessly trying to drag in non-fictional references to support the world you’re creating. Good fiction doesn’t need to have any lines drawn to topical realities. In fact, the best and most enduring fiction tends not to.

TO DO: ACME, OHIO, and Arias

atonality-heartThere are a few notable affairs this weekend.

Tonight, the fab chamber ensemble, ACME, is presented by Wordless Music at Le Poisson Rouge. They will perform, along with former Shudder to Think frontman Craig Wedren, Lovesongs by Jefferson Friedman, which premiered last night at The Miller.

Saturday is the OHIO Theater‘s “Quantify Your Love Valentine’s Day Dance Party” benefit dance party to save their asses. If you’re free, around, and want to give the Ohio a bit of your own personal stimulus, tomorrow night’s the night.

And Sunday, if you’ve got a little passion left in your loins, you can check out two new arias composed by yours truly (aka, Ryan Tracy), for a proposed operatic adaptation of Edward Albee’s “Malcolm.” (Mm hmm, that’s right.) Singers Heather Meyer and Peter Tantsits try out the new material. Laura Poe accompanies on the piano. The concert is at Mannes, and includes music by other Mannes alumni and faculty. Admission is FREE, and things kick off at 1:30pm.

P.S.

I love you.

Prude Congress Fails to Stimulate The Arts

Everyone has probably heard already, but this retarded economic stimulus bill that barely passed (is passing, may yet pass, is passing gas?) has been amended by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn (R) to stipulate that “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, MUSEUM, THEATER, ART CENTER, and highway beautification project.” [Emotional caps mine.]

I don’t need to go into how asinine this is.

NY’s very own Chuck Schumer voted to approve this amendment.

If you’re as annoyed as I am, get off your butt and do something about this.

Americans for the Arts makes it easy to email your local reps.

I also sent a little note to President Change.

You can also arm yourself with this information from Culturebot.org.

UPDATE:

Culturebot is reporting that the final version of the stimulus bill includes $50 million for the NEA, and that the Coburn amendment was taken out! Are your roots feeling grassy? Mine are.

Letter to a Young Musician…from an Old Critic

Seriously, though, this is pretty amazing, the latest from T-Bone’s Talk to the Newsroom.

Although, can we make 30s the new 20s?… (You’ll get it if you read on.)

* * *

A Word to Young Musicians

Q. Times are difficult for young musicians, especially in this economy. Gigs can be few and far between, competitions can be cutthroat, and there’s always the looming, dark shadow of doubt that can plague any musician, especially one with such a long road ahead. What would you say is the most crucial piece of advice a musician in his early 20s could receive, either personally or professionally?

— Andy Jurik

A. Thanks for writing to me, Andy. I take your question to heart and wish I could offer some real answers. Times have always been hard for young musicians, and right now things are hard for almost everybody. So I can imagine your frustration.

First off, I’d say always remember how fortunate you are to be gifted and skilled enough to pursue a career in music. Still, I know how hard the struggle can be.

Every time I heard someone talk about the long, difficult road to becoming a doctor — with medical school, residency, grueling hours, no sleep and more — I get very impatient. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a long tough road. But a medical student travels that road knowing that without question it will lead to an immediate place in the profession.

Contrast this with aspiring musicians, who go to school, take out loans, study and practice, and practice and practice, and do so without any certainly that this will lead to anything. Now that is really difficult. Continue reading

Talk to the T-Bone

tommasini_in-nomine-jesuDream come true #2!

Anthony Tommasini (or, T-Bone, as he goes by around these parts) is the featured writer this week at The Times’ “Talk to the Newsroom.”

Yes!

Finally, the answers to all our classical music questions will come pouring forth from the great and wise T-Bone.

Okay, so, question #1:

In your profile, you are quoted as saying this:

“…having been a performer, I know how hard it is, which makes me, I hope, a more sensitive critic. I’ve been there.”

Why treat classical music sensitively? And why use an affinity of experience to sensitively shade criticism of current practitioners?

Couldn’t this open up critics to apology and punch-pulling when artists aren’t quite up to snuff?

xoxoC.C.

UPDATE:

We have contact!!! Click on the link. We’re the 4th question down. And T-Bone totally gives us an awesome, thoughtful, and loooong answer! He even admits that our question “got to [him]“. Now I’m blushing.

But seriously, our question was sincere, and came from a point of view that sees the need for classical music discourse to be less sensitive. Not that it should be genuinely disrespectful, but that the attitude one can take into the concert hall can be more than just quiet respect.

Props to T-Bone for taking us seriously, and navigating the complexities of criticism like a pro. We may tease over here, but ultimately, we care.

Performance Club, Now from concentrate!

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I don’t know what’s going on with the folks over at WNYC. They just can’t seem to figure out how to solve a problem like La Rocco (Claudia La Rocco, that is…)

Does everyone remember the good old days when L. Ro. had her own blog, and it was like a huge success?!

And then remember when they took her blog away for no reason and folded her posts into the creepy Art.Cult thing, which we settled for, even though we pretty much had to skim past the other bloggers (maybe except for Nathan Lee’s film posts). Then there was that aborted attempt at a “live-chat” that lasted all of fifteen minutes. And then L. Ro. started the fiercest Performance Club, which is totally galvanizing a community of performance goers to see shit and then actually talk about it afterward?

And then, last week, they mysteriously started listing all of L. Ro.’s posts under “Performance Club,” even if the post had nothing to do with Performance Club?

Well now…they’ve created some new “Performance” page, under which they’re filing all of L. Ro.’s posts along with some other random radio interviews and such.

I just don’t get it. All the people want is their L. Ro., straight up, unfiltered, with the pulp, and without any fuss.

Don’t make me hate WNYC. I love WNYC. We all do. I was even listening to the Takemitsu/Adams double header last night on the radio. It was awesome, and I don’t even like Adams.

But please, please, please: For god’s sake, just give Claudia La Rocco her own god damned blog. She deserves it, and her people need it.

Moving On?

Wow…So…What was that all about?

Seriously, though, my campaign to take over New York City Opera obviously distracted me a little from covering other various important goings on in the world of the performing arts and criticism. I hope to bring you more main stream C.C. content from here on out. But, you know, sometimes when you catch a wave, you just have to run with it, ride it out, and see how far it will take you.

And while I’m still obsessed with effecting change in the culture of opera–and there are many ways to do this–the campaign is over. And we celebrated its passing at Chez Bushwick with an awesome screening of Dario Argento’s “Terror at the Opera.” (1987) For those of you who couldn’t make it, and haven’t seen this movie: see it now. Although, I would suggest watching it with a group in order to glean the most from the experience.

At said memorial service/screening, I also performed an aria I had composed specifically for the occasion: “I Wuz New York City Opera.” Heartbreaking, truly. We hope to bring you video evidence soon.

But there is definitely opera in the air right now, which is exciting. As if the universe has heard our fists pounding at the ceiling, it seems like our desire for a culture of new opera manifesting itself in the halls of downtown performance is suddenly materializing.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of catching Yoav Gal’s beautifully inventive “videopera”, Mosheh, at HERE.

Now there’s news that The Wooster Group is bringing a new opera deconstruction of Francesco Cavalli’s Baroque opera “Didone” to St. Anne’s this spring.

And to top it off, Richard Foreman and John Zorn have teamed up to create “Astronome: A Night at the Opera,” which opens this Thursday at the Ontological Hysteric, and runs through April.

It’s like a dream come true, only, without me being the director of the New York City Opera.

But for serious, this is all great news for new opera; and for anyone who believes a night at the opera can be a whole lot more than just another night at the opera.

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