The Migration Review: The African-American Exodus In Painting and Dance

Millions of African-Americans moved from the rural South to industrial cities in the North in the decades after World War I, one of the largest migrations in the history of humanity, ignored by most newspapers (except the black press), but famously captured by a 23-year-old painter named Jacob Lawrence. In 1941, he created The Migration Series, 60 paintings that depict the mass exodus of African-Americans from the South. The series caused a sensation. In 2011, a dance company called Step Afrika! created The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, turning visual art into dance theater. The 80-minute show — it, too, in its own way sensational —  is now on stage through November 26 at New Victory Theatre.

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Tommy Tune, Bandstand, Great Comet Among 2017 Chita Rivera Award Winners

Chita Rivera Awards logoTommy Tune lifetimeTommy Tune was presented with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award last night at the 2017 Chita Rivera Award, the newly named awards for dance and choreography in New York theater and on film. Diane Paulus was presented with the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Musical Theater as Director.

The competitive categories were awarded to choreographers and dancers from Great Comet, Sweet Charity and Holiday Inn — all shows that have closed — and to Bandstand, which closes Sunday.  Almost all the nominees that didn’t win were from shows that are still running. (Nominations were announced back in May.)

Outstanding Choreography in a Broadway Show

Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
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2017 Chita Rivera Award Nominations in Dance: Cats, Bandstand, Sweet Charity

Chita Rivera Awards logo

The Broadway musicals “Cats” and  “Bandstand” and the Off-Broadway revival of “Sweet Charity”  lead in the number of nominations for the Chita Rivera Awards, the newly named awards for dance and choreography in New York theater and on film.
The awards will be presented September 11th

The nominees are:

Outstanding Choreography in a Broadway Show:
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Josh Bergasse, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Warren Carlyle, Hello Dolly!
Peter Darling, Groundhog Day
Kelly Devine, Come from Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn
Sergio Trujillo, A Bronx Tale
Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show:
A Bronx Tale
Come from Away
Hello Dolly!
Holiday Inn
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show:
Corbin Bleu, Holiday Inn
John Bolton, Anastasia
Max Clayton, Bandstand
Tyler Hanes, Cats
Ryan Kasprzak, Bandstand
Ricky Ubeda, Cats
Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show:
Andrea Dotto, Bandstand
Lora Lee Gayer, Holiday Inn
Eloise Kropp, Cats
Georgina Pazcoguin, Cats
Emma Pfaeffle, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Megan Sikora, Holiday Inn
Christine Cornish Smith, Cats
Joshua Bergasse, Sweet Charity
David Dorfman, Indecent
Merete Muenter, The Golden Bride
David Neumann, The Total Bent
Misha Shields, Baghdaddy
Yesenia Ayala, Sweet Charity
Asmeret Ghebremichael, Sweet Charity
Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Sweet Charity
Emily Padgett, Sweet Charity
Lyrica Woodruff, Finian’s Rainbow
Ato Blankson-Wood, The Total Bent
Brandon Espinoza, Baghdaddy
Curtis Wiley, The Total Bent
Cody Williams, Sweet Charity
Blake Zolfo, Kid Victory
The Chita Rivera Awards carry on the mission of The Fred and Estelle Astaire Awards.

Confucius: Review, Pics, Video


The strength of Confucius, a 90-minute dance piece featuring 60 performers from the China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater, is not found in its efforts to present Confucian philosophy and biography, nor even Chinese history and culture, none of which is especially illuminating. The show’s strength lies in its visual splendor and gymnastic choreography.

Making its American debut this week at Lincoln Center , the piece premiered in Beijing in 2013, conceived by Kong Dexin, its elegant 34-year-old director and choreographer. One could argue she was born to do this show. Ms. Kong is a direct descendant (a “77th generation descendant”) of Confucius (in Chinese known as Kong Zi, or Master Kong), the teacher and philosopher who lived 2,500 years ago.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Liu Haidong to see it enlarged.


2016 Astaire Award Winners: Jane Krakowski; Shuffle Along, Hamilton,and On Your Feet in Three-Way Tie!

The choreographers for Shuffle Along, Hamilton AND On Your Feet all won the 2016 Fred and Adele Astaire Award, which also awarded Jane Krakowski for her tango in She Loves Me. Shuffle Along also won for best ensemble dancing.

Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me

Phillip Attmore, Shuffle Along

BEST CHOREOGRAPHER (three-way tie)
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
Savion Glover, Shuffle Along
Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet!

Shuffle Along

Dave Scott, High Strung

Rumi Oyama, Sayonara

Robert Creighton, Cagney

Connor Gallagher, The Robber Bridegroom
Paul McGill, The Legend Of Georgia McBride


“Our bodies are instruments & we are able to change lives through dance. And we live in this instrument.” –Judith Jamison,  artistic director emeritus of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who was presented with the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award. Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of So You Think You Can Dance, received the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Dance. Broadway director, choreographer and Tony-nominated actor Maurice Hines, who appeared off-Broadway this season in his show Tappin’ Through Life, was recognized with a special recognition award for Outstanding Body of Work in Dance. Dr. Joan Fallon, founder and CEO of Curemark, was presented with a special achievement award for her work in the field of autism-related disorders.


Full list of 2016 nominees

2016 Astaire Award Nominations: Shuffle Along, On Your Feet Lead.


Below is the list of nominations for 2016 Fred and Adelle Astaire Awards for Broadway (and Off-Broadway) dancing. Winners will be announced May 16 and the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.


Mara Davi, Dames at Sea

Deanna Doyle, Tuck Everlasting

Sandra Mae Frank, Spring Awakening

Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me

Eloise Kropp, Dames at Sea

Ana Villafañe, On Your Feet

Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along



Phillip Attmore, Shuffle Along

Alex Brightman, School of Rock 

Daveed Diggs, Hamilton

Carlos Gonzalez, On Your Feet

Curtis Holland, Shuffle Along

Kendrick Jones, Shuffle Along

Luis Salgado, On Your Feet



Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton

Warren Carlyle, She Loves Me

Savion Glover, Shuffle Along

Lorin Latarro, Waitress

Spencer Liff, Spring Awakening

Casey Nicholaw, Tuck Everlasting

Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet

Josh Rhodes, Bright Star

Hofesh Shechter, Fiddler on the Roof

Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea



Bright Star

Dames at Sea

Fiddler on the Roof


On Your Feet

School of Rock

She Loves Me

Shuffle Along

Spring Awakening



Angel Reapers review: Shakers Dancing, Avoiding Sex

There is an unintentionally funny sign posted at the Signature Center outside “Angel Reapers,” a show by Martha Clarke and Alfred Uhry about the 18th century religious movement known as the Shakers:

“This production of Angel Reapers contains NUDITY. Please silence your cell phones.”

(Do cell phones make catcalls?)

A more useful sign would be:

“Warning: Angel Reapers is primarily a dance piece.”

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged

Yes, its co-author Alfred Uhry is the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Driving Miss Daisy, and the librettist for Parade and The Robber Bridegroom. And, surely thanks to him, there are a few memorable spoken exchanges:

At the beginning, the members sit in simple straight-backed chairs – the famed Shaker furniture – dressed in recognizeable Shaker attire — men in frock coats and hats that resemble current-day Hasidic garb, the women in plain dresses and white caps, meant to cover up whatever allure their hair and bodies would hold for the opposite sex. The seated men face the seated women, and each in turn recites some of the strict and strange rules of the faith — from “When we clasp our hands, our right thumbs and fingers should be above our left” to “we countenance no marriage of the flesh.” All Shakers were expected to be celibate.

Later, one by one, members of the sect declare “Today I have the gift of…” and then list some chore, such as “Today I have the gift of furrowing the field,” and “Today I have the gift of laundering garments.”…until Brother Valentine Rathburn (Rico Lebron) says: “I have the gift of swimming in the pond all day.”

Brother William Lee (Nicholas Bruder) responds: “I have the gift of denying you to go.”

Valentine Rathburn: “I have the gift of going anyway.”

William Lee: “And I have the gift of beating you with a broom handle.”


There are also very brief monologues from a few members of the sect as portrayed by the show’s 11-member cast, mostly Mother Ann Lee (Sally Murphy), Brother Lee’s sister, and the founder in 1744 of The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. Lee began the community in England and moved to America to escape persecution.

But spoken lines are relatively rare in “Angel Reapers.” The bulk of its 75 minutes is taken up with traditional Shaker hymns that the cast sings a cappella, and by traditional Shaker movement incorporated into Martha Clarke’s modern choreography. Derived from the ecstatic nature of Shaker worship, the dancing involves lots of impressive (and percussive!) stomping and whirling and shaking.

To the extent that there is a plot – and there isn’t really — it’s presented through movement, showing how some members rebelled at the imposition of celibacy. This is where the NUDITY comes in; it’s brief nudity (codeword for you see one woman’s breasts.) But it reflects what seems to have most interested the creative team about the Shakers – the struggle over their vow of celibacy. “I damn your manhood,” one female character says, “and yet I feed your lust.”

To be fair, the Shaker celibacy is not some minor aspect of their faith; it certainly must explain why there is only one active Shaker Community left, the Sabbath Day Lake Shaker Village in Maine. Besides, it would be too much to expect a 75-minute dance piece to offer up the full flavor of the Shakers’ life, such as their wide-ranging inventions (the clothespin, for one!), a politics (Pacifism, gender equality) that was arguably ahead of its time, and a rich culture of simplicity that has proven remarkably influential. To pick one example: Aaron Copland incorporated the Shaker song “Simple Gifts” into his now-famous 1944 ballet for Martha Graham, Appalachian Spring. (That same song is the first one in “Angel Reapers.”) Still, one can enjoy Martha Clarke’s rhythmic choreography, and respect the effort of the creative team and the performers, but nevertheless feel let down that the result is not a more layered and informative work.


Angel Reapers

At Signature Theater

By Martha Clarke and Alfred Uhry

Dircted and choreographed by Martha Clarke

Scenic design by Marsha Ginsberg, costume design by Donna Zakowska, lighting design by Christopher Akerling, sound design by Samuel Crawford and Arthur Solari, music direction and arrangements by Arthur Solari

Cast: Sophie Bortolussi as Agnes Renard, Nicholas Bruder as William Lee, Asli Bulbul as Hannah Cogswell, Lindsey Dietz Marchant as Susannah Farrington, Ingrid Kapteyn as Mary Chase, Rico Lebron as Valentine Rathburn, Gabrielle Malone as Grace Darrow, Sally Murphy as Ann Lee, Matty Oaks as Jabez Stone, Andrew Robinson as David Darrow and Yon Tande as Moses.

Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission

Tickets: $25 until March 13; then $35 to $55

Angel Reapers is scheduled to run through March 20.


Alvin Ailey’s Dance Marking the Holocaust [Sponsored]

No Longer Silent still

To mark the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will present “No Longer Silent,” as part of its season at New York City Center in December.

Robert Battle, who has been the Ailey artistic director since July, 2011,  created “No Longer Silent” in 2007 for The Juilliard School (his alma mater) as part of a concert of scores by composers whose work the Nazis had banned. Battle’s choreography is set to the percussive score “Ogelala” by Erwin Schulhoff.

Schulhoff was born in 1894 in Prague, and by the age of 10 had already begun his conservatory training with the likes of Claude Debussy. A classical composer, he early on embraced jazz and the avant-garde.The Nazis declared his music “degenerate,” and after they invaded Czechoslovakia, Schulhoff was arrested and sent to the Wülzburg concentration camp, where he died in 1942 from tuberculosis.

“I didn’t try to make a dance about the Holocaust; I didn’t feel I could do that,” says Battle. Yet, he adds, “there was something about his spirit and the way he died that struck a chord with me in a personal way.”

The Ailey season at City Center will also feature “Awakening,”  the first world premiere of a work by Robert Battle since he became the third artistic director of the company.

Details of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater season at City Center, December 2, 2015 to January 3, 2016

Eve Review: The latest “dance theater immersion” and no-sneeze “experience,” at Gym at Judson

Eve 3a by Tom Kochie

I will keep an open mind, I write three times in my notebook before the first scene in the first room of “Eve,” which its creators describe as “a dance theatre immersion experience.” It’s running at the Gym at Judson through October 1.

I have learned to be wary of any show that calls itself an “experience,” especially a theatrical experience, thanks to shows like Queen of the Night.

On the other hand, I do still like Jimi Hendrix, and I’m drawn to the Neo-Political Cowgirls, or at least the name. That’s the Hamptons-based company, founded by Kate Mueth seven years ago, that is responsible for “Eve.”

So I waited with the other theatergoers in the hallway of the Gym at Judson, which in honor of the show has been newly decorated with plastic female torsos on the wall, each covered with unique graffiti; one says “I’m glad I run the path to fruition” with the “fruition” cleverly ending at the plastic vulva.

A member of the company gives us each a choice of mask to put on, and tells us we are required to keep the mask on for the duration of “Eve.”

I’m horrified.

I will not sneeze, I write. The last show that required me to wear a mask was “Sleep No More,” the site-specific, immersive, interactive, mute adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I was apparently allergic to the mask, because I kept on sneezing, and the sweat quickly formed on my face beneath the mask, and I really, really needed to rip off the mask and get the hell out of the place. But it was dark and confusing and the ushers, or whatever they were called – Guards? Minders? Noblemen? – weren’t allowed to talk, so it took me 20 minutes to find the exit – literally 20 minutes. The entire experience – “experience”? – made me feel like the least hip person on the island of Manhattan.

EVE8a by Tom KochieI will not sneeze, and I will stay to the very end.

“Eve” begins in a room wrapped in red cloth. A dancer sits atop scaffolding in the middle of the room. She has long straight black hair and is dressed all in black. She writhes elegantly to the loud, pounding music, until she takes out a bird cage. Three dancers wearing gossamer outfits flutter into the room. Eventually the first dancer joins them. Meanwhile, on the scaffolding, something huge encased in brown wrapping paper starts writhing, then jumping up and down, up and down, until it eventually…hatches. A crazy-looking bearded man emerges, wearing a doctor’s white lab coat stained in blood, and a surgeon’s light attached to his forehead.

This first scene has taken about 20 minutes, and now the doctor leads us into a second, much smaller room, where an unconscious woman with her private parts clad in what looks like duct tape lies on what appears to be an operating table. The doctor smears silver body paint on her, and bops her with a mallet, and apparently drags her into life. Standing in the corner of the room, looking somewhat catatonic, or perhaps just cool, is a man dressed only in Calvin Klein underpants. Suddenly, it all comes together – the show is called “Eve,” that must be the newly conscious woman, the man in the underwear is Adam…and the blood stained doctor must be….God?

Later, this diagnosis seems to be confirmed, when Adam and Eve pick an apple from a tree hanging with boxes of Dunkin Donuts and old Vanity Fair magazines, and then go to the kitchen (which has a quite credible looking modern stove and refrigerator) and set up house, chopping the apple, and reading the New York Times at the kitchen table.

“Eve” then is a site-specific, immersive, interactive, mute adaptation of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve?

Except it doesn’t stop there. Over the course of two hours, the nine members of the cast — impressively lithe and committed — dance and otherwise move and interact and emote in some 10 or 11 makeshift rooms constructed for the show. Eve (whom we learn later is portrayed by Ana Nieto) goes through any number of metamorphoses, at one point getting new breasts and lip implants, and a pair of high heels that seem to defeat her. A cocktail waitress brings her a tray of medications. Adam (whom we learn later is just “Man” and is portrayed by Sebastiani Romagnolo, a veteran of “Sleep No More”!) puts on a suit over his Calvin Kleins (presumably Armani) and goes to a room with a desk and starts typing. They both eventually liberate themselves. All this takes place to a soundtrack that leans heavily on the art rock group Dead Can Dance, Nine Inch Nails and Grace Jones,  but also occasionally the sound of crickets.

Often visually arresting, as these photographs attest, at points tedious, “Eve” is rewarding for those who have the patience and the innate hipness to appreciate it.   I know this because I stayed for the entire experience, without once sneezing.

Gym at Judson
Conceived/Directed/Original choreography by Kate Mueth
Choreographed by Vanessa Walters
Cast: Ana Nieto (Eve), Lydia Franco Hodges/Josh Gladstone (The Maker), Brinda Dixit, Vanessa Walters, Jennifer Sydor (Chorus), Sebastiania Romagnolo (Man), Emi Oshima (Shadow), Leslie Cuyjet (Lilith), Brinda Dixit, Kasia Klimiuk, Vincent Cinque (Host/Hostess), Margaret Pulkingham, Kasia Klimiuk, Irina Thompson, David Wornovitzky (Voids)
Note: This is the E Cast, which is the cast I saw. There is also an M cast. At the M cast, for example, Julia Motyka portrays Eve and Jeffrey Lyon portrays Man
Running time: 2 hours, no intermission
Tickets: $35
“Eve” is scheduled to run through October 1, 2015

2015 Astaire Awards — DOUBLE TIE American in Paris, On The Town

2015AstaireAwardsThe 2015 Fred and Adele Astaire Awards  solved the dilemma of a dance-heavy Broadway season with a tie for An American in Paris and On The Town in two different categories – Best Male Dancer and Best Choreographer.

Let’s hope the Tony Awards do something similar.

Take a look at this video sampling some of the terrific dancing this season — including in straight plays! The video includes extensive excerpts from both An American in Paris and On The Town (as well as The King and I and Something Rotten) — all four nominated for 2015 Tony Awards for best choreography.

List of Astaire theater nominees, with winners in red with asterisk.

Best Female Dancer:

Annaleigh Ashford – You Can’t Take it With You
* Leanne Cope – An American in Paris
Jill Paice – An American in Paris
Megan Fairchild – On the Town
Erin Davie – Sideshow
Emily Padgett – Sideshow
XiaoChuan Xie – The King and I
Melanie Moore – Finding Neverland

Best Male Dancer:
* Robert Fairchild – American in Paris (tie)
Clyde Alves – On the Town
*Tony Yazbeck – On the Town (tie)
Jay Armstrong Johnson – On the Town
Phillip Attmore – On the Twentieth Century
Rick Faugno – On the Twentieth Century
Drew King – On the Twentieth Century
Richard Riaz Yoder – On the Twentieth Century
Christian Borle – Something Rotten!
Alex Sharp – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Best Choreographer:
* Christopher Wheeldon – American in Paris (tie)
* Joshua Bergasse – On the Town (tie)
Christopher Gattelli – The King and I
Warren Carlyle – On the Twentieth Century
Casey Nicholaw – Something Rotten!
Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Steven Hoggett – The Last Ship
Mia Michaels – Finding Neverland

Joel Grey(Cabaret) was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, while Oscar winner Harvey Weinstein (Finding Neverland) was honored for his Outstanding Contribution to Musical Theatre and Film.