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Surely the highlight of this year’s White Light Festival (a yearly festival devoted to the spiritual dimension in the performing arts) at Lincoln Center, which took place October 28 - November 15, 2017 was the opportunity to see—as I did on the evening of Saturday, October 28th, at the Rose Theater (10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY)—the marvelous Layla and Majnun, a beautiful recent ballet by Mark Morris, one of the most celebrated contemporary choreographers.
The work is adapted from an opera from 1908 by Uzeyir Hajibeyli—written when he was twenty-three years old—and the founding work of modern Azerbaijani music. The libretto was adapted from a classic sixteenth century Turkish poem in the Azeri dialect written by Muhammad Fuzuli, itself based on famous pre-Islamic Arabic tales. The story tells of the timeless, mystical love and separation and reuniting in death of the two eponymous protagonists.
The score was condensed and rearranged for the Silk Road Ensemble in a version for ten musicians and two singers by Johnny Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen, and Alim Qasimov, an Azerbaijani national treasure who sings the lead role of Majnun, alongside his student and daughter, Fargana Qasimova, who sings the part of Layla. The musicians remain onstage during the duration of the performance but the dancing is preceded by a purely musical prologue, a medley of Azerbaijani music based on Bayati Shiraz, one of the major Azerbaijani mughams, gorgeously sung by Kamila Nabiyeva and Miralam Miralamov.
Another distinguished credit belongs to the renowned, late British painter, Howard Hodgkin, a reproduction of one of whose paintings forms the backdrop for the ballet and who provided the costume designs. The production is dedicated to his memory.
Morris’s approach is highly abstract and de-dramatized, which ultimately produces a highly formalist effect. In addition to the outstanding musicians, he is well served by his excellent dancers who exquisitely realized his extraordinary choreography. All in all, this is probably one of the artist’s strongest works, and was a sumptuous event, both musically and visually.
The Big Apple Circus, beloved by thousands since its 1977 debut, returns to Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park October 27 – January 7. Also returning are their community outreach programs, Circus of the Senses and a performance for children with autism.
Circus of the Senses has its beginning in 2007 when theater executive Anne Tramon arranged for Broadway theatres to invite blind students for audio-descriptive performances. It was such a success that the Big Apple Circus asked her to expand the program for special family shows.
Big Apple Circus will host two Circus of the Senses for those blind, deaf, with vision impairment and cognitive challenges: 75-minute school matinees November 2nd and 3rd at 11 A.M. [all seats priced at $10]. These feature an exciting, multi-dimensional performing arts experience, integrating theater, dance, and live music with the circus arts. There will be ASL-interpreted performances for children with visual, auditory, and sensory impairments and hands-on experiences with Big Apple artists, and Jenny Videl’s rescues dogs and horses. In addition, there’s pre- and post-show touch therapy experiences, Braille programs, and large print books. Tramon’s company G Pass provides wireless infared assistive listening devices with live audio narration by ASL Interpreters.
On Saturday, November 18 at 11 A.M. there’ll be a performance for children with autism, which will feature live audio description and sensory adaptations for ASD patrons and their families that include modifications to sound and lighting, and a professionally-staffed calming area. Fox TV news anchor Ernie Anastos will be welcoming the audience as guest ringmaster.
For more information, individual tickets and group pricing and pricing for November 18, contact Lisa Lewis at
. As part of the Big Apple Circus outreach initiative, there will be eleven Circus for All initiative performances throughout the ten-week run. Every seat in the house will be offered to underprivileged children and underserved schools for $10 tickets.
In the panoply of works by Marius Petipa that have entered the repertory of classical ballet, La Bayadèreis not one of the most famous or popular but the loveliness of its choreography, set to a melodious and underrated score by Ludwig Minkus, is comparable to the best of them. The American Ballet Theater’s (at 890 Broadway #3, New York, NY) evening performance on Saturday, June 6th, proved to be a stellar one, despite the replacement, in the lead role of Nikiya, of the incomparable Natalia Osipova — she had magnificently displayed hitherto unseen depths in Giselle the previous week— with guest artist Maria Kochetkova, but it is perhaps no surprise that she too is a thrilling ballerina, as was abundantly in evidence that night.
Her partner, as Solor, was another Russian guest artist, Leonid Safranov, and in both precision and dynamism he was to be Kochetkova’s equal. The tertiary role of Gamzatti was danced by principal Isabella Boylston who has come into her own as one of the luminaries of the company — she was simply superb. The trio of Shades were beautifully inhabited by Sarah Lane, Melanie Hamrick and Misty Copeland, each one a jewel of Ballet Theatre and together they added a further lustre to the proceedings. The corps de ballet, which has been at its rare best in previous performances this season, was, apart from one or two very minor infelicities, dazzling, especially in the celebrated “Dance of the Shades” in Act II, one of the glories of classical choreography.
Under the artistic direction of Baba Chuck Davis, the 35th anniversary of DanceAfrica features the largest gathering of dance companies in its history, with 15 in attendance and performing over two weekends at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), including many favorite performers and reunions of companies from the earliest DanceAfrica festivals during a special Opening Celebration on Sunday, May 20th, 2012.
Read more: DanceAfrica 2012 @ BAM: One...
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