Dance

0

Comments

Add +

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

Will and grace

In a company packed with ambition and talent, NYCB’s new principal brings something extra to the stage.

By Gia Kourlas


Sara Mearns uses an oddly possessive expression to describe the ballet roles that seem to fit her best: “I feel like it’s my dancing.”

When it comes to this particular ballerina—a word you don’t just throw around casually—that dancing is emphatic and as alive as liquid gold. At New York City Ballet, Mearns, a newly promoted principal, is wholly awake: She is just as responsive to the air around her as she is to the music. That approach may be less obvious than her beauty, but in terms of musicality, Mearns is a daredevil onstage.

“I’m trying to find my way,” she admits. “I’ve done my homework. I’ve watched tapes of lots of ballerinas: Kyra Nichols, Wendy Whelan, Suzanne Farrell. I look at their timing and I see how they play with the music. I feel like I’m trying to do more of that—not to just stay on the music but to play around it. It’s hard to get right. But you just have to take chances.”

As her frequent partner, Jared Angle doesn’t know if Mearns is necessarily “trying to be tricky with the music,” as he puts it. But he does find her innate connection to it to be part of what makes her dancing so luscious: “I think that she has the kind of body and movement quality where you see the music in her,” he says. “But she also loves to work; she seems to always be rehearsing for ballets full-out, every day, even when she has a show. She’s in it to win it, I think.” Angle laughs. “Maybe she already has won it? But she’s very hardworking, and it’s not just about movement and feeling. She’s also still perfecting her technique, which is good, because she’s, like, 12 or something.”

Actually, Mearns is 22. Tall and blond, with long legs, broad shoulders and a tiny waist, she is no waif. She exudes a certain Southern sultriness rare in ballet; even as a teenager at the School of American Ballet, she already looked like a woman. Born in Columbia, South Carolina, she began her training at the age of three with Ann Brodie at the Calvert-Brodie School of Dance. In the beginning, it was all very typical. “My mom put me in ballet,” she recalls. “Every little girl wants to be a ballerina.” In her class, however, was Christian Tworzyanski, who is also a member of NYCB; in their early days, they competed regularly.

“We were seven or eight and we would rehearse until 11pm, and our tap teacher was very adamant about us getting it right,” Mearns says. “Starting so young has made me enjoy dancing. It’s not just going out there and doing steps or worrying about it—I actually love what I’m doing.”

Having moved to New York to attend SAB in 2001, Mearns joined NYCB in 2004; and just two years later, she was named a soloist. Her latest promotion, to principal, came in June, a day after one of the worst shows of her life in the company’s “Dancers’ Choice” program. Or so she thinks. “I don’t know,” she says with a sigh. “I think it was just my stupid mentality. I felt like it wasn’t my best, but then a lot of the times, when you think you’ve had your worst performance, people are like, ‘You were great!’ So it was kind of weird, but that always happens. I had a really bad show—for me—and the next day I get promoted. It’s like, Oh my God. Come on. You don’t accept it.”

Mearns rattles off a few of the practical reasons that led to her promotion; one, she stresses, had to do with injured dancers. “I was fortunate enough to replace them,” she says. “But I can’t believe it’s happened this fast. I’m not one of those people who expect things. You can’t. Especially not in this business.”

When she isn’t cast in the last ballet of the evening, Mearns, her face bare of makeup, can be found watching performances in the audience at the New York State Theater. “There’s no other place you can see all these ballets,” she says. “And personally, I don’t want to miss a show of the ballerinas that I look up to. Why just leave the theater and be like, I’m done? It’s not all about you. I feel if you’re dancing ballet and your life is about it, then watch it. Don’t just do your part and leave.”

Mearns performs with the New York City Ballet at the New York State Theater Nov 25–Mar 1.

NEXT: Highlights from Mearns’s past season »

More in Dance
Will and grace | Highlights from Mearns’s past season | Videos of Mearns rehearsing | Three to tango | Going too far | The odds


ART | BOOKS | CLASSICAL | CLUBS | COMEDY | DANCE | EAT OUT | FILM | MUSIC | THEATER

DOWNLOAD ALL EVENTS: GOOGLE CAL | for iCAL

DOWNLOAD PDFs: November | October | September

Highlights from Mearns’s past season


Diamonds: “I did it first in the winter season with Jon Stafford, and we couldn’t believe we got it then. We were completely shocked. I was like, Oh my God, they didn’t have to give this to me. When I got to do it again this season, I thought, Okay, now I can really become myself in it. I just feel so good in that ballet. It feels so me.”

In G Major: “I never knew too much about it, but now it’s actually one of my favorite Jerry [Robbins] ballets to perform. The pas de deux? You want to cry, because the music is so beautiful and the choreography fits so well with it—you feel like no one else exists out there but your partner. It’s quite amazing.”

“Spring” in The Four Seasons: “In that, I feed off my partner, Philip Neal or Jared Angle. We fooled around so much onstage, in the way of feeding off each other. It wasn’t fake and it wasn’t put on—we were really just having fun out there, and it was hard, but it was great.”

Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet: “Fourth-movement Brahms? There’s not a sad moment in that ballet. I just feel like I can let it all go.”

Rococo Variations: “In the beginning, we couldn’t really feel it out—it was hard for us, and it’s still really hard. It looks like it’s a nice, pretty ballet, but we are dying out there.”

NEXT: WATCH HER NOW See Mearns rehearsing»

More in Dance
Will and grace | Highlights from Mearns’s past season | Videos of Mearns rehearsing | Three to tango | Going too far | The odds


ART | BOOKS | CLASSICAL | CLUBS | COMEDY | DANCE | EAT OUT | FILM | MUSIC | THEATER

DOWNLOAD ALL EVENTS: GOOGLE CAL | for iCAL

DOWNLOAD PDFs: November | October | September

Highlights from Mearns’s past season: rehersal videos

NEXT: Three to tango This is the true story of what happens when two very different choreographers and a Project Runway designer get together to create a night of dances and a few awesome costumes.»

More in Dance
Will and grace | Highlights from Mearns’s past season | Videos of Mearns rehearsing | Three to tango | Going too far | The odds


ART | BOOKS | CLASSICAL | CLUBS | COMEDY | DANCE | EAT OUT | FILM | MUSIC | THEATER

DOWNLOAD ALL EVENTS: GOOGLE CAL | for iCAL

DOWNLOAD PDFs: November | October | September

Three to tango

This is the true story of what happens when two very different choreographers and a Project Runway designer get together to create a night of dances and a few awesome costumes.

By Gia Kourlas

Pam Tanowitz, Brian Reeder and Jillian Lewis
Pam Tanowitz, Brian Reeder and Jillian Lewis

Pam Tanowitz:
“We thought, We’re going to collaborate. What does that mean? Am I going to do five minutes? And then you? Am I working with modern dancers and you with ballet dancers? Then we thought, What if we meld it, so that people may not know who choreographed what? We were interested in seeing not only whether we could mix our styles, but whether we could blur the lines between our own choreography so that it could be unrecognizable, even to us.”


Brian Reeder:
“Even though Pam’s modern and I’m so-called balletic, we both have an appreciation for a general idea of beauty and line and approaching that in a way that is unique but not pretentious—or trying to do things just for the sake of being different. It’s not going to be fouetté turns, or hop-hop-hop on pointe. No Don Q, fancy-fancy. It’s just going to be a different way of exploring the pointe shoe.”

Jillian Lewis:
“My first love, before fashion, was dance. I always pursue my interests with tunnel vision, so I had to drop dancing for fashion.”


Tanowitz:
“I do think personalities come into play, and I just think Brian’s a great guy. I feel there are no egos on the table. It’s just about the work; there’s no bullshit. I think he’s the nicest guy that I’ve ever met in the ballet world. To find a man in the dance world who’s just really great and generous and not pretentious is hard.”

Reeder:
“Is there a guarantee that this fusion of two choreographers’ ideas will be something people will love? Or that I’ll even love myself? I don’t know. But I think the challenge of doing it is really worth my time.”


Tanowitz:
“My work is kind of too uptown for downtown, but too downtown for uptown. I like pointed feet sometimes, and I don’t want to apologize for it, but I’m also concerned with making that relevant. Brian works with real ballet vocabulary, and I think he’s trying to make that relevant too. So aesthetically, stepwise and vocabularywise we’re different, but conceptually, it parallels.”

Lewis:
“In terms of design, I am feeling really pale colors, articulated joints to accentuate the movement of the body, with maybe some really subtle watercolor-like painting over the fabric. Overall, I’d like it to feel really modern and forward—shall I say, slightly futuristic? No superhero, astronaut, robotic stuff, but a clean, sleek, form-follows-function aesthetic, and warming the whole effect with the painting-over.”


A Two Part Affair is presented as part of Works & Process at the Guggenheim Sept 21 and 22 (212-423-3587, worksandprocess.org).

NEXT: Going too far A festival of interdisciplinary works blurs the lines.»

More in Dance
Will and grace | Highlights from Mearns’s past season | Videos of Mearns rehearsing | Three to tango | Going too far | The odds


ART | BOOKS | CLASSICAL | CLUBS | COMEDY | DANCE | EAT OUT | FILM | MUSIC | THEATER

DOWNLOAD ALL EVENTS: GOOGLE CAL | for iCAL

DOWNLOAD PDFs: November | October | September

Going too far

A festival of interdisciplinary works blurs the lines.

By Gia Kourlas

While We Were Holding It Together
While We Were Holding It Together

With Crossing the Line 2008: Transfiguring Cultures, the French Institute–Alliance Française’s Lili Chopra and Arizona State University’s Simon Dove broaden the definition of dance in a showcase of mainly French artists. The series is one of the most exciting festivals to hit New York in years. (Give BAM’s Joe Melillo a festival pass—maybe he could pick up a few tips.) Meet the creative minds behinds three of this year’s standout productions.

The Snow White Project
The Snow White Project

Catherine Baÿ
The Snow White Project: Sept 16
What it is: A site-specific happening in which multiple Snow Whites converge in outdoor locations.

What intrigued you about the fairy tale? It is the story of the mirror. It really points out an issue in our modern society, especially in the West, where narcissism is predominant. Moreover, the stone face of the Snow Whites is like a mirror for the spectator. These kind of mirror illusions are everywhere in my work. Snow White gets endlessly multiplied, whether it is through the video work by Thomas Courcelle, or through the games with mirrors.

What are the Snow Whites doing in New York? The idea of The Snow White Project is to travel around the world and to confront this character with many different cultures, to develop an antivirus against mass consumption. In New York, the difference is that the United States is the birthplace of this Snow White, which became a product of consumerism. It is as if she is coming home.

Diptyque
Diptyque

Rachid Ouramdane
Diptyque: Oct 3, 4
What it is: Back-to-back performances of With My Own Hands, a monologue directed by Pascal Rambert, and A Standing Boy, choreographed by Ouramdane for Rambert.

Does the experience of watching the two works together create a new work entirely? Yes. With My Own Hands was created more than ten years ago. Pascal developed a recent version of this piece with [actor] Kate Moran—the one that will be presented in New York. A Standing Boy was created in France in 2006. So With My Own Hands was written in a totally other context. I’d say that A Standing Boy is a second episode for the main character in the monologue.

A Standing Boy was created after Rambert asked you to make a piece for him. What was your initial impulse? I took it as an opportunity to try to know more about him. This was just before I came to perform Discreet Deaths in New York. On the plane, I read With My Own Hands. By chance, I was traveling from Paris to New York; the monologue is based on someone leaving Paris for New York. I decided to respond by making a portrait of him based on the reading. I planned a video environment, which would make him disappear from the stage as a metaphor of the suicide of the main character of his book. The notion of time is blurred and the notion of reality is more and more unclear.

While We Were Holding It Together
While We Were Holding It Together

Ivana Müller
While We Were Holding It Together: Sept 24–26
What it is: The performers are frozen, but talk to one another trapped within a tableau vivant.

What themes are you trying to convey? One is about the relationship to movement. How can I work with something that’s completely still, but that can still produce movement? The movement is happening using thoughts and ideas. The movement is happening in the voices and in the kind of traveling of different identities. The body has an inherent or physiological urge to move; actually, after 20 minutes they start to shake. In that sense it’s almost like a little revolution that the body is constantly proposing: to disobey this idea of an image.

Tell me about the shaking. Remaining still for so long is a virtuosic act. It’s interesting how the spectator perceives this physicality. A lot of people tell me they feel really bad, kind of nauseated, because of this constant stillness. I didn’t anticipate that. It’s important to say that when they shake, it doesn’t hurt. In the beginning, it was happening after 15 minutes, but with time, they got much better. After 20 minutes, one person fainted. We really had to think about how to deal with that.

Crossing the Line 2008: Transfiguring Cultures runs Sept 16–Oct 5 at various locations. Visit fiaf.org or call 212-355-6160 (for information) or 212-307-4100 (for tickets).

NEXT: The odds »

More in Dance
Will and grace | Highlights from Mearns’s past season | Videos of Mearns rehearsing | Three to tango | Going too far | The odds


ART | BOOKS | CLASSICAL | CLUBS | COMEDY | DANCE | EAT OUT | FILM | MUSIC | THEATER

DOWNLOAD ALL EVENTS: GOOGLE CAL | for iCAL

DOWNLOAD PDFs: November | October | September

ODDS

that BAM is stuck in the past: 98%.

Pina Bausch
Pina Bausch

It’s so lovely to be back in the ’80s. With the likes of La La La Human Steps, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and, of course, Pina Bausch in its Next Wave Festival, it feels as though the Brooklyn Academy of Music has just discovered the movers and shakers of 1988. Will BAM’s dance programming please take a chance on someone new? Become relevant again? Bounce back from its safety-first doldrums?

More in Dance
Will and grace | Highlights from Mearns’s past season | Videos of Mearns rehearsing | Three to tango | Going too far | The odds


ART | BOOKS | CLASSICAL | CLUBS | COMEDY | DANCE | EAT OUT | FILM | MUSIC | THEATER

DOWNLOAD ALL EVENTS: GOOGLE CAL | for iCAL

DOWNLOAD PDFs: November | October | September

Users say

0 comments