Created and performed in lockdown: Axons Dance Theatre + Joan Liu’s “Stalled”

Me, feeling stalled, in <Stalled>.

Happy World Ballet Day! While most stages and studios are still closed in New York City, Axons Dance Theatre has been back at it with some virtual quarantine inspired choreography. <Stalled>, the company’s first dance film and first piece featuring the entire company, plays on the physical and psychological effects of quarantine and dancing at home. As a dancer in this film I found it both challenging and exciting filming in my own space, and watching the finished product made me feel connected to my fellow company members, a sensation many artists have been sorely missing since March.

<Stalled> (watch out for the pun) was performed in a multitude of spaces, places, and styles and really gives a glimpse into each of our days in quarantine in addition to being a dance piece.

<Stalled> premieres Friday, October 30th at 8pm as part of 7MPR Themed Dance Theater-Third Midnight Virtual Halloween on Facebook Live. The livestream will be followed by a live discussion with the choreographers presenting in the show. We hope you’ll join!

Lazy Dance Days…

While the internet is now positively swimming with live and pre-recorded dance and fitness classes, some days I find myself not ready (both physically and mentally) to make myself pretend I’m in a studio when I clearly am not. I know I’m not alone, and there is nothing wrong with taking a break from class (see Dance Magazine’s article: “No, You’re Not A Bad Person If You Don’t Want to Take Virtual Dance Classes”). So if you don’t feel in the mood to or can’t take class today, here is a quick list of a few calming options I have been exploring for staying immersed in the dance world from home: 

 

Listen to a Dance Podcast

I have recently started listening to the Dance Edit podcast (created by editors from Dance Magazine and Dance Spirit), which is released on Thursdays as an addition to their daily newsletter. The podcast features recent highlights from the dance world, in-depth segments on the major dance news from around the world, and recently, voice messages from famous dance figures on how they are pushing through the current COVID-19 shutdown. Listening to the editors on this podcast feels to me like being in a conversation with dance friends, something many dancers are missing right now. 

The Wonderful World of Dance also has a more in-depth Ballet & Dance Podcast featuring interviews with professional dancers, choreographers, directors, and other prominent members of the dance world. The tone of this podcast is slightly more formal and generally focuses more on the British and European dance scene, going in-depth into the background of the artists, their training regimen or creative process, and their goals and hopes in dance. 

Conversations on Dance is another interview style podcast, largely focused on the American ballet and dance scene, and generally quite informal and fun. Episodes of this podcast range greatly in length and focus and feel similarly like a conversation between dance friends. 

 

Watch filmed dance performances

This seems like an obvious one, While the list of performances available online is so long now I won’t even try to list them all out here, a few specific performances and resources have stood out to me in my ongoing dance binge. 

The Royal Ballet recently posted to YouTube the full recording of Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale, a colorful and narrative-packed adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. I will admit some of my bias now in that I am a big fan of Wheeldon and The Royal Ballet and of story ballets in general, but I really believe this is a spectacular production. 

Other companies releasing free full or partial ballets online that I have enjoyed: 

  • New York City Ballet has also moved its season onto YouTube, with new ballets streaming on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8pm EDT and available to view for 72 hours.
  • English National Ballet is currently streaming its full production of Romeo and Juliet, and is releasing new performances every Wednesday, also available for 72 hours each.
  • San Francisco Ballet is releasing filmed performances from their archives on Fridays, which are available to view for a full week before the next stream goes up.
  • Dutch National Ballet is also releasing full ballets on their website available to stream for a full week. 

Finally, while not technically free, Marquee Arts TV is offering 14 day free trials with access to all of their online arts content including classical ballets from some of the biggest companies in the world, modern dance works, operas, plays, and documentaries about the arts world. This platform is a jackpot for performing arts audiences at home. While I have watched countless pieces on here so far the standout has been Akram Khan’s Giselle for English National Ballet, (trailer here) which I had been itching to find a full recording of for a long time. This adaptation of the classic is heart-wrenching and beautifully danced and filmed; watching it for the first time left me in a trance and certainly offered a new take on the classic. 
*P.S. Comments on this post or anything to add? Share your thoughts below or shoot me a message on the Contact page! Again, thank you for reading this far!

Movement as Meditation: Dance films and performances to calm the soul

With studios and live performances closed and cancelled for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I and many dancers and friends I know have been feeling anxious and unsettled about the state of the world. While we may not be able to perform and train together at this time, the arts can still bring comfort and joy to us wherever we are. In an effort to calm some of my own nerves and stay immersed in the dance world I have turned to some of my favorite soothing dance performances and films, listed below. ♡

“After the Rain” Solo: Christopher Wheeldon/Carla Korbes

Carla Korbes beautifully transforms this excerpt from Wheeldon’s pas de deux into a dance between herself and nature. For fans of the original pas de deux this adaptation loses none of the original’s hypnotizing magic, and fits in perfectly with the natural setting. 

“Static Motion”: Saul Nash/Nowness

“The idea of this film is to show that grace can be found everywhere” explains filmmaker Fx Goby, who collaborated with dancer and choreographer Saul Nash to create “Static Motion.” The film features a group of male dancers in an empty and industrial-looking London set to hauntingly beautiful music by Vivaldi. The choreography and the quality of the dancers’ movement blends effortlessly from separation to unity, celebrating both simple movements and impressive physical feats. 

“Note to Self”: Ihsan Rustem

Admittedly not the clearest video, but the dancers in Ihsan Rustem’s piece keep perfect timing and fluidity in their movements and interactions. Ane Brun’s rendition of “Big in Japan” provides a truly calming soundtrack.

“Dying Swan” variation: Uliana Lopatkina

Sorrowful, magical, and one of the most iconic ballet solos. Uliana Lopatkina is the classic effortless Russian swan, “dying” with dignity and grace. While this variation is, of course, meant to be moving and sad, I also find it calming and nostalgic, a reminder of how simple movements can create tremendous beauty and emotion. 

“This Bitter Earth”: Christopher Wheeldon/Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle

This piece gives me the chills. Every time. Wheeldon’s choreography is smooth and graceful and Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” seamlessly melds with Dinah Washington’s moving narration. 

“Concerto – Second Movement pas de deux”: Kenneth MacMillan/The Royal Ballet

Inspired by a ballerina’s movements at the barre, this serene pas de deux is elegantly danced by Marianela Nuñez and Rupert Pennefather. The warm-toned sets and costumes evoke a setting sun in summer, and the choreography flows together effortlessly. 

“Soar. Glide. Flap.”: Joan Liu/Axons Dance Theatre

(Disclaimer: I am in this piece…) This is one of my all-time favorite pieces to dance and a truly mesmerizing experience for the audience. The choreography is inspired (as the title implies) by the different types of flight birds take, and the dancers weave in and out of each other smoothly. Dancing this piece feels like being in a trance, and I hope watching it is just as calming for you. 

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Photo credit Maja Bakija

Above: Axons Dance Theatre in “Soar. Glide. Flap.”

“F Minor”: Hania Rani/Nowness

Three whirlwind contemporary dance solos set on the stunning shores of Iceland during golden hour, accompanied by pianist Hania Rani’s live playing. This film is both meditative and a healthy dose of escapism, just what we need while stuck indoors. 

*P.S. To see all videos in this list (and a few additions) that are available on YouTube see the following playlist.

**P.P.S. Have more films or filmed dance performances you think should be included? Shoot me a comment on the contact page! Thank you for reading this far!

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