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LeeSaar The Company to present ‘grass and jackals’ at Mass MoCA

How can the extreme conditions of military life be translated into contemporary dance?

Choreographers Lee Sher and Saar Harari of LeeSaar The Company (founded in Israel, now based in New York City) spent four years researching that question. The result is “grass and jackals,” a new work onstage Friday at Mass MoCA that was presented as a work-in-progress at Jacob’s Pillow in the summer of 2012.

Using dramatic lighting by Avi Yona Bueno and movement structured as a continual series of climaxes, the piece shifts among moods of isolation, vulnerability, intimacy and imminent violence as the dancers—who hail from Taiwan, Korea, the United States, Malaysia, Canada and Israel—are pushed to the edge of their physical abilities.

LEESAAR THE COMPANY: GRASS AND JACKALS
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: MASS MoCA, 87 Marshall St., North Adams, Mass.
Tickets: $15; students, $10
Info: (413) 662-2111

— Tresca Weinstein

Motionhouse ‘Scattered’ @ Proctors, 2/2/13

SCHENECTADY — Modern dance is an abstract art, with bodies moving through 3-dimensional space creating lines that appear and disappear in a snap.

The centerpiece of the British troupe Motionhouse’s performance Saturday night on the Mainstage at Proctors, however, was something very concrete: a large curved wall like a skateboarder’s quarter-pipe that stood in the middle of the stage and rose more than 12-feet.

In “Scattered,” a crowd-pleasing 65-minute piece, that wall, which was designed by Simon Dormon, was not only a screen for projected images — such as glaciers, ice floes, the inside of a freezer, drops of water, a pools of water, a desert landscape, snowfall and avalanches — but also the point from which dancers launched their bodies or to which they threw themselves.
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Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival announces 2013 season

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By Tresca Weinstein

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blues.

For the 2013 season at Jacob’s Pillow, Executive Director Ella Baff has put together a marriage of dance and theater, classical and contemporary, with each of the traditional wedding-gown elements in place.

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Review: 60 Minutes on New York City Ballet

Meh.

I often enjoy 60 Minutes for its hard-hitting and enlightening news segments, and I was especially looking forward this segment on New York City Ballet, which has had its summer home at Saratoga Performing Arts Center since it was founded, but will only be in residence for one week in 2013.

Lesley Stahl provided a good overview of NYCB for a general audience, but the segment lacked specifics. Yes, the dancers are as fit as athletes. Yes, Balanchine is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Yes, the audience for ballet is graying. Yes, NYCB has financial troubles, though we don’t get any financial details.

What we learn is that ballet master Peter Martins — a former NYCB dancer under Balanchine who didn’t really like to perform — is trying to continue the legacy of Balanchine and to build new audiences by such critically panned shows such as Paul McCartney’s “Ocean Kingdom” and by highlighting the male dancers, such as Robert Fairchild.

Though Stahl does ask the good, hard question of Martins about his reaction to the critically drubbing his choreography has gotten, especially with “Ocean Kingdom,” she let’s Martins get away with saying, basically, that the critics don’t know what they’re talking about and that he had sold-out houses for the McCartney-related shows. What the critically response means, though, is that once the thrill of having a Beatle do ballet fades away, City Ballet is left with a dance that may not last in its repertoire. In other words, that it doesn’t have a future.

That’s something that the piece doesn’t delve into enough: the future. How successful has Martins been in highlighting male dancers? The piece doesn’t say, though perhaps the 60 Minutes segment’s few minutes spent with Fairchild could create some more excitement for NYCB.

‘Temptation of the Muses’ at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall postponed

Nai-Ni Chen Dance and the Ahn Trio’s “Temptation of the Muses,” which was featured in Thursday’s Preview section, has been postponed.

Originally slated for Dec. 7 at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the show is now scheduled for Feb. 16, according to the Music Hall’s website.

The program teams Nai-Ni Chen Dancewith the Ahn Trio for a work that channels the sense of connection and communion that the holidays bring. Chen, a native of Taiwan, describes “Temptation of the Muses” as “an Impressionist painting,” merging dance and live music, structure and improvisation, themes of nature and of urban industry. Inspired by Persian poet Latif Nazemi’s poem “A Word for Freedom,” the piece is set to composer Kenji Bunch’s “Concrete Stream,” and also includes music by Pat Metheny and David Balakrishnan of the Turtle Island Quartet.

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 13
Where: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 30 2nd St., Troy
Tickets: $15, $25, $34
Info: 273-0038 or http://www.troymusichall.org

Photos: Emily Johnson’s work-in-progress ‘Niicugni’

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In what ways are we defined by the place we come from—and what happens to us when we leave that place? Dancer/choreographer Emily Johnson grew up in Alaska, of Yup’ik descent, and her work uses stories and movement to examine concepts of belonging, identity and environment.

Her new piece, “Niicugni (Listen),” which has a work-in-progress showing at MASS MoCA on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, explores the cellular connection between people and the land they live on. Performed by Johnson (who now lives in Minneapolis) and dancer Aretha Aoki, “Niicugni” unfolds within an installation of handmade salmon-skin lanterns that Johnson designed to evoke her home and heritage.

EMILY JOHNSON: “NIICUGNI (LISTEN)”
Where: MASS MoCA, 87 Marshall St., North Adams, Mass.
When: 8 p.m. Friday (11/16)
Tickets: $12
Info: (413) 662-2111 or http://www.massmoca.org