I may be biased, but this is one of my favorite pieces of tap dancing I've seen. A special New Year's treat danced by my incredible sister and the equally incredible Nicholas Young.
I may be biased, but this is one of my favorite pieces of tap dancing I've seen. A special New Year's treat danced by my incredible sister and the equally incredible Nicholas Young.
Here are the first shots I took of Katherine Kramer's fantastic new show, "Stop, Look and Listen," which just finished several performances in Montana. The show was quite unlike anything I'd seen before, a wonderful fusion of tap and modern dance, with Latin music. The band, the dancers (including my fantastically talented sister) and the concept were all top notch, and there's hints that a New York performance may be in the works. Wouldn't you all (at least the New Yorkers out there) be lucky?! Hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. More to come.
(NOTE: All photos by Timur Civan (TC), all photos by Matthew Murphy (MM))
The car started winding along a two-lane highway and I feared my predictions were right: Carson and Timur were taking me to be put in prison in Beacon, New York. If there’s ever a place someone needs to go when they’re low, it’s to a correctional facility to see how much lower they can get.
The trees passed, and houses the size of apartment buildings loomed on mountains all around us. The scenery brought a comfort that disappears in places like New York City; sometimes I forget how invigorating nature can be. As we made our way through a collection of small towns, I started to think that my REAL prediction was correct: we were on our way to Dia:Beacon, the minimalist museum in Beacon, New York.
It wasn’t long before that idea was verified. After a few more turns, we pulled into the parking lot and I bounded out of the car. Carson and Timur had been raving about the museum since they took a trip there a few months ago, and I couldn’t wait to experience it myself.
(Even the entrance was cool looking. MM)
We entered into a small café attached to the gift shop, which gave no hint of the vast space we were about to see. After purchasing our tickets, we wandered through a small door and let the fun begin.
Dia is a collection of minimalist art housed in what is basically the minimalist version of the Lourve; it’s a hollowed out factory, which is such a mind-blowing space that it’s hard to focus on the art. Fortunately, a lot of minimalist art is created with the idea of how it interacts with a given space. This made for a unique experience observing 20th century masters like Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, Bruce Nauman, Louise Bourgeois, and Richard Serra.
The first gallery space we entered (about the size of a football field in comparison to NYC gallery space) was a room full of multi-colored Warhol prints that hung side-to-side to create a panoramic rainbow view. My jaw didn’t leave the hardwood floor for two hours.
Room after room brought new things to ponder. Minimalist artists have never been at the top of my list, but the way the gallery spaces were lit, combined with the stark contrast of the art to the pristine white walls put much of it in a new light for me. Even something as strange as a piece of string extending floor to ceiling became an exploratory adventure.
(One of the gallery spaces.)
One of the most exciting things about the space was that we had it mostly to ourselves. There were so many different rooms that it almost felt like its own self contained city. It seemed like the space must have been a couple of city blocks in size.
We went in knowing we had less than two hours before the museum closed, but that didn’t keep us from taking our time. In fact, after walking miles around the gallery space, we decided to take a moment to rest…inside the Richard Serra sculptures.
(The way the light fell through the windows against the Serra sculptures was incredible. MM)
Even though photography was prohibited, we knew that we could get away with it enclosed in Serra’s warped oxidized steel masterpieces. Timur and I whipped out our cameras and began snapping away. After ten minutes of resting against the cold concrete floor, we decided to continue on and see the rest of the work.
(Carson was the first to hit the floor...that hair gets heavy. TC)
(It wasn't long before I followed. TC)
(Serra meets Dia: My view from the floor. MM)
(We finally got off the floor and wound our way out of Serra's world...MM)
(Time to go. MM)
(Which meant Carson got to pose a bit more. MM)
(Because she still didn't have a camera. TC)
(So only I could capture the hipster nap. MM)
("Where to now?!" TC)
(Little did I know the day was far from over! TC)
(Warning: Intense brain fog today...please forgive any issues with this post!)
I can't believe that it's already been a year. This past Wednesday I celebrated my 22nd birthday and it was a bittersweet occasion. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that my birthday now acts as a reminder of the last time I felt healthy. Things went downhill rather quickly after I turned 21 in Minneapolis last year, and it wasn't even a month before I succumbed to the trials of Epstein Barr Virus. I knew that this celebration was going to be emotional, but it also ended up being a wonderful in unexpected ways
The day started out a bit boring; some apartment cleaning, a minor breakdown, and lounging around saving up energy for the night's festivities. However, it wasn't long until Carson and our friend Melissa showed up to put a smile on my face and treat me to my first pedicure ever. There's nothing like letting a random woman cut your toenails and gasp at your calluses; confidence booster indeed. As pleasant as that experience was, it was all in preparation for the required footwear of the evening: bowling shoes.
The guest list for the night was an eclectic assortment of my friends, many who had never hung out before. I always get a bit nervous when mixing groups, but from the moment we arrived at Bowlmor, it was clear that everyone was in the mood to mingle.
(All pictures by Timur Civan.)
(My one and only girlfriend Ashley catches up with Carson as I loom in the background. I make a good hat.)
(Carson looks grumpy that I chose to enter the picture. Tough. Just enjoying a crazy night out with my special celebratory birthday drink: Coca-Cola! Craziness, indeed.)
(Not sure what I made Marcelo laugh about. Obviously I'm hilarious.)
(The fabulous Erin picks out a ball that is bigger than her entire body.)
(Alec knows that the black light is the perfect opportunity to show off his pearly whites.)
(Julio gives bowling lessons to the onlookers.)
(Thinking about getting back together? No, just talking about how fierce we looked in our prom photo.)
(Be careful...Melissa will eat your face.)
(Feeling my generous heart? Or smearing beer on my chest?)
(Melissa celebrates the fact that she is wearing grey and white stripes...just like Carson and me!)
(Marcelo and Julio celebrating a strike? Or the fact that Britney Spears has a new anime music video out? )
(Carson gets the coolest shot of the night and proves that she MIGHT be a speed skater. Look at that form!)
At almost exactly the same time this blog started, I became obsessed with a certain man in the dance world known as Ohad Naharin. His name was as foreign to me as his movement and with the first performance I saw by Hubbard Street, I knew I was hooked on his work. Ever since then I’ve devoured anything of his I’ve been able to see, first by his company Batsheva at Lincoln Center Festival (the absolutely brilliant “Telophaza”) and most recently with Cedar Lake Ensemble’s showcase of the Israeli choreographer (the fantastic and exhilarating “Decadance.”)
Explaining his work is always a challenge for me because the excitement it provokes from my body while I’m sitting in my seat is unlike any other art I’ve seen. At moments it transcends dance into absolute euphoria and I’m constantly in awe of his unique movement and the way he fits it to his bizarre choices of music.
It was with a bit of hesitation that I brought along Carson, Jackie, Blaine and Isabella with me to BAM last night for Batsheva’s performance of “Three.” All of my friends are “Ohad Newbies” and my descriptions, peppered with gasps of excitement, had built up the evening before it even began.
From the moment I walked in and saw the completely bare stage at the Howard Gilman Opera House, with boxes on the side for wings and a single line of illuminated light at the edge of the stage, I was excited. The dancers filed out during a blackout and with a jarring change of lighting they were revealed, scattered about the stage staring at the audience; it was a typical Ohad moment.
(I spy two dancers struggling to find their Metrocards.)
There was a tameness to the beginning of the evening that seemed almost comatose compared to the previous works I’ve seen. After a few minutes of adjusting to the change of pace I was again riveted by the type of movement that he creates.
His technique, known as “Gaga,” is all about a personal exploration of movement within each dancer’s body. (During a master class that I took of his, he covered all of the mirrors which to a ballet dancer seems as severe as amputating a foot.) This is evident in the incredible unison sections that Naharin creates, where each individual dancer interprets it in their own way, sometimes hitting an ever so slightly different pose that never deviates from the group. Instead it makes it like a large firework where the whole image is created by individually colored explosions all aiming for the same final product. This allows for each dancer’s personality to come through and to a corp dancer in a ballet company, it’s a rather startling thing to witness.
There is a tribal quality to his group movement that fascinates me. On top of doing unexpected things physically, I started to realize that part of what I like about his work is how unpredictable it is in every way. This was most evident in a section that I refer to as the “blackout” movement, a duet that is periodically interrupted by eight counts of darkness. Just as the dancer’s image fades from our view, my mind would try to predict what the next illumination would reveal; I was always wrong. During the larger group sections, he starts to create choreographic rhythms with the bodies on stage and the moment you think you’ve caught on the pattern, he changes it up. It’s a brilliant way of keeping the audience invested in the piece. In a way it reminded me of viewing a Jackson Pollack painting where every time you think you’ve found your focus point it’s interrupted by a new string of color that you hadn’t noticed before.
(The much debated Robert Wilson Baryshnikov installation.)
Most of the evening consisted of smaller duets and group sections, and while the piece was technically separated into three sections, there wasn’t much difference between them. The first had the company dancing to Bach, the second to Brian Eno, and the third everything from Israeli techno to the Beach Boys (who accompanied the euphoric finale that found the dancers chugging and scattering wildly around the stage as the curtain came down.) Between each movement, a man would march out to center stage hugging a television screen underneath his arm displaying a head that narrated to the audience what was about to happen. This was the clearest sense of the type of humor that Naharin usually brings to his pieces, although it was evident (more subtle than usual) throughout.
When the curtain made its way down, I could hear my “Ohad Newbies” gasping out hoping that they could see just a few minutes more. While I wasn’t as blown away by this performance as the other ones I’ve seen, I was excited to see that it elicited such passionate responses from my friends. There is so much of the evening that I find impossible to describe. The evening, a short hour and ten minutes, runs through the weekend at BAM. Check it out!
(Carson and Blaine (working the cheekbones) discuss the performance as we head for an after show romp in...)
(Cue the angel choir.)
(Not the best score ever, but who couldn't use some Soy milk and Christmas lights? It's a recipe for a fun night.)
(This is perhaps the most vulnerable post I can remember putting up. If there is one thing I aim for in this blog, it's
sexually explicit content honesty. So I present to you, the emotional and thankful post that follows. And just for the record, it was NOT my idea to take photos of this event. Carson was set on documenting if for all of my friends who were only there in spirit.)
I’m sitting at my computer right now with tears pouring out of me. At moments they trickle down my face like water searching out a river to call a home, at other moments they are pouring out of me in torrential sobs filled with a pain and anguish I didn’t know existed in me. I can most easily be likened to Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give.”
(David is eying my pile of presents from around the globe. He's totes jealous.)
(Blurry Libby and I on the couch as I begin to dig into the pile of presents. We kind of look like the morphed faces from "The Ring." I hope a crazy dead girl doesn't crawl out of my TV.)
I’ve just finished reading the assortment of letters that were passed along to me this afternoon from my dearest friends across the globe. Whether they were in New York, Missoula, Seattle, Michigan or Africa, the words of these loved ones touched me in strange ways. First there is the obvious amount of incredible love that I feel within the words and images they have passed along to me. At the moments when I am feeling the most alone and alienated by this strange illness, I will look to these reflections of the incredible people that continue to populate my life as a source of happiness and warmth.
I’ve been so lucky through my various places of residence to get to know people that will without a doubt be with me until the day I die. The words that I’ve just read seem to reiterate how good I have been, at handling this time and being a source of inspiration, yet it’s hard for me to see it that way. Most people haven’t been able to see the most vulnerable moments where I’ve wailed out (much like I am now). Those moments are the times where I feel most like a burden and get angry that I feel like my life has become nothing but Epstein Barr Virus. EBV, three simple initials that have ruled my life for far longer than I would like to admit. It seems like a cruel joke that after a summer of embracing acronyms (FAS, BIP/BON) my life has been overtaken by one extremely powerful acronym.
(Starting to read Nick's letter and realizing I would start sobbing so I should wait until my friends are gone. Only my neighbors will be able to hear me and think I'm crazy.)
(It was fantastic of Dan to come by, even if he did insult my obsession with terrible pop music. Ahh, one of our first arguments: Janet Jackson.)
It is these moments where I don’t know how to handle my sickness or what I feel like it has turned me into. At times I feel like I look in the mirror and am every bit deformed as Victor Hugo’s famous Quasimodo (notice how I referenced Hugo and not Disney….that was hard for me.) It feels like there is a spider web multiplying in circumference and spinning itself into every pore of my being.
These letters, of which there are many that found tears pouring out of me, constantly reiterate how happy these people are to have me in their lives, as is custom when someone is going through a hard time. Yet all I feel is incredible luck to have these people within my life. Thank you to everyone, whether you’ve just thought of me, sent a comment, an email, a text message, or a letter to let me know that you are thinking of me. Words cannot even begin to express how much the smallest things mean. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
(Posing with my wickedly crafty poster from my best friend since 1st grade, Michael. People used to stop us in the mall and ask if we were twins. I can't remember if that actually happened or we made it up. Michael? )
(Libby even prepared me some homemade chili while I opened letters. How spoiled am I?)
Days like these, and packages and love like I’ve received today are at once both comforting and heartbreaking. They are reminders of my current state and how much recovery I face. There is the unknown of when I will be able to resume what is not only my job, but one of my most intense passions, again. Just two days ago I had a meeting with ABT where I informed them of my decision to postpone my return date yet again. Sitting watching the faces of my employers I saw incredible compassion and understanding for my situation, but all I could feel inside was defeat. These reminders of my sickness leave me with a feeling of defeat and I try to spin it into feelings of passion and hope but at times it feels impossible. I want to thank every person out there for each word, which has at times felt like an admittance of defeat but in the light of my discovered faith feels like hope. Thank you.
I’ll be spending the next several months at home in Montana. The moment I typed that, I had to stop and let myself be overcome with the emotions that it presents. My face feels numb from crying. Over the past six months I’ve avoided leaving my apartment, my friends, my job, and everything familiar because I’ve been afraid. Perhaps returning home is the only logical step in what will hopefully be the last step on my road to healing. It will be impossibly hard to be away from all that I know for so long. My plan as of now is to stay until the beginning of March (beginning at Christmas) but as we’ve all seen, what was initially supposed to keep me out no longer than a month has had a way of making a home for itself.
The most foolish thing is that oddly enough, the first thought that crossed my mind when I made this difficult decision was the blogs. What am I going to blog about? I’m sure I’ll find a way. I just hope that everyone will stick with me. Thank you for everything.
(Checking out more presents. This one from the fantastic David.)
A few afternoons ago, I had the opportunity to watch some incredible dancing. No, I wasn't at yet another ABT rehearsal, instead I was watching a run through of Barbara Duffy and Company's new show "Stages" that my sister is currently featured in.
Over the past few years, I've had the pleasure of watching Ms. Duffy's choreography and seeing my sister grow even more proficient as a tap dancer at the same time. Carson has always been an incredible dancer, but I think that the clear, rhythmic, classical and joyful movement that Ms. Duffy choreographs is perhaps the most perfect showcase for Carson's feet (and exuberant energy) that I've ever seen.
Ever since childhood, I've been exposed to some of the greatest tap dancers in the world, and gotten to know some of them personally, but I don't think I've ever seen a show as tight and all around excellent as this current show (which has its premiere in Arlington, MA this evening.) One of the biggest problems I've found with tap performances, is that there is a tendency for the dancers to not only want to show off with their feet, but to show off with their mouths as well. Long spoken interludes often draw out tap performances, instead of showcasing what the audience has really come to see, those spectacular feet.
(Carson and her trusted tap shoes.)
Fortunately, Ms. Duffy has avoided this problem, and even though there are a few spoken sections of the show, they never seem unnecessary, instead they give us glimpses into the various dancers different personalities. By combining these brief expository sections (often about the origins of the various dancers' tap careers) with exceptional choreography, Ms. Duffy and company have crafted a superb showcase of one of the most misunderstood dance forms.
Tap dance can at times become so much about spectacle that as an audience we can forget that it is an incredible display of what makes dance so unique: the display of personality and personal expression through movement. I also find that it is easy for that movement to come across as repetitive to an audience. Whereas other dance forms differentiate in a clearer way between movements, so much of tap relies on minute changes in the release of the ankle to produce different sounds. What I was most astonished with at the rehearsal the other day was how varied the choreography and performances were. There are various combinations in dance size and partnerships (alternating between group dances and duets, trios or quartets) that keep every portion feeling fresh.
(Barbara sings a little song.)
(And Maya follows.)
As a ballet dancer, I find that often the world I am immersed in is too self-contained for its own good. I feel so fortunate to have this built in exposure to another art form within my family (as both my mother and sister are tap dancers.) It's extremely important for dancers to draw inspiration from other art forms and we could all benefit from studying the incredible musicality that is required of tap dancers. The show should be coming to New York sometime soon, and I'll be sure to post all the information, as it's something that everyone should most definitely see.
(Carson and her sassy hair.)
(Chikako takes a moment to fix her laces on the side.)
(Carson in the middle of her incredible duet with Lynn.)
(Carson and Lynn mid duet.)
On a side note, I had a great time playing with my camera in this rehearsal but I quickly found out that tap is EXTREMELY difficult to capture on camera. There are much fewer "poses" than in ballet which makes for a lot of awkward in between shots. However, I got a lot that I like as you can see from the many photos in this post.
(Look at those levels, they're practically a show choir. Oh, just you wait, you'll know what I'm talking about with my next "Lazy Post.")
(Ahhh! They're attacking me like a swarm of bees. Bees with tap shoes instead of stingers.)
(Scoot it back.)
(What would they do without their handy piano man (not Billy Joel) who played both the melody and bass lines for this rehearsal.)
(Ain't they cute?!)
(Look at that gorgeous skin!)
(Who doesn't need one more shot of Carson's Hershey Kiss Hair? Potential Halloween costume?)
(We LOVE IT!)
(And what a view. I feel like there should be Jets and Sharks rumbling on the roof across the way.)