Giving Thanks For Dance
Martha Sherman,

Let’s give thanks for the good things in dance this year. More than anything, I’m grateful that, despite a tough funding environment, there are more than ever artists making work and much of it has been extraordinary. It’s hard to choose only a few to highlight.

I’m thankful that Aynsley Vandenbrouke offered “AND,” a thoughtful and moving deep-dive into ideas and emotion that premiered in the cave of Abrons Underground Theater. Her films of the Catskills’ Esopus Creek in the winter, and her own searching in those woods, were spot-lit by the power of words, and the flailing ecstasy of her movement, hair flying and limbs tossed. When she took the work to its spiritual home, Mount Tremper Arts, the meanings were even deeper and the poignancy sharper.

I’m thankful that Yanira Castro finally birthed her remarkable CAST, STAGE, AUTHOR. The trio of parallel works in three different performance spaces investigated the mysteries of performance in so many compelling ways that I couldn’t stop writing and reflecting on it. I’m still mulling the works over. And Rebecca Davis’s “the final hands count beginning sounds” cooled the brain like looking at Shaker furniture; demanding perfect attention as the dancers moved in perfect geometries.

We should all be glad that the seminal work of many 20th century choreographic greats was richly re-staged. Yvonne Rainer paired with David Michalek, who created “Slow Dancing/TrioA,” a video installation with enormous screened films of current dancers performing seven-second snippets of Rainer’s iconic 1966 work. “TrioA” also showed up in Emily Coates’ “Incarnations,” a work that interwove the mysteries of physics and dance, as Rainer tossed the red balls from “TrioA” down onto the women of “Incarnations.”

Thank heavens that even though we lost Trisha Brown, we still have her company, bubbling her dances back to life around the world. The group celebrated her life and work in an all-day event last month at Danspace, with an all-star lineup of dances from “Accumulation” and “Opal Loop” to “Set and Reset,” “Foray Foret” and “If You Couldn’t See Me,” each as powerful now as ever. Another stalwart, Twyla Tharp, proved that even if her newest piece didn’t live up to her best, it was pure pleasure to be reacquainted with her older works. It was a thrilling jolt to watch new Tharp dancers such as Reed Tankerley reinvigorate classics like “The Fugue.”

Pina Bausch’s troupe returning to BAM with her first two offerings from 40 years ago was yet another gift, as is her company, which has succeeded in keeping Bausch and her work vibrant. There were also wonderful new works from experienced contemporary artists who have been gestating pieces for the last few years and finally shared their rich, full-throated offerings: Reggie Wilson’s “Citizen,” Annie-B Parson’s “17c,” Keely Garfield’s soon to premiere “Perfect Piranha,” among so many.

How thankful we are to welcome good news about treasured performance spaces. Knowing that the Chocolate Factory’s lease in Long Island City was coming to an end, what a relief it was to hear the announcement of their move to a perfect new space, a larger, permanent home in nearby Dutch Kills. And after way too long wandering the desert, PS122 announced that the January 2018 COIL festival will be back home, in the – finally! – completed renovation of a downtown theater that has been deeply missed.

So much to be thankful for.

Martha Sherman for – November 23, 2017.